Way to lift coco farmers’ lives

Here we go again. Speaking from an environmental conference in Qatar, Climate Change Commissioner Heherson Alvarez is proposing to use a P26-billion Australian technology for the cleaning of the diesel engines of half a million jeepneys to reduce their carbon emissions. Here’s another not-so-brilliant idea that is utterly contemptible solely because of its gross denial of our own capability to use our resources in addressing the challenge of global warming.

The amount Commissioner Alvarez is dreaming of can be used for producing coconut biodiesel which, when blended with petrodiesel, can reduce carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80 percent.

This should be an excellent opportunity for the commissioner to seize the initiative from the Department of Energy, National Renewable Energy Board, and Philippine Coconut Authority which in the last few years simply indulged in analysis paralysis and useless press releases in carrying out their tasks to implement the biofuel-blend mandate.

How can we fail with these figures?

• 3 million hectares of coconut farmlands

• 700 million coconut trees

• 15 billion nuts in annual output

Three nuts can yield a liter of oil. I’ll leave it to Commissioner Alvarez to figure out the total sum. Suffice it to say that, even as our coconut farms are not well tended, we can produce all the biodiesel we need and still have plenty for cooking oil, oil exports and oleochemical production.

The P26 billion, or a similar portion of the farmers’ P70-billion levy fund, can finance the installation of 12 biodiesel refineries in the coconut regions, each with annual capacity of 20 million gallons. With a total yearly output of nearly a billion liters of biodiesel as crude substitute, we can realize foreign exchange savings of at least $70 million.

We are simply too unwilling to see through these figures and come up with bold and innovative steps that can lick poverty and global warming at the same time. We’re excellent in passing nice laws, setting strict regulations, issuing exciting press statements, and concocting quick fixes at crunch time—and nothing meaningful gets done.

Rather than make a few Australians happy, let’s start to make a positive dent on the lives of 15 million coconut farmers and their families.


2313 Beata St.,

Pandacan, Manila

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Tags: Coco farmers , environment , Heherson Alvarez , letters to the editor , opinion

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