Philippine Tropical Fabrics Day

January 24, 2011

Mr President, my distinguished colleagues:
Today, January 24, has been declared by MalacaƱang as the “Philippine Tropical Fabrics Day.” The objective is to increase awareness on the use of indigenous fibers and fabrics. Proclamation No. 86 is the government’s recognition of the importance of promoting our nation’s rich resources, particularly our indigenous fibers and fabrics through the implementation of Republic Act 9242, or the Philippine Tropical Fabrics Law, which this representation authored in our first term. This measure intends to promote the country’s natural fabrics through the use of such materials for the official uniforms of government officials and employees, with the end in view of strengthening the local fiber industry.
In my advocacy to revive this industry, I have visited numerous weaving communities over the past decades, all over the country. I have seen precious fabrics woven by hand, stitched with intricate designs, each thread, each fabric telling a story, many of which were passed on from generation to generation from our ancestors.
We have the raw materials, the skill and the expertise to further enhance this sector. We have the sturdy abaca grown all over the country; the banana fiber; the delicate pineapple fiber; the precious silk; and many others. Weaving is also a traditional industry in various parts of the country, with different provinces known for their respective natural fabrics such as the Ikat, Tinalak and Inaul of Mindanao; the Abel of Ilocos; the weaves of the different tribes from the Cordilleras; the Hablon of the Ilonggos; and the Pina of Aklan, to name a few.
In 2004, there was an estimated 1.4 million government employees who should have been wearing uniforms made from local tropical fabrics. According to the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), producing a set of uniforms that contain 20% indigenous fiber blend would need approximately 571 metric tons of pineapple, or 691 MT of banana, or 627 MT of abaca fibers. These requirements would thus generate additional income for our agricultural workers in these specific crops. The DOST estimates that processing of these fibers into yarns and finished fabrics could produce an income of P126.5 million for pineapple, P122.8 M for banana, and P110.1 M for abaca fiber.[1]
The tropical fabrics industry has great potential in the world market. With the shift in consciousness and more responsible consumer practices, there is an increased demand for natural, eco-friendly fabrics that give livelihood to communities and preserve the environment.
We have our government agencies that should work with each other: the Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM) who organizes trade fairs, that showcase our products both locally and abroad; the Fiber Industry Development Authority (FIDA) that promotes fiber products, establishes processing facilities and product development; the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) who undertakes the marketing and establishment of trade fairs; the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) for skills training; and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) for provision of equipment and conduct of textile research and development. In 2009, the Philippine Council for Industry and Energy Research and Development, and the Philippine Textile Research Institute led the stakeholders in the natural fibers industry in crafting a Textile Industry Roadmap, which was designed to enforce the Tropical Fabrics Law by 2010, establish a pool of Filipino designers by 2011, and revive at least three spinning mills by 2014.[2] Let us make use of this Roadmap to guide us as we double, even triple our efforts in strengthening this industry.
I also call on our other government agencies to follow the lead and implement RA 9242 and sustain this practice in their respective departments. The strengthening of the tropical fabrics industry is attuned to our advocacy of promoting sustainable development and preserving our nation’s rich heritage. It will also provide millions of jobs needed in the rural areas. While being environment-friendly, this effort will not only instill pride and a sense of identity and nationalism in our government workforce, but for all Filipinos as they use fabrics which are distinctly Filipino made.
Mr. President, as we celebrate the Philippine Tropical Fabrics Day, let us make this potential a reality and make our distinct fabrics known to our people and to the world. Let us support our tropical fiber industry and preserve the art of Filipino weaving.
DOST Leads to Strengthen Philippine Tropical Fabric. Department of Science and Technology, December 29, 2009.
Road map for Philippine tropical fabrics & ethnic textiles unveiled. Philippine Textile Research Institute, December 7, 2009.