ENVIRONMENT Secretary Roy A. Cimatu has ordered the planting of bamboo along the banks of the Cagayan River as an anti-flooding measure to prevent the recurrence of the floods that hit Cagayan and Isabela provinces during Typhoon Ulysses (international name: Vamco).

Following a meeting with the Build Back Better Task Force (BBBTF), Mr. Cimatu ordered the regional offices of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, and Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon) to ensure that bamboo planting materials are available.

He also directed these regional offices to start identifying areas along the river banks suitable for bamboo planting, to be funded by the DENR’s national greening program.

Mr. Cimatu said bamboo was selected because it is hardy and fast-growing.

“It is ideal for stabilizing riverbanks,” Mr. Cimatu said.

“It can also be a potential sustainable source of livelihood for the people of Cagayan Valley while protecting the integrity of the Cagayan River,” he added.

In the same BBBTF meeting, Trade Undersecretary Blesilda A. Lantayona said the DENR’s decision to plant bamboo along the Cagayan River offers an opportunity to examine the crop’s economic potential.

Ms. Lantayona said the government has been developing a supply of engineered bamboo, but is unable to operate at full capacity due to lack of supply.

“Mr. Cimatu’s push to mainstream engineered bamboo as a major alternative to timber will finally enable the full implementation of Executive Order (EO) 879,” Ms. Lantayona said.

Under EO 879, at least 25% of the annual requirement of school desks and chairs in public elementary and secondary schools across the country need to be built with bamboo.

The EO also directs the DENR to use bamboo as a planting material for at least 20% of its targeted annual reforestation and rehabilitation projects.

“This should be done especially in provinces and towns which are engaged in or have the potential to engage in bamboo-based industries or where trees are difficult to grow because of poor site quality, susceptibility to erosion or adverse and steep gradients,” the DENR said. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave