Wonderful bamboo: A solution to Phl woes
- Alice H. Reyes () - October 9, 2011 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The fastest growing plant species on the planet may yet be the solution to many of the problems besetting the Philippines, not the least of which is global warming.

Consider these: bamboo can sequester carbon dioxide in large quantities, faster than any other plant; it is a natural water control barrier due to its widespread root system and large canopy, thus reducing rain runoff and preventing massive soil erosion and retaining twice as much water in a watershed; it has a very high water use efficiency, double that of any tree species; its root system retains micro-nutrients in the soil, making it ready for robust growth and development of agricultural crops; it can be selectively harvested without disturbing the root system, and bamboo culms are harvested manually with machetes or saws. To top it all, there is no need for irrigation.

Three companies, with complementary skills, have created the Simba Asia Pacific Corp. to address the urgent needs of the Philippines with a focus on renewable energy, feedstock production, and biomass processing technologies for biofuel and biocoal and power products.

These are the Asia Pacific Resource Recovery Reuse and Development Co. (APRRRDC), Tiger Carbon, and Simba Power. Agricultural scientists and bamboo experts of APRRRDC will plant indigenous or exotic species of the bamboo. Tiger Carbon will secure carbon credits which can provide a continuous income over the life of the project, and Simba Power will provide the technology to prepare the feedstock to be used for local power projects.

Felix Aycardo Velasquez, professional agriculturist, founding board member of the Bamboo Network of the Philippines, who chairs the Philippine Chamber of Commerce’s Renewable Energy and Fuel Committee, and executive director of APRRRDC, speaks in glowing terms of the wonders of bamboo.

“There are 78 different types of bamboo available in the Philippines, but only five are useful for our purposes: tinik, killing, buho, bayog and giant,” he explained.

Bamboo’s uses are numerous. It is raw material for handicrafts, security paper and bamboo silk, it yields bamboo juice and is a substitute for wood, providing construction materials and fuel paper.

Environment-wise, it is useful for erosion control, watershed improvement, oxygen generation, carbon sink, windbreaks and firebreaks, landscape enhancement and most importantly, produces biocoal, a clean and green fuel substitute.

Simba Asia proposes to design and develop a program for bamboo plantations to provide unlimited livelihood opportunities for communities hosting mining projects.

A bamboo plantation on or near a mining site will create a carbon neutral low-cost power feedstock that will produce a consistent supply of high energy content for up to a hundred years. Bamboo can be burnt directly in a biomass power plant or pre-processed into biocoal, a carbon neutral fuel that is a suitable replacement for fossil coal.

Bamboo could be planted in denuded areas of the country. Considering that there are less than five million hectares of forest cover today when there should be 15 million hectares at the very least, fast-growing bamboo could solve the DENR’s reforestation problem.

Again, with the existing scarcity of wood due to the log ban, bamboo could supply a portion of the DECS needs of 80 million chairs and desks for our public schools.

Clearly this giant grass, bamboo, found all over the Philippine countryside, has yet to fulfill its huge potentials toward this end, the public/private partnership of the APRRRDC and the Department of National Defense has targeted 2,000 hectares in Capas, Tarlac for a bamboo plantation. It is a small step forward in the herculean task of mitigating climate change and global warming which could be disastrous to the 7,000 islands of the Philippines.

In the meantime there is a need to educate the public on the proper planting of bamboo and to rally Filipino entrepreneurs, who have the means, to use their idle lands for the planting of bamboo in cooperation with the Simba Asia Pacific Corp. which can provide the needed expertise.

Bamboo plantations throughout the land will signal a new age of prosperity for the Philippines, which could eventually export biocoal to countries like Japan which even now has a demand for it.

Clean air, clean fuel, clean energy, abundant forests, long term employment opportunities, all because of the use of a plant, hitherto unnoticed. Hail, the wonderful bamboo.

ASIA PACIFIC RESOURCE RECOVERY REUSE AND DEVELOPMENT CO BAMBOO BAMBOO NETWORK OF THE PHILIPPINES CARBON DEPARTMENT OF NATIONAL DEFENSE FELIX AYCARDO VELASQUEZ PHILIPPINE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE RENEWABLE ENERGY AND FUEL COMMITTEE SIMBA ASIA PACIFIC CORP SIMBA POWER TIGER CARBON
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