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House Oks Bill: Catanduanes named “Abaca Capital of the Philippines”

By Rowena B. Bundang QUEZON CITY --- The House Committee on Agriculture and Food chaired by Rep. Jose Panganiban Jr., CPA, LLB (Party-list, ANAC IP) has approved a substitute bill seeking to declare the province of Catanduanes as the “Abaca Capital of the Philippines.” Principally authored by Rep. Cesar Sarmiento (Lone District, Catanduanes), the bill pursues Section 1, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution which provides that the State shall promote industrialization and full employment based on sound agricultural development and agrarian reform, through industries that make full and efficient use of human and natural resources, which are competitive in both domestic and foreign markets. In line with this policy, the bill declares it is fitting to give recognition to the contribution of Catanduanes to the total abaca production of the country and the world where the province is considered to be the top abaca producer, providing 87.17 of global output. The bill grants the province of Catanduanes the official designation as the “Abaca Capital of the Philippines.” “We recognize Catanduanes as the number one producer of abaca not only in the Philippines but in the world,” said Panganiban in a recent hearing conducted by the committee. Following the committee’s approval of the bill, Panganiban said the next step of the panel is to consider another bill which provides for appropriation for the establishment of an Abaca Research and Development Center in Catanduanes. Sarmiento said per the Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority (PhilFIDA) statistics, the country produced a total of 496, 069.10 bales of abaca in 2016 and 130,090.30 bales in the first quarter of 2017. One bale is equivalent to 125 kilograms. Meanwhile, Sarmiento said Department of Agriculture (DA) statistics showed that from 2009 to 2013, the Bicol Region was the top producer of abaca fiber with 22,987 metric tons, which comprised 39 percent of the total national production. Sarmiento said Catanduanes produces about 92.3 percent of the total abaca production of the Bicol Region and about 34.9 percent of the country’s total abaca production. Catanduanes has over 35,500 hectares of abaca land and about 15,454 Catanduangon farmers are engaged in abaca for livelihood, according to Sarmiento. “Thus, Catanduanes earned the title “abaca country” for being the biggest abaca-producing province in the Philippines,” he said. Moreover, he said Catanduanes is also considered as the top abaca producer in the world, providing 87.17 percent of the global output. By itself, he said Catanduanes produces 23,540 metric tons of abaca. “Our small island province even beat Ecuador, which is only second in global production and with a total produce of 8,555 metric tons. Our abaca exports are worth $114.79 million, and our abaca is bought by countries such as the United States, United Kingdom and Germany,” said Sarmiento. Sarmiento said abaca grows innately in Philippine soil. Known worldwide as “Manila Hemp,” he said abaca is superior over all fibers because of its great strength and resistance to water. “Thus, it is known to be the world’s strongest natural fiber,” he said. The approved bill substituted HB 7369 authored by Sarmiento. Other authors of the substitute bill are Panganiban, Reps. Deogracias Ramos, Gabriel Bordado, Fernando Gonzalez, Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado, John Marvin Nieto, Maria Vida Bravo, and Francisco Datol.

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