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Fuelling Frustrations in PH Biodiesel Campaign

Updated: Dec 8, 2023

For what seems like a mere formality, the Philippines again mandates an increase in biodiesel content, with some having low hopes of fully implementing it. So what’s in the way of biofuel’s rise as the prime energy resource next to fossil fuel?

As the future looms with the fear of the consequences of climate change, the necessity to utilize biofuels is now as high as ever. The demand for biofuel is predicted to rise at a rate of 4.7 percent annually on average throughout the Southeast Asian region through 2050, faster than the expected growth of 4.4 percent for oil consumption, according to the 7th Asean Energy Outlook (AEO), which was released last September by the Asean Center for Energy.

Biofuels have long been named the next alternative to traditional fossil fuel energy sources, offering the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change. As the world sees the dire need to make the transition to more sustainable energy sources, biofuels have gained increased attention. However, despite the promises of government leaders, various challenges hinder the widespread adoption and sustainability of biofuels, such as delayed policies and a lack of wider research initiatives.

Implementation Challenges

As stated in the Philippines’ Biofuels Act of 2006, all liquid fuels for motors and engines sold in the Philippines shall be blended with biofuels, but as usual concerns of these kinds of laws, it is not fully imposed in the industries. For example, Under the Philippine Energy Plan, diesel should contain at least 5 percent CME blend by 2020. Currently, the market offers only a 2-percent blend. Alas, biofuel-supporting institutions are not blind to these issues.

The Department of Energy (DOE) also sees the need to implement the long-awaited and delayed increase in coco methyl ester (CME) content, a common source of biodiesel, especially in a country where 14.5 million tons of coconut are produced every year. This decision stemmed from the suggestions of CME-producing groups, led by the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc., of which some have closed due to weak demand for the said product. The president of the agricultural chamber, Danilo Fausto declared that the Philippines has enough supply of coconut oil for biodiesel utilization.

Aside from CMEs, ethanol-producing companies have also stated the need to impose higher voluntary ethanol blends in the current biofuel industry so as to lessen the country’s reliance on imported fossil fuels and in the same way help the improvement of the local bioethanol industry.

The authorities should mandate more biofuels in the gasoline and diesel blends to lessen the country's dependence on imported fuel, help local farmers, and fight climate change. But again, this suggestion is not novel to the government.

Research Imperative

On the other hand, research is critical in each aspect of pushing for biofuel rise. According to David Dickson, a writer for the Biofuels Revolution, commitment to these areas of energy resources should be based on a meticulous assessment of eventual strengths and challenges, not a blind leap of faith. Based on an article written by the Manila Times, the Philippines Energy Plan for the years 2022-2040 has such ambitious goals for biofuel production, even expecting a target of almost 2 billion liters annually by 2040, but looking closely, no specific targets or plans are provided in the energy roadmap about development of other feedstocks such as used cooking oil or post-agricultural waste.

Recent analyses from the ASEAN Energy Outlook show that the Philippines and surrounding countries have outdated policies that seem to be the cause of the delay in implementation. One specific example is the lack of rigid policies on the issue of both fuel and food needs competing for space and resources, which brought about higher-than-expected fuel prices.

What these suggestions need, however, is policy, financial, and technical support from the government to be able to scale up. Everyone holding leadership responsibilities in the energy department must be intentionally open to change, especially in communicating and accepting new paradigms in research and development leading to the creation of appropriate policies in place of outdated and narrowly thought ones. Policies should be imposed strictly and without further delay, and the Philippine government’s initiatives are critical in this investment well worth making because they will support the country's emissions reduction goals, expand domestic fuel production, and create entirely new businesses and jobs for the country’s future.

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