Solon lambasts law ‘killing’ salt industry

Jun Mancilla plows rock salt inside a warehouse in Barangay Sta. Isabel, Kawit, Cavite. Republic Act 8172, also known as an Act for Salt Iodization Nationwide, is criticized for being a deterrent in the local salt industry’s development instead of boosting it. | PHOTOGRAPH BY BOB DUNGO JR. FOR THE DAILY [email protected]_bob

Senator Cynthia Villar slammed the iodization of salt law that eventually caused local salt producers to stop operations.

Villar, speaking as a panel chairperson at the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Food, and Agrarian Reform hearing on Wednesday, cited Republic Act 8172, also known as the Act for Salt Iodization Nationwide, which mandated that local salt producers iodize the popular condiment normally produced in rock form.

“We are surprised that all are tasked to iodize because the small farmers don’t know how to do it. You required them all to make iodized salt that’s why the producers stopped operating because they don’t know the iodization process and they are not as well educated as you are,” she said.

Villar lamented that the authorities should have helped the local salt producers learn the iodization process as they were not familiar with it.

“Now no one is admitting who is in charge. You let the whole industry deteriorate by agreeing to that ASIN law, but according to a study, only one-third should be iodized for human consumption, and two-thirds is for other uses. Why did you require all?” Villar maintained.

Villar then reacted upon learning that the country eventually started importing non-iodized salt.

“How silly is that? The local producers should be allowed to make non-iodized salt and you should have not required the manufacturers to iodize if you would import non-iodized salt,” Villar said.

Villar further criticized the law for killing the country’s salt industry.

“Who advised Congress to pass this iodization law? Tell me who influenced Congress to pass it? It kills the salt industry. Why are we killing the salt industry?” she added.

The Senate committee discussed the measures on salt supply and importation, and the Philippine Salt Industry Development and Revitalization Act.

Villar, in her opening statement, said the law has become a deterrent in the local salt industry’s development instead of boosting it.

She added the law has neglected to develop new areas and invite new investors.

It was reported that in 2021, the salt industry only produced seven percent of salt requirements and imported 93 percent or 550,000 metric tons.

“The Philippines only needs a small percentage of salt for human and animal consumption but it has other non-food uses. There should be a balance between all these needs such as for the preservation of fish catch and as fertilizer for our coconut industry,” Villar underscored.

“We should look at the salt industry as an added income source for fishermen during the dry season and the possibility of exporting Philippine sea salt,” she added.

Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva said the country’s salt industry is dwarfed by salt production importation from neighboring countries with much smaller shorelines.

He said the country should not experience a downtrend in salt production as it has one of the longest shorelines in the world “that is conducive for salt production.”

“Unfortunately, we have not made full use of the resources that we have and the salt industry has consistently been in decline. It baffles me that the Philippines, an agricultural country with shorelines that stretch for thousands of kilometers, would import 93 percent of our total salt requirements. This is very disheartening,” Villanueva underscored.

Hence, he is hoping for the passage of Senate Bill 1450, or the Salt Industry Development and Revitalization Act, to help revive the industry and support local salt production.

“We have an enormous untapped and neglected resource that can change the lives of about 60 percent of our population who live in coastline zones,” he said.

Meanwhile, Senator Nancy Binay urged reforms in the salt industry.

Binay urged the reduction of restrictions on producing other forms of food-grade and industrial salt, and not just iodized salt, as required by Republic Act 8172 to increase overall production in the salt industry.

She further suggested that salt businesses and cooperatives should be linked with the Philippine Coconut Authority to encourage coconut farmers to buy locally-produced salt for their fertilizer needs.

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