Furniture Industry Bats for Lifting of Ban on Abaca Harvest
Byline: MELODY M. AGUIBA
The furniture sector is batting for the lifting of an executive order (EO) banning the harvest of abaca leafsheaths or "umbak" used as indigenous material which adversely affects the Philippinesa $ 500 million furniture export.
Believing that the EO, issued last Feb. 2, 2006, is "imbalance" in favoring only the sector in the Philippine economy or the pulp and fiber sector, furniture makers feel the policy will not only hurt the industry but also farmers who take advantage of the umbak livelihood opportunity.
Farmers prefer harvesting the umbak because it enables them to convert the harvest into cash over four days because the sheath dries fast while abaca (wet, inner sheath) takes one month to process. The inner sheath is the one used by the fiber and pulp sector which contributes to abacaas $ 70 million to $ 80 million Philippine exports.
EO 502 has banned the harvest of umbak since its harvest threatens supply of fiber for the pulp and fiber sector. This is because umbak is a host for arthropods which are vectors of viral diseases a" abaca bunchy top, abaca mosaic, and abaca bract which are transferred through mechanical means.
However, Alexander K. Tan, Solingen Indl. Corp. chairman, said proper quarantine procedures can solve the infestation problem while a ban will hurt the furniture sector.
"Thereas a win-win solution. Fumigation is the answer. The furniture industry can afford it. FIDA (Fiber Industry Development Authority) can issue licenses for the transportation of umbak," said Tan.
Umbak is the exposed, outer layer composed of young and mature sheaths of the abaca plant which has been in-demand as a raw material for furniture particularly for those bound to US and Europe due to its attractive, natural dark shade that does not need coloring.
"Markets abroad really like the dark species which are found in Bicol, Sorsogon, Leyte," said Noel L. …