The Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (ERDB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will spearhead the first ASEAN Bamboo Congress for Climate Change Adaptation towards Environmental Sustainability and Economic Resiliency on August 12-16, 2019 at the Iloilo International Convention Center in Iloilo City.
The event will convene more than 200 researchers, academics, policy makers, professionals and business groups within ASEAN region to discuss and exchange information on bamboo and sustainable environmental strategies. The Congress will also be attended by officials from International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR) based in Beijing, China, and World Bamboo Organization as well as representatives from other non-ASEAN countries, like Australia, USA, and China.
According to ERDB Director and National Coordinator of the Bamboo Plantation Development Project (BPDP) Dr. Sofio B. Quintana, ERDB conducts this activity in recognition of the importance of bamboo in adapting to and mitigating the effects of climate change. “Bamboo is considered as a valuable economic and environmental resource, and ERDB hopes to continue to innovate ways on increasing awareness on the promising potentials of bamboo especially in attaining environmental sustainability and economic resiliency,” Director Quintana added.
Angelito B. Exconde, Assistant National Coordinator of BPDP and the lead coordinator for this activity, said that “through the congress, ERDB hopes to strengthen partnership with other countries in enhancing science-based research and development on bamboo to support the bamboo industry, and how this industry can contribute to sustainable economic growth and environmental sustainability.”
Bamboo as a valuable resource
Aside from being the fastest growing plant on earth, bamboo is also known for its resilience, versatility, beauty, and strength. For ages, bamboos have been used for different purposes. For one, bamboo is a popular construction material in the countryside. It can be used for poles, scaffolding, rafts and bamboo splits. Recent developments made it possible to have panel boards, plywood, plyboard and laminated board made out of bamboo. Aside from construction purposes, it is also used for furniture like sala set, dining set, cabinets, benches, tables, beds and chairs. The culms can also be made into handicrafts like brooches, wall decors, vases, fans and lampshades. Novelty items like the bambike (bicycle made of bamboo) and motorcycle were also crafted out of bamboo.
As source of food, bamboo shoots of kawayan tinik, giant bamboo, machiku, and oldham are healthy sources of protein and carbohydrates. With the integration of bamboo in agroforestry, it can also contribute to poverty reduction and help address the issue of hunger in the countryside.
During windy and stormy conditions, bamboo serves as windbreak because of its well-developed system. Moreover, it helps prevent soil erosion and has a high capacity for catching and conserving water which makes it an ideal preventive measure for flash floods.
Climate change mitigation
Bamboo is also recognized for its potential in sequestering carbon. In 2013 to 2014, ERDB assessed the carbon sink potential of bamboos for mitigating the effects of climate change. The study revealed that bamboo can store 39.8 to 44.3 percent of carbon in its total biomass. The study is the first local attempt to determine the biomass and carbon sequestration of four economically important bamboo species in the country kawayan tinik (Bambusa blumeana), giant bamboo (Dendrocalamus asper), and bolo (Gigantochloa levis).
The carbon sequestration ability of bamboo is almost comparable to trees which makes it an ideal element in the reforestation efforts of the government. It makes bamboo an ideal carbon storage for greenhouse gases. The recommended way to use bamboo as carbon sink is to harvest poles and turn them into useful products like furniture and handicrafts for continuity of carbon storage.
Existing ERDB research and development efforts
ERDB, as the principal research and development (R & D) arm of DENR, has been doing researches on bamboo since 1987. It has developed various technologies on bamboo including propagation methods, plantation establishment, and harvesting techniques. In 1990, ERDB established a Bambusetum at the Los Baños Experimental Station to conserve and preserve more than 40 different rare and endangered bamboo species. ERDB maintains the Bambusetum to serve as an avenue for spreading knowledge and sparking people’s interest in bamboo conservation, propagation, and utilization.
Additional bambusetums have also been established by ERDB in Baguio City, Bukidnon, Davao, Albay, and in some other parts of the country.
Under Executive Order No. 26 dated February 24, 2011 the National Greening Program (NGP) targeted 300,000 hectares to be planted with various bamboo species in different parts of the country from 2011 to 2016. In 2017, under the expanded NGP, ERDB was assigned to lead BPDP that focused on rehabilitating degraded areas, riverbanks, watersheds and open public areas using appropriate bamboo species to support the development of Philippine bamboo industry.
To further promote the importance of bamboo, the Bureau also established the bamboo and rattan gallery at the ERDB Main Office in Los Baños, Laguna. To date, it contains a collection of more than 250 bamboo products showcasing the Philippine native bamboos, and their production and influence to the Filipinos’ way of life.
The future of the bamboo industry is very promising. With its economic and ecological potentials, the demand on bamboo has increased in the domestic and international markets resulting to scarcity of its supply. ERDB has been at the forefront of discovering research and information in developing bamboo plantations to help address the scarce supply of bamboos.
“We foresee this [Congress] as a relevant and leading avenue for the improvement of bamboo information not only in the ASEAN region but globally. Climate change is a pressing issue, but there is strength in numbers. I believe that if various stakeholders will strongly collaborate, we can respond fully to this problem,” said Dr. Quintana. – Allysa Marie C. Federio