Cebu News

Samar soon to be bamboo capital

Miriam G. Desacada - The Freeman
Samar soon to be bamboo capital
For the government side, the Samar LGU, Spark Samar, and the DENR-Region 8, signed the MOA with the private sector consisting of various big local companies---Samar Bamboo Corporation (SBC), Magis Energy Holdings, and Taft Hydro Power---and foreign companies, namely Rizome, Company aDryada, and Audax Global for this huge undertaking.
STAR / File

TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines —The Samar provincial government, and other government agencies entered into a historic pact with big private companies, here and abroad, to signal the start of a multi-million venture for a giant bamboo plantation project that would transform Samar into the country’s bamboo capital.

For the government side, the Samar LGU, Spark Samar, and the DENR-Region 8, signed the MOA with the private sector consisting of various big local companies---Samar Bamboo Corporation (SBC), Magis Energy Holdings, and Taft Hydro Power---and foreign companies, namely Rizome, Company aDryada, and Audax Global for this huge undertaking.

The milestone MOA signing was done in two locations: one at the Samar Island Natural Park (SINP) building in Paranas, Samar; and the other, earlier at the DENR-8 regional office in Tacloban City.

The MOA signed in SINP was among the Samar provincial government, SBC, aDryada (a French company), and Taft Hydro. The one signed in Tacloban was between SBC and the DENR-8, which involved the planting of bamboo on the denuded portion of the forest land in Samar.

The MOA signing was done in the presence of several mayors of Samar towns covered by the project, and top officials of the SINP, the regulatory body of the protected area, the part of which is where the bamboo plantation will be established.

This public-private collaboration of the bamboo project is eyed to achieve the targeted 40,000 hectares of bamboo forest in Samar. For a start the SBC planted bamboo propagules in the 50-hectare pilot area at Barangay Canvais in Motiong, Samar. The company targets 4 million bamboo to be planted here.

During the MOA signing, Samar Governor Sharee Ann Tan told the journalists covering the event that the provincial government is meeting with the private sector “to discuss ways on how we can enhance our collaboration with them on this project.”

“Since the private sector already has 50 hectares, and the LGU is eyeing also with 550 hectares, I think this is a good start,” said the governor. Although the government’s site is within a protected area, the SINP had already granted a permit to allow the planting of giant bamboos there.

Tan said the provincial government is providing the funds here. “It’s like being run by the government,” she said, adding that the planting works on this site shall be done “phase by phase.”

The towns that will participate in the project, with an allocation of one-hectare each, are: Basey, Sta. Rita, Gandara, San Jorge, Matuguinao, Calbiga and Paranas, all of Samar. In the case of idle lands, Tan said she will negotiate with the owners to allow their lots to be part of the bamboo plantation.

Tan expected that, after the MOA signing, “there will be financial support coming from the private sector to be poured to the government and that the people or farmers will have access to it. We assure the private sector that the farmers will work on the proper implementation of the project so that the fund will not go to waste.”

SBC president Ruben Diego Picardo assured the Samar provincial officials and the town mayors that the project will carry livelihood opportunities, employment and investments to benefit the people of Samar.

"We will build a bamboo processing plant in Samar, to give sustainable jobs to the people,” he said.

Incidentally, Picardo, a Dolores-Samar native who made good as an engineer abroad, is also the president of Taft Hydro Energy Corporation that pioneered the utilization of hydropower for electricity in Samar, and is one of the top officials of Magis Energy Holdings, a company that harnesses renewable energy sources in the country.

Picardo shared a point on the bamboo project relative to his current business of power plants: “We are making power plants for Samar, constructing more. Since our plants are powered by water, we need to have a healthy dose of water, thus we must have a healthy forest cover.”

“We picked Samar because it is one of the provinces with the highest density of rainforest, and the biggest forest cover. So, it behooves us, my company, to preserve the forest cover that we currently have and enhance it more so we can have more water in our river to flow into our turbines,” he said.

“When we first studied this project, our watershed in SINP was being progressively eroded and abused by the locals who have no jobs or income,” he said. With livelihood opportunities from the bamboo, these locals would no longer resort to slash-and-burn farming that denuded the forest and destroyed the fertile land, he added.

Tan is optimistic about the benefits of the bamboo project, which she said has bright prospects for economic growth in Samar province. Aside from the additional income and source of livelihood that the project could provide for her constituents, this bamboo forest “helps in erosion control, as part of mitigating climate change.”

Meanwhile, Major General Camilo Ligayo, 8th Infantry Division commander, expressed happiness for the launching of the bamboo plantation project, which provides livelihood to the people who are now encouraged to abandon their useless rebellion movement. The project further drew some foreign investors who no longer felt threatened with the problem of insurgency.

Ligayo said the participation of foreign companies in the bamboo project is evident that peace and development now dominate Eastern Visayas after the Task Force ELCAC freed the region from terrorism and violence spawned by the New People’s Army.

The region is already insurgency-free, said the general.

"The role now of our troops is to secure investors and maintain peaceful business activities not only in Samar but also around Eastern Visayas,” Ligayo added.

What made this bamboo project a highly viable undertaking is the participation of foreign companies for additional investment and technology transfer.

One of these is aDryada, a French company for forest restoration and biodiversity, that “develops and operates large-scale (>50,000 ha) nature-based projects (forest, mangrove and wetland, etc.) focusing on biodiversity and maximizing positive social impacts, thereby generating high-quality carbon credits.”

Then there’s Rizome Philippines located in Cagayan de Oro City where its factory, the Bamboo Ecologic Export Philippines, is also situated. Rizome is “the first company to produce a wide array of bamboo building products like bamboo slats, veneers, panels, laminated veneer lumber and laminated strand lumber that will be in the country’s market.”

Rizome envisions on “reducing the carbon footprint in the next years to come as we spark the bamboo industry in the county.”

Russel Smith, Rizome’s CEO and president, told the local media in an interview: “Rizome is a company that is all about regeneration ... our natural environment… we help with livelihood for everyone, for the people who plant the bamboo, people who work with the bamboo, and people who use bamboo for their houses.”

Picardo concluded: “The beauty of the bamboo is that it helps reduce global warming while creating a new industry that will provide jobs to the people without harming the environment.”  — (FREEMAN)

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