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Biggest bamboo products facility opens in Aurora

SAN LUIS, Aurora – The government, in partnership with the private sector, launched here last Monday the country’s biggest facility for engineered bamboo products in a bid to maximize its enormous economic and ecological potential as an industry and turn the province into a major producer of bamboo by-products in the country.     


The P6-million Aurora Bamboo Center (ABC) was unveiled in a grand launching in a two-hectare area in Barangay Nonong in this town which is projected to produce at least 18,000 bamboo poles annually into processed products for furniture, school desks, wood parquet, tiles, home furnishings, and musical instruments among others.


Department of Trade and Industry Secretary Gregory Domingo said the ABC is the largest shared service facility (SSF) of the DTI. The ABC is  among the five facilities that the government has so far launched in the country.


“I have been to Kalinga, Benguet, Davao and Bicol, and by far this is the biggest SSF for bamboo production,” Domingo said.


Domingo said they expect to launch 700 more SSFs in the country at a cost of P700 million. He said these SSFs could generate jobs in the countryside and realize the vision for inclusive economic growth of the Aquino administration.


DTI undersecretary Merly Cruz said the SSFs could benefit up to 35,000 Filipinos nationwide.

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Aside from the two DTI officials, the launching of the facility was graced by Sen. Edgardo Angara, Gov. Bellaflor Angara-Castillo and member mayors of the provincial chapter of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines led by Baler Mayor Arthur Angara and Ariel de Jesus, chairperson of the 26-member Aurora Buffalo Multi-purpose Cooperative (ABMC) which will run the facility.


Senator Angara said the country could  draw inspiration from the experience of China where one province is even mass-producing bamboo products worth up to $5 million. He said the province is an ideal place for bamboo since it rains even during summertime and where bamboo is harvestable in three years.


Angara said a Danish company is entering into a joint venture to put up a 1,000-hectare bamboo plantation inside the Aurora Special Economic Zone in Casiguran in northern Aurora.


“It’s a great opportunity for Aurora where bamboo will partner with our coco coir products which are being exported to China,” he said.


“Our economy is now growing. It is a galloping economy. What we only lack is the creation of jobs in the countryside,” he added.


The ABC is a joint project of the DTI and the Rural Empowerment Assistance and Development (READ) Foundation Inc. of the Angaras.


Aldrin Veneracion, DTI business development unit chief, said the facility is expected to generate an initial 22 jobs and up to 300 indirect jobs in the province.


It would also benefit 170 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and manufacturers and 150,000 furniture makers in the province through the provision of a kiln dryer. 


The facility houses P6 million worth of service equipment such as band saw, molders, planers, motorized rollers, platters, dust collectors and sharpeners for lamination, cutting, cut-outs and bending.


Bamboo - engineered products than can be made at the center are slat flooring, school desks and woodworks, while semi-processed products include wine holder, chair with sea grass, organizer, e-bamboo cabinet, wall clock, driftwood table, console table with mirror and coco bowl.     


There are around 1,000 species of bamboo in the world, 49 of which grow abundantly in the country among which are Kawayan tinik (Bambusa blumeana), Bayog (Bambusa sp.), Kawayan kiling (Bambusa vulgaris) and Giant bamboo (Dendrocalamus asper).


Like rice and corn, bamboo belongs to the Graminae family of grass and is considered by forest scientists as a “poor man’s lumber” owing to its tensile strength. Tensile strength refers to the stress or load a piece of bamboo can hold without breaking.


As the world’s fastest growing plant, bamboo can grow up to a meter a day, can reach maturity in five years, and can be harvested once every two years for about 120 years.

Bamboo is considered a sound investment not only because of its $10-billion international market value, but also because it has thousands of products, requires a low capital investment, is profitable, environment-friendly and fast-growing, offers  quality, has available technologies and there is  available  vast tracts of land for pole production.


Business opportunities available involve nursery production, mass propagation through tissue culture, bamboo farming, primary processing and production of finished products.    

Blesila Lantayona, DTI regional director for Central Luzon and cluster coordinator of the National Bamboo Industry, said the launch of the facility in this town is crucial because of the government’s resolve to develop the bamboo industry owing to the global demand for bamboo products. She said the global trade of bamboo products averaged $1.49 billion in 2007-2010.


With the threat of global warming and climate change, and the growing demand for eco-friendly alternative to wood to conserve the world’s remaining forests, international market value for commercial bamboo is expected to hit $20 billion by 2015.


Some 45 percent of the total bamboo market will be accounted for by emerging products.

The major markets for bamboo products are the European Union (EU), United States, Japan, Canada, China, Singapore, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico and Australia.


China is the top exporter of bamboo products with a a market share of 46 percent, while the US is the largest Western consumer of bamboo with  annual bamboo products imports of $300 million, 95 percent of which come from China. About 57 percent of imports are bamboo flooring and baskets.


The Philippines is the world’s sixth biggest exporter of bamboo products with a total export value reaching $30 million in 2009. A sustainable bamboo industry will position the Philippines as the second largest bamboo producer in the world, next to China.

In the country, local demand for bamboo products amounts to P450 million mainly for school desks and chairs of the Department of Education and materials for housing projects of the National Housing Authority.


Aside from the EU, US, Japan, Canada, China, Singapore, South Korea, Mexico  and Australia, Philippine bamboo products are exported mainly to Russia, Hong Kong, South Africa, India, Norway and Turkey with handicrafts and furniture as major export products.

To promote the bamboo industry development project in the country,  Executive Order 879 was issued creating the Philippine Bamboo Industry Development Council which directed the use of bamboo for at least 25 percent of the desk and other bamboo furniture requirements of public elementary and secondary schools and prioritizing the use of bamboo in furniture fixtures and other construction requirements of government facilities.

The reasons for the issuance of the EO were: to firm up the country’s contribution to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ goal to reforest at least 500,000 hectares with bamboo from 2010 to 2020; utilize bamboo in helping mitigate climate change and reduce the impacts of natural disasters; use it as cash crop for farmers; corner a large share of the $10-billion global market; enable local government units to participate more actively in planting and processing of bamboo into various products,  and to strengthen the bamboo industry in general.        


In Central Luzon, bamboo production is being pump-primed under the National Greening Program being pushed by President Aquino and Secretary Ramon Paje of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.


Maximo Dichoso, DENR Region 3 director, said a total of 7,848 hectares of bamboo plantation is being targeted throughout Central Luzon by 2016, mainly for riverbanks stabilization and stream erosion control.


With a carbon sequestration potential of about 12 tons per hectare, the bamboo plantation set under the NGP is expected to sequester up to 94,176 tons, he said.

Also present in the ABC launch were DTI undersecretary Zenaida Maglaya, Department of Education chief of physical facilities and schools engineering division Oliver Hernandez, provincial administrator Alex Ocampo and DTI provincial director Edna Dizon.


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