Interview with Cecilia Gloria J. Soriano

Cecilia Gloria J. Soriano
Cecilia Gloria J. Soriano

A very fine and highly prized cloth known as pina is made from the pineapple leaves...
Cecilia Gloria J. Soriano is the Administrator of Fiber Industry Development Authority (FIDA) and shares her knowledge about natural fibers with Fibre2Fashion Correspondent Manushi Gandhi. Synopsis: Fiber Industry Development Authority (FIDA) is a government body of Republic of the Philippines that comes under the Department of Agriculture. The organization promotes the growth and development of the Philippine fiber industry. FIDA was created by virtue of Executive Order No. 709 dated July 27, 1981 which abolished the Abaca Industry Development Authority (AIDA) and the Bureau of Fiber and Inspection Service (BFIS). It is looked after by an administrator who is assisted by two deputy administrators and supported by nine divisions and ten regional offices. Cecilia Gloria J. Soriano is the Administrator of FIDA since 2001. She has done her Bachelors in Economics from University of the Philippines. Later, she did MBA from Philippine Christian University. She is the official representative/regular member of the Technical Planning and Review Committee of the Department of Science and Technology - Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (DOST-PCIERD) for the Textile Sector. Excerpts:

What is the role of FIDA in the trade practices of the Philippines?

FIDA administers and regulates, in accordance with law, the licensing and registration of those who are engaged in the trading and processing of Philippine natural fibers including fiber baling, tagging, marking, inspection, certification and shipment of Philippine commercial fibers. FIDA also implements an internationally accepted grading and classification standards for Philippine natural fibers for local consumption and for export which is being enforced by FIDA fiber inspectors posted in different parts of the country. The fiber inspectors inspect the fibers to ensure that the bale of fibers conforms to the set standards before these are traded to domestic processors or exported to the rest of the world.

What are the various types of natural fibers produced in the Philippines and what are their unique properties?

The different natural fibers produced in the Philippines are the following: ABACA Abaca (Musa textilis Nee) belongs to the family Musaceae that looks like banana except that its leaves are shinier, narrower and more tapering. The abaca fiber is the strongest among plant fibers. It is three times stronger than cotton fiber and two times stronger than sisal. Compared with other fibers abaca fiber possesses the highest tensile strength and longer elongation. Abaca is far more resistant to salt water decomposition than most of the vegetable fibers, making it suitable for rope and cordage manufacture. BANANA Banana plant (Musa paradisiaca) like abaca belongs also to the Musaceae family. Banana is better known for its edible fruit than for its fiber. The fiber is soft compared to abaca and is extracted by decortication and handstripping method. Banana fiber can be made into textile. Banana fiber which is lustrous, and with high moisture absorption is a good material for textile and when blended with other fibers, can be used for making ropes for agricultural purposes. BURI The plant (Corypha elata Roxb.) is the largest palm in the Philippines. It produces two types of fibers which are extracted manually: raffia which is taken from the unopened leaf of buri plant and buntal, which is extracted from the petiole. The buntal fiber is well known for its strength and durability. Buntal fiber is used for hat making as well as other utility and fibercraft items because of its fine texture and pliability. COIR The coconut palm (Cocos nucifera L.) belongs to the family Palmae, an important member of the monocotyledons. The fibers are extracted from the coconut husk mechanically using decorticating machine. It has two kinds of fiber, bristle which is coarse and mattress, the soft fiber. Coir fiber possess a high degree of flexibility and extensibility which differentiates it from hard and bast fibers. Coir fiber is made into mats, twines, ropes and cordage, recently in geotextile. MAGUEY Maguey is scientifically known as Agave cantala, Roxb. which belongs to the Amerrylis family. The fibers are extracted from the mature leaves by retting in sea water and by decortication. Maguey fiber is finer and softer than sisal, another agave plant. In terms of yield in pulp and paper manufacture, maguey is generally superior than sisal but inferior than abaca. PINEAPPLE Pineapple plant (Ananas comosus L.) is a member of the family Bromeleaceae. In the Philippines, a very fine and highly prized cloth known as pina is made from the pineapple leaves of the Red Spanish variety. The fiber is manually extracted from mature leaves by hand- scraping, and is handwoven into a soft, delicate texture & gossamer-like fabrics sought after in the world of fashion. The Hawaiian and Formosa varieties are extracted by decortication. Decorticated pineapple fiber is blended with polyester and used for textile production through the mechanized process. SALAGO Salago (Wiskstroemia spp.) belongs to the family Thymelaceae. The fibers, which are in ribbon form are hard and stiff and are extracted from the stalks by either the direct peeling or the steam process. Salago yields exquisite and lustrous fibers which are excellent material in the manufacture of specialty paper like currency paper, bank notes, checks, bond paper for legal documents, certificates and insurance policies requiring a certain degree of permanence, strength and durability. The fiber is also suitable for the manufacture of stencil paper, handmade paper and other industrial applications. SILK Silk is a natural fiber produced by the silkworm species known as Bombyx mori. It is known as the “queen of fibers” because it is considered the most glamorous of all textile fibers. Owing to its fineness, luster, strength, feel and outstanding dyeing affinity, silk has been the prime materials in the high fashion industry and in women’s lingerie. In the Philippines, this high value fiber is used for men’s, ladies’ and children’s wear and fashion accessories.

Which natural fiber of your country enjoys a maximum demand in the international market and how much part of it is exported?

Abaca, internationally known as Manila hemp, is our premier natural fiber which enjoys high and sustained demand in the international market. It is the major export commodity among the country’s natural fibers, either in raw fiber or semi-processed and processed forms such as pulp, cordage or ropes, fabrics and fibercrafts as well as furniture. Pulp is semi-processed and is made into a host of specialty paper products, the most notable of which are tea bags and coffee pads/filter papers.

Do you feel that the production of natural fabrics is very low in your country? Can you please determine what is the actual production?

The production is low in the sense that the bulk of the fabrics made of natural fibers like abaca and pina fibers that we are producing are handwoven. By its very nature, handweaving is slow and tedious, thus, the production capacity is quite limited compared to manufacturing using machine or powerloom. Nevertheless, our handloom weaving communities can serve the export market as we have both the quality and quantity which their market abroad requires. We do not have actual figures of its production but the combined exports of handwoven fabrics in 2012 were estimated at 270,000 square meters. Similarly, the production of natural fabrics by powerloom is low since there are only two textile millers who have shown interest in utilizing these natural fibers for textile.
Published on: 09/05/2013

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of

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