Solon urges DA to create pili dev’t plan

THE Department of Agriculture (DA) is being urged to create a Pili Industry Development Program (PIDP) by funding it in the proposed 2021 General Appropriations Act (GAA).

In a letter sent to DA Secretary William Dar, Albay 1st district Rep.Edcel Lagman said the PIDP must be separately and adequately funded to harness the full potential of pili (Canarium ovatum) and develop the pili industry in the Bicol region, where the majority of this Philippine endemic tree grows.

The pili tree is known for its fruit which is an ethnic food in the region and precious to the country’s food sector since it is processed into pili-based food and byproducts, 80 percent of which is supplied by Bicol.

But while its global demand is steadily increasing, our country – the only exporter of commercial pili products – struggles to keep up.

According to Lagman, “there is a critical need for sufficient and continuing government support” to encourage the development of pili plantations, not only in Bicol but in areas where it can be cultivated, since the present pili supply comes mostly from backyard trees, and from wild trees.

He also emphasized that this should be coupled with the mechanization of production to support mass production and extend the shelf-life of pili nuts (comparable to macadamia and pistachio) and pili products via enhanced quality and improved packaging.

But while this should support the aggressive promotion of the export potential of pili products, Lagman warned that the exportation of the raw pili shell and pili seedlings should be prohibited to maintain the country’s dominance in pili production.

Lagman also mentioned the qualities of the pili fruit that makes it a superfood: nutrient-loaded such as magnesium, rich in omega fatty acids and Vitamin E, high levels of protein, and contain all eight essential amino acids which make people feel fuller for a longer period. It also has the lowest carbohydrate count among nuts, with only a single gram of carbohydrate per serving.

He emphasized the versatility of the pili nut with the kernel can be eaten raw or prepared as both sweet or savory snacks.

The pulp of the pili nut when soaked in hot water can be eaten as a vegetable, which has a nutritional value similar to avocado. Both the kernel and the pulp are excellent sources of oil, which is found to have lipid molecular species that make it a healthy oil, according to a 2015 study.

The pili tree sap, known worldwide as the Manila elemi, has a cool, fresh scent that is used for perfumes and aromatherapy oils.

The pili tree can grow up to 20 meters (66 feet) and is a natural windbreaker, ideal in the typhoon-prone Bicol region. This tree is also ideal for landscaping and agroforestation, a form of land management where agricultural plants grow alongside trees, for this system is known to provide essential habitat for the bees, including the native stingless bees (kiwot) which are known to pollinate the pili tree.

The Bicol lawmaker urged Dar not to miss the great potential and versatility of the pili nut and assist in commercially cracking it for domestic consumption and global export.