Abaca Ban Now in Effect in Catanduanes - BM

VIRAC, Catanduanes—Selling and transporting abaca planting materials outside the island-province of Catanduanes, the “abaca capital of the Philippines,” is now a crime punishable with imprisonment and heavy fines.

An ordinance recently passed by the provincial legislative board provides that the sale and transport of abaca planting materials such as suckers, corms and eyebuds outside the province are now prohibited up to five years as a measure to safeguard the local abaca industry.

Suckers are shoots that grow from the underground root or stem of a plant that produce their own roots and grow into a new plant. Corms are seed pieces, and eyebuds are sliced from corms and are also capable of plant reproduction.

The ordinance is also a preventive measure against the spread of abaca plant diseases in the light of findings that the dreaded abaca bunchy-top, abaca mosaic and bract mosaic diseases have been infecting 15 percent of the province’s vast abaca plantations, its principal author, board member Nel Asanza, said here over the weekend.

Violators of the ban would be fined P3,000 or meted with three-month imprisonment for the first offense, P4,000 or six-month imprisonment for the second offense, and P5,000 or one-year imprisonment for the third offense, he said.

The measure, Asanza said, was enacted in response to findings that some abaca producers and traders have been indiscriminately selling planting materials to buyers from the Bicol mainland and transporting them outside the province.

“This practice poses a great danger to abaca-fiber production as it would result to a probable depletion of abaca plantations, and, in time, would lead to the weakening of our abaca industry, to the prejudice of local farmers and traders,” the provincial board member said.

The rampant sale and transport of suckers also present an obstacle to the Catanduanes Unlad Abakamasa program of the provincial government, which seeks to uplift the quality of life of marginal abaca farmers and, at the same time, maintain Catanduanes’s reputation as the abaca capital of the country, he said.

A report of the Fiber Development Authority (FIDA) said Catanduanes remains the No. 1 producer of abaca in the country, accounting for about 9,000 metric tons in fiber production during the first half of this year.

The province had 23,676 hectares of abaca plantations cultivated by 15,454 farmers, the largest in the Philippines. Others in the top 10 list of abaca-producing provinces are Southern Leyte, Leyte, Davao Oriental, Northern Samar, Davao del Sur, Surigao del Sur, Samar, Sulu and Sorsogon.

Asanza said, “We are determined to keep the production of our abaca lands growing, even as the Fida has projected a slowdown in demand for fiber in the overseas market that would result in a decline by 20 percent due to the global financial crisis.”

Sooner or later, he said, the world economy would recover, and the demand for abaca fiber would normalize, and “that is what we are anticipating.”

To ensure the effective implementation of the anti-abaca planting materials smuggling ordinance, Asanza said a monitoring team composed of personnel from the Provincial Agriculture Support Office (Paso), Fida, municipal agriculture offices, and barangay officials had been created.

This team is tasked to arrest anybody who would be caught involved in the banned activity that depletes the province’s abaca plantations with about 3,000 suckers a week that are sold to traders from outside the province and shipped to Albay at P20 per piece.

That developed as the provincial government recently purchased and distributed 39,000 abaca suckers to qualified farmers under the abaca rehabilitation project of the CUA program. Asanza said.

The program also includes abaca densification, mechanization of fiber extraction, abaca disease eradication, processing, value-adding and research, he added.

Written by Danny O. Calleja / Correspondent
Source: Business Mirror - 09 November 2009

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