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.
“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