House panel passes ‘timely’ bill tagging typhoon-hit Catanduanes as Abaca Capital

Published November 3, 2020, 4:13 PM

by Ellson Quismorio

Negros Occidental 3rd district Rep. Kiko Benitez hopes that a House committee’s passage of a bill declaring Catanduanes as the “Abaca Capital of the Philippines” would somehow uplift the province from the effects of super typhoon “Rolly.”

(MANILA BULLETIN FILE)

“I think the bill is quite timely given particularly what recently happened in Catanduanes,” Benitez said on Tuesday, Nov. 3, during a virtual hearing of the Committee on Agriculture and Food, which he presided over in his capacity as vice chairman.

“Whatever we could do to help them in Catanduanes would go a long way obviously to their development. This is a small act on our part at this stage,” he said.

Among the measures tackled by the panel was House Bill (HB) No. 6149, authored by TGP Party-List Rep. Jose Teves, Jr. However, Teves was unable to participate in the hearing as he reportedly tended to his constituents in the typhoon-stricken province.

“Being a native of Catanduanes, a former three-term mayor of the municipality of Baras in the province of Catanduanes, and vice governor of the same province, the object of this bill is important to us all Catandunganons,” Teves wrote in the explanatory note of his bill.

“Considering Catanduanes as the top producer of abaca in the Philippines, it highly contributed in the standing of the country as the world largest producer of abaca, supplying 87 percent of the world’s requirement in the natural fiber,” he stated.

Teves underscored that abaca famiring and production is the main source of livelihood of people in Catanduanes, which has some 12,679 abaca farmers and a total of 33,097 hectares of abaca lands spread across 11 abaca-producing municipalities.

The proposed statute passed at the committee level without much discussion.

“Given the way technology and the fourth industrial revolution is happening, I think more and more abaca fibers will make it into other types of industrial use, beyond just ropes and Manila envelopes, as it has been in the past,” the vice chairman said.

Department of Agriculture (DA) Usec. Evelyn Laviña, one of the invited resource speakers, expressed support for the bill. 

“Our abaca is also our country’s pride. The Philippines supplies an average 85 percent of the world’s requirement and exports 97 percent of the total produced to the UK, Germany, Spain, Netherlands, Belgium, Japan, China, South Korea, USA, Canada, to name a few,” she said, noting that abaca is indigenous to the Philippines.

Laviña said the proposed declaration of Catanduanes as Abaca Capital “will likewise recognize the hard work of the abaca farmers in the area who are responsible for the production of export quality abaca. The declaration will further contribute to the development of the abaca industry.”

She further said that at least 72 percent of all families in Catanduanes are engaged and rely on abaca planting and stripping.

The Bicol province celebrates the Catanduanes Abaca Festival every fourth week of May.

 
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