Bills on rubber research arm filed

The proposed creation of the PRRI aims to “to initiate and administer research and development programs that will improve the quality and increase productivity of rubber for the benefit of smallholder rubber producers and processors.”
Rep. Ann Hofer of the second district of Zamboanga Sibugay filed House Bill No. 2435 while Sen. Loren Legarda Senate Bill No. 1651.

Rubber (Hevea brasilienses) is grown in Mindanao as most parts of the island is typhoon-free.

In 1905, rubber tree seedlings were introduced in the country, almost at the same time that Indonesia and Malaysia started their own rubber industries. According to the International Rubber Study Group, these countries are now among the leading rubber producers and exporters, together with Thailand and India.

Data from the Department of Agriculture (DA) revealed that there is great demand for rubber with consumption increasing worldwide. World production of natural rubber is projected to increase at 3-5 percent per year up to 2020, from 6.6 million tons in 2006 to 17.4 million tons in 2010 and 28.1 million tons in 2020.

However, the Philippines is lagging behind its Asian neighbors in terms of production and exportation of rubber. In 2004, the country’s rubber industry accounted for only 1.05 percent of the world consumption.

The slow progress of the rubber industry is attributed to the low quality of rubber products, lack of planting materials for expansion and lack of investments for the establishment of bud wood garden and nurseries.

An increase in production would raise income opportunities for the people of Mindanao especially the poor families whose daily subsistence relies on rubber, Hofer stressed.

“This measure is vital and urgent in line with the government’s effort to upgrade the economy, modernize industry, and alleviate poverty for sustainable development,” she said

The proposed measure aims to increase rubber productivity and further develop and expand the Philippine rubber industry by creating the PRRI which shall propagate and promote the planting, maintenance and utilization of rubber trees.

It also seeks to provide access to quality rubber tree seedlings, modern production techniques, and other support: services, undertake training and other capacity-building programs for stakeholders in the rubber industry.

The development of the rubber industry requires focused programs and projects on research, training, and capability-building that requires an institution to oversee and implement these activities, Hofer said.

"Its creation in Sibugay is urgent not only because of the absence of a rubber institution in the country, but also because of the abundance of rubber trees in the said province," she added.

She called for the immediate approval of her bill saying the potential contribution of this promising industry in the province to the national economy should not be underestimated.

"More importantly, the need to create the PRRI is based from principles enshrined in the Constitution regarding the promotion of self-reliant industries; the encouragement of private enterprises; the generation of employment and livelihood opportunities for the poor; and the provision for training and education particularly in science and technology among others," the lawmaker said.

She said the PRRI will initiate research on policy and technology as well as provide training and other support services to make Philippine rubber industry competitive. (Antonio M. Manaytay/MindaNews contributor)