MANILA - Several senators on Monday urged the Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority (PhilFIDA) to enhance the country's cotton production so that local weavers will no longer have to import the raw material.
Senate Committee on Agriculture chair Cynthia Villar, who owns a weaving business in Las Piñas, said that her facility alone imports P50,000-worth of cotton threads to produce 700 blankets a month.
"Kaya kita sinasabihan na i-improve 'yung cotton kasi gusto ko naman mag-weave ng local," Villar told PhilFIDA officials.
(I'm telling you to improve cotton because I want to weave using local materials.)
"Parang ang contribution lang natin sa industry eh 'yung labor ng ating nagwi-weave pero yung sinulid na napakalaking amount ay binibili natin from imported," she said.
(It seems that our contribution to the industry is just the labor of weavers but the thread they use which we buy in huge amounts are imported.)
Sen. Imee Marcos said loomers from the Ilocos Region have also been relying on imported cotton to create traditional textiles.
"Lahat kami imported na ang ginagamit kasi very uncompetitive na 'yung cotton natin," she said.
(All of us use imported because our cotton industry is very uncompetitive.)
PhilFIDA Executive Director Kennedy Costales said farmers have been discouraged to plant the local variety of cotton as these are prone to bullworm infestation.
"Ang problema po kasi sa cotton, ang hesitation ng farmers kasi local cotton po ang gamit, madali atakihin ng bullworms," he said.
(Farmers are hesitant to grow cotton because the problem with it is it is easily attacked by bullworms.)
There is a ban on the importation of Bt cotton, a genetically-modified version of the weaving fiber, he said.
"For the past 3 years, we are campaigning na i-ano na ang Bt cotton hanggang ngayon hindi pa nali-lift," he said.
(We have been campaigning to lift the ban on the importation of Bt cotton, but until now it has yet to be lifted.)
Instead of looking into importing Bt cotton, PhilFIDA should focus on finding ways to prevent bullworms from feasting on the local variety, Sen. Risa Hontiveros said.
"Uncomfortable po ako pag ang reflex na sagot natin ay Bt," she said.
(I am uncomfortable that our reflex solution is to import Bt.)
Converting bamboo into threads can be an alternative with the right research and technology, Marcos said.
Villar told PhilFIDA to "focus" on the development of cotton, abaca, and other fibers commonly used by Filipino textile manufacturers instead of using its P400-million annual budget for overhead expenses.
"If you have a small budget, you focus para may performance ka," Villar said.
"Bigay mo sakin san ako bibili ng cotton para hindi ako bibili ng imported. I want to see the day that I'm buying from you," she said.
(Tell me where to buy cotton here so I can stop buying imported.)