Abaca 101: The eco-friendly fiber maintains unshakable significance


LEGAZPI CITY – Despite the emergence of synthetic substitutes, abaca, keeps Bicol on top of its producers’ circle. It remains unshakable in both the domestic and international markets, according to the Bicol Consortium for Agriculture and Resources Research and Development.

Synthetic ropes may have some technical advantages but abaca has qualities that meet the needs for special purposes. Its specific usage include oil drilling, navies, merchant shipping and construction. It thus maintain for the Philippines the strong foothold in the global market, BCARRD Director Ninfa Pelea said over the week here.

She said this and many more good news about the product during the two-day farmers industry encounter through the Science and Technology agenda at the Embarcadero de Legazpi that ended Friday.

Organized by the consortium, the affair showcased the various abaca products and emerging opportunities with science and technology, playing a significant role in the industry.

Pelea said the country’s abaca industry continues with its bright prospects, especially in the export market. Many countries are shifting to the use of abaca products to replace synthetic and other non-biodegradable raw materials.

This, as the current global advocacy ongoing natural, going green is becoming more intense with the growing awareness and concern to protect the environment.

As a renewable resource, abaca can be an excellent part of the overall solution to climate change. The plant absorbs more carbon dioxide than its emission and is 100-percent biodegradable that cannot harm the environment.

Eco-friendly materials like abaca are utilized by industries for products in home furnishings and housewares, fashion and its accessories, packaging of food, apparel and other items.

Pelea said demand in synthetic products such as plastic bags have been steadily declining as consumers now prefer to use eco-friendly fabric bags to replace plastic bags. Plastic has been causing a lot of problems in the environment such as littering and pollution.

“In this city alone, you don’t see stores, malls and other commercial establishments using plastic bags because of the ban imposed by the local government,” Pelea said.

In various industries, instead of glass fiber, the use of abaca fiber brought primary energy savings of 60 percent, significantly reducing carbon dioxide emission, the report said.

Other car manufacturing companies, significantly in the European Union, are expected to use natural fibers as material for their car parts in compliance with the end-of-life-vehicle regulation of the European Parliament.

Such regulation requires these firms to design and make their car components easier to recycle and safer to dispose.

As composite material, abaca fiber has potentials in boat and shipbuilding industries, aeronautics as well as in the construction business especially in high-rise building, according to a report by the Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority.

With the stricter policies against dumping of synthetic fishnets and cordage materials in open sea as enforced by most European nations, users are returning to the use of natural biodegradable materials like abaca fiber, the report added.

Pelea said abaca pulp has also been gaining more popularity owing to the expanding demand for specialty papers for tea bag, meat and sausage casings, currency papers, metalized papers, cigarette papers, filters, hi-tech capacitor papers and other non-woven and disposables, Pelea said.

Most specialty papers require high porosity and excellent tear, bursting and tensile strength which characterize abaca fiber and shun synthetics that burn more readily than natural, prone to heat damage and generate more electrostatic charge by rubbing than with natural fibers.

Pelea said the Philippines, with Bicol and the province of Catanduanes, maintain its hold of the top slot in abaca production. The country could expect more demand for abaca fiber owing to its growing popularity. The opening of new markets for tea bags and meat casing in India, China and Eastern Europe, coupled with an increase in demand by US and Russia for abaca-based fiber paper and wrapper for cigarette attest to that.

Abaca is now highly preferred for cordage material over synthetic materials which are not environment friendly. It also serves as replacement for asbestos which is carcinogenic and banned in other countries, she said.

A study conducted by the European Nature Heritage Fund said the utilization of abaca fiber in composites for highly stressed parts of automobiles would result in numerous ecological as well as economic benefits.

Replacing glass fibers by natural fibers could reduce the weight of automotive parts and enables recycling of these components, it added.

Meanwhile, the just concluded encounter was themed “Celebrating Bicol’s Amazing Abaca: Fiesta na, Pasko Pa,” featured techno-business forum, fashion show, photography contest and e-marketing training among others. (PNA feature by Danny O. Calleja}


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