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Plant biofuel crops in marginal land - Zubiri

May 17, 2008 12:53am
MANILA, Philippines - The need to promote the planting of biofuel crops on marginal land and save the arable land for food was underscored in a recent conference for biofuels.

"We have to promote feedstock that will not compete with food. Let us make sure to put safeguards to protect our food security program and ensure the ample supply of food in light of the ongoing choice between food and fuel," said Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, the author of the Biofuels Law, at the Biofuels World Conference last week in Makati.

Mr. Zubiri also recommended a ban on biofuel feedstock planting in all irrigated and highly productive arable lands.

"We must also limit the production of bioethanol gasoline replacement to sugar-planting districts, i.e., utilizing excess production of sugar, of which we have almost 300,000 tons, which will roughly translate to 400 million liters of bioethanol," he added.

Mr. Zubiri likewise suggested the planting of jatropha on four million hectares of cogonal denuded mountain land since these lands are not suitable for rice and corn.

Jatropha, a non-edible crop which can thrive in rugged terrain and marginal lands, is being promoted by the government as a source of biofuel, along with sugarcane and coconut. In a recent study, the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organization assessed the potential of jatropha production as a biodiesel feedstock and noted that the country has sufficient arable land and favorable climatic conditions to ensure large feedstock production every year.

This was backed up by the Philippine National Oil Co.-Alternative Fuel Corp.(PNOC-AFC), a wholly owned subsidiary of the PNOC. The Biofuels World Conference was recently held in Manila, with the theme "Moving Towards Sustainability and Second-Generation Feedstocks."

It discussed the developments of jatropha in the areas of agronomy and yield improvement and the merits and technologies of ethanol from sweet sorghum. — Ava Kashima K. Austria, BusinessWorld