• Philippine Resources

The Bamboo Initiative and solutions for the mining industry

2019 Manila FAME at World Trade Center - (L-R) Atty Leo G. Dominguez (President, OLLI Consulting Group, Inc.) and H.E. Gerard HO Wei Hong (Singaporean Ambassador to the Philippines) (Photo by Marcelle P. Villegas, Philippine Resources Journal)

By: Marcelle P. Villegas

The Bamboo Initiative is more than just a campaign that promotes the use of bamboo for ecological and industrial use. It is a brilliant solution that addresses the many challenges and hurdles of the Philippine mining industry. How can The Bamboo Initiative solve these problems?

“The Bamboo Initiative is a nationwide campaign aimed at revegetating mined-out areas with fast-growing bamboo, thereby increasing bamboo production and creating lucrative enterprises for mining communities.” [1] This is how The Bamboo Initiative was defined and introduced during the Manila FAME event last year in October. During this event, the mining industry formally launched the campaign, represented by the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines, and the Philippine Nickel Industry Association (PNIA). Other supporters of The Bamboo Initiative are the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

So, what are the proposals or strategies of The Bamboo Initiatives in addressing some of the major issues of the mining industry? First of all, bamboo is a solution in rehabilitating lands after a mining operation. While there are many tree options that are traditionally used in reforestation and land rehabilitation, the bamboo is a grass that is fast-growing compared with most trees. It is also low-maintenance and the survival rate is high. In reforestation projects, time is an important aspect in measuring its success rate, and this is where the bamboo excels being a fast-growing plant.

The campaign is a response to President Duterte’s order to revegetate mined-out areas. DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu mentioned, “In his State of the Nation Address, the President said that the mining industry should repair the environment which has been mismanaged. The DENR and the DTI are initiating the rehabilitation of mined-out areas using bamboo to address this matter, while also helping expand the country’s bamboo resources.” Secretary Cimatu noted that the group chose bamboo in rehabilitating used up lands because it grows fast and releases 30% more oxygen than conventional trees, and is efficient in absorbing heavy metals from contaminated soil or water. [1]

Second, bamboo is also an effective tool for economic growth. Mr Ramon Lopez, DTI Secretary and Philippine Bamboo Industry Development Council Chairman, stated that “the potential for bamboo is limitless, given the variety of its use.” Mr Lopez praised Secretary Cimatu and mining companies who have initiated the planting of bamboo in their mine sites. He said that such action will help increase the supply of bamboo as raw materials for other high-value products in the future.

Bamboo is useful in creating furniture, housing materials, window shades, flooring material, and more. When it comes to innovative uses of bamboo, on top of the list are bamboo used for health and wellness products, such as ingredient for essential oils and anti-aging cosmetics, light-weight frame for bicycles (like Bryan Benitez McLelland’s revolutionary “Bambikes”), and fashion industry’s bamboo frame for sunglasses (which float in water and non-toxic unlike plastic). And let us not forget how bamboo helps protect the environment by replacing plastics in the manufacturing of drinking straws and toothbrushes. Bamboo charcoal is an efficient fuel and an effective room deodorizer. Bamboo is a raw material that never fails to impress the innovative and creative people. Therefore, it can offer so much for economic growth.

According to Mines and Geosciences Bureau, there are 12 mining companies that are planting bamboo in 12 provinces across nine regions all over the Philippines.

Finally, bamboo can help communities become sustainable. According to Mr Butch Alcantar, Chairman of PNIA, planting of bamboo was more than just for rehabilitation. It is also the long-term economic development of their communities. [1]

“What sustainable livelihood do we leave our host communities, especially the indigenous peoples when the mining stops?” Mr Alcantara explained that a 10-hectare plot of bamboo can help a worker earn five to six times more income than their salary. “The bamboo industry is a $60 billion industry where our communities can participate by manufacturing and supplying high-value products globally.”

Atty Ronald Recidoro, Executive Director of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines said that The Bamboo Initiative emphasises the significance of the mining industry’s role in creating opportunities and social enterprise. [1]

Atty Leo Dominguez, a proponent of The Bamboo Initiative and a prominent mining lawyer stated, “The Bamboo Initiative will boost the development of the bamboo industry, create sustainable livelihood projects for mining communities and thereby re-invent mining as a social enterprise. This will help change the conversation about mining.”

For more information about The Bamboo Initiative , please contact Ms Maria Paula Tolentino at paula.tolentino@olli.ph.


[1] Tolentino, Maria Paula (17 October 2019). "Mining industry launches bamboo development campaign at Manila FAME". The Bamboo Initiative press release for Manila FAME 2019.


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