The industrial and environmental benefits of bamboo are being introduced to this city, reminding residents that the plant is becoming a popular source of livelihood and environmental protection.
Edgardo Manda, president of The Philippine Bamboo Foundation Inc. (PBFI), says the international market for bamboo is growing fast, but the Philippines is still being groomed as a potential market source for bamboo.
Manda says the development of the bamboo industry is slow in the Philippines because it is still treated as a “grass,” and farmers are only interested in the production of coconut, cacao, coffee and rubber.
“Now that it is becoming popular, we have been receiving orders, that is why we are accelerating the growth of bamboo,” Manda says.
A February exhibit in the popular White House here showcased the art works of Ifugao bamboo carvers. The Asin Bamboo Carvers Guild Inc. (ABCGI) shifted to bamboo as an alternative material, which they say, is environment friendly and can sustain the livelihood of many Ifugao families who have settled in Baguio and Benguet.
“Owned by the Tan Yan Kee Foundation and the Lucio Tan Group of Companies, the White House on Leonard Wood will serve as a showcase of bamboo products,” the foundation press statement said.
Another added White House attraction in the famous White House is a Bambusetum, which will serve as an eco-tour designation and a hands-on workshop to help promote the propagation of bamboo stands.
Manda says China remains the leading bamboo exporter, cornering 75 percent of the global market, followed by Vietnam. International trade in bamboo is $35 billion, up from $270 million in 2010.
Bamboo was once a minor forest product in India, but it was reclassified as tree because of its importance as a timber replacement, Manda says.
“Engineered bamboo has been thriving in Europe, United States and Brazil because tree cutting was prohibited, and engineered bamboo in India and China are in demand. We still lack bamboo forests to catch up with the demand,” Manda says. Engineered bamboo is used for constructing posts, windows and walls.
In the Philippines, a bamboo farmer can earn P60,000 per hectare on the third-year growth. “If it is fully developed, the estimate earnings is P100,000 per hectare, the added value such as food and full production are not yet included there,” Manda says. He adds that bamboo can also be tapped for social housing, and more farmers can be motivated to plant more because of the potential earnings.
However, bamboo has not been classified as an agricultural product by the Department of Agriculture (DA), but it has been referred to the high-value crop program of the DA. Other agencies such as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) should start training foresters to plant bamboo trees in the forest. Meanwhile, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is helping the product development of bamboo.
The PBFI stated that bamboo is a promising agricultural commodity, but in environmental protection, it is seen as a peerless erosion control agent. Bamboo is also tapped for carbon sequestration in the city, says Cordelia Lacsamana, city environment officer. A bamboo forest sequesters 400 percent carbon dioxide and generates 35 percent more oxygen than an equivalent stand of trees.
The PBFI introduced bamboo to the Asin village here, which is the home of wood carvers, as an erosion control mechanism, after the city dump from Barangay Irisan collapsed in their area in 2011. The tragedy left a scar in Baguio as the city government scrambled to solve the waste management problem here. The PBFI led the planting of bamboos in the area to prevent the landslides from occurring again.
In Lubao, Pampanga, bamboos were planted along the highway. The place has 4.5 hectares of linear plantation, and part of the production is made into desks for the Department of Education.
In Baguio City, PBFI has established nurseries in St. Francis seminary, with more than 20 species of bamboo planted. In Barangay Sto. Nino in Tublay, Benguet, bamboo seedlings also thrive.
Desiree Caluza is a Baguio-based writer and journalist who has been rounding the Cordillera region for years, covering stories on culture, human rights, and indigenous people rights. She is also a poet and a painter.
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Indigenous healing traditions are still strong in the Cordillera.