A documentary “Amazing Bamboo” has been launched as part of jumpstarting a true “Pinoy industry” in the versatile bamboo as a raw material for “10,000 products with documented uses” even as bamboo grows ubiquitously throughout Philippines.
Authored by Department of Agriculture Undersecretary Deogracias Victor B. Savellano and former Department of Science and Technology Undersecretary Florentino O. Tesoro, Amazing Bamboo was launched September 18 as part of this month’s World Bamboo Day celebration.
Also co-author of the book is Ramon A. Razal, a former dean of the University of the Philippines Los Banos-College of Forestry and Natural Resources.
The book substantiates findings on how bamboo abates climate change and environmental threats. Bamboo is used for soil erosion control, water conservation and moisture retention, land rehabilitation, ecotourism, and landscape beautification.
Senator Cynthia A.Villar who graced the book’s launch said the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal recognized bamboo’s contribution to economic growth.
Its fast-growing nature makes it a sustainable and renewable material for many consumer and industrial products.
“Bamboo grows very fast and can be grown easily in different climate conditions and altitudes. It reduces the pressure on trees to produce timber for wood products,” said Villar.
“Bamboo regrows from its own root system. It doesn’t need to be planted again. It plays a leading role as carbon sink. It can absorb 12 metric tons of carbon dioxide per hectare per year and releases 30% more oxygen than other plants.”
Savellano stressed that Philippines must now aggressively pursue the development of bamboo as a true Pinoy industry considering its all-pervasive presence nationwide.
“We must develop the bamboo industry within the next five years of the administration of President (Ferdinand) Bongbong Marcos. If we cannot develop it now, I don’t think we’ll be able to do it any other time,” he said.
Savellano has spearheaded the Marcos Administration’s “Buong Bansa Magtanim (BBM) ng kawayan)” in pursuit of bamboo industrialization.
To prop this development, he insists bamboo bills filed in Congress—mainly Senate Bill 605 and House Bill 7941—should be immediately ratified. The proposed law provides incentives for private sector to invest in the industry. For one, government land may be used by private owners for free lease for five years. Other incentives are easy permitting or permit-free cutting and transportation of bamboo for as long as holders are duly government-registered.
The bills provide for a P100 million yearly budget for the operation of the future institutionalized Philippine Bamboo Industry Development Council (PBIDC).
The council was put up under Executive Order 879 which recognized in 2011-2012 the tremendous revenue potential from the global bamboo market. Such global value is now foreseen at $90 billion before the end of 2030 from the present $70 billion.
Asked during the book’s launch about the urgent passage of the Senate bill, Villar hinted this move may rather be pursued by her son, Senator Mark Villar. The younger Villar presided last August 9 over the Senate hearing on the bamboo bill.
PBIDC Executive Director Rene Madarang said that as government has not allocated any budget for PBIDC, it is good that the private sector has funded projects of PBIDC and Kilusang 5K. The 5K stands for Kawayan: Kalikasan, Kabuhayan, Kaunlaran, Kinabukasan) Foundation Inc. which Savellano himself founded when he was yet with the private sector.
The pilot bamboo propagation project totalling 30 hectares in Puray and Karugo, Montalban is a multi-sectoral cooperation. It also involved Rotary International which funded it by at least P2 million. Other private funders of bamboo projects are Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc.
Madarang also recognized during the book launch Edgar Mariano, president of the Karugo Agri Farmers Association. The farmers operate within Montalban which is part of the Marikina Watershed where massive deforestation has been observed in the past years.
“If there was someone who planted the bamboo, there should be someone to look after it. We depend on the residents in the watershed to take care of what was planted,” said Madarang.
The book with its complete title “Amazing Bamboo: Rediscovering its Wonders and Potentials” teaches one how to grow bamboo in the farm.
It demonstrates bamboo’s everyday use in the life of the Filipino—including how it serves as the food “Labong.” It shows how bamboo supports industries and feeds factories with raw materials.
Finally, it updates the reader on how government leads the way into the industry’s development. The private sector has also been actively advocating the use of bamboo in many innovative and technology-driven products including engineered bamboo for construction, bamboo fiber for clothing, biomass for renewable energy, and many consumer goods.
During the launch, Villar noted her family’s own Villar Foundation established in 2005 a Bambusetum, a depository of bamboo genetic species meant for preservation. It keeps 70 varieties of bamboo species. It was also put up in order to assure a constant supply of bamboo planting materials for the Sagip-Ilog, a slope protection project along riverbanks.
Villar cited 28 other bamboo varieties are stored at the Ramsar-listed Las Pinas Paranaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area.
Las Pinas City itself has its bamboo processing facility that generates jobs for skilled craftsmen.
“The bamboos are sourced outside of our city and are brought to our factory to undergo an 11-step process to become the very useful and aesthetically-pleasing bamboo steps which our company buys.”
Villar noted her hometown Las Pinas is known for the world-renowned bamboo organ and as “Parol Capital” which uses bamboo as raw material.
It is but apt that DTI identified bamboo as a priority industry. Bamboo is documented to have 10,000 uses, according to the International Bamboo and Rattan Organization.