LINGAYEN, PANGASINAN: Gov. Ramon Guico 3rd has called on Pangasinan representatives to file a bill that will amend the Act for Salt Iodization Nationwide (Salt Law) and revive the country’s moribund salt industry.
“That’s on the legislation side. We need to amend the Salt Law because this has become prohibitive for our salt farmers,” Guico said.
Pangasinan is the country’s largest salt producer. The province got its name from the word “panag asinan,” which means “where salt is made.”
According to a 1993 study conducted by the Nutrition Center of the Philippines (the only available data online), salt produced in the towns of Dasol, Bolinao and Bani and Alaminos City, totaled 74,765 metric tons (MT), the highest salt production by a province in the country for that year.
The provinces of Bulacan produced 71,419 MT and Occidental Mindoro had 38,002 MT that year.
But after the Salt Law took effect in 1995, salt production in the country decreased.
The Salt Law requires all producers and manufacturers of food-grade salt “to iodize the salt that they produce, manufacture, import, trade or distribute.”
As a result, several salt producers have stopped their operations because of the law, according to the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc.
Most salt makers did not have money to buy iodization equipment, and the chemical used to iodize salt.
Because of the low production, the country now imports 93 percent of its salt requirements.
Guico said that there is a need to help the salt farmers. He said that based on what he saw in Pangasinan salt farms that he had visited, salt farmers have no modern facilities.
“Their facilities are very basic. There may be equipment, or processes that can help them,” Guico said.
“It should be cheaper for them to produce salt so that they will have more profit. So, why don’t we explore that,” Guico said.
He also said that there is a need to create a government agency that would focus on improving the salt industry.
“At present, there is no bureau that is in charge of regulating and implementing programs for the salt industry,” Guico said.
Westly Rosario, former chief of the National Integrated Fisheries Technology Development Center (NIFTDC), a research arm of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, residents of coastal communities must be taught how to produce salt.
“Solar sea salt is in itself rich in natural iodine plus other minerals. We need not improve the iodine level of our natural sea salt,” Rosario said.
During his term at the NIFTDC, Rosario developed a salt production system based on solar technology using raw seawater dried on food grade or high-density polyethylene plastic liner.
The low-technology, low-cost system produced clean salt every seven days. “You don’t need hectares of land or ponds to go into the business of salt making. You just need a small space where to put the 2-by-15-meter salt beds lined with the plastic sheets,” Rosario said.
“We can produce salt through solar drying if the dry season in the area is distinct, and boiling or cooking, if the rainfall profile is throughout the year,” he added.