THE DEPARTMENT of Science and Technology (DoST) said it has launched a project tapping hybrid abaca and other fibers as well as community weavers to produce face masks and other protective apparel.

The DoST’s Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD) said its project is known as the Community-Level Textile Raw Material Integration towards Self-sufficient Philippine Textiles Manufacturing of Protective Re-engineered Occupational Technical Textiles against COVID-19 program.  

“(The project) targets to manufacture a water-repellent, antiviral, and re-wearable textile fabric for face masks and protective apparel in response to the new normal,” PCAARRD said in a statement over the weekend.

It said the DoST’s Philippine Textile Research Institute will partner with weavers and fiber-producing communities in Apayao, Cavite, and Surigao del Sur.

Fibers to be used in the project include an abaca hybrid called Backcross Abaca with Native and Desirable Accessions to Lift Up the Abaca Industry (BANDALA), bamboo, and pineapple leaf.

BANDALA was developed late last year by the University of the Philippines Los Baños Institute of Plant Breeding. The hybrid is resistant to the abaca bunchy top virus and tolerates drought.

“The final product is also expected to comply with Republic Act No. 9242 or the Philippine Tropical Fabric Law which requires the use of local tropical fibers for government wear,” it said.  

Abaca output in the seven months to July hit 38,460.04 metric tons (MT), up 10.2% from a year earlier, according to the Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority.

Catanduanes was the top abaca producer with 10,638.81 MT. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave