Press Release
January 17, 2022

Sen. Cynthia Villar Sponsorship Speech on Committee Report No. 272 (SB 1978; HB 6149)

Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, good afternoon.

It is my honor as Chairman of the Committee on Food, Agriculture and Agrarian Reform to present for approval Committee Report No. 272 on Senate Bill No. 1978, taking into consideration H.B No. 6149), entitled, "An Act Declaring the Province of Catanduanes as the Abaca Capital of the Philippines."

I call for everyone's enthusiasm and cooperation so that our abaca industry will grow even more better. The Philippines has long been known to be the leading producer of abaca for several years now. Touted by the United Nations as a "future fiber," abaca is mostly used in paper products, but it also has a long history in textiles. It is considered to be sustainable, environmentally friendly fiber that can empower communities. Its potential seems limitless. The same can be said for our abaca farmers.

For centuries it has been used by the Filipinos as a textile fiber, for clothing, for carrying cloths, for rope and string, and for fishing nets. Considered as one of the "strongest natural fiber in the world," is currently being used for 'soft' application in the automotive industry as a filling material for bolster and interior trim parts. Even Mercedes Benz has used a mixture of abaca yarn in its automobile parts. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, Abaca fibers are considered the best replacement for glass fibers as a strengthening agent in multiple automotive parts. It can reduce the weight of automotive parts and facilitates more environment-friendly production and recycling of parts. Aside from its various uses due to its superior strength, the Abaca fiber also helps meet the growing demand for environment-friendly material. Seeing the extensive environmental degradation, countries like Japan are also eliminating the use of plastics and replacing PVC with natural fiber materials.

These are only a few examples of the potential market for abaca fiber. More than its value in the international market, the abaca plant is also good to the environment, as it helps improve the water holding capacity of the soil, thereby preventing soil erosion, floods and landslides, and addresses sedimentation problems in coastal areas where sea fishes breed.

Farming is one of the major livelihoods in the Philippines and Abaca farming is the source of livelihood of about 200,000 farming families in 56 provinces in the Philippines. The Philippines dominates the global abaca trade as the country supplies about 87.5% of the world's abaca fiber requirements, with Ecuador and Costa Rica, sharing the remaining 12.5% as of 2016.

And Catanduanes Province leads with the highest production in the country with 31.72% contribution in the country's production in 2020; 33.74% in 2019; 33.37% in 2018. Catanduanes accounts for more than 80% of Bicol regions' production, with at least 21,500 hectares of land dedicated to abaca planting.

Through this bill that I am sponsoring, I wish to celebrate the hard work and perseverance of our abaca farmers in Catanduanes, who despite experiencing the strongest typhoons on a yearly basis remain strong and continue to persevere. To recognize the hardship and efforts of our abaca farmers from Catanduanes, and for them to serve as inspiration to more farmers in the country, I call on my colleagues to support this measure.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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