DAVAO CITY — Agri-Tech Integrated Services Company (ATISCO), a subsidiary of Yazaki Torres Corp., is planning to develop 10,000 hectares (ha) of abaca farms in Marawi as part of the city’s rehabilitation.

“We are now conceptualizing the rehabilitation of Marawi by providing them livelihood through the rehabilitation of the abaca industry,” ATISCO Operations Manager Dante S. Delima told BusinessWorld in an interview on the sidelines of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR)-Mindanao Sustainable Agrarian and Agriculture Development (MinSAAD) Usapang Kalakalan held here on March 13.

MinSAAD is funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

Mr. Delima, who was formerly an undersecretary of the Department of Agriculture (DA), said abaca farmers in Marawi can be tapped and given assistance for improving production methods.

DAR has started talks with the provincial agriculture office of Lanao del Sur for the establishment of an abaca nursery this year that will supply inputs for the planned abaca plantation.

“We were assured by the provincial agriculturist that they are willing to help,” he said.

The target is to start planting abaca by June next year. After two years, the projected annual income is P75,000 per hectare.

The Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority (PhilFIDA) estimates that the country supplies 87% of the global requirement for abaca used in the production of cordage, furniture, handicrafts and novelty items.

About 176,549 ha. is planted to abaca, mostly in the Visayas and Mindanao, and 122,758 farmers in the sector.

Mr. Delima said abaca has been seeing a revival in global demand in recent years.

“Abaca fiber is no longer just used as cordage now because it is an important component of paper money, as an insulator, in capacitors, hospital gloves, tea bags and even in kevlar body armor for the military,” he said.

The ATISCO executive said there are several big processing plants with high demand for abaca, including Newtech Pulp, Inc. in Balo-i, Lanao del Norte, which imports an annual average of 414.54 metric tons of abaca fiber from Ecuador because of the lack of supply in the Philippines.

“The government should provide funding to PhilFIDA so it could rehabilitate the abaca industry because there are now more investors willing to plant abaca,” he added.

He said ATISCO, which is based in Calamba, Laguna, is willing to assist farmers who want to grow abaca as he cited the company’s experience in helping the Mangyan communities in Mindoro.

Aside from providing technical know-how, the company also consolidates the abaca products of the farmers for transport to processors, assuring them of a market.

The company has also established the Abaca Development Fund, which receives P1 for every kilo of abaca sold.

DA Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol has expressed support to the revival of the abaca industry, providing an initial P100 million for the establishment of an abaca industry in Sogod, Southern Leyte. He also committed to give P50 million for the establishment of a nursery and research center for abaca in Kidapawan City. — Carmencita A. Carillo