DAGUPAN CITY: Had there been a government agency overseeing the country's salt industry in the past years, the Philippines would not be importing 93 percent of its salt requirements today.
According to Westly Rosario, former chief of the National Integrated Fisheries Technology Development Center, a research arm of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) here, he realized this more than 15 years ago when a local salt producer asked him where to go for his concerns on the salt industry.
"Maybe, somebody forgot to assign it to an agency," said Rosario, now chairman of the Professional Regulatory Board for Fisheries.
Gov. Ramon "Mon-Mon" Guico 3rd, former Pangasinan's fifth district representative during the 18th Congress, filed a bill asking the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Science and Technology to provide the needed technology upgrade for salt producers in northern Luzon being part of the fisherfolk sector.
He also filed a bill that would create an agency that would oversee the local salt industry.
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In 2021, BFAR has been tasked to formulate a road map to put the salt industry on the right track.
Rosario said that with no government agency "adopting" local salt production in the past years, it should not be a surprise that the country's salt industry did not grow.
In his presentation about the state of the Philippine salt industry in 2018, John Arnold Duque, chief executive officer of the JALD Industries Corp., said that the Philippines was importing 15 percent of its salt requirements in 1990. But in 2018, the country has been already importing 80 percent of its salt requirements.
Aside from limited government support for the local salt industry, Duque cited other challenges, such as climate change, and limited research on the salt industry.
"Salt production is highly dependent on the climate. Abnormal weather has decimated the Philippine salt industry," Duque said.
Rosario said that the conversion of salt farms into industrial and commercial areas was also a factor in stunting the growth of the salt industry.
"The building of an airport in Bulacan, for instance, halted the operations of about 30 salt farms," Rosario said.
Low-tech backyard salt production
To boost the present salt production, Rosario is recommending the implementation of a low-cost, low-technology backyard salt production, which he developed in 2010.
The technology uses plastic sheets to line shallow and small salt beds. A roll of plastic liners can be used for six 15 meters by 2 meters salt beds, which will be filled with 8 centimeters of seawater.
After every six days, when the seawater has evaporated, salt can be harvested. This means that they will have 25 harvests at three sacks per harvest in 150 days.
"This is good for fishermen living in coastal areas," Rosario said.