Bamboo could give Samar the big break

TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag - The Freeman

There was on November 19 in The FREEMAN a story by Miriam Desacada about bamboo. The bamboo is to be introduced into the province of Samar as a multi-million peso government project with the assistance of the private sector. The plan is to put up tens of thousands of hectares to plantation farming in the hope of harvesting millions of high-grade bamboo poles.

Desacada quoted Samar Governor Sharee Ann Tan as saying the provincial government is talking with the private sector "to discuss ways we can enhance our collaboration with them on this project. Since the private sector already has 50 hectares, and the LGU is also eyeing 550 hectares, I think this is a very good start."

I have counted no less than five and definitely closer to 10 private sector entities mentioned in the story as being interested in the project just as Tan and the provincial government of Samar must be. Bamboo is a very versatile plant, as I will explain later, and has many other already known uses as they are. Samar, has the land and is not likely to run out of it anytime soon.

Bamboo grows almost anywhere in Asia. It does not need much care. All it needs is to be put up in all those many envisioned plantations in the right direction where they can provide the best returns for those who invested in them, including those in the borderline sectors who can only expect their livelihoods to get any better. If the projects provide academic assistance that can truly give meaning to countryside development in this very impoverished part of the country.

I too have had my interest in the bamboo piqued quite early on when then-Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs Francisco Benedicto brought to Cebu a number of Turkish businessmen representing their country's clothing, apparel, and textile industry which enjoys double-digit percentages growth in that country's economy.

My interest in the bamboo stemmed mainly from the disclosure of the Turkish businessmen that their product lines range from delicate women's underwear to heavier stuff like textile and everything in between. We were even given samples of their socks, ties, and hankies. All made from bamboo. They came to the Philippines looking for partners to supply them.

I had to say this because The FREEMAN article of 28 paragraphs nowhere could be found a single sentence describing what anyone's dream of what the bamboo poles are for. "Bagan damo la ini nga kawayan nga ipaninigarilyo la." There was a mention in paragraph 25 about construction and furniture applications. But that is common knowledge. Nobody will sit up and listen to that. For such a huge project we need everybody to listen.

There are only two industries in the world today that have consistently rated very highly. The war industry and the fashion, beauty, and wellness industry. I think clothing and apparel is a closely integral part of the latter. It gives me great enthusiasm to hope for small Filipino farmers to latch on to this world class industry with their homegrown bamboo poles.

It bleeds my heart, almost literally, to see bamboo farmers bringing bamboo poles to where anybody needs these versatile plants. I asked around and found out that a pole costs something like ?80. I am not sure about this but this is what I have been told. Even at ?100 the bamboo pole is being undercut and sold far cheaper than the potential price it can fetch given its many applications.

An engineer friend of mine was surprised to learn of the many other uses of bamboo in the clothing and fashion industry because like me, when I first heard of them myself, I could not believe such beautiful and delicate things can come from bamboo. But I was able to hold them in my hands, look at them with my eyes and wore them and felt good about myself. Go bamboo. Go Samar.

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