Erratum: The previous version of this article incorrectly used “surgical masks” in the headline. It has been corrected to “cloth masks.”
Salay Handmade Products Industries, Incorporated (SHPII), an artisanal company from Misamis Oriental that produces and sells handmade paper products, is making abaca paper face masks called 7XB face masks.
According to the test conducted by the Department of Science and Technology Region 10 (DOST-10), the face masks have a filtration rate seven times better than cloth masks and has lower water absorption than the N95 mask. On Apr. 27, an initial 1,000 abaca fiber masks were ordered by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Region 10 to be given to frontliners.
So far, only DOST-10 has conducted one study on these abaca face masks. The Department of Health has yet to issue a statement about the masks.
According to the Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority (PHILFIDA), the country is the world’s leading abaca producer, supplying 85 percent of the world’s abaca requirements. Abaca fiber is used in creating commercial surgical masks. SHPII has been a manufacturer and exporter of abaca products since 1990 and recently used the product to help in COVID-19 relief efforts after learning that abaca can be converted into special filters.
The production of the face masks will also provide jobs to the artisans of SPHII. The use of locally-sourced raw materials can also contribute to the economy.
According to Kennedy Costales, executive director of the PHILFIDA, the abaca’s porous fibers make it the ideal material for making medical fabric. He believes that it will become a prized commodity as governments will seek it for the production of personal protective equipment (PPEs).
“With the new normal, demand for face masks will spike exponentially worldwide. PPEs are just one of the hundred end products of the precious abaca plant,” Costales said.
The abaca face masks can be reused after it’s been washed with water and soap. Additionally, once it is thrown away, decomposition will be faster. As no plastics or chemicals were used in its fabrication, it will not harm the environment.
The 7XB fiber masks can be ordered through their Facebook account.
Header photo courtesy of Philippine Information Agency
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Writer: THEA TORRES