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Monday, May 20, 2024

With a grain of salt

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Rather alarming, to put it mildly, that while the Philippines, an archipelago surrounded by water, has to import 93 percent of its salt requirements – 4.10 grams per day for adult Filipinos, or more than twice the World Health Organization recommended 2 grams of sodium per day.

Which put Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva outright in a piquant mood and has since sought a Senate inquiry into why the Philippines imports that much – 550,000 metric tons – of its salt requirements.

Villanueva, like many others, is concerned with the recent statement from the Department of Agriculture that the Philippines cannot produce enough salt for its own needs because of government neglect over the past 15 years and now imports 93 percent of its salt requirements.

The human body requires a small amount of sodium to conduct nerve impulses, contract and relax muscles, and maintain the proper balance of water and minerals. It is estimated that we need about 500 mg of sodium daily for these vital functions.

Let’s get it from Villanueva: “This is quite shameful for an archipelagic country with more than 36,000 kilometers of shoreline. Let’s not waste further the potential to provide jobs for Filipinos in every island in the country by reviving the salt production industry.”

Villanueva noted this is a stark contrast from 1990 when the country was only importing 15 percent of its salt requirements, adding pointedly “I am quite salty about the state of our salt production industry. It’s not too late for the country to become a net exporter of salt.”

Given this scenario, the government needs to immediately address the major hurdles to the development of the country’s salt production industry, which include the need for proper storage facilities, and lack of equipment such as water pumps and boats for hauling and storing salt.

The announcement of the Department of Labor and Employment to develop a roadmap for the salt industry, as introducing new strategies and providing training can generate up to 100,000 new jobs according to the agency, deserves the support of the authorities.

Quick on the trigger, Malacanang said the other day “The national government is now working double time to beef up support for the salt industry to enhance the production of local salt in the country.”

Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles said the Department of Agriculture and other government agencies have drawn up some early plans and the DA would implement programs and initiatives to increase salt production and supply.

In addition, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources would lead in research and development programs to benefit small-scale and artisanal salt producers while the DA will expand salt production areas and push for the development of technologies to accelerate salt production.

Now, please pass the salt.


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