It is an P86-M ‘solid rock salt’ industry in Bulacan


CITY OF MALOLOS–Bulacan’s P86-million salt industry remains robust over the years with more than a hundred producers and operators in 400 hectares production areas in this capital city and in adjacent coastal towns of Paombong and Bulakan. 

Forty year salt worker Alex de Guzman, 56, harvests solar rock salt in salt beds in Pamarawan island barangay in City of Malolos on April 9. Photo by Carmela Reyes-Estrope

The three island barangays Pamarawan, Namayan and Caliligawan in this city, Tapusi and Matilakin islands in Barangay Taliptip in Bulakan town and Matalabahan, Bitas Pinag-ulingan, Katchang Wawa islands in Barangay Binakod and Sta. Cruz in Paombong town, are the largest source of solar salt in the whole of Central Luzon, says Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) Region 3 director Wilfredo Cruz. 

In Namayan alone, at 5,000 sacks of salt worth P250 each harvested and sold every February-May production season, sixty nine year old salt operator Mario Santos and five other operators earn P9 million worth, (P1.5 million each) from their 18-hectare production site. 

This year, the salt production in their place has been more encouraging because of government’s support. Santos told NEWS CORE on Saturday that BFAR has provided them support for the woods, clay, sand and materials for stock pile area. 

BFAR has been implementing various programs to support and further strengthen the salt industry in the region particularly in the province of Bulacan which is the largest salt producer in Central Luzon and which is mainly the source of solar rock salt. 

The province 400 years old salt production has now grown into P86 million worth industry, Cruz said. 

Santos dismissed concerns the 18-hectares salt production in Namayan will vanish or be sold by the land owners. “The owners will ask us, it would matter to them if we say no,” he said. 

Some salt production areas in Pamarawan were earlier sold by land owners in exhange fot huge anounts. 

Solar salt February-May production

Fifty five year old Pamarawan salt operator Emilio Panganiban, with 14 hectares area of salt production at P250 per sack similarly earns P1.5 million every February-May production season. 

Solar salt production uses the heat of the sun to produce rock salt. The heat of the sun last month (May) was the last stride for the salt makers for their harvest this year. 

The preparations start in December, says Panganiban. The first step is to prepare the grounds near the Manila Bay waters by making “prenza” or water entrances. They stock and keep the water in prenza and allow it to have a natural filtering (tining). 

When the glaring heat of the sun starts in February, they then prepare the salt bed. The salt bed surface is made up of tisa, a smooth fine form of clay where the salt waters can be converted into white crystalline rock salt. They called the arrangement of the tisa “tasik-tasik”. 

At 4:00 in the afternoon, they will open the prenza and allow the ocean waters from Manila Bay to reach the salt bed. At 3:00 pm the following day, it is time to harvest. 

Zambales and Bataan, Cruz said, produce salt through cooking process using furnaces. 

Manila Bay waters is safe and clean 

Not only are the freshly catched aquatic resources sold in Metro Manila and Central Luzon public markets prove that Manila Bay waters are safe and clean, but also Bulacan’s salt industry.

The Manila Bay waters are even cleaner and safer these days because of the Mandamus Cleaning of Manila Bay the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) spearheaded few years ago based on the order of the Supreme Court, according to BFAR regiion 3 director. 

Cruz said, based on the parameters of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of the DENR following series of conducted water monitoring and tests, the quality of waters in Manila Bay have greatly improved since the said mandamus order of the SC. 

Also, according to DENR head in Bulacan Emelita Lingat, Manila Bay’s coliform has declined over the past five years since the Battle of Manila Bay clean-up started by their agency in 2019 and was joined and supported by other government agencies including local government units concerned.

Pamarawan Barangay Captain Belticesar Bartolome supported the words of the officials. He said the Manila Bay waters are clean particularly during high tide, making their salt produce clean and safe. 

Cruz said salt production in the region caters to both agricultural and industrial needs. 

Tuyo (dried fish) production 

According to Pamarawan Councilman Rendon Dela Pena in an interview on April 9 in Pamarawan, his family who is engaged in dried fish, (tuyo-making), buys cavan or sacks of rice at P400 each for their business. Their family keeps up to 1,000 cavans as stock which they will use for their 2-3 months of dried fish production. 

He said that each 100 banyera for dried fish making requires 30 cavans of salt.  In 2016, he said, when salt production in Pamarawan was affected  due to typhoons and high tides, they hauled salt from Dampalit, Malabon and in Mindoro which eventually led them to increase their capital. Dried fish then also cost higher, he said. 

The dried fish they produce are distributed province-wide, Dela Pena said. Puerto Rivas in Bataan province, a coastal boundary of Bulacan also sells dried fish, he added.  

Red egg

Ging Abalos from Hagonoy town, who was also interviewed on April 9, while buying salt in Pamarawan said he buys P250 per cavan of salt from Panganiban and sells it at P350 per cavan to makers of red egg (itlog na maalat or itlog na pula) in Pampanga province and in some towns in Bulacan. 

Each trip he makes to Pamarawan requires him to buy 150-300 cavans of salt. 

Cavans of salt are also sold to fishpond makers in Pampanga for cleaning and curing the fishponds, he added. 

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