DOST, DTI help upgrade skills of Bicol abaca workers

By Gina V. Rodriguez LEGAZPI CITY --- The regional offices of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in Bicol have been closely working together to help upgrade the skills of workers who are into abaca fiber production and processing. Dr. Pilita O. Lucena, DOST-Bicol public information officer, said the two agencies had spearheaded a training program for the abaca workers on how to soften the abaca fiber and apply the proper dyeing techniques. “The training for the abaca workers fall under the ‘wearable and houseware cluster’ in the region that assists micro, small and medium enterprises, or MSMES, which are into fiber production and development,” she said. Lucena, in an interview, said that to attain quality and add value to the product of the abaca workers there is a need to study and observe proper abaca fiber processing and dyeing. “This need was identified during consultation meetings for the ‘National Industry Cluster Capacity Enhancement Project’ or NICCEP,” she said. Lucena said the NICCEP meetings stressed that the marketability and global competitiveness of abaca fiber products could be realized through training and exposure to actual production sites. She cited that on May 23 and 24 this year DOST and DTI conducted a training-workshop on “Softening Abaca Fiber and Training on Dyeing Techniques and Standardization (water pH factor).” Lucena said 19 abaca raw material producers and processors attended the training held at DOST Bicol conference room in Barangay Rawis in this city. Engineer Adela H. Montalvo, senior science research specialist of the Philippine Textile Research Institute (DOST-PTRI), discussed the procedures on abaca fiber softening and later conducted an actual demonstration together with the participants. A site visit by the participants to Banquerohan Resettlement Site Neighborhood Association Inc. (BRSNA Inc.) in Barangay Banquerohan, Legazpi City followed. Pilar M. Aydalla, BRSNA Inc. president, led the group tour of the abaca processing facility that houses the DOST-PTRI rotary press machine being used in abaca softening, locally called the abaca “pinukpok” technology. Prior to introduction of this technology, softening of abaca fibers was done manually by abaca processors. Lucena said during the hands-on activity, the participants were able to experience abaca softening using the PTRI press machine. She said that during the workshop on proper color choice and combination and cooking of the abaca fiber the participants adopted the techniques on abaca dyeing that were taught them. Lea A. Pagao, provincial director of DTI in Sorsogon, closed the training program by commending the participants who were “actively involved and determined to find ways and means to improve their business enterprises.” Lucena said the participants who were inspired to learn more hoped that similar activities would be conducted in the future. “The DOST, DTI undertaking with the abaca producers and processors resulted into a public and private partnership which created opportunities and benefits for both,” she said. Lucena said the partnership is important because like pili and coconut, abaca is one of the leading export industries in Bicol.