The Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority (PhilFIDA) expects the abaca industry in Catanduanes to reach full recovery by the middle of 2022 from the destruction wrought by super typhoon Rolly last year.
Provincial Fiber Officer Roberto Lusuegro told the Tribune last week local abaca farmers whose plantations did not sustain heavy damage would start harvesting fiber by January next year.
He said that about 30 percent of the affected farmers have begun replanting abaca suckers, deciding not to wait for the proposed cash-for-work assistance from the national government.
The farmers cannot afford to sit idly by without removing fast-growing weeds from their plantations and planting new suckers so they could at least expect something to strip by next year, Lusuegro said.
PhilFIDA Catanduanes is collaborating with the local farmers in the effort, with some local government units also providing funds for the abaca rehabilitation effort.
Among them are Bagamanoc with P4 million, Baras with P3.6 million, Virac with P1 million, and Bato with P450,000. The hardest-hit municipality of San Miguel is waiting for the limited intervention of the Philippine Red Cross in providing alternative livelihood for the town’s farmers.
Not a cent of the P121 million promised by Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary William Dar has been realized until now as the department reportedly does not want the cash-for-work scheme and instead proposed the procurement of abaca suckers for distribution to farmer-beneficiaries.
Catanduanes Congressman Hector Sanchez, TGP Partylist Representative Jose Teves Jr. and Governor Joseph Cua are working together to convince the national government to instead channel the allocation through the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
From January to May 2021, there has been no new fiber production from the six affected towns of San Miguel, Bato, Baras, San Andres, Virac and Gigmoto.
The six towns has a total of 7,823 abaca farmers taking care of 15,782 hectares of abaca plantations, representing 57 percent of the island’s total.
Based on the local PhilFIDA’s data, total fiber production for the first five months of 2021 has reached only 2,370 metric tons.
This does not include the estimated 1,200 metric tons of fiber that did not undergo inspection by PhilFIDA as the fiber was shipped directly to the mainland from the towns.
The total of 3,570 metric tons, however, is barely half of the 7,307 metric tons that PhilFIDA Executive Director Kennedy Costales presented in a report on the comparative productions of Philippine Fibers for the first five months of 2020 and 2021.
In claiming that the industry registered a 10 percent increase in abaca production, Costales said that 25 provinces registered positive change, including Camiguin with +859.3%, Samar with +290.2%, Davao del Norte with +242.1%, and Capiz with 214.3%.
The same data for January to May 2021 showed, however, that Catanduanes remains the top producer of abaca fiber in the country as it contributed 28 percent of the total production of 26, 216 metric tons despite the extensive damage from the series of typhoons last year.
The second biggest abaca producing province is Davao Oriental with 3,029 metric tons, not even half of Catanduanes’ output.
The Happy Island of Catanduanes, though not yet in the list, has already duplicated or matched its production last year, PhilFIDA stated.
“PhilFIDA expects double digit percentage increases in volume production in the months ahead provided there is no major weather disturbances or typhoons on its path,” Costales said.