February 24, 2023
A 30-hectare bamboo plantation in the Montalban upland in Sierra Madre mountain has been put up by a multi-sectoral group that aims to give live livehood to Dumagat tribes, replenish forestry and capture carbon, and help prevent Metro Manila flooding and climate disasters.
The Philippine Bamboo Industry Development Council (PBIDC) is proposing to replicate nationwide the 20-hectare Karugo and 10-hectare Puray bamboo projects in Montalban.
It is part of the Marikina Watershed, a portion of the Sierra Madre mountains that hold the water without whose forests Marikina and the entire Metro Manila could be flooded.
The Karugo and Puray bamboo projects in Montalban, Rizal are an ideal multi-agency collaboration that involves minimal budget, according to PBIDC Vice Chairman Deogracias Victor B. Savellano.
Yet it has harnessed and consolidated multiple resources that redounds to upland economic benefit.
“Our best examples (for bamboo propagation) are those in Puray and Karugo. It’s something that’s not difficult to do. It is a joint effort between government Rotary International, Indigenous People, and community. It’s a beautiful model that should be replicated all over the Philippines,” said Savellano.
Bamboo partnership between PBIDC, 5K Foundation, Rotary International (3780, 3830, 3800), Bamboo Professionals Inc., and Indigeous People (IP) belonging to the Samahan ng Kawayan sa Karugo Agri-Farmers Association (SAKKAFA) and Tribal Council Assn. of Puray Inc. (TCAPI).
Rotary raised a minimal P1.5 million in district grants for Karugo project.
The Kilusang 5K (Kawayan: Kalikasan, Kaunlaran, Kabuhayan, Kinabukasan) Foundation, founded by Savellano, has supported organization of Puray and Karugo projects. The bamboo propagules planted in 2022 in Karugo is estimated to multiply to 142,000 bamboo culms in five years and 228,000 culms in eight years.
Now that Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual has reconvened PBIDC, Savellano said PBIDC is coordinating all bamboo projects and agencies. Thus, such replication can be implemented in every town in the country—as what has been done by Savellano’s former constituents in Ilocos Sur.
PBIDC has adopted the Montalban projects for its own collaborative, cost-effective model.
“We tapped the two community-based projects to establish nurseries and do plantation development,” said PBIDC Executive Director Butch Madarang.
“Using the convergence formula through consultation with different agencies, we’re able to engage everybody. We have an inclusive perspective. Our formula is to tap different agencies’ resources.”
Lead collaborator is the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) which identified the project site. Kilusang 5K tapped the Philippine Bamboo Foundation and Bamboo Professionals Inc to train the IPs on bamboo propagation.
Instead of planting hardwood that takes 10-20 years to harvest, bamboo was chosen as it is harvestable in three years, generating income to the community.
More so, bamboo plants are climate disaster fighters. Bamboo, at four years old, has been proven to absorb 500 kilos of carbon dioxide yearly. It generates 300 kilos more of oxygen per year compared to other trees. Bamboo plants hold more water than other trees, helping prevent erosion and flooding. It has high survival rate due to endemicity and maintenance care.
Puray IPs who used to just cut bamboo plants relentlessly learn sustainable farming
The 10-hectare Puray project is now generating a P300 per day income for farmers who do potting for growing seedlings. While generating income from selling seedlings, the vision for the bamboo projects is to produce commercially viable products.
“We should venture first on basic products (before going to high-end sophisticated bamboo products like composites, fibers, engineered bamboo). For me, I will be happy enough if we’re able to produce bamboo chopsticks and barbecue sticks which we are importing even if we have many bamboo culms nationwide,” said Savellano.
The Montalban projects are part of the bigger Upper Marikina Watershed Project (five municipalities/cities in the Sierra Madre mountains). It covers an estimated 26,000 hectares. It is envisioned to address persistent flooding in Marikina and Metro Manila as a whole.
The watershed also protects the Wawa Dam which is capable of producing water for 500,000 households.
The Marikina watershed, while declared a protected area, has been extensively plagued by illegal logging, highly-destructive quarrying, and illegal settlement. These have worsened state of flooding in Metro Manila. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)