THE Philippines has yet to maximize the potentials of bamboo. If properly harnessed, bamboo in its natural form can help the country face the challenges of climate change, pollution, sewage treatment and soil erosion. In its harvested form, bamboo can be used in construction, manufacturing crafts, fermented drinks, arts and play equipment.
In her presentation during the recently concluded forum organized by the Philippine Wood Producers Association, Architect Maria Lourdes Martinez-Onozawa, principal architect of MLMO Architecture and Planning, pointed out that only 11 species out of the 62 native and introduced species have high economic value. Furthermore, she reported that the country faces a supply deficit of 20 million poles annually, based on the data gathered by the research team of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). With an annual demand of 60 million poles, the government must act fast to address the gap immediately.
Per the DENR, there are 52,000-hectare bamboo plantations nationwide, with 40 percent bamboo raw materials used by the furniture and handicraft, while 25 percent goes for fish pens and housing construction, while 10 percent is used by the agriculture sector and 25 percent for other purposes.
Nevertheless, Onozawa said the country must take the bull by the horns, so to speak, as far as the challenges faced by the bamboo industry, such as the lack of supply of bamboo poles as raw material for finished products; lack of coordinated action in ensuring a steady supply of bamboo poles; lack of high-tech facilities/ machineries in processing; lack of market information; substandard quality of products due to low quality of raw material; lack of appropriate machinery; lack of highly skilled technicians; poor product designs; and transport of bamboo needs certification, whereas bamboo plantations are very far from central regional offices.
She urged the Board of Investment’s (BIO) Bamboo Industry Development Roadmap to act as an impetus and game changer to consolidate and rejuvenate the bamboo industry. The estimated number of bamboo culms (poles) required in the BOI-inspired bamboo industry road map is 107 million each year. There are 204 bamboo clumps/hectares producing on the average of five culms/clump per year. One hectare of bamboo is 1,000 culms per year. The hectarage projection is 107,000 hectares. According to the DENR, the current estimated total bamboo production is 10 million culms. “Thus, we need to scale up bamboo pole production by a factor of 10 times between now and 2040, the time frame of the BOI road map,” Onozawa said.
Moreover, the environmental architect stressed the bamboo industry is a key driver to boost inclusive growth. The bamboo industry encourages sustainable economies especially geared for rural livelihood,” she said.
By developing the bamboo industry, the country will get benefits, such as the following: Sequesters 21.10 tons of carbon dioxide annually and is never released even after harvest; purifies air by giving off 35 percent more oxygen than any other flora in the world; forest canopy prevents the evaporation of streams; allows dispersion of raindrops, thus mitigating soil erosion; has a high water-storage capacity, able to release water onto dry streams and its surrounding plants during the dry season; organic—has natural antibacterial agents that allow it to be grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers; sustainable—regenerates itself from the roots, replacing crops naturally without the need for replanting or crop rotation; and renewable—one of the fastest-growing plants on the planet, growing up to 1 meter a day.
In terms of strength, Onozawa said bamboo is as strong as mild with the compression strength of concrete. An inch of bamboo can hold 7.5 tons of weight. “University studies show that soft woods cannot match bamboo’s compression and tensile strength,” she explained.
“Bamboo fibers have a tensile strength of up to 3,200 kilograms/centimeter, surpassing that of timber and mild steel,” she added.
Bamboo reaches its full strength in three to five years. It grows 2 inches per hour.Since it bends and sways, bamboo, if built properly, can stand up to 7.5 intensity, based on a study done by the National Bamboo Federation of Costa Rica.
Since it is environment-friendly, Onozawa said bamboo can be treated with natural solutions.
“Growing bamboo near the home enhances indoor air quality by 30 percent, while new construction often uses particle boards with chemical adhesives,” she said.
Some of the significant bamboo species in the Philippines are Kauayan Tinik, Bambusa Blumeana, Giant Bamboo, Dendrocalamus Asper Machiku (Botong in Davao), Dendrocalamus Latiflorus, Guada bamboo Dendrocalamus Merrillianus, Kaychi, Gigantochloa Atter Bolo or Botong Patong and Gigantochloa Levis, among others.