During the 17th Senate Congress on its first regular plenary session held on May 31, 2017, the Senate Bill No. 1478 otherwise known as Philippine Bamboo Industry Development Act or PHILBIDA was introduced to the Honorable members of the Senate by way of a sponsorship speech delivered by Honorable Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri. The privilege speech in power point presentation of Senator Zubiri reported the Committee report No. 116 on Trade and Industry where he serves as the Chairperson. In his speech, he highlighted the characteristics of bamboo as a wonder grass, poor man’s timber, and a grass of hope. He also emphasized the fast growth performance of bamboo.

Senator Zubiri also mentioned in his speech that research and development programs should continue as infusion of new technologies in the processing and product development is still inadequate and slow. Many entreprises are still utilizing wood working machines which are not suitable tool for processing bamboo. There is also a growing shortage of supply of bamboo raw materials. Currently, there is no institution that is dedicated to oversee the development of the bamboo industry. Among the impediments to realize bamboo industry in the Philippines are the dispersed programs, unsupportive policies, and lack of incentives to attract investments.

The Senator appealed to the Senate President, to wit;

“Mr. President, I believe that the bamboo industry is one of these high potential industries if given proper attention and priority by the government. If developed, it could generate more jobs and bring inclusive growth in the countryside. With only a handful of countries competing in the bamboo industry worldwide, there is a great potential for the Philippine bamboo industry to get the bigger pie in the world market and be on the top export products of the country.”

Senator Zubiri also reported that the Senate Bill 1478 or the PHILBIDA was proposed by the Committee on Trade, Commerce and Entrepreneurship jointly with the Committees on Finance, and Ways and Means. The bill aims to make bamboo and its products as one of the main actors in Philippine export industries.

He also said that PHILBIDA is based on the realistic vision and actionable targets embodied in the Philippine Bamboo Roadmap which includes scientific propagation, development and management, processing, utilization, business development, and commercialization of Philippine bamboos. In addition, he put forward the environmental benefits of bamboos in terms of carbon capture where bamboo absorbs carbon dioxide better than trees and provides 35% higher oxygen than tree. It also aids in riverbanks stabilization and erosion control.

Senator Zubiri further appealed to his colleagues in the Senate to pass the bill. He believes that with support and attention, the Philippine industry will reach greater heights, that is appropriate for the tallest grass on earth. It is only then that we will be able to truly say that bamboo is the grass of hope for the Filipino people.

After the sponsorship speech by Senator Zubiri, Senator Gordon, and Senator Legarda expressed their appreciation of the Bill and further inquired on various aspects of bamboo.

The drafting of the Senate Bill No. 1478 was actively participated by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources thru the Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau. The technical inputs in the formulation of the Senate Bill through the Technical Working Group were provided by the bamboo experts, researchers, and scientists of ERDB led by Dr. Henry A. Adornado, the ERDB Director.

Twenty three bamboo propagules of kawayan kiling (3), kawayan tinik (4), giant bamboo (5), yellow bamboo (3), iron bamboo (7), and variegated bamboo (1), including information materials were distributed by ERDB to the Senators.

Other government agencies such as Department of Trade and Industry represented by the Board of Investments and Design Center of the Philippines, Department of Agriculture represented by the Bureau of Plant Industry, Department of Science and Technology, represented by the PCAARRD and Forest Products Research and Development Institute, Philippine Export, Inc., Philippine Bamboo Foundation Inc., and Land Bank of the Philippines, Development Bank of the Philippines were also present during the session to provide support to the passing of the bill. – Dr. Aida Lapis, Bamboo Consultant