Bamboo products represent a global market worth billions of US Dollar and we are so blessed to have the resources to grow just about anything from crops to forest. This was the gist of the opening statement of Department of Trade and Industry-CAR Regional Director Myrna Pablo during the Bamboo Techno-Investment Forum held in Baguio City recently.

Rovilyn Mayat-an
Crafts and Folk Arts - Cordillera-based Entrepreneurs Rovilyn Mayat-an shares her stories to participants during the Bamboo Techno-Investment Forum & Roadshow conducted by #DTICAR

Answering why bamboo should be propagated in the region, Pablo explained to the 200 strong participants that bamboo can help boost the Cordillera’s comparative advantage like the environment to grow the various species and its many uses thus ensuring markets aside from its big potential for socio-economic development.

The investment opportunities, market trends and economic significance of bamboo were likewise pointed out by Philippine Bamboo Foundation President Edgardo Manda who also invited the participants to the Kawayanan of St. Francis Xaview Seminary in Baguio where different species are being cultivated for planting.

National Industry Cluster Coordinator for Bamboo Judith Angeles, the Regional Director of DTI Region 3 presented to the participants the ongoing programs and projects of the Philippine Bamboo Industry Coordinating Council that supports the growth and development of the Bamboo industry in the country. 

Carlo Balneg
Abra Entrepreneur Carlo Balneg poses beside a bamboo stand at the Philippine Bambusetum of the Watershed and Water Resources Research Center of Ecosystem (WWRRC) of DENR. The roadshow took place in three venues that includes the DENR's Bambusetum and Mayat-an's workplace in Asin Barangay,  #CreativeBaguio #CordilleraBambooIndustry #Bambuhay

As to the viability of bamboo in CAR, Minda Odsey of the Watershed and Water Resources Research Center- Ecosystem Research and Development Bureau of DENR-CAR attested that the upland provinces of the region is ideal for bamboo propagation and that her office also provides planting materials or propagules upon request.

Assistant Regional Director Augusto Lagon of DENR-CAR and Engr. Ernesto Aton of the National Greening Program of DENR-CAR encouraged farmers to increase their bamboo plantation citing that it is not only used for anti-erosion and soil protection but harvesting is less prohibitive unlike timber.

Dr. Rico Jariel Cabangoon, the head and research specialist of the Engineered Products Development Section of the Forest Products Research and Development Institute discussed various technology innovations and consultancy activities that his offers to entrepreneurs engaged in bamboo. Fatima Tangan, a retired DENR official who now serves as a consultant shared some insights on environmental rehabilitation and livelihood components of bamboo.

Bamboo Techno-Investment Forum Roadshow participants
Participants of the Bamboo Techno-Investment Forum Roadshow poses for posterity at the Francis Xavier Seminary with Philippine Bamboo Foundation President Edgardo Manda shown wearing a red scarf at the back row.

Two participants of the forum shared their experiences and Carlo Balneg of Carlo’s Bamboocraft from the province of Abra narrated how he started small and joined DTI’s many trade fairs until finally a big break came when an exporting firm from Cebu ordered P4.6 Million pesos worth of bamboo placemats. Balneg further said that through bamboo, he was able to employ 120 members of his barangay and send his siblings to college.

Entrepreneur Rovilyn Mayat-an, a consistent participant to DTI-CAR’s annual trade fair IMPAKABSAT narrated how she developed her products to suit the growing demands of buyers. She combines hand woven fabrics with traditional baskets made of bamboo and even introduced pouches, body-bags and a unique product she calls “anti-depressant bag” that users can hug when sad and lonely.

The roadshow took place in three venues that includes the DENR's Bambusetum, along Loacan Road, Mayat-an's workplace in Asin Barangay and the Kawayanan of Francis Xavier Seminary, Liteng Pacdal, Baguio City. With all the agencies and private entities involved, the participants expressed optimism that an act to make the bamboo industry competitive will soon be passed to ensure sufficient supply of quality raw materials, provide opportunities for local employment and establish bamboo-based enterprises nationwide.♦

Cacao 1

About three hundred farmers and entrepreneurs from north Luzon trooped to La Trinidad, Benguet for a three-day forum that includes an investment forum on Cacao as part of the Agribusiness Support for Promotion and Investment in Regional Exposition (ASPIRE) conducted by the Department of Agriculture, Department of Trade and Industry and Philippine Chamber of Commerce.

Benguet Governor Cresencio Pacalso during his opening remarks said that it looks like there is a bright future for the cacao industry here in the Cordillera as proven by the number of participants who came from the provinces of the Cordillera Administrative Region.

DTI CAR Regional Director Myrna Pablo in her opening statement said that the collaboration of government line agencies seeks to address the production of high value crops such as the development of the cacao industry in the region. Pablo, who is also the DTI Champion for coffee mentioned that a Cacao Road Map is now guiding these agencies to boost the infant industry with the end goal of raising cacao production to about one hundred metric tons of beans in the Cordillera alone by 2022 as a commitment to the 22 Cacao Challenge. With cooperating agencies such as DA, DTI, DENR and Department of Science and Technology that provide post-harvest-facilities and Landbank for loans, Pablo looks forward to a more purposive and cohesive convergence of service providers that leads to what she refers to as “Angat Lahat.” 

Regional Executive Director Narciso Edillo of the DA Regional Field Office-CAR assured the participants that cacao despite its being mostly a backyard industry has a guaranteed market and there is no substitute to it as a food commodity.

Atty. Rhaegee Tamaña who represented Sen. Cynthia Villar of the Senate Committee on Agriculture said the country is well positioned to fill the gap in the shortage of cacao in the world market. She further added that these are the exciting times to the cacao industry as the demand is so great and RP is well positioned to fill the gap with government’s help.

Cacao 2

Cordillera Cacao Industry Cluster Coordinator and DTI Abra Provincial Director Arell Bañez gave an overview of cacao saying that more farmers in the region are already engaged in cacao. Bañez informed the participants that a Cordillera Cacao Industry Council has been organized with Victorino Baroña as its Chairman.

DTI National Cacao Industry Coordinator and Assistant Regional Director of DTI Region 11 Edwin Banquerigo gave an overview and outlined the state and investment opportunities for cacao. Banquerigo explained that nobody is left behind the collaboration and convergence referring to the “inclusive growth” in every facet of the cacao industry value chain. The top exporters of chocolate like Germany, Netherlands and Belgium are not even cacao producers and this he said makes the Philippines in a good competitive advantage.

Rex Puentespina of Malagos Chocolates Agri-ventures narrated his experience and good agricultural practices including promotion and marketing strategies.

The chocolate flavor starts from the farmer with a good cacao beans Puentespina explained. Chocolate is considered as food for the Gods hence it should start from good genetics, optimum fermentation and product testing through taste tests he further elaborated.

Philippine Cacao Industry Council Chair Valente Turtur spent his time discussing the basics and economics of cacao production saying “Sa cacao may forever”. Turtur advised the farmers to plant grafted cacao from DA approved clones. Since cacao is a forest dweller according to Turtur, farmers should plant cacao in a shaded environment with a distance of at least 2.5 to 3 meters apart. A manual for coffee production has been produced by the Council and he urged farmers to also consult their local agriculture office for guidance. Other resource speakers who shared valuable insights to the participants were Patricia Limpe of Antonio Pueo Inc. Coffee Factory who discussed market opportunities for cacao producers and Philo Chua of Theo & Philo Artisan Chocolates who lengthily discussed investment opportunities for processed cacao.♦

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