Florida-based Rizome Philippines invests $100 million for enginereed bamboo plant in Cagayan de Oro, House Bill on bamboo development ok’d  

May 30, 2023

By Melody Mendoza Aguiba

Florida-based Rizome Philippines is investing a whopping $100 million (P5.5 billion) for an enginereed bamboo plant in Cagayan de Oro even as it supports government’s move to prioritize House Bill 7941 passage for bamboo sector development.

   Former Agriculture Secretary Luis P. Lorenzo Jr., a global investor at Rizome Philippines through subsidiary Bamboo Ecologic Export Corp (BEEP), is bringing in cutting edge, proprietary technology in bamboo wood manufacturing.

   Rizome is progressively  infusing capital from $20 million to $100 million in its Cagayan de Oro plant.
   “I became a global investor cause I want to bring the best technology here.  I don’t want the Philippines to be second class.  The investment is big.  But (even now) our business is already a billion peso industry.  And it employs thousands,” said Lorenzo.  
   Lorenzo just met with Philippine Bamboo Industry Development Council (PBIDC) Vice Chairman Deogracias Victor B. Savellano who has been pushing for priority legislation to institutionalize execution of Executive Order 879 issued in 2010.
   Savellano just reported that the Lower House approved on second reading House Bill 7941, promoting the development of the sector.  It buttresses the provisions of EO 879 which aimed to seize a $8 billion bamboo market dominated by China.
   Lorenzo seconded efforts to make bamboo a priority industry.  Appointed Department of Agriculture secretary in 2002, Lorenzo ran one of Philippines’ biggest banana export firms, Lapanday, and pineapple firm Del Monte prior to appointment.

   “Please make bamboo a priority.  I hope government would be friendly toward a new industry.   Government is technically pushing housing.  Why not import-substitute all the components of housing construction,” he said.
   Despite China’s vast bamboo plantation, Lorenzo said Philippines can compete with any country in the world in bamboo wood quality. This is particularly with the Giant Aster species that grow abundantly all over Mindanao.

Former Agriculture Secretary Luis P. Lorenzo Jr, Rizome International global investor, shows the many forms of engineered bamboo lumber. Credit-Melody Aguiba

   “I came across group of Americans who for 13 years were producing from Vietnam high-end, prefabricated homes made of bamboo.  The same group studied ways by which bamboo can be re engineered using technology.  After 13 years,  they finally decided after visiting Brazil, Indonesia, China, India  that the Philippines has the best bamboo.”
   Rizome produces panels, boards, veneers, and strand woven made of giant asper bamboo.
   An important priority policy is to make bamboo a recognized construction material in the implementation of the Building Code.  This, as engineered bamboo is a proven technology strong as steel, tough as concrete, fire resistant, water resistant, pest free, and is even beautiful as hardwood.
   Rizome International is financing its investments in the Philippines through loans, “offset credits” for capital equipment startup and operational expenses.  
   Rizome’s bamboo manufactures are shipped in container loads to Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) in America, Europe, Middle East, Africa, and Asia Pacific.    
   As the passenger terminal of the Mactan Cebu International Airport became the first airport in Asia made entirely of lamellar wood, Rizome is being introduced in the Philippines as global standard quality wood.
  “Because you heard about the beauty of Cebu and Clark airports, we want to introduce bamboo to the Philippines as our national identify.  The beams and all that –we make all of these.  We make these bullet proof.  We can make beams as long as you like.  No more steel, no more concrete,” Lorenzo said.
   Also top among incentives government can do to encourage investments in bamboo plantations and manufacturing is the easier processing of 25 to 50 years of forest management contracts (Industrial Forest Management Agreements, Community Based Forest Management Agreements.)
   Huge ancestral domain lands for bamboo should also be identified by government to give livelihood to rural people and Indigenous People.
   Local government units (LGUs) who can have a significant contribution to bamboo sector’s development should be creative to encourage their constituents to plant bamboo, Lorenzo said.  
   Savellano, through PBIDC and the entity he founded, Kilusang 5K Foundation, has earlier put up a Technical Working Groups (TWGs) primarily for production and propagation of bamboo all over the country.  
   The TWG also works on bamboo’s industry and commerce and training of workforce for bamboo propagation and processing.
   Rizome buys bamboo slats of agrarian reform beneficiaries who have planted bamboo in Bukidnon, North Cotabato, Agusan provinces, and Surigao province.  It also buys bamboo from communities in mining areas.
   Rizome enginereed bamboo keeps up with premiere architectural specifications, equalling “quality, strength, durability of steel and concrete.”
   Through an infusion of clean mineral salts,  Rizome pressure treats bamboo fibers to totally efface insect and mold from the wood.   It is a treatment tested by the Washington State University.
   A finalist to the Musk Foundation’s XPrize, the Rizome Bamboo Project in the Philippines can win the grand prize of $50 million for its carbon offset efforts.  It has been chosen as candidate among 60 others for the potential of bamboo farms to sequester 400 tons of carbon dioxide per year.  
  “Our goal is to have planted 10 miilion bamboo clumps by 2030 for a 10-year carbon drawdown of over 26 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of the greenhouse gas emissions of 5.654 million cars in a year,” according to Rizome.  

PHOTO (Above( Former Agriculture Secretary Luis P. Lorenzo Jr, Rizome International global investor, lifts engineered bamboo wood to demonstrate its light weight, yet highly durable quality. Credit-Melody Aguiba


Former Agriculture Secretary Luis P. Lorenzo Jr.,(third from left) leader of Florida-based Rizome Philippines, explores with Philippine Bamboo Industry Development Council Vice Chairman Deogracias Victor B. Savellano (first from left) vast opportunities to export and create jobs for sustainable, engineered bamboo (known to be strong as steel, sturdy as concrete, beautiful as hardwood) now exported as sophisticated construction material to the United States. Also in photo is PBIDC Executive Director Rene Butch Madarang (fourth from left).

May 18, 2023

Technology transfer pursued by PBIDC with private, research firms as Base Bahay for bamboo development for fiber, housing, biomass

May 2, 2023

A technology transfer program has been pursued by the Philippine Bamboo Industry Development Council (PBIDC) with private firms as Base Bahay and local government for the development of bamboo for low to high-end products– fiber, housing, fuel, and biomass.

   In an Usapang Kawayan forum held in Mendez, Cavite, more bamboo partnerships are reported to be pursued  for bamboo technology sharing and commercialization, according to PBIDC Vice Chairperson Deogracias Victor B. Savellano. 

   These potentially growing tie-ups also include research agencies like Philippine Textile Research Institute (PTRI), Forest Products Research and Development Institute (FPRDI), and local government units (LGU) as Miag ao, Iloilo and Dapitan City in Zamboanga del Norte.

   Sustainable, socialized housing  using bamboo has been shown possible by Base Bahay Innovation in its bamboo villages in Bagong Silangan, Quezon City and Estancia and Jaro, Illoilo, among others.  The houses are disaster-resilient designed to resist typhoons.

   “This is a very good program to support President (Ferdinand) Marcos’s program for housing so that more socialized houses can be built,” said Savellano.

   To further advance the use of bamboo in modern housing, the Philippine Institute of Architects, in a program called “Bamboo’s Tahanang Kawayan,” has been tapped to integrate bamboo in its designs for more sophisticated housing materials.

   Consultation between PBIDC and Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD) has started  to look into cement bamboo frame technology as construction material for socialized housing.

   Also in discussion on possible bamboo partnership for housing  is with former Agriculture Secretary Luis P. Lorenzo Jr. who now runs Rizome Philippines. 

   For the manufacture of engineered bamboo for home finishing and construction material, Rizome Philippines supplies a type of giant bamboo, Dendrocalamus asper, to international partners, particularly in Florida, United States.

   The government has been strengthening the function of PBIDC since it was convened on Dec. 22, 2022 by Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual to fulfill its mandate to contribute to industrial development under Executive Order 879.

   As PBIDC practically has yet to be budgeted by government, a proposed budget has been filed with Philippine exports Federation (Philexport).  Department of Trade and Industry Regional Director Leah P. Ocampo has also led the crafting of resolutions on a more robust PBIDC function.

   Congressman Joeman Alba of Bukidnon will refile the PBIDC bill (House Bill 9576, Senate Bill 605) which will institutionalize PBIDC as the umbrella organization to steer bamboo to its industrial development role.

Bamboo Textile Fiber Innovation Hub. Credit- PTRI

Bamboo for energy

   For the possible use of bamboo for charcoal as fuel and for biomass, PBIDC has been in talks with Dr. N. Barathi who has developed India’s Beema bamboo for its use as one of the best sources of generating energy.  In the Philippines, the Bayog bamboo species, Bambusa spinosa, may be the equivalent of Beema bamboo for renewable energy–  biomass for heating and cooking.

    FPRDI has also a developed a technology on bamboo’s use for charcoal or fuelwood.  Its bamboo charcoal is cheaper, energy-efficient and is ecology-friendly.  Upland people do not have to do kaingin (forest burning) to produce cooking fuelwood.

   For the propagation of bamboo, a tissue culture technology of the FPRDI is planned to be adopted in PBIDC’s own bamboo plantation program such as those in Karugo, Puray, and Upper Marikina Watershed in general.  Tissue culture will enable massive seedling production. 

Bamboo fiber

   For bamboo fiber, PBIDC is partnering with New York-based Filipino-American fashion designer and textile technologist Anthony Legarda. He has worked with the PTRI and advanced the development of abaca fiber and other indigenous materials.

   “What is good with bamboo for fiber is recovery is big at 35% per pole, while recovery in abaca and other fibers is only at 2%,” said Savellano.

   The Environment Research and Development Bureau’s (ERDB) Bambusetum in Los Banos is also eyed to be replicated by PBIDC nationally. 

   “Where can you find such place with the genetic resource of such large number of bamboo species? It is good to replicate this Bambusetum of ERDB because many of these species grow in different locations all over the country,” said Savellano.

   Irene Marcos Araneta, herself President Marcos’s sister, is involved in the development of bamboo for fiber.  She may enter into similar collaboration with PBIDC in order to give more livelihood to Ilocos Region weavers. 

PBIDC Vice Chairman DV Savellano, PBIDC Exec. Dir. Rene Madarang visits a DTI Shared Service Facility in Gen. Tinio, Nueva Ecija producing bamboo slats for housing

These are other possible partnerships:

1.  Health Undersecretary Camilo Cascolan will explore the natural properties of bamboo as medicinal plant.

2. For bamboo planting expansion, the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and Pasay City LGU eye the planting of bamboo for urban landscaping and livelihood for urban dwellers. 

   The University of the Philippines Manila Alumni Association is also supporting bamboo planting for its “Adopt a Estero” program led by PBIDC Executive Director Rene Madarang. Planting programs are also being discussed with the National Movement of Young Legislators.

3.     PBIDC and KIlusang 5K  Foundation have been meeting with different Local Government Unit (LGU) heads for a Kawayan Karavan and Lakbay Aral for the exploration and development of bamboo for varied uses.  In Nueva Ecija, the Kawayan Karavan was held in plantations and shared service facility in Gen. Tinio and Fort Magsaysay.

4.  To market bamboo products internationally, a potential partnership is with Davao Investment and Tourism Center and Mindanao Development Authority. 

   This– along with CITEM (Center for International trade exhibitions and Mission), Pampanga Furniture Makers led by Myrna Bituin that participated in the 2023 Philippine International Furniture Show, and Tourism Alliance Group (TAG) which promotes eco farm tourism and bamboo in their tourist destination meetings.

5.  Manila Water , which has a major function to protect water sources from watersheds, is eyed to collaborate with PBIDC on planting programs. 

6.  The bamboo manufacturers of Maasin, Iloilo which produce charcoal briquettes, toothpick, chopstick, and barbeque sticks may be able to share their technology to other entrepreneurs through a link with PBIDC.

   The Pangabuhian Weaving and Fiber processing center in Miag-ao, Iloilo may support a similar collaboration.   

7.  A PBIDC visit  to Davao Bamboo Sanctuary and participation in Davao Bootcamp may turn out for the further use of bamboo for housing and other industries. 8.  Another possible partnership is with the academe — the Nueva Ecija University of Science and Technology for the development of bamboo for varied uses.  PBIDC may further support the First Gen Hydropower Corp. which has a bamboo plantation in Pantabangan Dam, Nueva Ecija. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

FEATURED PHOTO Former Agriculture Sec. Luis P. Lorenzo Jr. who now runs Rizome Philippines meets with PBIDC Chairman Deogracias Victor B. Savellano, PBIDC Exec. Dir. Rene Madarang. Rizome Philippines supplies bamboo to Florida-based maker of engineered bamboo.