By Rhaydz B. Barcia
LEGAZPI CITY, 2Oct2013 (PNA) – Over 20 years after the development of new products for the coconut fiber in the country through the ingenuity of the Bicolanos, today this coconut husk part is the world’s top erosion-control material that has penetrated the global market.
The coco fiber from coconut husk is highly competitive in the global market and is now exported in several countries as major soil erosion control and green product that protects the environment, according to engineer Ramon Orticio of the Department of Trade and Industry Bicol regional office.
Before, coconut farmers in the Bicol region usually burned the coconut husk from their farmland.
Today, however, this farm waste is the world’s leading green soil erosion prevention and control material, thus, becoming a major source of income not only for Bicolanos but also those in other coconut-producing areas.
The discovery of the uses of coco fiber here began in the early ‘90s in a remote village of Malinao town in Albay province.
Villager Ramil Canicula, 45, of Barangay Sta. Elena set up decorticating equipment for coconut husk to generate alternative income for the villagers out of “bunot” (coconut husk) wastes.
Canicula started the decortication process in 1990 but halted the operation in 2007 due to financial constraints and low demand for the end products.
In December 2011, Canicula revived the coir fiber business and registered it under the name Southeastern Fiber Product.
It provided jobs to 500 people, mostly women engaged in twining and weaving.
Today, the business has helped local communities in Malinao town in generating income out of coco wastes.
The coco fiber in Bicol became popular in mid-2000 after engineer Justino “Bo” Arboleda, former Bicol University College of Agriculture professor, converted waste materials from mature coconut to soil erosion-control technology and has made it a major dollar earner, providing livelihood to coconut farmers not only in Albay but also throughout the country.
His invention was given recognition in international area after winning the BBC’s top awards for the best grassroots project.
It highlighted the ingenuity and perseverance of Bicolanos, in particular, and the Filipinos, in general.
Arboleda conducted a thorough study on coco husks from 1991 to 1993.
Since 1995, his coco net soil erosion-control technology has been exported to China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Europe and the United States while the coco dust is marketed in South Korea as organic fertilizer and soil conditioner.
With the coconut net production, Arboleda is currently giving livelihood to around 2,000 households in Bicol.
Coco fiber has natural antifungal and antibacterial properties and is resistant to insects and mold.
It can be used to insulate buildings from heat, cold and sound and is good for car seat cushions, cat scratching poles, planting materials and fertilizer.
It is affordable, durable and completely biodegradable.
The coir fiber is used in making ropes, cordage, geonets, biologs, bags, packaging materials, door mats, mats, wall carpets, rugs, plant hangers, furnishing fabrics and insulation material.
The net is made of bristle fiber, 10 percent mattress fiber, 20 percent and coco coir dust from waste materials of mature coconut whose meat is used in making sweets and special Filipino dishes particularly in the Bicol region.
Coco fiber’s superior ability to absorb moisture, pressure, sound and odors is indisputable.
The coco nets help plants grow on the riprap, their roots hold the soil tightly and they prevent landslide not only because the plant roots take in the water but also because the coco fiber nets are highly absorbent.
Currently, China remains as the biggest buyer of country’s coco coir and the products demand increases with the growing Chinese population.
Major imports of China are bed mattresses and raw coco fiber with an estimated 20-percent annual increase.
The coconut net from Philippines is being used in China’s desertification for effective riprap and soil erosion control while Japan is major buyer of coco peat for animal bedding.
Currently, the country’s export market for coconut products which include coco fiber and coco peat are US, Canada, Mexico, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Spain, Japan, Korea, China, Mongolia, Egypt, Israel, United Arab Emirate, Saudi Araia, Australia and New Zealand.
The local market of coir fiber-based products are mining companies, government institutions like the Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, National Irrigation Administration, local government units, construction companies and real estate developers, local processors including handicraft producers and local exporters.
In line with the program to promote better farm practices and environment conservation to mitigate the effect of climate change, former president now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued Memorandum Circular No. 25 directing all national and local government agencies, bureaus and other instrumentalities — including agricultural institutions and councils — to use coconut fiber as soil erosion control technology as well as coco peat or coir dusk in farming and to horticulture as soil conditioner and water moisture conservator.
A similar directive was issued by Pres. Benigno Aquino III, directing the Department of Public Works and Highways to use coconut fiber or coconets erosion-control materials as bio-engineering measures and be able to properly apply this new technology in government on-going and future construction to promote green engineering and minimize the effects of climate change aside from cheaper and environment friendly. (PNA)