BATO, CATANDUANES – “A really incredible presentation. I really like your engagement. It’s really nice to see these results already going on.”

“Excellent presentation! I would like to extend my congratulations to the whole Cooperative because this is really extremely impressive. What is really also impressive is that actually you started on your own and you achieved quite enough on your own before the Project came in and the Project was an add-on to what you had already been, so congratulations again for that.”

“Congratulations on your enterprise. I felt really happy when you said that now you have bargaining power compared to the past and that gives you an edge in the market.”

These were the remarks of World Bank Consultants Eli Weiss, Agnes Deshormes, and Hanane Ahmed about the progress of the Abaca Fiber Processing and Trading Enterprise (AFPTE) funded under the Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP) during their site visit and consultation meeting with Pinoy Lingap Damayan Multipurpose Cooperative (PLDC) on May 30, 2019 in Brgy. Sipi, this municipality. The said activities were conducted in line with the 8th World Bank Implementation Support Mission to South Luzon Cluster featuring infrastructure development (I-BUILD) and enterprise development (I-REAP) subprojects in the island province.

In his presentation, PLDC General Manager Antonio Jimenez Jr. highlighted the impacts of the PRDP I-REAP-funded subproject to the abaca industry in the province.

“PLDC has become a catalyst in maintaining a high price of fiber in Catanduanes. We continuously collect fibers even in areas where we get a relatively small volume of fiber. This is our way of making sure that the local traders will not buy the fiber below the market value or price,” Jimenez said.

The AFPTE, an I-REAP subproject under the PRDP, is engaged in abaca fiber processing and trading as well as trading of bacbac or dried leafsheaths of abaca plant and abaca wastes. It is being implemented by the PLDC with funding and technical assistance from the Department of Agriculture-PRDP and the Provincial Government of Catanduanes.

The enterprise which started its dry-run operation in January 2016 is now fully operational and serves approximately 3,500 abaca farmer-suppliers from all municipalities in Catanduanes. Currently, it has an average of 100 metric tons per month output with five major buyers.

According to Jimenez, abaca farmers now prefer to sell their abaca fiber to the PLDC’s Abaca Fiber Processing and Trading Enterprise over barangay traders. This is because PLDC charges lower “reseko” or moisture content reduction. Also, PLDC picks up abaca fibers at consolidation areas and uses calibrated weighing scale. Moreover, the Cooperative promotes profit sharing through dividends and patronage refund. 
At present, the I-REAP subproject generates 22 jobs for direct laborers and employees engaged in collection or pre-grading, sorting, grading, cleaning or tip-cutting, baling and marketing. 
Roger Torselino, abaca farmer-member of PLDC shared that previously, he earns around P300 daily. Now, his income rose to about P500 to P600 per day or P15,000 to P18,000 per month because of the increased price of abaca fiber as a result of the AFPTE’s operation.

Among the interventions given by PRDP to the AFPTE were three units of six-wheeler trucks and one unit of 10-wheeler truck used to facilitate the timely collection, transporting and marketing of abaca fiber. In addition, the Project provided the enterprise with one fork lift for easy conveyance of the abaca fiber in the warehouse, eight units of weighing scale and six units of blower or industrial fan.

The P10.21 million-worth I-REAP subproject also includes a 392-square meter Main Warehouse in Brgy. Sipi and a 90-square meter satellite station in Viga, used in the consolidation, grading and baling of fiber.

Honesto Sorreda Jr. AFPTE Supervisor, said that the delivery of PRDP’s interventions greatly helped in systematizing the enterprise’s operations.

“Halimbawa yung mga bagong baling machines natin, malaking tulong po sya. Nung dumating na yung trucks ng PRDP, mas napadali yung proseso ng pagbibili namin ng mga abaca sa mga farmers. Yung fork lift na galing din sa PRDP, napakalaking tulong nya dahil hindi na natatagalan yung paglo-load namin sa mga trucks para mai-deliver. Itong warehouse, ito ang pinakamagandang naging tulong ng PRDP sa amin kasi kung naklikita nyo naman ang warehouse namin, pag binabagyo yan nababasa talaga yung mga abaca products natin. Ngayong nandito na yung warehouse galing sa PRDP na nagagamit na rin natin laking ginhawa namin dito (For example, our new baling machines. With the (new) trucks we received from PRDP, collecting abaca fibers from the farmers became easier. The fork lift from PRDP also hastened truck loading of abaca fibers due for delivery. This warehouse is the best support from PRDP because as you can see, our old warehouse was not typhoon-proof. Our abaca used to get wet whenever it rains. Having this functional abaca warehouse from PRDP makes our work more convenient),” Sorreda said.

PRDP Project Support Office (PSO) South Luzon Deputy Project Director Shandy Hubilla underscored the importance of AFPTE in the province’s abaca industry.

“Catanduanes as a province produces almost 40 percent of the country’s abaca. So that is how important this province is and this subproject is in the whole scheme of things. We’re not just talking about the province, we’re talking about the region. In terms of the regional share, Catanduanes shares around 92 percent of the regional production and almost 40 percent of the country’s production so I think World Bank will fault us if we do not have a very good I-REAP and I-BUILD subproject supporting this very important industry of the province and of the region and also of the country. In terms of the world market, the Philippines produces 80 to 85 percent, the rest comes from Ecuador. So this is how important this enterprise is,” he added. (Annielyn L. Baleza, Photos by Eduardo D. Collantes Jr DA-RAFIS V)