MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Science and Technology (DOST), through its Forest Products Research and Development Institute (FPRDI), is aggressively pursuing research and development efforts to help the country’s “immature” engineered bamboo industry.
Science Secretary Mario Montejo said that the FPRDI, in cooperation with the Cauayan City government, in Isabela, headed by Mayor Bernard Faustino Dy, was pursuing R&D to develop engineered bamboo poles that can be fastened together into longer poles and used possibly for construction of tall houses or building infrastructure.
Montejo said that the R&D project was just one of many as the DOST seeks to enhance the livelihood prospects for Filipino bamboo farmers and planters.
Montejo said that the engineered bamboo global market was estimated to reach $20 billion by 2020. The global market for bamboo products is currently estimated to amount to $12 billion, much of it for the engineered bamboo sector.
FPRDI director Romulo Aggangan said that while the country has an engineered bamboo industry, it was “still immature and bugged by various problems.” However, he said that it was “also blessed with a lot of strengths, and given enough support from concerned groups, can be expected to grow strong, and in time be able to meet the needs of local clients or even capture a slice of the global market.”
According to Rico Cabangon, FPRDI supervising science research specialist, engineered bamboo includes a wide range of products made by binding together bamboo veneers, strands, fibers, strips or slats, woven mats or flattened bamboo with a suitable glue to form a composite material designed to meet specific needs.
“It is often stronger and less prone to warping than equivalent solid woods,” Cabangon said.
In the Philippines, there are about 10 companies making engineered bamboo products, most of them small-scale enterprises producing items on a per order basis. The most common species they use are kawayan tinik (Bambusa blumeana), giant bamboo (Dendrocalamus asper), bolo (Gigantochloa levis), botong (D. latiforus).
Cabangon says there is at present a huge national demand for engineered bamboo. Since 2010, it has been mandated by law that 25 percent of all school desks and furniture in the country’s public schools should be made of engineered bamboo.
To meet the projected annual demand of 312,000 school desks and other saleable products such as panels, flooring, decor and high-end furniture, about 10,000 hectares of plantations must be established using the right bamboo species.
“Good thing there are government projects that push for the development of plantations,” reports Cabangon. “These include those of the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) and the National Greening Program which lists bamboo as a priority reforestation species.”
In machine design and fabrication, FPRDI has developed the bamboo flattening machine and the bamboo veneer lathe specifically for the engineered bamboo producers.
One of the biggest boosts to the sector was the creation in 2010 of the Philippine Bamboo Industry Development Council through Executive Order 879. Tasked to provide policy and program directions, it is expected to push for robust and sustainable bamboo enterprises nationwide, with the help of both government and private groups.