Mainstreaming of the Philippine Tropical Fabrics, an Essential Boost for the Revitalization of the Philippine Textile Industry

By: Sharmainne Rhey B. Caoili Technology Transfer, Information and Promotions Staff

January of every year is declared as the Philippine Tropical Fabrics (PTF) Month and this year, it carried the theme: “TELA (Textiles Empowering Lives Anew): Gawang Pilipinas. Galing Pilipinas”. Spearheaded by the Philippine Textile Research Institute (PTRI), the textile research arm of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), one of the highlights of the month-long celebration was the conduct of “A TELA Story, Philippine Tropical Fabrics: Rising to the Challenge”, the Textile Stakeholders Conference held at the Philippine International Convention Center.

The Textile Stakeholders Conference focused on the current state of PTF, from its production, utilization, and challenges. It brought together notable guests and enthusiasts from various sectors.

As defined in Republic Act No. 9242 or the PTF Law, PTF are fabrics containing natural textile fibers of abaca, banana, pineapple, and silk as recognized under the Implementing Rules and Regulations. These must be produced, spun, woven or knitted, and finished entirely in the Philippines. With the ultimate objective of catalyzing the revitalization of the Philippine textile industry, commercial application of PTF through its prescribed use for uniforms and other fabric requirements of government officials and employees would be a worthy endeavor.

The pre-requisites laid down by the R.A. 9242 should have been a great backbone to boost not just the tropical fabrics industry, but of the country’s textile industry. This was greatly emphasized during the Conference when the esteemed speakers discussed their researches, experiences, opportunities, and perspectives about the Philippine Tropical Fabrics. In her presentation, PTRI Dir. Celia B. Elumba noted that “the utilization of Philippine Tropical Fabrics by government employees and officials has been dismally low for a very simple reason: the lack of supply on a commercial scale”. This presents an opportunity, not an end to the industry and showed where each stakeholder can help to address these challenges.

DOST Secretary Fortunato T. De La Pena, Ms. Olive Ang, Dr. Antonio Lalusin and Dir. Celia Elumba Addressing the Challenges : A Glimpse of the Philippine Textile’s Value Chain

DOST Secretary Fortunato T. De La Pena, Ms. Olive Ang, Dr. Antonio Lalusin and Dir. Celia Elumba Addressing the Challenges : A Glimpse of the Philippine Textile’s Value Chain One of the key factors in creating textiles that can be branded as “Gawang Pilipinas. Galing Pilipinas”, is the judicious utilization of our natural textile fibers and agricultural by-products in the Philippines. This already dictates how the developments or further hindrances will affect the Philippine textile value chain.

This was the challenge presented by Dr. Antonio Lalusin, recognized expert in plant breeding from the University of the Philippines – Los Baños for abaca farmers all around the country. Abaca, popularly known as Manila Hemp (though it is not of the same family as hemp), is considered among the strongest fibers in the world. With its established industry, abaca production has been hampered in years past due to viruses and diseases, in particular, the bunchy top virus that has greatly affected to mortality and fiber quality, resulting to limited, if not depleted supply.

Through the efforts and decades of research & development institutions, a hybrid of abaca and wild banana called BANDALA variety was developed. This has turned out to be very good for textile applications, exhibiting properties and qualities noted for the S2 variety with the added benefit of virus resistance.

The next presenter, Ms. Olive Ang, President of the Uniform Manufacturers Organization and Designers Association (UNIMODA), has withstood the test of time and challenges in uniform production, textile manufacturing, and fashion industry. Along with others, she has been witness to the prime state of the Philippine textile industry.