SAN JOSE DE BUENAVISTA, Antique – Nestled along the sun-kissed shores of Antique, a province known for its picturesque coastal municipalities and thriving fishing communities, the salt industry has quietly but steadily been gaining momentum. The Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR), through the Development of Salt Industry Project (DSIP), has been playing a pivotal role in this resurgence, supporting and empowering salt producers across the region.
Antique, a province in the Western Visayas region of the Philippines, boasts 15 coastal municipalities, each endowed with the unique potential for salt production. These communities have harnessed their proximity to the sea and the abundant natural resources available to transform into hubs of salt production. The DSIP has been instrumental in bolstering these efforts and propelling Antique to new heights in salt production.
Sheryll Aguirre, the officer-in-charge of the BFAR 6 (Western Visayas) Fisheries Post Harvest and Marketing Section, enthusiastically shared the agency’s contributions to Antique’s salt industry. She expressed their commitment to this cause, emphasizing the tangible impact they’ve made since their involvement began in 2022.
“Since 2022 to now, there are already 105 salt producers assisted by the BFAR,” Aguirre stated in a recent interview. The figures alone reflect the significant strides made in Antique’s salt production, a testament to the success of their initiatives.
The journey to revitalize Antique’s salt industry commenced with the BFAR’s support for 45 salt producers hailing from the municipalities of Tibiao, Laua-an, Bugasong, Patnongon, and Belison. In 2022, these producers received valuable production inputs, which included essential items like polyethylene plastic, water pumps, suction hoses, and pails, among others. The impact of these inputs was tangible, leading to a notable surge in salt production within these five towns.
“With the distribution of the inputs in 2022, the salt producers in the five towns were able to produce 34 metric tons of salt,” Aguirre proudly stated. This accomplishment reflects the capacity of the salt producers to leverage support and significantly increase their yields, promoting self-sufficiency and prosperity within these communities.
In 2023, the BFAR expanded its reach, reaching out to even more coastal municipalities in Antique. This time, the focus was on the local government units (LGUs) of Pandan, Sebaste, Barbaza, Laua-an, Patnongon, and Tobias Fornier. These communities received essential inputs, leading to an increase in salt production capacity. The beneficiaries of this initiative included 20 individuals and four associations actively involved in salt production, further promoting community engagement and collaboration in the industry.
As Antique’s salt industry continues to flourish, the list of ideal areas for salt production is not limited to the already assisted communities. Beyond the mentioned coastal towns, additional locations that have been identified as promising for salt production include Anini-y, Caluya, Culasi, Hamtic, Libertad, and San Jose de Buenavista. These municipalities are expected to play a pivotal role in the province’s salt production landscape in the coming years, benefiting from the valuable support of the BFAR’s DSIP.
Simultaneously, the Philippine Council of Agriculture and Fisheries (PCAF), an attached agency of the Department of Agriculture (DA), is actively involved in promoting and supporting the salt industry’s growth. PCAF is spearheading the National Salt Industry Stakeholders’ Consultation, which is set to take place from October 17 to 19 at the Eagles Hotel in San Jose de Buenavista, Antique’s capital town.
Ahbel Milanes, the chief of the PCAF Policy Development Section, spoke enthusiastically about the event’s objective and the future of the salt industry in Antique. “We would like to encourage the private sector to go into the salt industry production in the province,” Milanes expressed in a recent interview. The PCAF recognizes the significance of private sector involvement in driving the growth of the salt industry and the economic development of Antique.
Milanes pointed out that the Philippines had once been self-sufficient in salt production, citing that “in 1980, the Philippines was self-sufficient in salt.” However, she noted that this self-sufficiency dwindled over the years, primarily due to the effects of climate change and globalization. This change in production dynamics led to the Philippines relying on salt imports from countries like Australia and China to meet its requirements.
Antique, with its extensive coastline and the support of organizations like BFAR and PCAF, now stands at the brink of a salt production renaissance. The concerted efforts of various stakeholders, from government agencies to local communities, highlight the potential for self-sufficiency and economic growth through salt production. The growing number of assisted salt producers and expanding areas earmarked for salt production clearly demonstrate the commitment to these initiatives.
As Antique’s salt industry continues to evolve, there is optimism that it can regain its self-sufficiency, contribute to national production goals, and, perhaps, even export its products to other regions. The province’s rich coastal resources, coupled with the support of dedicated agencies like the BFAR and PCAF, are key components of this burgeoning success story. With their collective effort, the salt industry in Antique is poised to become a thriving and sustainable sector, offering prosperity to the province and contributing to the national supply of this essential commodity. (PNA)