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DEPUTY SPEAKER LOREN LEGARDA Representative, Lone District of Antique House of Representatives Philippine Bamboo Industry Development Council (PBIDC) NCR-South Luzon Virtual Bamboo Summit 12 April 2021

April 12, 2021

House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco;

Deputy Speaker Deogracias Victor “DV” Savellano;

Secretary Ramon Lopez of the Department of Trade and Industry;

Mr. Rene “Butch” Madarang, Executive Director of the Philippine Bamboo Industry Development Council;

Representatives of the different government agencies, local government units, and stakeholders participating in this NCR-South Luzon Virtual Bamboo Summit, good afternoon!

 

The bamboo has been enjoying a revival of sorts in recent years.  I am thankful to those who have championed and who keep championing its many qualities and encouraging its propagation.  I am in no doubt that we will see rapid growth in the bamboo industry from propagation, harvesting techniques, treatment, building design, engineering, product development and other uses.

There is no need to tout the benefits of this miracle of plants, we have had those in spades.

As a sustainability and disaster risk resiliency champion, I think there is no other crop that could give us the benefits of this fast growing and hardy grass. Allow me just to focus on these two characteristics that encouraged me to throw my full support for the crop.

The first is its fast renewability which translates to fast replaceability. Environmental destruction has accompanied most human development because we tend to build without regard for how fast the source of the material can regenerate.  Bamboo regenerates in just a few years and there is no reason why we could not build structures where we only need to replace specific parts that need it.  But this has to be built into the design of the structure.  I am calling on architects to start brainstorming on the use of bamboo and for its replaceability per pole to be built into their designs.

The second is its resiliency, not only as a plant but as a building material. 

But along with any rapid expansion, we need to discuss the caveats.  Caveats do not have to be signs of pessimism.  They are safeguards so that the future of bamboo is assured.

The first is against its incursion and potential invasiveness in forest areas.  A paper published in March 2020 by Qui-Fang Xu describes the rapid expansion of bamboo hectarage, both intentional and by encroachment, and gives details of the influence of bamboo invasion on biodiversity and soil processes as well as potential ecological risks.[1] 

In 2014, Lin found that soil bacterial communities of bamboo forests were most similar to that of a transitional forest.  Ecological risks include the loss of forest — the retreat of forest lands due to invasive bamboo and the serious diseases or insect attacks due to reduced biodiversity. 

May I say quickly, however, that these studies also show inconsistent findings regarding biological diversity and many soil processes, which probably reflect complex interacting factors including original forest composition, other soil properties, and invasion history.  As a precautionary measure, though, we need to make sure that bamboo plantations, especially those of running bamboo, keep a balanced ratio against forest area in order.  There is no reason why we need to encroach in the little forest areas we have left if we have so much idle agricultural lands.

The second is monoculture that impacts on its capacity to hold the soil.  As a shallow rooted crop, bamboo microroots will bind the tertiary layer of the soil, acting as a sort of micro tiller for the top soil protecting the lower layers from water run-off. 

Happily, for these first two caveats, there are ways to counter them in order to continue ensuring that we can benefit from this building material.  One measure is to intercrop with deep rooting native trees for 40% of the area that can form part of the local crop diversity and the sustainability of the local community. This helps in increasing diversity as well as ensuring that if the flood waters are rampaging, deep rooted species can hold the soil up better than the bamboo can and the culms will not uproot complete, bringing the entire river bank with it.

I think in order to remove further obstacles that might be in the way of a bamboo era, we need to analyze resistance.  There is still a prevailing perception that cement and tin roofs are signs of betterment.  We may need to revisit building codes and the assistance for housing given to constituents.  If we shift these policies, and include bamboo as a building material that we respect and uphold, then the demand will rise and its stature as a “poor man’s hut” will diminish. 

We also have to think of some culturally ingrained biases, such as that bamboo groves invite snakes and, hence, they should not be near dwellings.  We need to think of these issues as ecosystem ones — the snakes are there to reduce the rat population, thereby also keeping virus and disease spread in check.  People just need to understand the relationships and know how to handle biodiversity better.

During the 39th episode of Stories of the Better Normal, a webinar organized by my office in partnership with the Climate Change Commission, Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities, the Mother Earth Foundation, the Climate Reality Project, and the Department of Education, titled “Bamboo is Life”, I, along with DS DV Savellano, Mayor Esmie Pineda of Lubao Pampanga, Philippine Bamboo Foundation President Ed Manda, and Bamboo Grassroots Atelier Architect Jed Michael de Guzman discussed the potential of and opportunities in bamboo development. The bamboo industry, as a nature-based solution, can help in poverty alleviation, environmental protection, and climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Bamboos are fast growing, making it our best renewable and sustainable resource. It is with this, and among other reasons, that I directed the DENR and the Philippine Bamboo Foundation to initiate efforts in building a bamboo university to provide more technical assistance to our bamboo farmers and entrepreneurs. I also asked the DENR to revisit the National Greening Program funding for bamboo in order to provide more access to our farmers who want to propagate bamboo.

In conclusion, the measures we have to take in order to lower the risks of invasiveness and monoculture will give us benefits of increased biodiversity, increased deep rooted native trees as well as shifts in policy to recognize bamboo as a viable building material.  The shifts in policy and cultural biases can be addressed so that we can remove the obstacles to a thriving bamboo industry.

I hope that this NCR-South Luzon Virtual Bamboo Summit will serve as a venue for all stakeholders and experts to strengthen our resolve to help develop our own local bamboo industry.

Thank you and good day.

 

[1]  https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2351989419304111?via%3Dihub