PRESS RELEASE
Department of Agriculture
RFU 5 San Agustin, Pili, Camarines Sur

January 27, 2010

DA to revitalize 3 Bicol indigenous crops

by Emily B. Bordado

Bicol region's three major commercial crops namely pili, abaca and coconut are potential export winners not only for the region but also for our country. But due to frequent typhoons, decrease in productivity, low budgetary support, lack of technology and infrastructure support the full development of these crops and the industry they represent are hampered. But they will now be revitalized through a program designed to commercialize these crops and make them into export cash crops. Under the "Locally Funded Indigenous Crops Program" the Department of Agriculture as the lead agency in partnership with the Fiber Development Authority (FIDA) and the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) will spearhead the massive planting and replanting of these three major crops in the provinces of Albay , Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Sorsogon and Catanduanes.

The DA thru the help of Congressman Edcel Lagman, representative 1st district of Albay was able to obtain P250M budget for this program. According to Marilyn V. Sta. Catalina, DA's regional technical director for operations and regulatory and currently officer-in charge, the pre-implementation phase of the program which included the bidding process and procurement of supplies, materials and equipment started last year but it will be formally launched on February 10 this year at the Tabaco Gymnasium in Tabaco City to be highlighted by the distribution of planting materials of the three crops to farmer beneficiaries and LGUs

The Pili Development Program to be spearheaded by the DA targets to procure some 300,000 planting materials, produce 400,000 sexually propagated and procure 300,000 asexually propagated seedlings to be used as rootstocks for 300,000 pieces. grafted pili. These seedlings will be distributed to the LGUs and farmer cooperators. In tandem with the LGUs the DA will also establish 1,155 technology demonstration and orchard farms covering an area of 1,155 hectares; procure and distribute 35,000 bags organic fertilizers and soils ameliorants; provide soil analysis services, market development support/services; conduct trainings, extension and information support services including the publication of a Pili coffee table book and other info materials, Research and development and monitoring and evaluation are also components of the program. Some 5,000 hectares will be covered by the project of which 3,750 hectares will be in Albay province.

For abaca development to be spearheaded by FIDA, the focus will be on disease eradication of 1,777 hectares infected by the bunchy top and mosaic disease virus; rehabilitation of also 1,777 hectares and expansion or opening of 331 hectares to be planted to this crop.

For coconut development, to be spearheaded by PCA, the priority activities will be on production/procurement and distribution of 225,000 quality planting materials to cover 1,500 hectares; establishment of 4 nurseries; establishment and maintenance of seed garden stocked with 9,000 seednuts; embryo culture makapuno planting covering 60 hectares; coconut fertilization for a target area of 768.5 hectares; intercropping coconut plantation with a target of 145,000 cacao seedling covering 400 hectares.

Aside from its traditional commercial and industrial value of coconut, a Bicolano entrepreneur Eng. Justino Arboleda, proprietor of Juboken Enterprise has discovered the value of coco husks or coco coir which he uses as material for controlling soil erosion and enriching the soil. This technology is now recognized worldwide and has earned Eng. Arboleda the prestigious BBC World Challenge as the Best Grassroot Project in the World, thus giving an added value and demand for coconut.

Bicol is the major producer of pili. The region accounts for 82% of domestic pili production. Pili has high potential for being a top export commodity for the Philippines as it can very well compete with macadamia, cashew, almond and walnut in terms of quality.

Today, pili nut confectionaries are being exported to Japan, US and European countries by local processors. Other than the nuts, the other parts of pili - the resin or "manila elemi" from the pili trunk is used for the production of lacquer, thinner, and varnish . The pili oil is used for food and also as body scrub or lotion and other uses.

As for abaca, Bicol region has regained last year its status as the top abaca producer in the country after several years of being overtaken by the Eastern Visayas because of the outbreak of bunchy top and mosaic viral disease. According to FIDA regional director Dr.Edith Lomerio ,abaca production in Bicol last year went up by 5.1 percent to 14,140 MT while in Eastern Visayas production declined by 38.1 percent. With this locally funded program Bicol can hopefully maintain its rank as top producer.

If only these three indigenous crops and natural wealth of Bicol will be revitalized and fully developed, then Bicol will surely will be on its way to progress and prosperity, notwithstanding the constant threat of typhoons, volcanic eruptions, other calamities and adverse effects of climate change.