Speaker, House want to boost bioethanol export

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
Gloria Macapagal Arroyo

SPEAKER Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and  members of the House of Representatives want to help the bioethanol industry in the Philippines.

The House has expressed support for the proposal to import molasses in order to make the industry more viable.

Speaker Arroyo called for a joint oversight hearing with the Special Committee on Visayas Development and the Committee on Energy, presided by Reps. Melecio Yap Jr. (1st District, Negros Occidental) and Carlos Roman Uybarreta (Party-list, 1-CARE), after visiting the San Carlos Bioenergy Inc. (SCBI) in Negros Occidental during which SCBI raised their concerns on the situation of the industry.

“[We] would like to help you and make the appropriate policy that will make a pioneering industry continue to exist. We’re very proud that we are the very first in Southeast Asia to adopt the bioethanol industry…In fact, one of the reasons why I visited you was that I was very happy to find out that you’re still around and you have expanded,” Speaker Arroyo said.

The panel zeroed in on the proposal of the bio-ethanol producers to allow the importation of molasses to be converted to bio-ethanol and other products for export to enable them to be financially viable.

It was through the efforts of then President Arroyo that the Philippines became the pioneer in biofuel production in the entire Southeast Asia to address the high world prices of oil during her time.

In 2006, she signed into law Republic Act No. 9367 or the “Biofuels Act of 2006,” which directs the use of biofuels to help lower dependence on crude oil and establishes the biofuels program.

Industry members however said they have been facing challenges because of the low cost of bio-ethanol in the world market as well as oil prices. They need to import molasses for re-export to give them more sustainable income, they said.

When the House Committee asked Assistant Secretary Leonido Pulido III of the Department of Energy if importing molasses for export is allowed, he explained that importing resources, such as molasses and other non-sugar feedstocks, does not have legal impediments as long as the bioethanol products are utilized for exportation.

Rosemarie Gumera of the Sugar Regulatory Agency also said that their agency will not pose any objections to the proposal as long as the by-products are exported.

SpeakerArroyo expressed delight over the lack of legal impediment saying all other issues should be discussed and attended to among the concerned agencies.

She however said the SRA should ensure that the biofuels from these imported resources are exported, and not sold locally.