(Photo courtesy of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources)

Palawan province is one of the areas in the country that will undergo mapping and identification of public lands, including select areas within municipal waters, to support the revival of the salt production industry in response to the Philippine Salt Industry Development Act that already took effect.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has been tasked with this responsibility to designate suitable salt production zones, aligning with the provisions of RA 11985, or the Philippine Salt Industry Development Act, which came into effect on April 1, 2024.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. approved and signed RA No. 11985, “An Act Strengthening and Revitalizing the Salt Industry in the Philippines, Appropriating Funds Therefor, on March 11, which brought this about.

Pursuant to Section 9 of the Act, the DENR, through its appropriate bureaus and its attached agencies, the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA) and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), are mandated to map out, identify, and designate public lands, including portions of municipal waters, as salt production areas.

Priority shall be given to public lands situated in the provinces identified as suitable for salt production and declared as priority areas for salt production namely Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, Pangasinan, Zambales, Bataan, Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro, Palawan, Marinduque, Quezon Province, Misamis Oriental and Antique, within 60 days from the effectivity of the Act.

Public lands located in other regions shall also be subsequently mapped out, identified and designated as potential salt production areas within six months from the effective date of the Act.

The DENR is also mandated to inform the public of the result of the mandatory mapping, identification, and designation of public lands for salt production to inform interested salt industry investors. It shall also provide the Congressional Oversight Committee on Agriculture and Fisheries a report on the completion of the mapping, identification and designation of public lands for salt production.

A Salt Industry Development Council or Salt Council, shall be created “to ensure the unified and integrated implementation of the Salt Roadmap and accelerate the modernization and industrialization of the Philippine salt industry,” of which the DENR Secretary shall be a member or her designated permanent representative.

Section 10 of the Act says that the DENR has to give the BFAR the public lands that it has mapped out, identified, and said can be used for salt production within 90 days of the Act going into effect.

Accordingly, the DENR shall repeal or amend DENR Administrative Order No. 98-67 series of 1998, or the Guidelines for the Identification, Declaration and Award of Areas Suitable for Salt Production.

In February, DENR Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo Loyzaga visited Pangasinan and recognized the project of Pangasinan Gov. Ramon V. Guico III and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan headed by Vice Gov. Mark Ronald DG Lambino to develop a 473-hectare salt farm in Barangay Zaragoza.

“This is the kind of integrated approach that is necessary to secure food, health, nutrition, and water essential to energy security,” Loyzaga said.

“Itong project ay bilang tugon sa panawagan ni Presidente Bongbong Marcos na muling buhayin ang salt industry dito sa bansa. So, on behalf of DENR, sana nakatulong po kami sa muling pagbuhay sa asin industry dito. At kung mayroon pa kaming maitulong, please huwag kayong mag-hesitate na lumapit sa amin,” Loyzaga added.

In 2022, the DENR and the province of Pangasinan signed a Memorandum of Agreement for the management of the salt farm, where the provincial government will be the “interim” manager of the foreshore area for salt production and other related activities, including bangus production.

The previous lease contract on the salt farm has expired and was not renewed by the lessee, prompting the DENR to close the farm.