According to the Department of Agriculture-Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority, the Philippines is one of the biggest producers of abaca fiber. In fact, we supply about 87% of global requirements for production of various textile products—from currency note to handicrafts and furniture.

Abaca is one the natural raw fibers in the country that we export to other countries, only to be processed as a high-value textile product and be re-exported back to the Philippines. We, however, import synthetic raw materials such as polyester and rayon, instead, for our own textile use since exporting our natural raw fibers generate more revenue for the country.

But would it not be more beneficial and sustainable in the long run for the country to produce our own natural fibers and at the same time use them as raw materials for our own and revitalize our local textile industry?

From fiber to fabric

Spearheaded by the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Textile Research Institute (DOST-PTRI) through its Inclusive Innovation TELA or i2TELA Program, the Regional Yarn Production and Innovation Center or RYPIC will be established in different regions in the country in order to address the local yarn supply gap. Incidentally, TELA is an acronym for Textile Empowering Lives Anew, an advocacy of the institute that aims to enliven the local textile industry from slumber.

The RYPIC is a micro-scale yarn spinning facility that is a spin-off from the Innovation Center for Yarn and Textile of DOST-PTRI housed in its central headquarters in Taguig City. This regional facility has the capacity to produce 50 kg of yarns per day using natural textile fibers. At this rate, it can generate 270 meters of handloom woven of 40-inch width fabrics per day. In a year, it can produce up to 13,200 kg of yarn that could make 36,000 meters of 60-inch width fabrics for 24,000 pieces of female blouse or 18,000 office Barongs.

Aside from yarn production, the RYPIC will also serve as an innovation hub to promote textile research and development activities in the region, thus igniting economic activity in weaving communities across the country.

According to DOST-PTRI, the goal of the RYPIC is to also “jumpstart local ecosystems for the textile sector and address the need for the textile industry’s supply chain activities. It is a realization of the TELA Pilipinas concept of soil-to-skin textile production wherein the transformation from raw materials to textiles and its utilization happens in one textile ecosystem.”

RYPIC Iloilo: Empowering local MSMEs

The country’s leading textile research institute recently establishedthe RYPIC in Miag-ao, Iloilo on 06 November 2019, making it the first yarn-spinning facility built outside of DOST-PTRI and NCR.

The RYPIC in Iloilo, located in the Miag-ao campus of the Iloilo Science and Technology University (ISAT-U), was the fruit of collaboration between DOST-PTRI, ISAT-U, together with DOST-Region VI and the local government of Miag-ao.

DOST Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña (sixth from the left), together with DOST Undersecretary for Research and Development, Dr. Rowena Cristina L. Guevara (fifth from left), DOST-PTRI Director Celia B. Elumba (seventh from left), and representatives from the ISAT-U, DOST-Region VI, and LGU-Miag-ao during the inauguration of the RYPIC in Miag-ao, Iloilo City (Photo from DOST-PTRI)

The first-ever Regional Yarn Production and Innovation Center in Miag-ao, Iloilo (Photo from DOST-PTRI)

Some of the yarn production equipment and machineries inside the RYPIC in Miag-ao, Iloilo (clockwise): single-end universal sizing; speedframe, chemical softener machine, and ring frame (Photo from DOST-PTRI)

With the establishment of the RYPIC in Iloilo, the gap in the region’s yarn supply will not only be addressed, but more importantly, it would help support local micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the communities that are involved in manufacturing garments, textile, and other related products using natural textile fibers (NTF).

In fact, Iloilo is famous for its vibrant Hablon, the “colorful handwoven fabric traditionally made using local fibers like piña, abaca, and cotton” that has been used since the pre-Hispanic era.

Hablon-weaving demonstration with master weaver Connie Atijon (rightmost) at the National Museum Western Visayas.(Photo from Gail Momblan, published by Philippine News Agency)

Over time, there have been fewer plantations of cotton and other natural fiber in the region so the local handloom weavers have resorted to using polyester as their primary raw material for weaving. Despite that, the quality of their woven products is still retained even with the use of synthetic raw materials. However, the weavers have learned that the international community is highly particular on the environmental impact of raw materials used in textile products. Polyester, for example, is a synthetic fiber derived from coal and petroleum, making it a non-sustainable raw material for textile production.

Because of this consideration, the establishment of RYPIC in Iloilo was well-received by the handloom weavers in the community since it promotes sustainability with the use of NTF.

Malaki ang naitutulong ng cotton (at ng NTF-blends) saHablon industry dahilsanaging globally-competitive nangayon ang amingproduktokaysa polyester nagamitnamin noon.(Cotton and NTF-blends have been of great help to the Hablon industry because it makes our products globally competitive compared before when we were using polyester),” said MarlouNiones, barangay captain of Brgy. Baraclayan in Miag-ao, Iloilo.

The RYPIC in Iloilo specializes in producing variants of either abaca or pineapple-leaf blended yarns, with fiber composition of 70% cotton and 30% NTF. This adds more value to produced handwoven fabrics. The NTF-blended yarns produced in the facility are made available not only to handloom weavers, but also to fashion designers, garment manufacturers, and textile industries in the region.

Currently, pineapple and abaca fibers (blended with cotton) are sourced from different regions since there are limited plantations in the area. But ISAT-U President Dr. Raul F. Muyong positively shared that “the 85-hectare property in Brgy. Aglalana, Passi City will be developed to produce pineapples to supply the requirements of the center, both for production purposes of textiles and for research and development.”

RYPIC Innovation Map

The establishment of RYPIC in Iloilo is just one of the many innovation centers that DOST-PTRI aims to put up across the country over a period of time.

As DOST-PTRI Director Celia B. Elumba puts it, “[DOST-PTRI) has been working on the technologies that convert natural textile fiber into spinnable input for yarn production that will become the input for fabrics, whether woven, knitted, or nonwoven textiles.”

In order to materialize this plan, DOST-PTRI proposes a five-year program from 2021-2025, wherein four additional RYPICs will be strategically established in the provinces of Isabela (Region II), Cavite/Laguna (Region IV-A), Negros Occidental (Region VI), and Davao (Region XI). These were identified areas with abundant NTF sources and are within the proximity of handloom weaving communities and/or textile manufacturing sectors.

This roadmap will definitely usher in the reemergence of Philippine textile as a value product for both domestic and international markets and will once again bring local fabrics woven into colorful fashion masterpieces to world prominence. 

(By Jasmin Joyce P. Sevilla, DOST-STII)

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