December 2, 2022
The private sector has pressed government to grant tax incentives to the mining sector’s investments in large scale bamboo plantations that will help boost watershed conservation, disaster risk reduction, and generate as much as $3billion in long term revenue.
Bamboo propagation and mining sector advocates from the Junction Ridge Resources Development Corp.(JRRDC) and the Kilusang 5K (Kawayan:Kalikasan, Kabuhayan, Kaunlaran, Kinabukasan) said bamboo planting will be the best antidote to pervading criticisms thrown on mining.
Banker and mining leader Isidro C. Alcantara Jr. of JRRDC said bamboo plantations in mining areas can generate huge revenue that can even equal the country’s gold, copper, and nickel revenue.
The Philippine Statistics authority (PSA) reported in November 2020 that the mining and quarrying sector generated P189.9 billion ($3.45 billion) revenue.
“To understand why we should concentrate on bamboo, it can generate $3 billion or 10% of China’s (bamboo revenue). It can equal the mining industry’s output of gold, copper, and nickel,” said Alcantara at the 5K Foundation Inc.’s “Usapang Kawayan.”
Alcantara was chairman of Marcventures Holdings Inc. (Marcventures Mning parent firm) prior to his retirement. Its mining operation in Surigao del Sur has so far grown 30,875 bamboo plants in the area, pioneering the effort in mining.
The Philippines can earn $3 billion revenue if only at least 10% of such China industry ($35 billion) is created.
At an estimated area of around 400,000 hectares, this is less than 10% of China’s bamboo area of seven million hectares.
“This is doable. We have so much land to make large scale bamboo plantations,” said Alcantara.
He cites the country’s 5.59 million hectares of arable land. This is only 4.4% of the country’s nine million hectares of mineralized land based on Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB-Department of Environment and Natural Resources) data.
Kilusang 5K Foundation Chairman Deogracias Victor B. Savellano also said during the Usapang Kawayan forum bamboo is one of the best crops for land restoration.
Bamboo plants are the best tools for fighting climate change as it releases 35% more oxygen than other trees. Bamboo plants sequester 12 metric tons of carbon per hectare annually, he said.
“Bamboo is one of the best crops for land restoration especially in mined-out areas,” said Savellano.
It is President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr himself who said during the United Nations General Assembly that climate change preparedness is a priority of his administration, he stressed.
“Bamboo planting in mining areas has been required by DENR since 2020 to plant bamboo to 20% of their declared mining area,” said Savellano.
Kilusang 5K Foundation Executive Director Butch Madarang said a “middleground” can be achieved between mining and environment advocates. Bamboo planting in mining areas plays a significant role in balancing economic gains and environmental protection.
“Environmental degradation in abandoned mines leave land barren and with permanent scars in the natural landscape. (But) a middleground can be achieved as bamboo restores lands, and it is a ticket to our poverty reduction,” said Madarang.
Among the incentives that may be granted mining companies are tax credits for the investment amount, special tax rate of 5% (under CREATE-Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives Law), and limited term income tax holiday starting on the sixth year onwards, Alcantara said.
Tax free import of bamboo processing equipment and related value added tax exemption may also be granted.
Very important, Alcantara said bamboo planting makes for sustainable livelihood for poverty stricken rural communities, particularly boondocks-dwelling Indigenous people (IP).
“What do we leave these indigenous people with? Believe it or not, this is a question discussed in the (mining companies’) boardroom. It is high time we stop the disinformation about mining,” he said.
Alcantara cited a study showing a mine worker can earn four times more when a bamboo plantation becomes productive three to five years from planting.
A 10-hectare bamboo farm can generate an income of P922,995, four times that of a mine worker’s P240,000 per year.
This is based on a study of the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR) on bamboo farming in Anji, China. It was verified by University of the Philippines scientists.
Government does not need to provide a subsidy or shell out money for mining companies to invest in bamboo plantations.
That is given regulations under the Mining Act of 1995 for mines to allocate funds for SDMP (Social Development and Management Program) and EPEP (Environmental Protection and Management Program.
If the seven mining companies in Surigao del Sur will each grow bamboo in 1,500 hectares, that totals to 10,000 hectares that can employ IPs through cooperatives and village enterprises for a long time. The plantation becomes sustainable 3-5 years from planting. Bamboo has a 100-year life. It becomes sustainable given allowed limited harvesting over an area of perhaps 1o% yearly, making it a revenue generator for many years.
INBAR,a multilateral agency promoting sustainable development through the natural bamboo and rattan, indicated that bamboo fights climate change in several ways.
First, its fast-growing trait enables it to sequester carbon more substantially than other plants.
“Durable products made from bamboo can also be potentially carbon-negative. Bamboo could also be a favorable substitute for hardwoods, even FSC (Forest Stewardship Council)-certified ones.”
Bamboo also replaces fossil fuels and reduces deforestation. Its solid biomass is used for cooking (charcoal and briquettes) and can be converted into pellets for electricity and heating.
It is harvestable year-round, providing a stable rural income.
As it thrives in problem soils and steep slopes, it is an excellent land restoration crop.
“It is an effective windbreak, and its sturdy rhizomes and roots regulate water flows and prevent erosion. A case in Allahabad, India, tells of the rebuilding of rural livelihoods where 80,000 hectares of degraded land were brought back into productivity using bamboo as a pioneer species.”
It has been found scientifically in abandoned mines in the Philippines to be useful as bioremediation tool, absorbing toxic metals, fully restoring barren lands. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)