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Who knew that silk, that precious fabric which drove ancient cross-continental trade, could be found in the Philippines?

SILKWORM moths, eggs, and cocoons. — DAVID CLODE-UNSPLASH

JULIUS LEAÑO, Officer-in-Charge of the Department of Science and Technology – Philippine Textile Research Institute (DoST-PTRI) discussed the progress of the Philippine silk industry during the Philippine Silk Summit in Makati on Jan. 27.

For example, the PTRI has increased its silk cocoon production hubs by 500%, which in turn led to a 1,142% increase in silk production. To understand this scale, consider the amounts of silk products created by Silk Innovation hubs in Kalinga, Negros, and Misamis for various stages of silk production. The one in Negros sees 20 kilos (kgs) of thrown silk — silk turned into yarn — spun per day, while the one in Misamis Oriental produces 30 kgs of dried cocoons, yielding seven kilograms of raw silk, per day. Kalinga produces seven kilos of raw silk a day. According to Mr. Leaño, “The way forward is to have 960 kgs per year production capacity, 9,600 kgs of fresh cocoons produced, and 15 hectares of mulberry plantations supplying about one reeling facility,” he said. They plan to hit these goals by 2025.

In another talk, Carlo Eliserio, Business Manager of the Aklan Fashion Designers Association (AFDA), from a region where a lot of the raw silk goes for weaving, showed various products made using the raw silk. It is usually combined with piña (pineapple leaf fiber) at a 60-40 ratio, producing piña seda, though it can also be combined with cotton and abaca. These textiles are turned into formal Filipino wear such as barongs, and are distributed throughout the country. He also showed various outfits made by his colleagues at AFDA, as well as projects within the community such as teaching inmates how to make bags.

“The main goal of the Seda Pilipinas program is the integration of the value chain. We always look at it from a supply-chain perspective, not disenfranchising the main value chain players, specifically from the farmers all the way to our consumer,” said Mr. Leaño.

He gives an example of a farmer asking for each kilogram of silk cocoons to be sold at an additional P50, raising the price to P250. After some study, and figuring out that the price of silk increases at the weaving level, they figured they can raise prices for raw cocoons at P400 per kilogram. “The engagement of farmers is still crucial,” he said. “Wala nang nagbebenta ng P200 na silk (nobody sells silk at P200). It also diminishes the value of silk.”

“We want to push the value transformation all the way to the farmers,” he said. “Kapag iyong cocoon producers natin, ayaw nang mag-produce ng cocoon…wala na kayong tatahiin (if our cocoon producers no longer want to produce the cocoons, you will have nothing to sew).”

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