By Ali G. Macabalang
The Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) is all set for a first bamboo summit on January 19 that will tackle and draft mechanisms to harness the traditional plant for ecological rehabilitation and development strides and for economic profits at the same time.
As his first official in 2021, MinDA Chairman Manny Fantin Piñol announced four initial agenda to this year, including his agency’s furtherance of focal thrust to harness the great potentials of bamboo farming it discovered last year for environmental and economic development concerns in Mindanao.
“Kawayan (Bamboo) in the Philippines has never really been elevated to a level where it is considered a high value crop. MinDA supports converting semi-processed bamboo materials into high-value products as the best option to boost the local bamboo industry,” Secretary Piñol said in a recent post as he invited all interested sectors to the Jan. 19 summit.
Because of the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic that prescribes social distancing, the conduct of the summit will be done virtually (via zoom),” MinDA communications and public affairs Director Dr. Adrian Tamayo said, providing the discussion link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89299397629.
The promotion and development of the bamboo industry is a “crucial component of MinDA’s Green Mindanao Project (GMP),” Sec. Piñol said.
The GMP is designed to reforest logged-over and soil erosion-prone areas in Mindanao, thereby addressing climate change, on one hand, and utilize high-value plants like bamboos to provide farmers additional income to mitigate the grips of poverty in the island region, on the other, Dr. Tamao said.
MinDA took inspiration from recent reports that the growing Mindanao bamboo industry has received an International Commodity Certification (ICC), entitling bamboo producers to export their byproducts to the global markets, notably in the United States of America (USA) and Vietnam, he said.
Piñol exemplified his passion for bamboo farming and processing by producing a video documentary on potentials of the industry based on personal observations of the Bukidnon Giant Bamboo Resources Corp. (BGBRC) operations.
In the documentary, BGBRC Chairman Rod Bioco and his workers illustrated to Sec. Piñol the rudiments of bamboo processing in various stages into lucrative components of furniture-making and building construction.
Bioco said the demand for bamboo materials for housing is so huge that an American construction outlet needs a supply of 3,000 containers per month for all of its branches all over the USA.
He added that while Mindanao could not supply the huge demand of the market, it has a potential of producing that much requirements provided “there is a focused effort to develop the Mindanao Bamboo Industry.”
With a total land area of 9.7-million hectares, two-thirds of which are high-elevation and often logged-over and former mining areas, Mindanao could plant as much as 1-million hectares of aggregate areas, including critical watersheds and headwaters, Sec. Piñol said.
“Given the estimated net income for the farmers of P100,000 per hectare, this could be translated to a net earnings of about P100-billion every year going to the poorest sector of Mindanao,” the MinDA chief said.
In the video documentary, Piñol mentioned about his plan to make the upcoming summit a launching pad to organize bamboo farmers into cooperatives. The cooperatives will be provided operational capitals by the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP), a partner bank of MinDA in its countryside strides, he said.
“The estimated economic benefits also include employment and earnings on value adding by the processing facilities expected to be set-up and since the major markets are the US and Europe, this also means an improvement on our balance of trade with these (progressive) nations,” Piñol said.
He added: “The greatest reward that Mindanao will get from this booming industry is environmental and watershed conservation and headwaters protection. The sustained supply of Water, being a critical factor in agriculture, will be assured through the protection of the forests, watershed and headwaters which are continuously threatened as the growing population look for materials for the establishment of human settlements.”
Piñol admitted that “it will take seven years before a farmer who decides to plant bamboo in his denuded areas and riverbanks could harvest and earn his first P100,000 from his Giant Bamboo.”
From the first harvest stage, however, participating farmers will enjoy more comfort because bamboo farms will be flourishing with Bamboo shoots (dabong) continuously sprouting to replace matured bamboos, he hinted.
Piñol recalled that during his stint as Agriculture secretary, he had facilitated the classification of bamboo as among the country’s high value crops. AGM