Forty companies have invested a total of P83 billion in close to 50 biofuel projects since 2007, the head of the agency in charge of promoting this new field said in a recent interview

Mariz B. Agbon, president of the Philippine Agricultural Development and Commercial Corp. (PADC), summarized the investments as P40.8 billion in feed-stock and P42.5 billion in processing plants.

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Ms. Agbon said the government firm has been assisting investors in identifying areas where they could locate and engage in the commercial planting of biofuel feedstock and establish ethanol distilleries.

“The government is pursuing its biofuel development program, making use of underutilized and marginal lands,” she said.

Projects

Among the 49 biofuels projects in the country is the San Carlos Bio-Energy Inc. (SCBI) ethanol distillery and co-generation power plant that was inaugurated earlier this month in San Carlos City in Negros Occidental.

Nineteen other projects are into bioethanol production, while 28 are into biodiesel production. One involves both biodiesel and bioethanol production.

Ms. Agbon said PADC, the marketing and investment promotion arm of the Department of Agriculture, has been monitoring these projects.

The Biofuels Act of 2006 initially required the use of 1% biodiesel blend and 5% bioethanol blend in gasoline. The mandated blend has since increased to 2% for biodiesel and 10% for bioethanol.

Required volumes

For this year alone, Ms. Agbon said the country needs 268 million liters of bioethanol blend. By 2011, the requirement will increase to 594 million liters and, by 2015, it will go up to 721 million liters, leaving much room for supply.

Both SCBI and Leyte Agri Corp., the only two ethanol producers now operating in the country, can produce a yearly total of only 39 million liters.

By 2015, demand for biofuel feedstock such as sugarcane is expected to reach 10.3 million tons; sweet sorghum, 14.42 million tons; and cassava, four million tons.

Moreover, bioethanol projects will need 243,000 hectares to attain the production target. This complement includes 212,000 hectares considered idle or for expansion.

The PADCC has identified and delineated marginal and underutilized lands where plantations could be established for biofuel feedstock production and also has information on which feedstock thrives in a particular area that are available to investors.

Ms. Agbon also said that Agriculture Secretary Arthur C. Yap recently met with officials of the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service who agreed to collaborate with the PADCC in developing bioethanol feedstocks from sugarcane, sorghum and cellulosic materials, as well as biodiesel feed-stock from algae.

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