The Department of Trade and Industry revealed during the National Bamboo Congress in October 2012 that there’s a shortfall of 2.35 million bamboo poles annually to cover the demand for local furniture and handicraft industry.
This was cited by bamboo advocate Edgardo Manda, who said that in the Philippines, the use of bamboo in the construction of houses has not been as extensive as it should be because the grass is not recognized as a conventional construction material under the building code. He foresees, however, the rise of bamboo in the property industry as timber replacement due to lack or scarcity of wood.
The tall grass can be found everywhere. It is as abundant as it is hardy, a symbol of Filipino resilience. The bamboo sways with the strongest of winds, and bends unbreakable in extreme weather.
The bamboo has long been used by Filipinos for various construction needs. It has also been present in homegrown innovations, such as that of architect Edilberto Morcilla’s floating shelters (as classrooms, homes, car ports), of which he points out in the technical description that “in areas where strong current and debris can occur, the most practical and cheapest solution is to plant bamboo all around the house.”
Morcilla added that bamboos “can give shade and ecological value,” and that they “grow and multiply very rapidly and serve the purpose of defusing the current and debris in a matter of one and a half years or less.”
Creating more jobs
“The advantage of using bamboo in the real estate and construction industries lies in the creation of sustainable demand for investors or government to pour resources in the development of commercial bamboo plantation in the Philippines, which could lead to the development of ‘downstream’ products. This would also lead to creating more jobs in the rural areas,” Manda said.
The Forest Products Research and Development Institute (FPRDI), in a statement released in February, said “engineered” bamboo may soon become a more popular material for making housing components and furniture in the Philippines due to FPRDI’s efforts at improving its quality.
The FPRDI coined its improved bamboo materials as “e-bamboo” and said its “engineered bamboo includes a wide range of composite products manufactured by binding together bamboo strips, slats, strands, particles, fibers or veneers with a suitable glue.”
The FPRDI added that e-bamboo is used in different ways, often in applications similar to solid wood. “Because it is man-made, it can be designed to meet specific performance requirements. It is also often stronger and less prone to warping than equivalent solid wood products,” according to its statement.
The FPRDI said that to ensure the quality of e-bamboo made in the Philippines, the agency in 2010 started to develop manufacturing standards for e-bamboo products, especially floor tiles.
Project leader Dr. Marina A. Alipon said the team “checked the physical and mechanical properties of e-bamboo made by various companies and organizations across the country, because we wanted to come up with quality standards that we could submit to the Bureau of Product Standards’ Accreditation of Innovative Technologies for Housing (Aitech).”
“We were able to come up with data on the optimal strength requirements for locally made e-bamboo and submitted these to Aitech for approval. Our goal is for our products to eventually become competitive in both local and foreign markets,” Alipon said.
The FPRDI said that on a global scale, e-bamboo is produced primarily in China and sold in North America, Europe, Japan and Korea. Local production has been minimal, hampered by varied factors including the lack of raw materials.
FPRDI director Romulo T. Aggangan said “the present scenario may look bleak, but the future certainly looks bright for the country’s bamboo (and therefore e-bamboo) industry—especially with all the attention it received last year from the national government.”
Aggangan added that Executive Order No. 879 created the Philippine Bamboo Industry Development Council, which has been tasked to push for a robust and sustainable bamboo sector nationwide, with the help of other government agencies and the private sector.
“Our policymakers have finally seen the potential of bamboo enterprises as engines for economic growth, especially in the rural areas. The world market for bamboo products amounted to $12 billion in 2012 and is expected to rise by $20 billion in 2015,” Aggangan said.
“One of the government’s flagship projects, the National Greening Program, has listed bamboo among its priority reforestation crops. Likewise, EO 879 has directed the Department of Education to use bamboo in at least 25 percent of the annual school desks and other furniture requirements of all public schools nationwide. That’s a big market for our bamboo producers, and for e-bamboo manufacturers,” Aggangan added.