‘We are not anti-environment’: DOST’s Forest Products Research and Dev’t Institute assures public

Published March 3, 2021, 4:22 PM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza 

The Department of Science and Technology’s Forest Products Research and Development Institute (DOST-FPRDI) has clarified that it was not anti-environment and was not endorsing deforestation.


DOST-FPRDI Director Romulo T. Aggangan lamented that because of its name, the FPRDI was misunderstood as being anti-environment and an advocate of deforestation, which was identified as major reason behind that devastating floods that hit the country last year.

“Because of our name, our work has sometimes been misunderstood by the public, and even by policy makers,” he said in a statement.

“During Senate budget hearings, some lawmakers would ask about the relevance of what we do, considering that the country has very little forest cover left, and these have already been made off-limits to all kinds of logging. We then have to explain to them what we do and what we have done so far,” Aggangan said.

The Institute noted that while it conducted a conduct on premium timber, catering to the needs of the forest-using industries during its earlier years, it started looking into other related natural products in the 1980s.

Citing the country’s dwindling wood supply due to reckless logging, the agency had to look for substitute raw materials for its clients in the housing, pulp and paper, handicrafts and furniture sectors, it said.

“Over the next decades, the DOST-FPRDI researchers have probed all kinds of possible replacement to forest timber,” the FPRDI said.

These include bamboo industrial tree plantation species (ITPS); senile coconut wood and rubber wood; abaca; and agricultural residues such as coconut coir, tobacco stalks, tea leaves, corn stalk and rice straw.

The Institute also studied fiber plants, dye plants, forest woody vines, as well as tree gums, resins, oils and exudates, among others.

The properties and uses of 15 kinds of industrial tree plantation species (ITPS), such as falcata and gmelina were also studied by the DOST-FPRDI wood anatomists, chemists, and forest products engineers over the years.

“Because of this, many managers in the wood-based industries now understand how to saw, machine, dry, finish, and treat these non-forest raw materials. Fast-cycle trees grown in plantations are good substitutes to forest timber for construction and many other industrial uses.”

The Institute also cited that its studies on tree plantation species led to the establishment of tree farms and the use of products harvested from them.

Aggangan said one of the Institute’s contribution is the furnace-type lumber dryer (FTLD). “This is like a big oven which can dry natural raw materials fast and right, resulting in quality wooden furniture which don’t shrink or crack, and handicrafts which are not attacked by molds,” he said.

The DOST-FPRDI was cited in 2018 by Connor Group, one of the world’s top merchandise-sourcing firms, for its role in raising the quality of Philippine handicraft exports thru the FTLD.

“Another helpful technology is the low-cost wood moisture meter which helps our clients know how much water a piece wood contains. This is important to ensure the quality finished product,” he added.

Aggangan said the Institute is also looking into how to optimize the abaca fiber for making high-end industrial products, how to upgrade our bamboo musical instruments, how to make the most of forest woody vines as handicraft raw materials, among others, and how to develop fragrances and flavors from forest products.

“Come to think of it, our name is a misnomer,” says Aggangan. “It doesn’t exactly reflect who we are, because we do so much more than study ‘forest products’. We do not study forest timber anymore, but instead look for ways to wisely use many native plants and related natural materials to meet our clients’ needs. Much of what we do shows our aim to help protect – and not destroy – the planet.”

He cited that the DOST-FPRDI researchers are conducting a study on more earth-friendly ways and more energy-efficient sawmilling, drying and machining methods; and less toxic methods of preserving wood.

“In the coming years, we will continue to work towards the competitiveness of our client industries while promoting sustainability. These two things – competitiveness and sustainability – should always go together. No matter how fantastic, scientific innovations will mean nothing if they damage the environment.”