September 5, 2022
The Philippine Bamboo Industry Development Council (PBIDC) has urged government to restore EO 879 mandating Department of Education’s use of bamboo for school chairs–spurring demand for the crop that generates $4.6 million largely private-led investments.
PBIDC, chaired by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) but has yet to convene since the start of President Ferdinand Bongbong Marcos Jr.’s term, also pressed Marcos to pick bamboo as the symbolic tree to plant.
On September 13 2022, Marcos will celebrate his first birthday as Philippines’ president and as customary will have a tree planting ceremony.
PBIDC OFficer Deogracias Victor Savellano said PBIDC hopes Marcos will use bamboo for the symbolic tree planting as this will stress bamboo’s high valuation as an indigenous highly-marketable Philippine product.
“Bamboo is important. You can’t have fishing boats without bamboo outriggers. You can’t have fishpens without bamboo poles. Banana or export will yield to the ground without bamboo poles to prop it up,” he said during a Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food (PCAFI) press briefing that Savellano hosted at his family-run Victorino’s.
“Labong can only be harvested if there is enough bamboo. Maybe now that PBBM is the DA Secretary, bamboo can be given due focus and its large potential realized”.
Investments in the bamboo industry has been largely private sector-led. The PBIDC hardly had any budget and “could not fully function because of lack of budget,” according to PBIDC.
PCAFI President Danilo V. Fausto said government should support bamboo planting considering its versatility in use. Demand should also be encouraged as it is not only DepEd that’s mandated to use it, but even government offices.
“Garlic (like other commodities) has been allocated with a budget of P100 million. But the budget went missing. With bamboo, there is no budget that was lost. Why? Because there is no budget at all,” according to Fausto.
Executive Order (EO) 879 which created PBIDC mandates that 25% of all desks and tables of the Department of Education (DepEd) schools shall be made of bamboo.
However, there is limited supply to meet the 25% threshold. Thus in 2021, the DepEd unilaterally removed bamboo as part of acceptable material in teacher and student chairs and tables.
The industry has yet to take off and realize its full potential.
“This is the fastest growing tree that can be harvested in three to four years. Hopefully before PBBM steps down in 2028, it is already a huge industry,” said Savellano.
Edgardo C. Manda, PBIDC president, also said during the PCAFI briefing that he hopes PBIDC will soon convene in order to revive the industry. This is considering that Philippines is fifth largest bamboo and rattan product exporter in the world and faces even bigger export potential.
PBIDC’s members include secretaries of the Department of Agriculture, Department of DepEd, Department of Science and Technology, and Department of Labor and Employment.
Bamboo’s many uses
Bamboo is climate smart crop and useful in controlling erosion. It grows faster than hardwood trees and is considered a renewable resource as it is grown as a plantation crop.
“Bamboo propagation battles climate change and global warming by growing faster than hardwood trees and absorbing more carbon to support agricultural productivity and sustainablity,” said Manda.
It can be used as timber for major construction and building uses, along with its many uses for food and beverage.
For food it is cooked as “labong,” baked bamboo shoots, braised bamboo shoots, spicy pickled bamboo shoots. Bamboo culm is used to make wine and beer. Bamboo leaves are used as food for livestock.
The special flavor of a fresh culm is used for cooking rice and fish. Bamboo is used for vegetable fruit garden stakes and hangers, pole to support banana trees, and as tobacco curing barns.
Bamboo is used for irrigation as poles carrying water. It is used as planter and container for rural food products, basket for crop harvesting, structure for animal cages, farm fence material, katig in boats, fish cages in fish ponds, and fish traps.
Bamboo takes many forms as crafts and rural home utensils, material for bridges in rural communities, and bahay kubo and resthouses. Bamboo wagons are used to transport farm goods. It is even used as a musical instrument, textile, and Christmas decor. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)