Super Grass Bamboo presents promising future

by Marcelle P. Villegas - March 18, 2019

[Photo credit: Atty. Leo G. Dominguez, slide presentation]

Most of us have the impression that bamboo is only useful in building nipa huts or creating furniture. There is actually far more about this plant than most of us are aware of. Let’s begin as far back as the 1950s when bamboo technology was used in aviation. Do you know that a Filipino named Antonio De Leon designed two airplanes in 1950s using WOBEX (Woven Bamboo Experimental), a resin reinforced woven bamboo composite? He was from the Institute of Science and Technology (IST), a national science board previously known as Bureau of Science (1905, from the American era), the predecessor of our present-day Department of Science and Technology (DOST).[1]

Mr. De Leon’s first experimental aircraft was the I.S.T. XL-14 Maya, a single-engine, light aircraft designed to investigate the use of indigenous materials in aircraft construction. [2] He later designed the I.S.T. XL-15 Tagak (swan) using the same WOBEX technology. This is a single-engine, twin-boom, high-wing monoplane. It made its first flight in October 1954. This project was a collaboration with the Philippine Air Force with a goal to design an aircraft for utility, liaison, medical emergency, and a test bed for the use of local materials in aviation. [3]

Tagak (1954). Institute of Science and Technology’s [IST] Antonio De Leon designed these two experimental airplanes using WOBEX (Woven Bamboo Experimental), a technology that uses reinforced bamboo as materials in aviation. IST was founded in 1946 which aims to develop science and technology in the country. It was later named National Science Development Board in 1958. Eventually in 1981, President Marcos reorganised its agencies with a new name, National Science and Technology Authority. Then, it was later renamed as Department of science and Technology (DOST) by President Corazon Aquino in 1987.

Bamboo is also called a “Super Grass”. Yes, a super grass that presents sustainable solutions from rehabilitation of mined-out land. It also offers proven ecological solutions to climate change and social economic problems. No other plant offers the same package in such a short period of time.

Ahead of its time, nearly 70 years ago, bamboo-technology was already used for aviation. Today, there are many fascinating stories on how bamboo can impact our country’s advancement, not only with bamboo technology, but manifold social enterprises and agro-industries that grow from planting bamboo with the end in mind.

These powerful topics were discussed by Atty. Leo G. Dominguez during the Mining Philippines Conference in September 2018. Atty. Dominguez connected the dots for many people in several sectors of society (such as the mining industry) with the introduction of high value product design, planting programs, social enterprise manufacturing, and how holistic agriculture can greatly benefit from the super grass.

Atty. Dominguez presented a report entitled “Bamboo: From Advocacy to Changing the Conversation about Mining in the Philippines”. He is the President of OLLI Consulting Group, Inc. and an advocate in promoting the bamboo’s socio-economic importance and its role in the mining industry.

He began his report by comparing the super grass with trees. Trees are only useful if they are fruit-bearing and can offer economic value to a community. “If trees are planted within Mining Communities but if they are not fruit bearing, they will eventually be cut down in the name of poverty, mainly for firewood, or the freshly-planted forest could mysteriously burn down, so that the community that planted the initial trees would be paid again to replant them. Since the bamboo is not a tree (but is actually classified as a grass in Botany), it has qualities that make it a compelling, lucrative and sustainable alternative,” he stated.

Bamboo is coined as a “Super Grass” because it is the fastest-growing plant in the world. It can grow up to 35 inches a day in ideal conditions. Bamboo addresses climate change by sequestering carbon 400 times more than trees, and reducing carbon release. In general, bamboo is flexible and adaptive. If offers restoration to mined out areas and provides numerous possibilities for livelihood enterprises.

Moreover, Atty. Dominguez stated that, “Because bamboo is a grass, it is not subject to the heavy government regulations affecting the cutting of trees. Depending on species, soil and climate conditions, bamboo can live about 60-100 years. Bamboo can be harvested continuously during its lifetime.”

He then asked the audience, “Now, what does bamboo have to do with mining?”

Atty. Dominguez continued by saying, “In his talk before the Philippine Mining Luncheon on 8 June 2018, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (“DENR”) Secretary Cimatu emphasized that mining companies must use their Social Development Management Program (“SDMP”) funds to create truly sustainable economic activities for their mining communities. In his State of the Nation (“SONA”) Address in 2018, President Duterte said to the mining industry, ‘Do not just give me taxes. I can get it from other sources. Give me what needs to be given to my countrymen.’”

In relation to this, we the following questions:

1. How will the DENR achieve its commitment under the National Greening Program to plant 1 million hectares of bamboo to help address climate change?

2. How will Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) implement its 3 years-in-the-making Bamboo Industry Development Roadmap without the land to do it on and the people/communities to do it with?

3. How would the people in the mining communities achieve sustainable livelihoods even beyond the life of the mines?

4. More importantly, how will the mined-out areas be greened to the satisfaction of the President?

His answer to all of these? Bamboo - The Super Grass.

Atty. Dominguez points out, “Now, how do we make bamboo the tool to reinvent mining?

Bring together DENR, DTI, Design Center Philippines, DOST, Department of Agriculture, the mining industry -- a unifying target, a win-win for all.”

Secretary Ramon Lopez of DTI and Chair of the Philippine Bamboo Industry Development Council pointed out that if the mining industry would contribute mined out and other available areas for planting bamboo, and then work with DENR, all can work together under the DTI Bamboo Roadmap and their applications. The DTI Bamboo Roadmap covers the following:

1. planting technology

2. identifying low to high value bamboo products

3. training the community to design and manufacture these products

4. assisting in the marketing of bamboo products to pre-targeted buyers and consumers

The next big question: “Who will fund the planting of bamboo and the training of the mining communities to work with bamboo?”

The funds will come from the mining companies who are required by law to spend specified amounts on their respective Environment Protection and Enhancement Programs (“EPEP”) and SDMP’s.

There are many misinformed people who seriously believe that mining is bad for the country. How can the bamboo industry change this negative conversation about mining? From his report, Atty. Dominguez states, “Bamboo will not only be a source of sustainable livelihood. With inputs from all the partners involved in the Bamboo Roadmap, bamboo has the potential to launch the mining communities into agro-industrial enterprises of the future. This bamboo rocket ship would not be possible without the mining industry as the launch pad for all these endeavors.”

What about the money? How profitable is a bamboo plantation?

Based on his study and report, a family that farms 10 hectares of bamboo plantation has potential income, as follows:

~ Cost/10 hectares = Php960,000

~ Revenue/10 hectares = Php6.3 million

~ 1 hectare contains 210 bamboo clumps

~ price/bamboo = Php100

~ 210 x 30 x Php6.3 million gross value of poles/10 hectares

Therefore, projected net family income/year/10-hectare bamboo plantation = Php1.4 million

How does this “super grass” connect Mines and Agriculture?

Historically, mining companies first remove minerals that normally make mineralized lands inhospitable to agriculture. “These minerals eventually make their way into things that we use like our cars, jewelry, cellphones and devices, refrigerators, watches, houses, and so on. After this, mining companies are required to rehabilitate and transform the mined-out land into agricultural land. Then, mining companies plant trees to fulfill their obligation to re-vegetate the mined-out area.”

Land rehabilitation has always been a part of mining operations of responsible mining companies, and yet many misinformed people blame mining for the loss of agriculture land.

Atty. Dominguez clarifies that, “One of the major problems of our country is that it is rapidly losing food-producing agricultural land to real estate development. The mines actually generate agricultural land. The mining industry has in fact, all along, been addressing the loss of agricultural land to real estate by transforming mineral lands (which by their nature are not good for agriculture in the first place) into agricultural lands.”

He suggests that mining companies can take this further if they accomplish the following:

~ Help the country comply with its commitment to plant bamboo to address climate change;

~ For the first time, plant something that can be harvested and used by their mining communities in many ways to generate sustainable livelihoods for their communities;

~ Provide the mining communities with long-term sustainable enterprises that can go on beyond the life of the mine.

With regard to the overall reputation of the mining industry, bamboo could be a crucial catalyst that can change the way people see the industry. “The success of mining companies could also be evaluated by how successful mining communities, [who are] working with bamboo, have become.”

In summary, in his presentation, Atty. Dominguez, emphasized the following:

~ The mining industry is an unsung hero. It actually transforms non-agricultural to agricultural land.

~ When you plant bamboo on this newly-created agricultural land, you actually launch sustainable social enterprises and economic empowerment for the mining communities.

~ Over time, even beyond the life of the mine, these communities could become agro- industrial port cities of the Filipino future.

He concludes, “All of this would not be possible without the mining industry as the launch pad, working in collaboration with the DENR, DTI, and hopefully the DOST and the DA as well.”

References:

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science_and_technology_in_the_Philippines and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Department_of_Science_and_Technology_(Philippines)

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I.S.T._XL-14_Maya

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I.S.T._XL-15_Tagak

Acknowledgment:

Mr Leo G. Dominguez and Mr Christopher Lacson



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Marcelle P. Villegas - May 29, 2019

Updates on the Bamboo Initiative by OLLI Cares

By Marcelle P. Villegas 3 May 2019 - During Philippine Mining Club at I’M Hotel, Makati City, Mr Leo Dominguez presented updates on his Bamboo Initiative, an advocacy which he started with the support of other mining companies and assoc. Mr Dominguez is the President of OLLI Consulting Group, Inc. and flamboyant Masters of Ceremonies in Philippine Mining Club events. During the recent PMC event, he stated, “If you were here on June 8, 2018 you will recall that we had this speaker from our Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Secretary Cimatu, where he spoke to us about reinventing mining. And during that presentation of his and in the ‘Question and Answer’ period after that, we started a conversation around bamboo.” “I'd like to report that that conversation has actually led to some developments. The first development after that was the participation of the mining industry in the FAME exhibition in November (2018) where bamboo products were put forward as part of the exhibit in a pavilion that was funded, thank you, by the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines as well as the Philippine Nickel Industry Association to the tune of PHP1.6 million. And it is in that FAME exhibition that the collaboration amongst the Department of Trade and Industry, the DENR, and the mining industry was first told. So we expect that FAME every year will repeat the story of that collaboration as it improves.” Furthermore, he said, “Now, beyond that in April this year, the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Cimatu, hosted a meeting with the DTI Secretary, the mining industry as well as his staff responsible for bamboo. So I'd like to refer to it as a bamboo initiative and it was in that very well-attended meeting that the next steps of the bamboo initiative with the mining industry were discussed.” “So our next move will be a technical working group that will deal with the regulations and all that need to be tweaked to really make bamboo a greening material for the mining industry as we go forward.” The meeting which Mr Dominguez was referring to took place on 2nd April 2019 where OLLI Consulting Group, Inc. with DENR, DTI and mining companies and its stakeholders discussed the potential of bamboo in “reinventing mining”. OLLI Consulting Group, Inc. has a CSR component called “OLLI Cares” which supports the “Tanging Tanglaw” Project of Diwata-Women in Resource Development, Inc. (For more information about OLLI Cares and “Tanging Tanglaw Project”, please visit their webpage at https://olli.ph/olli-cares.) In that meeting with Secretary Cimatu and DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez, Mr Dominguez started the session by explaining the importance of bamboo. He said “Aptly called the Bamboo Initiative, this endeavor seeks to create a synergy between the government and the private sector on how to effectively harness the power and potential of this grass for the revegetation and rehabilitation of mine sites across the country.”[1] The following were present in that meeting [1] : ~ Philex Mining Corporation - Eulalio Austin ~ Marcventures Mining & Development Corporation - Isidro ‘Butch’ Alcantara Jr. ~ Filminera Resources Corporation - Gloria Tan Climaco ~ OceanaGold Philippines, Inc. - Jose ‘Joey’ Leviste, Jr. ~ The Chamber of Mines’ (COMP) Executive Director Atty. Ronald Recidoro ~ Philippine Nickel Industry Association’s (PNIA) Executive Director Charmaine Olea-Capili ~ Mine & Geosciences Bureau (MGB) - Mine Safety, Environment and Social Development Division Engr. Rodolfo L. Velasco, Jr. ~ DENR’s Forest Management Bureau (FMB) Director - Lourdes Ferrer ~ Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau’s (ERDB) - Bighani Manipula and Angelito Exconde ~ Biodiversity Management Bureau’s (BMB) - Juvy Ladisla ~ OLLI Consulting Group - Christopher Paris Lacson, Steve Araneta and Maria Paula Tolentino - - - Now, going back to the PMC event, Mr Dominguez said, “As you all know, the whole idea is the bamboo will also be the material that the communities on whom your SDMP funds are being spent will be taught to work with the bamboo. The result will be implementing the DTI's roadmap for the development of the bamboo industry. This will generate livelihoods and hopefully more than that -- real enterprises involving our mining communities.” “So one day, we hope to say that when visitors do come to the mining companies, the first protocol will be the community, seeing how hard they are working, products that are going to export market, and so on. And you, mining companies, will be able to tell your visitors that the mine over there is what makes it possible.” “So ladies and gentlemen, at the end of the day, with bamboo we have the opportunity to reinvent mining and then mining will now be defined as follows: The success of a mining company will no longer be judged simply by how profitable or how responsible the mining company is, but it will also be judged by how successful it makes its mining communities.” Finally, he concluded, “Therefore, mining reinvented, thanks to bamboo, will mean that mining is also a social enterprise. We'd like to see where that is going. Ladies and gentlemen, with your help and continuing support for this initiative, we hope to change the conversation about mining and therefore make that conversation speak of it as a social enterprise as well. You will hear more about this as the developments take place.“ - - - Reference: [1] Tolentino, Maria Paula (27 April 2019). "OLLI Cares spearheads the Bamboo Initiative". SEMScribe Publishing - - - Acknowledgement: Mr Leo Dominguez and Ms Maria Paula Tolentino

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The strategic plan to develop Bamboo has been in the portfolio of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) many years back. As a chief raw material source for the flourishing Philippine handicraft industry, the demand for Bamboo increased further over the years because of its emerging uses in construction, agriculture, and fisheries. Bamboo development was mentioned in several Physical Framework Plans that the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) mandated Local Government Units (LGUs) to prepare. At the national level, the most comprehensive among these plans is the Philippine Bamboo Industry Development Roadmap (PBIDR) crafted by the Board of Investments in 2016. The PBIDR has called Bamboo as the ideal renewable resource that can thrive easily. If managed well, it could provide sustainable raw materials for myriad uses -- house and kitchen utensils, farm implements, furniture and handicrafts, house décor, raw material for construction, banana props, fish pens, banca outriggers, and fuel in the form of charcoal and charcoal briquettes. Bamboo also emerged as the source of pulp and paper, textiles and clothing, and renewable energy resource in the form of chips and pellets. Lately, beer and energy drinks have also been manufactured from Bamboo. In an article published by the Philippine News Agency in 2018, DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez said he will work closely with DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu to “work out a sustainable mining development plan through planting Bamboos for rehabilitation.” Bamboo in Didipio mine’s FMRDP The PRJ interviewed the environment manager of OceanaGold’s Didipio mine operations, Engr. Jason Magdaong, to inquire how the company considered Bamboo in their Final Mine Rehabilitation and Decommissioning Plan (FMRDP). He confirmed the extensive use of Bamboo in their mine rehabilitation and reforestation efforts. The FMRDP is the blueprint of how the mine would become after decommissioning. It is a requirement for operating mines mandated by Republic Act 7942, otherwise known as the 1995 Mining Act. “We’ve considered Bamboo as a rehabilitation and plantation species because it fits well our mine. It is fast growing. Also, it has a very good performance in soil erosion control, and works best in rehabilitating disturbed slopes and riverbanks,” Magdaong explained. Bamboo also has strong carbon absorption capacity and good properties in absorbing heavy metals in normal conditions, that is why generally recommended for most mines, although Didipio does not have pressing concerns on these aspects. Magdaong said that their Didipio nursery has started producing Bamboo propagules two years ago in response to DENR’s call to support the development roadmap. Bamboo has been planted in Didipio’s waste rock dumps which are already topped with soil. “The performance of Bamboo as a rehabilitation species is generally good,” Magdaong affirmed. Initially, OceanaGold used the kawayang tinik (Bambusa blomeana) and bayog (Bambusa merrilliana) which are locally abundant around the Didipio mine site. “When we heard of the giant Bamboo, we thought of using it because of the promising livelihood opportunities it can offer,” Magdaong added. The giant Bamboo (Dendrocalamus asper) has thicker flesh and grows taller than local species like the kawayang tinik, bulo (Gigantochloa levis), buho (Schizostachyum lumampao), and bayog (Bambusa merrilliana). The giant Bamboo is preferred by manufacturers of engineered Bamboo (such as floor tiles, boards, and blocks) because of its superior properties. Magdaong believes that leaving behind a Bamboo Forest along rehabilitated areas and targeted reforestation sites elsewhere could create a flourishing industry for Didipio folks. “The power lines that would be left behind after the mine closes are already three-phase configured, just the kind of electrical power connection needed in establishing industries,” Magdaong explained. Bamboo offers a two-pronged solution according to Magdaong: it mitigates environmental impacts, and at the same time, it offers a supply of resources for a budding industry that would address the social and economic displacement of workers and local folks affected by the eventual mine closure. “Our strong adherence to regulatory requirements and consistent advance towards achieving our goals … allow us the opportunity to nurture the value of our skills, our safety, and our responsibility for the environment, and for the communities to which we belong,” OceanaGold (Philippines) President, Atty. Joan D. Adaci-Cattiling said. As the Didipio FTAA contractor, OceanaGold (Philippines) has committed beyond adherence to responsible mining principles in achieving its goals, do more for Didipio for it is the community that they belong to. Bamboo and Environmental Remediation There is an established claim that Bamboo can produce more oxygen and absorb more carbon dioxide than trees. This makes it perfect for restoring disturbed ecosystems and for remediation of greenhouse gas emission. Because of this, Bamboo is also widely used in urban forestry and landscaping. The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 did not identify Bamboo as an invasive species. There are currently no restrictions on planting it. In fact, the Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau of the DENR has been producing Bamboo planting materials for the National Greening Program several years back. Thick Bamboo clumps provide excellent shelter for wildlife. Monitor lizards, locally known as bayawak, are frequently seen along dense clusters of Bamboo by folks gathering young shoots or labong, a local delicacy. The deep roots of Bamboo usually form spacious crevices that are ideal shelter of many species of reptiles and amphibians. Small birds are also found to nest in the thorny branches of Bamboo culms. “We are also planting other species alongside Bamboo to create a condition for a restored biodiversity. Bamboo is compatible with other species, and one thing good is it blends well with all other species we are planting,” Magdaong explained. Economic Potentials of Bamboo The PBIDR cited that Bamboo products exported increased significantly from 2010 to 2014, growing from US$2,053,838 to US$10,791,526 annually. The roadmap also estimated the demand for Bamboo culms by current industries and sub-sectors would amount to 21,250,874 culms annually. If pulp and paper production and Bamboo chips for fuel would attract more investments, the total demand could climb up to 107,058,770 culms per year. (Source: Export Marketing Bureau, DTI) The PIBR also recognized Bamboo as a US$11.21 billion industry worldwide as of 2009. In 2015, China has been the top exporter of Bamboo products valued at US$1.398 billion and the Philippines was ranked 5th worldwide with exports valued at US$54 million, according to the International Bamboo and Rattan Organization. Stakeholders in the Bamboo industry involve Bamboo clump/plantation owners, gatherers, traders, sawali and basket weavers, and furniture and handicraft producers. They own or work in small, unregistered shops, thus, considered as part of the informal sectors. Sources from the furniture industry estimated around 190,000 or 10% of the total workers in the furniture and handicraft sectors work in Bamboo-related handicraft. Pangasinan, particularly in the towns of San Carlos, Binmaley and Urbiztondo, is the country’s Bamboocraft centre. But since Bamboo is found all throughout the country, bamboocraft-making are also be found in all the provinces. As Bamboo gained the spotlight in the rehabilitation of the Cagayan River, the inter-agency Task Force Build Back Better has laid up a complete plan beyond using the species for riverbank stabilization. They mobilized the Technical Education Skills and Development Authority (TESDA) to train laborers from local communities on seedling propagation and Bamboocraft. Paid by the Department of Labour and Employment (DOLE) under the Tupad Program, locals were mobilized to plant Bamboo in the riverbanks The move has set in motion a strategic Bamboo supply development in the region. Opportunities and Challenges The popularity of Bamboo could be seen in online markets, where varied products such as blinds, steamers, sticks, fence, sala sets, tumblers, mugs, pens, etc. are offered for sale. Giant Bamboo cuttings are also sold online by Bamboo nurseries at P58.50 a piece, excluding delivery cost. The PBIDR has identified key production areas in Batangas (Euro Integrated Farms & Supply, Inc.), Pangasinan (CS First Green Agri-Industrial Development, Inc), Negros Oriental (Philippine Bamboo Foundation, Inc.), and Antipolo City (Carolina Bamboo Farm). These serve as primary sources of planting materials needed to produce enough supply of Bamboo culms in the country. The production of toothpicks and barbeque sticks alone has gone a long way in the Bamboo industry. A small enterprise in Iloilo has grown over the years and now producing large volume of quality toothpicks and barbeque sticks using mechanized equipment. However, as revealed in the PBIDR document, Chinese exports are much cheaper than locally produced Bamboo products. Processing machines are imported because there are no local fabricators yet. There is also a need to set the specifications for Bamboo construction materials so that it will be used in high-level construction sites. These are the ways forward for the Bamboo industry stakeholders to work on.


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