The lowly bamboo will be playing a crucial role in the rehabilitation of the heavily silted Cagayan River, which overflowed during the onslaught of Typhoon Ulysses leading to massive flooding that submerged the provinces of Cagayan and Isabela and killed at least 29 people in the area.

This developed as Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy A. Cimatu ordered to prioritize the planting of bamboo trees on the banks of Cagayan River to help prevent a repeat of the deadly Ulysses floods.

The DENR chief issued the directive during the Nov. 27 meeting of the Build Back Better Task Force (BBBTF) created by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to oversee the rehabilitation of areas devastated by recent powerful typhoons. Cimatu co-chairs the task force with Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar.

Cimatu ordered the DENR regional offices in Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon and CALABARZON to ensure the availability of bamboo planting materials.

He also directed the regional offices to immediately start identifying areas along the river channels that are most suitable for bamboo propagation under the government’s Enhanced National Greening Program.

According to Cimatu, bamboo is ideal for stabilizing riverbanks given its high survival rate. “The survival rate of bamboo is much higher and it has a faster growth rate compared to other trees,” he pointed out.

He also cited bamboo’s potential to be “a sustainable source of livelihood for the people of Cagayan Valley while protecting the integrity of Cagayan River.”

Cimatu’s preference of bamboo as a rehabilitation tool and promotion of engineered bamboo as alternative to lumber was supported by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), which is one of the 24 member-agencies of BBBTF.

During the recent BBBTF meeting, DTI Undersecretary Blesila Lantayona called the move as an opportunity to look into the economic importance of bamboo.

Lantayona said the DTI has been producing engineered bamboo, but its facilities cannot operate at full capacity because there is currently a lack of bamboo supply.

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


Under EO 879, at least 25 percent of the annual requirement of school desks and chairs of all public elementary and secondary schools nationwide should be made of bamboo.

It also directs the DENR—through its Forest Management Bureau, Mines and Geosciences Bureau and Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA)—to use bamboo as the planting material for at least 20 percent of its annual reforestation and rehabilitation areas.

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. ###