Friday, June 1, 2007

Biofuels to boost country’s energy independence

Cebu, Philippines (01 June)— Biofuels is seen as the government’s respond to ensure that the country is able to meet the fuel demands of a growing economy and to reduce its dependence on price-vulnerable fossil fuels and rid the air of carbon emissions which is the major cause of global warming.

In her message during the 2007 Biofuels and Feed-stocks Philippines conference on May 23-24 in Manila of which more than a hundred participants from the industry mostly from foreign nations in attendance, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo emphasized the need to find alternative sources of indigenous energy to reduce the country’s dependence on imported oil and to provide the Filipino people with sufficient, efficient, clean and cheap energy.

According to Bukidnon congressman Juan Miguel Zubiri, the principal author of the Biofuel law, 98% of the country’s fuel supply is imported from the Middle East that makes the nation’s fuel supply vulnerable to tension in the area.

Zubiri added that the Biofuels Act mandates the immediate use of 1% bio-diesel blend into all diesel blends sold in the country and by 2008 and 2010 at least 5% bio-ethanol blend into gasoline fuel sold and distributed by every oil company in the Philippines and 10% by 2010.

He said, the use of ethanol in vehicle fuel means savings to car owners because it is P0.65 cheaper per liter than the regular gasoline prices. The establishment of bio-ethanol and bio-diesel plants in various areas in the country will most likely generate about 1,000 jobs and farmers will also have better income from their sugarcane and coconut products that will have created better paying markets.

To fast track the implementation of the Biofuel law, the President directed all government agencies to incorporate the use of 1% by volume Coco Methyl Ester (CME) in their diesel requirements of their vehicles.

“In the first year alone,” the President reported, “the use of CME in vehicles displaced more than 250,000 liters of diesel and this is among the tough decisions I had to make for the country to achieve a 60% self-sufficiency level by the end of my term from the adverse effects of imported energy.”

Because of the country’s dependence on imported oil, the President has directed the Philippine National Oil Company-Alternative Fuels Corporation (PNOC-AFC) to continue to look into and discover energy resources and build global partnerships and collaborative undertakings to solve the country’s dependence on imported crude oil.

President Arroyo is very optimistic that the PNOC-AFC with Jatropha (Tuba-tuba) as its main feedstock for its bio-diesel production will be a strong contender in the region with Malaysia and Indonesia leading in the bio-diesel production with expected completion of 3 to 4 million metric ton refining capacities.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization’s recent observation, the Philippines has sufficient lands and favorable climate for a large feedstock production every year. The Philippine Army’s Jatropha cultivation in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija is a prime example, the President said.

In a press release from the PNOC-AFC, it said that the PNOC-Alternative Fuel Corp. is looking at establishing an aggregate amount of 700,000 hectares of Jatropha plantations in the country. With a ratio of one farmer for every two hectares of plantation, this will generate about 350,000 jobs in the rural areas. “By 2012, our country is capable of supporting feedstock requirements of up to one million metric ton refining capacities,” the President concluded.

In a related development, government financial institutions like the Development Bank of the Philippines and the Land Bank were directed to also prioritize for financing groups or institutions and individuals who plan to engage in biofuel production and feedstock such as coconut palm, Jatropha, cassava, sweet sorghum and corn.

Bukidnon representative Juan Miguel Zubiri, in his various press conferences during his campaign sorties in Cebu, he reiterated that investments should be private led saying that each bio-ethanol plant is estimated to cost P2-billion while an investment of P1.2-billion is needed to put-up a bio-diesel plant and the return of investment is expected to come after about four years yet. (PIA-Cebu/mbcn)

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