Senator Cynthia Villar, chairman of the Senate agriculture and food committee, said she is open to amend the DENR budget to realign the National Greening Program funds to bamboo-planting programs to rehabilitate the country’s denuded forest and respond to lumber demand.
Villar has been crafting and pushing for legislative measures to develop the bamboo industry in the Philippines.
She said that there is a need to aggressively promote the product development and market access of bamboo and rattan products in the ASEAN Region since member-states account for approximately 20 percent or USD393 million of the global trade in these products.
She said NGP’s budget allocation of P4.5 billion for next year can be realigned to projects increasing bamboo trees in the country. This is higher than its P2.6-billion 2019 budget.
The senator strongly supports the proposal of Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu to increase funds for bamboo-planting programs.
In backing Cimatu’s stand for an increased budget for bamboo, Villar said that “even if you cut it [bamboo], it will regrow.”
The senator has maintained that bamboo is a cash crop for Filipino farmers and can be a good source of income and livelihood for poor communities, particularly in rural areas in the country.
She underscored the importance of bamboo, which also prompted the issuance of Executive Order No. 879 that created the Philippine Bamboo Industry Development Council in 2010.
Executive Order No. 879 directs the use of bamboo for at least 25 percent of the desk and other furniture requirements of public elementary and secondary schools in our country, as well as prioritizing the use of bamboo in furniture, fixtures and other construction requirements of government facilities.
The senator, a known environmental advocate, has sponsored the DENR’s recommended budget for next year for amendment and approval in the committee level.
Senator Panfilo Lacson also favored the additional funds for bamboo projects as he questioned the effectiveness of the government’s forest rehabilitation program.
According to Lacson, he does not see its output despite annually receiving funds from Congress.
Cimatu said he intends to increase the country’s forest coverage, which is currently at 23 percent, and is lowest in Southeast Asia. The global forest coverage average is 30 percent.
While the DENR works on rehabilitating degraded forests, Cimatu, however, said they also have to keep in mind the country’s demand for lumber.
The country produces one million cubic meters of lumber per year while the annual lumber demand is at five million cubic meters. The rest would have to be imported from foreign suppliers.
Because of this, Cimatu said he proposes to use bamboo as substitute for lumber.
Villar has filed Senate Bill 716 or the Bamboo Industry Act to institutionalize the Philippine Bamboo Industry Development Program and strengthen the government’s efforts in encouraging bamboo plantation, research on its development and utilization.
She also co-authored SB 1478 or the “Philippine Bamboo Industry Development Act of 2017″ which seeks to institutionalize bamboo industry development in our country by creating the BIRDC.