THE House Committee on Agriculture and Food has tasked a technical working group (TWG) to work on the draft of House Bill 1976, which seeks to revive the salt industry.
“This bill is a product of numerous consultations with… salt producers and representatives from government agencies,” Kabayan Party-list Representative Ron P. Salo, the author of the bill, said at the committee meeting.
The bill requires the government to provide technical, physical, and financial assistance to salt farmers, including artisanal salt farmers, to expand their output and to make the industry export-ready.
“(The bill) recognizes that the Philippines imports around 93% of its salt requirement, despite having 36,000 kilometers of shoreline, the fifth longest shoreline in the world, which can be utilized for massive salt production,” Mr. Salo said.
“(The bill requires) the government to invest in the identification and construction of salt farms for lease to qualified salt farmers, whether individuals, cooperatives, or corporations,” he added.
Annual salt imports between 2019 and 2020 averaged 628,500 metric tons, valued at P3.14 billion, Gerard C. Khonghun, president of the Philippine Association of Salt Industry Networks, told the committee.
Australia is the top exporter of salt to the Philippines, followed by China and Thailand, he said.
Mr. Khonghun said Philippine salt production declined over the decades due to urbanization, increasing salt demand due to a rising population, lack of upgrades to salt farms and the failure to develop new salt farms.
Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry Chairman Sergio R. Ortiz-Luis, Jr. said no opposition to the bill is expected.
“We would like to see that not only we are able to produce our salt requirement but that we are also able to export it,” he said. “Maybe include the implementation of an export development council for representation (in the bill).”
Leyte Rep. Richard I. Gomez flagged a possible conflict with Republic Act 8172 or an Act for Salt Iodization Nationwide (ASIN) and raised the need to harmonize the two measures.
Mr. Salo said the bill complements the ASIN law, adding that the TWG will smooth out any points of conflict.
Separately, AGRI Party-list Representative Wilbert T. Lee, the committee’s co-chairman, filed House Bill 5676 or the proposed Philippine Salt Industry Development Act.
The measure seeks to establish a Philippine Salt Industry Development Task Force which will draft a salt industry roadmap.
“This bill seeks to reduce our reliance on imports by providing salt stakeholders ample support and protection so they can develop,” Mr. Lee said in a statement. — Kyanna Angela Bulan