MANILA, Aug 31 (Mabuhay) — The Department of Agriculture – Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR) said Tuesday it is pushing for a PHP100-million fund allocation to further boost the country’s salt industry.

At the Laging Handa public briefing, BFAR Chief Information Officer Nazzer Briguera said this target would help increase job opportunities in the country.

“Ilalaan po ang pondong ito para sa pagpapalakas ng kapasidad ng ating mga salt makers dito sa bansa. Nandiyan po ang pagbibigay sa kanila ng makabagong teknolohiya, makabagong kagamitan at kaalaman po para masiguro din iyong aspeto ng food safety dito sa ating asin dahil ito po ay bahagi ng ating pagkain (This fund will be allocated for the strengthening of salt makers in the country. This includes providing them with innovative technologies, modern equipment, and training to ensure food safety because salt is part of our diet),” he said.

Briguera noted that this is part of the agricultural agenda of President and Agriculture Secretary Ferdinand Marcos Jr., hence, the assurance that programs under the targeted allocated fund shall be sustained.

“Ito po’y lilikha ng mas maraming trabaho. Ibig sabihin po nito mas aangat ang kabuhayan ng mga sektor na nasa industriya po ng pag-aasin. Ito po sa pangkalahatan ang nakikita natin na magiging resulta sa tuluy-tuloy na pagbibigay-pansin ng pamahalaan sa industriyang ito (This will create more jobs, meaning the businesses of those in the salt industry will definitely improve. This will be the overall result of the continuous attention given by the government to this industry),” he added.

The BFAR noted that it is high time to give focus to the salt industry as it has not been prioritized for a long time.

Briguera cited data, although “still subject for verification”, showing that 93 percent of the Philippines’ salt supply is imported.

“Dahil po sa sitwasyon na ito, nakita ng Department of Agriculture na kailangang magbigay ng sapat na atensiyon para po sa industriyang ito nang sa gayon ay magkaroon po tayo ng self-sufficiency pagdating po sa asin at hindi po tayo aasa sa pag-angkat ng commodity na ito (Because of this situation, the DA sees the need to give adequate attention to the industry so that we could attain self-sufficiency in salt production and no longer need to import the commodity),” he said.

The BFAR, meanwhile, said it has profiled about 30 groups, or at least 100 beneficiaries, for the assistance program.

The regional offices have begun implementing interventions for beneficiaries in the Ilocos region.

Industry boost

Senator Imee Marcos, meanwhile, said she plans to discuss with President Marcos how to improve the production of salt.

She lamented that salt may have been taken for granted despite its many uses, not only in cooking but also in health and agriculture.

“Salt is used in manufacturing medicines, food preservatives, animal feed, and fertilizer. I will certainly take up measures for ample production of salt, besides rice and sugar, with PBBM,” Senator Marcos said in a statement.

She also suggested that the government try a “contract-growing” policy which would require food businesses to prioritize purchasing ingredients from local farmers.

“Hindi makakaporma ang mga smuggler kung meron tayong (Smugglers won’t have their way if we have) contract-growing kung saan mangangakong bibilhin ng mga restoran ang sunod na ani ng mga lokal na magsasaka (wherein restaurants will promise to buy the next harvest of our local farmers),” Marcos added, saying it will ensure enough supply.

Danilo Fausto, president of the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc., recently revealed in a radio interview that the Philippines imports 93 percent of its salt requirements of 550,000 metric tons from China and Australia.

“It is a shame that while the Philippines is one of the longest shorelines in the world covering 36,000 kilometers, we resort to importation. If we can develop at least 70,000 kilometers of our shorelines, we can produce enough to meet our requirements,” Fausto said in a statement. (MNS)