Rizome invests $100 M for engineered bamboo plant in PH

Florida-based Rizome Philippines is investing $100 million, approximately P5.5 billion, for an engineered bamboo plant in Cagayan de Oro in support of the government's move to develop the bamboo sector in the country.

Former Agriculture Secretary Luis P. Lorenzo Jr., a global investor at Rizome Philippines through subsidiary Bamboo Ecologic Export Corp (BEEP), is bringing in cutting edge, proprietary technology in bamboo wood manufacturing.

Rizome International is financing its investments in the Philippines through loans, “offset credits” for capital equipment startup and operational expenses.

In a statement, Lorenzo said that Rizome is progressively  infusing capital from $20 million to $100 million in its Cagayan de Oro plant.

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Former Agriculture Secretary Luis P. Lorenzo Jr, Rizome International global investor, lifts engineered bamboo wood to demonstrate its light weight, yet highly durable quality. (Photo credit-Melody Aguiba)

Rizome buys bamboo slats from agrarian reform beneficiaries who have planted bamboos in Bukidnon, North Cotabato, Agusan provinces, and Surigao province.  It also buys bamboo from communities in mining areas.

At present, Rizome produces panels, boards, veneers, and strand woven made of giant asper bamboo. It exports the manufactured bamboos to Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) in America, Europe, Middle East, Africa, and Asia Pacific.

"I became a global investor because I want to bring the best technology here.  I don't want the Philippines to be second class.  The investment is big.  But (even now) our business is already a billion peso industry.  And it employs thousands," said Lorenzo.

Lorenzo just met with Philippine Bamboo Industry Development Council (PBIDC) Vice Chairman Deogracias Victor B. Savellano, who has been pushing for priority legislation to institutionalize execution of Executive Order 879 issued in 2010.

Rizome is strongly pushing for the government to prioritize the passage of House Bill 7941.  Savellano reported that the Lower House approved on second reading House Bill 7941. Once passed into law, it will buttress the provisions of EO 879 which aims to capture a piece of the $8 billion bamboo market dominated by China.

Lorenzo seconded efforts to make bamboo a priority industry.  Prior to his appointment as agriculture secretary in 2002, Lorenzo ran one of Philippines' biggest banana export firm, Lapanday, and pineapple firm Del Monte.

"Please make it a priority.  I hope government would be friendly toward a new industry.   Government is technically pushing housing.  Why not import-substitute all the components of housing construction," he said.

Despite China's vast bamboo plantation, Lorenzo said Philippines can compete with any country in the world in bamboo wood quality. This is particularly on Giant Aster species that grow abundantly all over Mindanao.

"I came across group of Americans who for 13 years were producing from Vietnam high-end, prefabricated homes made of bamboo.  The same group studied ways by which bamboo can be re engineered using technology.  After 13 years,  they finally decided after visiting Brazil, Indonesia, China, India  that the Philippines has the best bamboo."

An important priority policy is to make bamboo a recognized construction material in the implementation of the Building Code.  This, as engineered bamboo is a proven technology strong as steel, tough as concrete, fire resistant, water resistant, pest free, and is even beautiful as hardwood.

As the passenger terminal of the Mactan Cebu International Airport became the first airport in Asia made entirely of lamellar wood, Rizome is being introduced in the Philippines as global standard quality wood.

"Because you heard about the beauty of Cebu and Clark airports, we want to introduce bamboo to the Philippines as a our national identify.  The beams and all that --we make all of these.  We make these bullet proof.  We can make beams as long as you like.  No more steel, no more concrete," Lorenzo said.

Government tax incentives can also encourage investments in bamboo plantations and manufacturing, including Industrial Forest Management Agreements, and Community Based Forest Management Agreements.

He said that local government units with significant contribution to bamboo sector's development should be creative to encourage their constituents to plant bamboos.

Savellano, through PBIDC and the entity he founded, Kilusang 5K Foundation, has earlier put up a Technical Working Group (TWG) for the production and propagation of bamboo all over the country.

The TWG also works on bamboo's industry and commerce and training of workforce for bamboo propagation and processing.

A finalist to the Musk Foundation's XPrize, the Rizome Bamboo Project in the Philippines can win the grand prize of $50 million for its carbon offset efforts.  It has been chosen as candidate among 60 others for the potential of bamboo farms to sequester 400 tons of carbon dioxide per year.

The goal to plant 10 million bamboo clumps by 2030 for a 10-year carbon drawdown of over 26 million tons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of the greenhouse gas emissions of 5.654 million cars in a year.