A maritime country with a shoreline longer than that of continental USA like the Philippines, to import salt is an absurdity of the highest order. The country’s salt makers still using the ‘primitive’ method of producing salt was able to meet the domestic demand decades ago. Lately, however, Filipinos were stunned to read in the metropolitan dailies about the Philippines importing more than 90 percent of the salt sold in markets, groceries, and ‘talipapas’ because of the poor, low local salt production output.

Technologies have long ago entered the Philippines, including modernization of salt-making methods. Those in the salt industry contends that age-old salt beds have been included in the reclamation program of government and the private sector. But this is untenable because of the maritime geographic make up of the country – seawater being many-fold wider than the land/terrestrial one. Also, salt makers blame the passage of RA No. 8172 or Act for Salt Iodization Nationwide in1995 that “mandated all producers and manufacturers food-grade salt to iodize the salt they produce.” But how? Laws are made not to be destructive?

Alas! The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) has come to the rescue of the dwindling, dying salt industry by allocating P200 million, split in their 2022 and 2023 budget. BFAR has targeted 23 various salt producing areas spread around the marine waters of the country. They added that in the 1980’s 85 percent of salt sold in the market were outsourced locally and only 25 percent were imported. Also, BFAR reported that the salt producing areas in the Philippines are Bulacan, Pangasinan, Occidental Mindoro, Las Pinas, and Cavite. Very noticeable in the list, not one area has been identified from the Visayas and Mindanao, a fact that should be considered. Specifically, is the need to introduce salt-making among entrepreneurs and fisherfolks in the Visayas – Eastern Visayas particularly because of the many islands/islets that dot the provinces of Samar, Leyte, and Biliran.

BFAR revealed that it would revitalize the industry in all 23 salt producing areas in the country. The budget for the salt industry “covers the distribution of post-harvest materials, upgrading all the storage facilities and establishing technology demonstration.” The 23 areas include those in Luzon: Pangasinan (Alaminos, Infanta, Dasol, and San Fabian) ; Ilocos Norte (Paoay, Burgos); Ilocos Sur (Narvacan, Sto. Domingo ,and Sta. Catalina; La Union (Bangar, Luna); Cavite (Kawit, Noveleta); Batangas (Lobo, Calatagan);Quezon (Atimonan); Mindanao: the cities of Isabela and Zamboanga, and the provinces of Aurora, Bataan, Zambales, Bulacan, Occidental Mindoro, Antique, Guimaras, Iloilo, Bohol, Negros Occidental, Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga-Sibugay, Zamboanga del Sur, and Basilan.

I cannot understand why Eastern Visayas do not have a single salt making outfit despite the many islands/islets scattered in the 3 main islands of Biliran, Leyte, and Samar – potential areas for salt making. At the height of COVID-19 when Filipinos were overwhelmed by the virus, jobs and were scarce, fisherfolks could have opted to venture in salt-making, instead, and not depend on ‘ayudas’ from government and good Samaritan organizations.

May I, also, remind the BFAR leadership kindly to add Eastern Visayas to their list of beneficiaries of their P200 million fund to rehabilitate the country’s dying salt industry, introduce salt making technology so as to improve the lot of the marginalized fisherfolks.