1st Philippine Conference on VETIVER, Grand Ballroom, Intercontinental Hotel Manila, Makati City

5 March 2014


Thank you very much for the very comprehensive introduction! I was getting worried that it was going to be lengthier than the speech I had prepared for today’s gathering.

Let me begin by extending my warmest greetings to all of you, especially our foreign delegates led by Mr. Paul Truong, the Director for Asia and the Pacific of The Vetiver Network International, as you begin your first Philippine Conference on Vetiver this morning.

Let me also take this singular opportunity to congratulate Ms. Mary Noah Manarang for having the distinction of being the first and only Filipino certified Vetiver technician by the Vetiver Network considering that there are only 92 other such technicians certified worldwide.

The story of Ms. Manarang is a tale worth telling to all as it serves as a good model for government specialists who transition to the private sector and apply what they had learned in their stint in government. I was just told this morning that Ms. Manarang’s involvement started with a scholarship grant from the Government of Thailand when she was still in government service. And it was during this time that her Thai colleagues shared this Vetiver technology with her. Thanks to that Vetiver scholarship granted to our local specialist in the person of Ms. Manarang, this technology has come to our shores!

It is most heartening to note too that our renowned Vetiver technician who used to be connected with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), is now the proud owner of the VGFT Farm, which is heavily involved in helping our country preserve and help the environment by promoting this grass, that looks like an ordinary grass to many. As an environmentalist, Ms. Manarang has recognized the importance of this kind of grass so that she opted to cultivate it on her own and establish a business to promote it, with end in view of contributing to the sustainable growth and development of our country.

After having done some initial research on your system, I discovered that vetiver grass has a direct connection to bio-engineering. I also learned that there are several types of vetiver. One of them is chrysopogon zizanoides, a variety used by Ms. Manarang as she found this to be the most effective variety here in the Philippines. Her choice was based on the fact that its roots, which grow as long as nine feet, can grow on any type of soil and also under extreme weather conditions, like what exist in the country. Furthermore, it is said to be tolerant to most heavy metals and can also thrive on soil with high saline content.

Upon receiving your letter invitation for me to speak before you, I asked myself what a government official like me, a Senator at that, would be doing here speaking before you Vetiver Specialists, as I cannot claim to be an environmental expert, or one well-versed in the science of plant breeding.

Further, as an elected public official, I am often invited to grace many occasions and frequently requested to give talks and speeches in various fora with different groups and organizations, both private and public. At first I thought it is somehow quite difficult for me to address you this morning and to directly relate the work that we do in government to an organization like yours, the Vetiver Network International.

However, after careful research I can now can claim to be a pseudo-expert and more or less can now feel comfortable to speak before all of you today, with a certain level of confidence in sharing with you some thoughts on the subject.

Ladies and Gentlemen, since my 9 years stint as Governor of Ilocos Norte and up to today, I have always been fascinated by discussions and exchange of ideas on environment, especially when it comes to helping our Mother Earth survive under extreme and trying circumstances. As you all know, the first windmills in the Philippines and in Southeast Asia were installed in my home province of Ilocos Norte, in the town of Bangui to be exact, a major project of mine then when I was a Provincial Governor. Not only has this alternative energy source helped the province to have a stable power supply, it certainly has become a tourist attraction as well, to both local and foreign tourists who troop to Bangui all year round. Today we can lay claim to the fact that we have an adequate power supply in Ilocos Norte while earning additional income from the stream of tourists, both local and foreign.

Like the windmills which have significantly contributed to the growth of economy of Ilocos Norte, this vetiver grass will be of great help to our country in our efforts to rehabilitate eroded portions of land at a very little cost. Instead of resorting to the construction of expensive conventional concrete walls, planting vetiver has been proven to prevent soil erosion by as much as ninety percent, thus improving ground water recharge.

My research has also revealed that the root of vetiver has a tensile strength of 75mpa that is equivalent to the thin wires used to tie flowers. Furthermore, it is also claimed that when vetiver is added to the soil, it adds to the soil’s tensile strength and consequently prevents erosion. Although it is observed that vetiver is not an aestheric grass, It can pride itself to be a functional grass. Even wasted lands, such as guillies, these destroyed by mining, even extreme degraded lands, can be rehabilitated by planting the vetiver grass on these areas.

As I went on further in my research I became more inspired to learn more about this vetiver system because of the realization that this system will greatly help our country in protecting nature especially considering all the calamitous floods that have frequently devastated various parts of our archipelago.

Vetiver experts likewise inform me that this “miracle” plant, as we may be able to call it now, is also helpful to our farmers when it is planted along the rice paddies for it contributes to increasing the crop yield to as high as forty percent. Or as claimed, when planted along with fruit trees, it will result in the trees bearing more fruits while protecting them from pests. Additionally, instead of robbing any plants of fertilizer, vertiver has nitrogen fixing property, adding fertilizer to plants near it which again results in higher yields of crops.

I have also been briefed that from its leaves to its roots, the Vetiver has many versatile uses. I was amazed to find out that the vetiver leaves can be used to make mats, hats, slippers and even furniture. And as an export potential, the vetiver roots are also widely sought after in Japan as it contains the vetiver oil, which is the third most expensive oil in the manufacturer of perfume. In fact it is worthy to note that there are a number of vetiver-based perfumes of name brands that have being selling abroad.

As Chairman and member of various committees in the Philippine Senate, I have always made it a point to learn new technologies and find new ways to help improve the environment of our cities and the countryside, protecting them them from the toxic effects of all kinds of pollutants.

For the past years, you and I have witnessed how our country has been adversely affected by natural as well as man-made calamities. Now we have this very environmentally-sound and cost efficient alternative to construct, build, rehabilitate our land, roads and even waters!

As Chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Works I learned that our very own Department of Public Works has recognized the use of vetiver and has came out with Department Order No. 6 encouraging the use of bio-
engineering materials using coconets, vetiver and similar materials. Indeed that’s Technology in practice!

My friends in the Vetiver community, after learning much about the vetiver grass, I would like to assure you that in my role as Chair of the Senate Committee on Local Government I will start promoting the use of vetiver grass by our local government units (LGUs) much more so because it is our mandate and responsibility to improve the technology regarding the rehabilitation, re-construction and cleanliness of our heavily damaged environment.

To the organizers and participants of this first ever Vetiver System Conference, let me conclude by exhorting you all to continue to help and protect our Mother Earth with your new found technology. May your grass thrive and increase! As the saying goes “The Grass is Greener on the other side”.

Again, thank you very much for giving me this rare opportunity to share with you my ideas on the fascinating uses of the Vetiver System.

Maraming pong salamat, and have more productive days ahead!

Mabuhay ang Vetiver System!

Good Morning to all!