House passes salt industry dev’t, agri info system bills

By Jose Cielito Reganit

May 29, 2023, 9:29 pm

<p><em>(File photo)</em></p>

(File photo)

MANILA – The House of Representatives on Monday approved on the third and final reading a bill seeking to revitalize the Philippine salt industry and another measure establishing an online agriculture information system (AIS) throughout the country.

With 287 affirmative votes, the House passed House Bill (HB) 8278, or the proposed Philippine Salt Industry Development Act, that is listed by the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) as one of the priority legislations of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.

"The significance of the salt industry hasn't been lost on our President and concurrent Department of Agriculture (DA) chief Ferdinand Marcos Jr. He knows that we need to correct the sad irony that the country imports nearly 550,000 metric tons (MT) or 93 percent of its requirement for salt. This is indeed a sin," Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez said in a statement.

The bill has been described by its authors as a whole-of-nation, whole-of-society and whole-of-government approach as it seeks to revitalize the salt industry.

Under the measure, the government shall provide support through appropriate technology and research, as well as adequate financial, production, marketing and other support services, in order to revitalize the salt industry, attain increased income for salt farmers and salt producers, achieve salt self-sufficiency, and become a net exporter of salt.

HB 7828 provides that salt -- whether unprocessed or processed -- is hereby classified as a basic agricultural product with all its necessary legal and regulatory implications.

The DA shall also ensure that salt is a priority commodity to be produced locally in areas or regions identified in proposed law, as well as in the development plan for the salt industry.

The measure establishes the Philippine Salt Industry Development Roadmap (PSIDR) which shall include programs, projects, interventions and incentives for the development and management, research, processing, utilization, modernization and business development and commercialization of Philippine salt.

HB 7828 also creates the Philippine Salt Industry Development Council (PSIDC) to ensure the unified and integrated implementation of the PSIDR and accelerate the modernization and industrialization of the Philippine salt industry.

The PSIDC is tasked to formulate the PSIDR containing the short-term, medium-term, and long-term development plan; identify specific and priority programs and projects in support of, and in line with the Roadmap; provide development funds, technical assistance, and equipment to salt farmers and the industry; and identify sources of financing and facilitate credit windows with government banks and the Agricultural Credit Policy Council to expand the salt industry development.

Through the DA-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), the PSIDC will put up new small scale artisanal salt farms; increase production of local salt by increasing land area devoted to salt and improving farm productivity; institutionalize capacity building for salt farmers through the Agricultural Training Institute; strengthen market linkage and promotion of Philippine salt; and conduct continuing research and development (R&D) on innovation and modernization of the salt industry; among others.

The measure also mandates the utilization of public lands previously intended for fishpond development and those with existing fishpond lease agreements.

It also requires that all salt produced or manufactured in the Philippines for export shall be labeled as “Made in the Philippines” in a prominent and conspicuous manner on the product, its packaging and accompanying documentation.

The measure likewise mandates that no person shall import salt without securing the appropriate authorizations from the Department of Health’s Food and Drug Administration and the DA-BFAR for food grade salt; and from the DA-BFAR for industrial salt.

House Bill 7942

Voting 280-0 with no abstentions, HB 7942, or the Agriculture Information System Act also hurdled the plenary with an end view of creating a wider range of market linkages among farmers and agricultural buyers.

It mandates all cities and municipalities to establish an AIS which shall serve as a dynamic online computer database where information on then demand for specific agricultural and fisheries commodities is gathered and uploaded simultaneously with the production data from farmers in every barangay.

The AIS shall merge and synchronize agricultural data from different sources into a cohesive database designed to facilitate linkages from place of origin to local and, ultimately, global markets.

The AIS shall be integrated with the existing systems of the Department of Agriculture.

All cities and municipalities shall encourage and facilitate the free registration of farmers, fisherfolk, as well as buyers transacting within their respective areas in the AIS.

Romualdez said once enacted into law, HB 7942 could pave the way for the full development of the agriculture sector and the attainment of national food security through data-driven science and technology, planning and distribution of resources.

“Improving, developing and modernizing the farming and fisheries sector is important to us because this area of the economy is one of the country’s largest employers. Millions of our kababayan (countrymen) and their families depend on it. Farming and fishing are their sources of livelihood and income,” he said. (PNA)