Zamboanga region has highest rubber production
RUBBER TREES have always been known to produce a milky white sap known as latex which is being used in many ways and modern processing of the latex sap produced has been generating income for the local community in Zamboanga Peninsula.
The region is considered to have the highest production of natural rubber in the country, producing 171,126 tons in 2010 and 188,934 tons 2011. With this flourishing rubber industry, a major challenge is to ensure that the state and quality of their rubber and rubber products comply with industry regulations and market requirements.
The Philippine Rubber Industry Association ( PRIA) has identified the need for a rubber testing facility in the country to provide objective evidence using scientific approach of the rubber’s state and quality.
To address this challenge, the Department of Science and Technology ( DOST) provided funds to the region’s rubber industry through its so- called Grantsin- Aid program to set up a laboratory testing facility that will analyze the quality of natural rubber crumbs. Quality of natural rubber is one of the top issues affecting the competitiveness of the industry.
The rubber testing laboratory located at the DOST in Zamboanga City has the capability to test seven parameters: Dirt content, Nitrogen content, Ash, Volatile Matter, Plasticity Retention Index, Mooney Viscosity and Color.
Dirt Content helps detect adulteration in the product for it affects the processing of rubber and its quality. Nitrogen Content indicates possible adulteration with skim latex if content is high. Ash Content helps detect adulteration with clay, talc, sludge and silicates and coagulants such as sulfuric acid and phosphoric acid.
Meanwhile, Volatile Matter indicates dryness of the rubber where it should not exceed 0.8% because wet rubber may develop molds and foul odor. Plasticity Retention Index on the other hand, measures the resistance of rubber to oxidative degradation or aging. Mooney Viscosity characterizes the ability to process the rubber and lastly, Color determines the grade of rubber crumbs. All these parameters are important in establishing the quality of the natural rubber crumbs.
The facility is equipped with major equipment namely, Plastimeter, Mooney Viscometer, Kjeldahl Block Digestion and Distillation System, Furnace, Laboratory Mill, Aging Chamber, Analytical Balance, Ultrasonic Bath, and Hydraulic Press.
To further elevate the rubber industry in Zamboanga, DOST assisted the Philippine Pioneer Rubber Product Corp. ( PPRPC) in Naga town in Zamboanga Sibugay province through its Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program ( SETUP) that provides assistance to micro, small and medium enterprises through funding, technology upgrade, and manpower training.
According to Daniel Revantad, manager of PPRPC, the SETUP helped them compete in the rubber industry. “Naisip namin nung palapit itong ASEAN Integration, hindi na pwedeng yun produkto mo na pwede na, kailangan pwedeng- pwede ( We thought that with the coming ASEAN Integration, you can no longer make do with a so- so product. It should be excellent). You have to cope up with the standard,” Revantad said.
DOST said it assisted PPRPC with a technology intervention worth P 8,276,800 for the improvement of their system and product; and manpower development with a project duration from 2014 to 2017. Two units of slab cutter and two units of blending tanks were delivered and installed in the plant.
The PPRPC provides milling services to rubberproducing cooperatives, rubber farmers and traders. It was organized in 2000 as a federation of six agrarian reform communities which enabled them to avail the SETUP assistance. The production increased by 25% and they now provide better quality and faster service to rubber farmers and traders, became compliant to ISO 2000 quality standards, and generated 23 additional employees, from 127 to 150, according to a statement released by DOST.