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Philippine National Report on Bamboo

November 16, 2010



The Philippine archipelago, composed of 7,100 islands, is located between latitudes 5oN and 21oN and longitudes 116oE and 127oE. It is bordered by the Luzon strait to the north the Pacific Ocean to the east, the Celebes Sea to the south, the Sulu and South China Seas to the west (FAO, 1995 and World Resources Institute, 1994).


It has a total land area of 30 million ha, 53 percent (15.88 m. ha) of which is forest land (Philippine Forestry Statistics 1996). Land is classified as alienable and disposable, unclassified and forest lands. Forest lands are categorized into reservation, timberland, national parks, military and naval reservation, civil reservation and fishponds.


There are approximately 83 million Filipinos (Philippine Statistical Yearbook, 2005). Two thirds of the population lives in rural areas. The total labor force in 1993 was 26.8 million (13.0 million in urban areas, and 13.8 million in rural areas) with 10 percent unemployed (de Los Angeles and Ygrubay, 1992).

Almost all the lowland areas suitable for intensive cultivation are occupied (ADB, 1994). Landless people are forced to migrate to the steep uplands where they convert forests to farms through slash and burn cultivation and the most notable result is forest degradation. In 1994, it was estimated that deforestation occurs at a rate of 100,000 ha per year.


Because of the rather sad plight of the environmental and socio-economic conditions of the people within the forest lands, utilization of resources must be sustainably reached. Among the resources found within these forest lands are bamboo. Bamboo has proven to be vital resources in terms of its contribution to the national economy and ecological stability of the Philippines.


Bamboo stands out among woody plants because it possesses unique qualities and offers a wide array of uses. The bamboo culms has long been tapped as an inexpensive source of housing materials, furniture, handicraft, banana props, fish pens and other innumerable products. The young shoots of certain species are gathered for food. The rhizomes in its roots help prevent soil erosion and control floods. Through the years, the uses of bamboo have largely diversified and benefited many industries. Because of its large fibers, it is also a good material for pulp and paper. Its short rotation of about 4-6 years is a distinct advantage over fast growing tree species because of quick turn over in terms of investments.


In spite of its myriad of traditional uses, the main reasons for the classification of bamboo as a "minor forest product" or "secondary timber" have been enumerated by Bello and Espiloy in 1995. These include the following: 1.) abundance of wood from natural forests in the past particularly the lesser known or commercially less accepted species for the reproduction of reconstituted panel products; and 2.) constraints in cultivating bamboo which may be monocarpic, fire tender and easily bruised.


In the Philippines, bamboo has diverse, functional and traditional uses. It underlies so much of Philippine culture that it is part of many ceremonies, traditions and beliefs. Philippine culture is also replete with myths and tales about bamboo. For example, the first Filipino man ("lalaki") and woman (babae") came from a piece of bamboo according to a Visayan myth.


Various instruments be it wind, string or percussion are made out of bamboo while split and unsplit bamboo are used in Philippine folkdances. Examples of these are "tinikling", "singkil", and "subli".

Bamboo is also part of Philippine folk games. The "palo sebo," a greased bamboo pole with a small bag of prize money or toys tied at the end is a game always played during fiesta time. "Luksong kawayan" or high jump also uses bamboo poles or sticks as hurdles.

Bamboo has likewise taken a very important role as a traditional weapon during times of war. During the Spanish era, bamboo mats were rolled to appear like cannons and were mounted on carts. On Sept. 2, 1896, a Filipino band composed of bamboo musical instruments was used to fool their enemies by attacking the Spanish garrison.


In ancient times, furniture was usually made of bamboo. These include "papag" (bed), "bangko" (bench), and "aparador" (cabinet). On the other hand, basketry is probably the oldest bamboo handicraft in the Philippines. Bamboo baskets are produced for all sorts of uses.


Bamboo is also used in many ways for food and food preparation. Bamboo containers are used to steam rice, the staple food of the Filipinos. Bamboo shoots are either cooked as food or pickled and is considered as a delicacy in many places. However, this aspect of bamboo utilization has not yet been developed as an industry. Bamboo kitchen utensils are carved from bamboo while split bamboo is woven and laminated to make plates. In rural areas, "banggerahan or paminggalan" still serve as cupboards where dishes are dried and kept. Bamboo skewers are commonly used to roast pigs while thinner sticks are used for barbeques such as pork, chicken, innards, hotdogs, bananas and sweet potatoes.


In agriculture, bamboo is used as props for banana and vegetables, baskets for packaging fruits, fish and vegetables, agricultural implements and construction of animal drawn carts for transporting farm products. Bamboo is also used as dibble sticks in planting. In early agriculture, bamboo was used for fetching water from rivers, deep wells or surface wells.


Bamboo is also used extensively as an indigenous material for soil and water conservation technologies. Check dams use woven bamboo strips between the pegs while bush or stones are placed against the dam’s upper side. In protecting river/stream banks, bamboo can be planted to stabilize water while holding the soil in place and reducing water flow.

In the 1570s, when the Spaniards arrived in the country, the typical Filipino house or "bahay kubo" was built with a framework of bamboo poles and walls of split cane woven like a mat. 




A. Bamboo Resources


In the past, bamboo production area would only refer to bamboos naturally growing in the forest and in "natural stands" in private lands. However, today, bamboo plantations have become dependable sources of raw materials for some segments of the bamboo industry.


The Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (ERDB), through the UNDP-FAO Bamboo Research and Development Project established 57 ha of bamboo pilot plantations in six different sites of the country with 8 to 11 ha per site. Eight commercial species are being tried in the pilot plantations. These are the following: Bambusa blumeana (kauayan tinik); Bambusa vulgaris (kiling); Bambusa sp. (bayog); Bambusa sp. (laak); Dendrocalamus asper (giant bamboo);Gigantochloa levis (bolo); Gigantochloa atter (kayali); and Schizostachyum lumampao (buho). The plantations are located in Rosario, La Union (Region 1); Pampanga Agricultural College (PAC), Magalang, Pampanga (Region 3); Dumarao, Capiz (Region 6), Minglanilla, Cebu (Region 7), Malaybalay, Bukidnon (Region 10); and Bislig, Surigao del Sur (CARAGA).

In Davao Province in Mindanao, thousands of hectares of lands were planted to laak (Bambusa sp. 2). These were meant for the demand for banana props.


Jose Pastor of Isla Verde, Batangas established a 50-ha kauayan-tinik (Bambusa blumeana) plantation. The bamboos were being used by the family in producing furnitures.

In Pililla, Rizal, Domingo Alfonso has a 20-ha kauayan-tinik (Bambusa blumeana) plantation. The family is producing high-quality furniture which they supply to department stores, i.e. Rustans, and SM stores and also for export.


Based on the information from various sources the total available bamboo resources in terms of area covered and annual estimated available bamboo poles for harvesting and utilization were analyzed according to the nature of origin (Table 2).


The computation showed that there is at least a total of about 39,211 to 52,711 ha of production area for erect bamboos with an expected production of approximately 29 to 52 million harvestable poles per year. Of these volumes, about 65 to 68 percent will come from forestlands, 22 to 25 percent from natural stands, 5 to 5.5 percent from private plantations and 3 to 4 percent from government plantations. This data is rather high compared to the figures presented in Table 3 where only 626,889 pieces of bamboo were gathered from forestlands in 1996.Rojo in 1996 prepared a list of Philippine bamboos taxonomically recognized and/or published by various authors.


In that same year, Rojo reported that there are now 62 species of bamboos growing in the Philippines (Table 5). However, it seems that there are only 21 species of bamboos endemic to the Philippines. Six of these are also native to other countries. Of the endemics, those not found elsewhere but in the Philippines, seven belong to the genus Schizostachybum of which five are climbing and are erect. The rest belong to other genera, of which three are erect and five are climbing. Thus, most Philippines bamboos that are native to the country are mostly climbing (10 species) and only five species are erect ones. The predominance of climbing bamboos over the erect ones of both endemic and native species has an implication on the supply of culms available for commercial use. At present, the climbing bamboos although abundant in terms of the number of culms are used for kaing or basket making and native fences which are priced lower than the products manufactured from erect bamboos.


Of the native and erect bamboos, only four species are of economic and commercial importance (Rojo 1996). These species are: Dendrocalamus(Bambusa species) merrillianus, Shizostachyum lima, S. lumampao and (Bambusa spec. 2) philippinensis. Nevertheless, domestication of introduced bamboos has long been done and is used commercially. The commercially useful bamboos are shown in Table 6. It should be noted that of the twelve species listed only 2 or 3 are native and/or endemic species.




A. Bamboo


1. Propagation techniques

Bamboos can be propagated either by sexual (reproductive) or asexual (vegetative) means. Sexual propagation is by means of seeds. However, this is not popular in the country due to the irregularity and rarity of flowering of common bamboo species. Nevertheless, some species like buho (Schizostachyum lumampao) flower gregariously. According to studies made on Kayauan tinik (Bambusa blumeana), even if seeds are available, these are mostly infertile and viability is low. Vegetative or asexual propagation makes use of different parts of bamboo plants as propagation material. There are various methods of vegetative propagation described by various authors, ERDB-DENR/FAO/UNDP (1994) and PCCARD (1991). These are as follows:


a. Clump division

The safest method is by clump division. This is normally used for bamboo species which are difficult to propagate. This method is also preferred when there is a need for rapid growth. However, this method is laborious and affects the productive capacity of the clump.


b. Basal Culm Division or Offset

This method makes use of the rhizomes and the portion of the culms. It is commonly used in the monopodial or non-clump forming bamboos. It can be applied to some sympodial bamboo species with loose clumps such as "Anos" (S. lima) and "Buho" (S. Lumampao) because these are difficult to propagate either by culm or branch cutting.


c. Culm Cutting

This uses segments of culm (cuttings) bearing buds or fascicles of branches. Cuttings are extensively used to propagate bamboo of the genera Bambusa, Dendrocalamus and Gigantochloa.

d. Branch Cutting


This method is an alternative method of propagating rhizomatous branch producing bamboos like "Bayog" (D.asper), "Kauayan tinik" ( B. blumeana), kauayan kiling, (B. vulgaris) and other similar varieties.

e. Branch Marcot Culm cutting

This method is similar to culm cutting method. However, it induces first the rooting of branches by marcotage, before the culm is cut into one-node pieces for planting.

f. Tissue culture


This involves the development of new plants from plant tissues in artificial media under aseptic conditions. Dr. Alfinetta Zamora of the Institute of Plant Breeding at UPLB has developed satisfactory protocols for machiku (D. latiflorus), calcutta bamboo (D. strictus) and "Buho" (S. lumampao).

g. Airponics


It is a method of accelerating the growth of plants in oxygen-rich environment without soil (Maravilla, 1996 ). The plant root zone is suspended in a growing chamber and intermittently pulse misted with a nutrient solution. Propagation of bamboo through this method is still very new. The facility of airponics plant propagation system (APPS) is located in Sta. Barbara, Iloilo, Central Philippines.


Given these various propagation methods, the most common method practiced in the country is culm cutting with some procedural variations found practical and effective by individual propagators. This is applied to the most common commercial species such as "Bayog", "Kauayan tinik"," kauayan kiling", "Bolo", “Laak", and "Kayali." For giant bamboo and "Bayog," branch cutting and branch marcotting have been employed, respectively ( Gigare et al. 1992 and Alfonso, D. 1990). Offset method is found to be effective in propagating buho where culm cutting is not so successful. Tissue culture derived plants of Dendrocalamus strictus andSchizostchyum lumampao have been produced and seedlings have been trial planted and are now vigorously growing in the field (Zamora and Gruezo, 1992). Maravilla (1996) reported that branch cutting of giant bamboo has been successfully propagated through APPS.






a. Site Requirements

The growth and development of bamboo depends on water, sunlight, nutrients and other growth requirements. However, these growth requirements vary from one species to another. Nevertheless, these important requirements as forwarded by some authors (PCARRD 1992, Malvas 1995, Hoang et al. 1992 and MPFD 1990) hold true for Philippine bamboo.


b. Site Preparation

The Bamboo Farming Manual published by the ERDB-DENR/UNDP/FAO (1994), PCARRD (1989), Pinol et al.(1991), Lapis et al. (1987), Hoang (1991), and Malab et al. (1996) describe the various steps in the preparation of planting site for bamboo:

i. Sketching or Mapping and Delineation of Area

It is important to sketch the main features of the planting site to assess the accessibility of the area to water sources and determine the location, size and form of the plantation


ii. Staking

Four corners of the plantation should be marked with long poles. If the plantation is too large, it should be divided into compartments measuring 100m x 100m.


iii. Field Layout

The recommended spacing for most commercial bamboo species and other large clump and culm bamboo is from 7m x 7m to 10m x 10m. For medium size clump bamboos like laak and boho the spacing is 4m x 5m. For riverbank andembankment stabilization planting quincunx system is suggested at a closer spacing of 5m x 5m.


iv. Clearing

Weeds and unwanted vegetation is removed from the area. Depending on vegetation site, complete clearing or strip clearing may be done. For riverbank or hillside planting, spot clearing is recommended for least soil disturbance.


v. Planting Hole Preparation

The planting hole which is prepared in advance should be wide enough to accommodate the propagules either rooted or directly planted. The suggested dimension of the planting hole is 50 cm (20 in.) wide and 40 cm (16 in.) deep.



c. Transporting/Hardening of Planting Stock

Hardening of the plants prior to transporting for outplanting which is about 4 to 6 months after potting is recommended. Loading and unloading of potted propagules is carefully done to avoid damage especially to the roots and new shoots.


d. Planting

Planting of bamboo in plantation can be done either by direct planting of cuttings or by outplanting the nursery-raised propagules.


e. Plantation maintenance and silvicultural treatments


i. Fertilization

Although bamboo can grow in harsh conditions, it is sometimes necessary to apply fertilizer to provide the plants the nutrients necessary for optimum growth, especially in very poor and marginal areas. Fertilizer application which is about 200 to 300 gm of complete fertilizer is done at planting time and every 3 to 4 months thereafter. Organic fertilizer such as cow dung and chicken manure is also recommended.

ii. Watering

When rainfall is irregular and plants show signs of wilting during the first few months after planting, watering is deemed essential.


iii. Mulching

To reduce moisture loss from the soil and from the plant, mulching is recommended. This entails covering the hills and the plant with grasses and other organic materials.

iv. Replacement of Mortality

Replacement of plants that have died should be done as soon as possible because the growth of the replanted plants may be suppressed by the older plants.


v. Weeding and Brushing

Regular weeding and brushing is done during the first two years of plantation establishment to eliminate competition for light, water and nutrients from other vegetation.


vi. Thinning

Thinning is done three years after planting to remove damaged, defective and dead culms. More space is provided for the growth of new shoots and for better facilitation of management activities.


vii. Pruning

Pruning of lower branches of the culms is recommended to provide access to the culms during fertilization and harvesting.


viii. Protection

Establishment of firebreaks along the boundaries and compartment of plantations especially during dry months is recommended to prevent fires. Planting of fast growing fire resistant species is also recommended.

Fencing the plantation perimeters should be done if grazing animals like cattle, goats, and carabao are prevalent in the area.


Rodents are common pests which damage shoots and young culms. Termites also destroy roots and lower portions of the culm. Other bamboo pests commonly observed are cottony cushion mealy bug, bamboo scale, locust, leaf roller, tussick, moth and aphids. Bamboo diseases include tar spot, leafspot, leaf rust, culm blight, and other physiological diseases. Commercial rodenticides, insecticide and fungicide can be applied to control these pests and diseases. However, none of these have been reported to be in widespread proportion to pose a serious problem.


f. Bamboo Harvesting Systems/Methods

Harvesting is of great importance because it is the culmination of all production activities and efforts.

There are two known methods or systems of harvesting as practiced in the country:


g. Selective cutting

This is the most common and traditional practice where only the selected culms or poles of some specific age are harvested.


ii. Clear cut or blanket method

All poles/culms regardless of age are cut leaving only the very young culms and shoots. However, this system is practiced in very limited areas and for specific purpose. This method is known to be applied in laak species (Bambusa sp. 2) which are used as banana props.



Factors to consider in harvesting bamboo

  • Culm age

Generally, most of the commercial bamboo species are harvested between 3-5 years old.


  • Cutting Time/Season

Dry season is the best time to harvest bamboo when the culms are lowest in terms of starch content level making it less susceptible to powder post beetle attack. No shoot emergence also occurs during this time, hence shoot damage is evaded.

  • Cutting Height

Cutting of poles/culms should be done as close as possible to the ground preferably after the first node for maximum pole utilization and growing space management.

  • Distribution

Culms to be harvested should be uniformly distributed within the clump periphery. This allows even spacing of the culms to be left and eventually of the new shoots that will emerge.


Harvesting Treatment for Old Unmanaged Bamboo Clumps


Due to inappropriate harvesting practices and absence of proper management, most of the existing bamboo stands have become dense and congested. However, these bamboo stands can be reinvigorated and improved by hilling-up of the soil occupied by the clumps and through fertilizer application. Thinning/cleaning can also improve productivity. There are two known methods of thinning old clumps - horse shoe and cross pattern methods.




1. Major Products and Uses



Generally, bamboo products are classified as primary (poles, shoots and stumps), secondary or semi-processed (sawali, splits, sticks, boards) and finished products (handicraft, furniture and ready to cook/eat shoots). Primary and secondary products are inputs for various industries including housing, fishing, and agriculture and manufacturing while finished products are directly channeled to end-users in both domestic and export markets for direct consumption (OIDCI, 1997).


Primary Products

a. Poles - The most common shape of the full culm is usually tapered from the butt to the tip.

b. Shoots - This is the emerging portion of the rhizome that becomes the culm/pole, a number of bamboo shoots are edible.


c. Stump - This is the portion of the bamboo plant/clump left after harvesting.


Secondary Products

a. Sawali

Bamboo mats are made by plaiting splits. The matting is used for interior walls partitions, ceilings doors and windows and for exterior walls. Mats are produced in a variety of shapes and patterns.


b. Splits

The term split is used for any shape smaller than a quarter of the culm. Gen