Restoring Pangasinan town's perfume trade.
Everybody knew about the Manila Ylang-Ylang. It was a brand name that signified we produced the best ylang-ylang essential oil, said Fred Reyes, owner of Chemworld, one of the country's leading perfume distributors.
In June this year, residents in an upland village of this town began planting ylang-ylang trees in a 120-hectare property, hoping to rejuvenate an industry that had once made the country famous among the world's top perfume makers.
This is not just a national greening program (NGP). This is more than reforestation. We are creating history, said Reyes, who was in Barangay Hacienda here in June to participate in the ceremonial ylang-ylang tree planting. The transplanting of ylang-ylang seedlings has birthed an ylang-ylang plantation in Pangasinan, which is part of the NGP, the government's massive forest rehabilitation program that seeks to grow 1.5 billion trees from 2011 to 2016.
Pangasinan Rep. Leopoldo Bataoil, who pushed for the ylang-ylang project, said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources had provided the property to the Hacienda Community Livelihood Association here.
They are required to plant 60 hectares with timber tree specie, leaving the rest for ylang-ylang.
About 120,000 seedlings grown in nurseries in barangays Hacienda and Quetegan in the town of Mangatarem would be transplanted, said Bataoil.
Reyes said the country's ylang-ylang industry died over the years after the French grew and produced better quality ylang-ylang trees in the Comoro Islands (an archipelago of volcanic islands off the southeast coast of Africa) using trees that came from the Philippines.
They introduced new planting techniques to improve yield and lower the cost, and they also refined the distillation process. Since the French are the top buyers of essential oils, they naturally patronized their own Comoro product. This led to the slow demise of our ylang-ylang industry, he said.
Our aim now is to bring back what is naturally ours. We plan to have at least 1,000 hectares of ylang-ylang plantation in Pangasinan, using the more efficient ways developed in Comoro, he said.
He said his company would set up a modern distillation facility in either Mangatarem or Aguilar town for the project.
Chemworld will take care of the technical and marketing requirements to make this project a success. We have been assured of technical support and ready market by the biggest buyer of natural essential oils in the world. This French fragrance company is also the biggest ylang-ylang oil buyer in Comoro, he said.
In five years, the trees they planted should start to flower, he said.
That is when we will start realizing our dream, Reyes said.
At present, the country's leading ylang-ylang producer is Anao town in Tarlac, which has 10,000 trees spread over 18 villages.
More than two decades after it extracted its first ylang-ylang essential oil in 1984, the Anao industry had not moved far, business-wise. The ylang-ylang flowers had brought only P200,000 in annual profits.
Maria Rosette Bagayas, Anao municipal council secretary, said the town government had since decided to use the essential oil in bottling its own brand of perfume, Aroma Anao.
This is just a micro [industry] and our production is manual. The DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) is helping us acquire a mixer for the perfume, and printing and filling machines to mechanize our operations, Bagayas said in an interview last year.
Annually, we have limited production. On the average, in an 8-hour work day, we produce about 300 60-milligram bottles of perfume, she said. The town produces 36 liters of essential oil a year.
Last year, the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (Philmech), an agency of the Department of Agriculture, started working with other government facilities to help Anao improve its ylang-ylang essential oil production and turn it into a more profitable venture, said Raul Paz, Philmech's assistant director.
Together with other agencies, we are now helping them from [activities like] the gathering of flowers to the extraction of essential oil to marketing, Paz said.
The town's ylang-ylang trees have also grown into towering trees, making it difficult for residents to harvest the flowers.
Reyes said ylang-ylang trees should not be allowed to grow more than six feet high. They should be pruned so that it will be easier to harvest their flowers, he said.