Since Catanduanes is the country’s top abaca producer, contributing 90 percent to abaca production in the Bicol Region, Senator Cynthia Villar is pushing for the declaration of the Catanduanes as the ‘Abaca Capital of the Philippines.
In Senate Bill No. 1748, Villar, chairperson of the Senate agriculture and food committee, cited statistics from the Department of Agriculture showing that, “from 2013 to 2019, the Bicol Region is the top producer of abaca fiber in the country.
She noted that the region produced a total of 22,987 metric ton, which comprises 37% of the national production.
She said Catanduanes is also considered as the top abaca producer in the world.
“The abaca harvested in the province of Catanduanes is even higher than the production of Ecuador, the second biggest abaca producer in the world after the Philippines,” Villar said.
The senator’s bill seeks to “promote and support the abaca industry of the province, while safeguarding it from destruction of plant diseases and calamitous events.”
“It is proper and apt that we officially name Catanduanes as the abaca capital of our country because it really is ever since.
Once passed, she said the bill will also provide the province with additional government support and allocation.
“That will help them to further grow and develop the abaca industry to benefit the farmers and all the people who depend on it for livelihood,” said Villar.
Abaca is the main source of livelihood of the people living in Catanduanes.
The abaca industry directly benefits nearly 13,000 farmers who are tending over 33,000 hectares of land in 11 abaca-producing municipalities in the province.
“About 97% of all the total abaca produced in the country are exported as pulp, raw fiber, handloom fabric or handicraft. So, it is a high value agricultural commodity and top dollar earner. Demand for it is even increasing during the pandemic because abaca is the main raw materials for masks, PPE and other medical or healthcare-related products,” she said.
Abaca is also an important raw material for tea bags, coffee filters, food packaging, textile, clothing, shoes, bags, wall coverings, sheets, and even paper money. Japanese currency notes (Yen) actually contain up to 30% abaca.
The senator also emphasized that the abaca sector alone contributes P4.7 billion to the country’s economy annually, so it deserves all the support it needs.
Aside from its economic contribution, fiber from abaca also has great environmental benefits.
The plant which is a species of banana native to the Philippines is considered to be zero waste.”
Aside from abaca, Villar also bats for more government support to other natural fibers in the country such as bagasse, bamboo, banana, bariw, buntal, buri, cabonegro, cogon, coir, cotton, jute (saluyot), kapok, kenaf, kozo, maguey, nipa, nito, pandan, pina, raffia, ramie, rattan, rice straw, sabutan, salago, sansevieria, seagrass, sil, sisal, sword agave, talahib, tikog, vetiver and waterlily.