Jatropha Biofuel: Full Speed ahead in the Philippines

The Philippine government jumped into the biofuels bandwagon by enacting a law on biofuels. The Biofuels Act of 2006, signed last year, mandates all oil companies to sell gasoline with at least one percent bioethanol three months after the law's enactment and with at least five parts bioethanol within two years. Four years after enactment, a national board may recommend mandating the distribution by every oil company of gasoline with 10 percent bioethanol. In 2006, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo released P500M for planting jatropha in military camps. The Philippine National Oil Corporation (PNOC) through its Alternative Fuel Corporation (PNOC-AFC) has plans to grow 700,000 hectares of jatropha in 3 years, from 2008 to 2010. According to PNOC-AFC's estimates, the plants will be able to produce a million MT of biodiesel by 2011. The PNOC-AFC has identified eleven provinces as potential sources of jatropha seedlings for the plantation. These provinces are Nueva Ecija, Laguna, Batangas, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Albay, Sorsogon, Masbate, Cagayan de Oro, Agusan del Norte, and Bukidnon. The PNOC-AFC has also set up plantations in in Cagayan de Oro City, General Santos City, and Agusan del Sur. Its mega-nursery is located in Nueva Ecija. Food security advocates, however, have raised concerns about biofuel crops encroaching land planted with food crops. Made attractive by promises of low-cost maintenance and high returns, jatropha is primed for mass plantation, making the crop a strong competitor for lands and other farming resources. Jatropha plantation puts efforts of achieving food security in the Philippines in jeopardy.

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