TGP Rep. Teves principal author of Act declaring Cat’nes as abaca capital

It was House Bill 06149 principally authored by TGP Partylist Rep. Jose “Bong” Teves Jr, which was adopted by the House of Representatives in passing Republic Act 11700 declaring Catanduanes as the Abaca Capital of the Philippines.

Records of the Lower House shows that Cong. Teves filed the bill on Feb. 3, 2020, five days after Catanduanes Congressman Hector Sanchez filed his own version of the measure, HB 06116, on Jan. 29, 2020.

The Committee on Rules referred the Sanchez bill to the Committee on Agriculture and Food on Feb. 4, 2020 but it was the Teves bill which was read by the committee a day later.

Nine months later, on Nov. 21, 2020, the committee headed by Rep. Wilfrido Mark Enverga submitted its report on HB 06149 and recommended its approval without amendment.

By this time, Cong. Sanchez as well as 35 other representatives had signed on as co-authors of the Teves measure.

House records show that in filing HB 06116, Cong. Sanchez acknowledged that the bill was originally introduced in the 17th Congress by then Rep. Cesar Sarmiento, which was approved on third reading and was transmitted to the Senate where it apparently languished.

The primary difference between the Sanchez bill and that of TGP Rep. Teves is that the Sanchez measure was more comprehensive as it sought to support studies to acquire best practices to improve productivity and enhance resources for long-term gains.

Cong. Sanchez also wanted Congress to allocate P100 million for the expansion of abaca plantations, the improvement of abaca fiber quality, and the creation of an Abaca Research and Development Center to be attached to the Catanduanes State University’s College of Agriculture and Fisheries.

The Center was supposed to undertake research and technical studies on the development, production, management and marketing of abaca fiver; provide technical assistance and support to abaca farmers; and develop appropriate technologies for the industry, among others.

The congressman also asked Congress to establish an Abaca Calamity Fund for the rehabilitation of future damages to the abaca industry in Catanduanes.

The funding requirement of the Sanchez bill apparently led the House agriculture and food committee to go instead for the Teves bill, which merely wanted Catanduanes to be declared as the Abaca Capital of the Philippines and nothing more.

HB 06149 was approved on Second Reading on Dec. 2, 2020 and on Third Reading on Dec. 14, 2020.

At the Senate, the bill’s counterpart was Senate Bill 01978 introduced by Senators Cynthia Villar, Nancy Binay and Miguel Zubiri. It had essentially the same wording as that of HB 06149 introduced by Rep. Teves.

It was approved on Second Reading on Jan. 31, 2022, with 23 senators voting in favor and sent to the House on Feb. 3 for concurrence.

The consolidated version of the two bills were sent to the Office of President Rodrigo Duterte on March 15, 2022 for his signature but it lapsed into law on April 15 without executive approval, becoming Republic Act No. 11700.

Republic Act 11700 recognizes the importance of the abaca industry “as a driver of rural development” with its potential to “increase the country’s earnings tremendously.”

“In recognition of its status as the country’s biggest producer of abaca and making the Philippines world-renowned as ‘Manila Hemp’ in the fiber industry, and in support to the agricultural development of the province, it is hereby declared that Catanduanes be the abaca capital of the Philippines,” the law stated.

Catanduanes has the highest abaca production in the Philippines, contributing 31.72 percent to the country’s production in 2020, 33.74 percent in 2019 and 33.37 percent in 2018.

The province accounts for more than 80 percent of abaca production in Bicol, with 12,000 farmers tending to 21,500 hectares of abaca plantations

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