Sunday, July 09, 2006

Suporta kami, Korek ka dyan! re Angara asks lobbyists vs. biofuels to drop it

SEN. Edgardo Angara yesterday called on oil companies to stop lobbying against the use of biofuels in motor vehicles as prescribed by a proposed measure nearing approval in the Senate.

Angara, one of the principal authors of the measure, said the campaign against the bill is "narrow-minded" and "shortsighted."

"It would really be shortsighted on the part of the oil companies to oppose the bill because rejecting such is primarily against the national interest," he said. He did not name the oil companies lobbying against the bill although officials of Caltex, Shell and Petron were vocal about their opposition to the government’s plan to bring in ethanol fuel as a viable alternative to petroleum products.

Angara said biofuels are not only alternatives but are "imperatives to the country’s energy requirements as well as environmental and economic concerns." He said the use of alternative energy to cut fuel costs is already widespread and demonstrated in countries like Brazil, India, China and Canada where ethanol and coco bio-diesel are extensively used.

"The prospects are really exciting and promising (so) that there is no reason why we cannot or will not approve the bill at year’s end," Angara said.

The country imports 94 percent of its annual oil requirements. The proposal to use 10 percent of biofuel (coconut methyl or coco-diesel blend) in gasoline and diesel sold by oil companies is expected to save the country over $200 million a year in oil bills.

The proposed measure was presented for plenary approval by Senate energy chair Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago before Congress adjourned sine die.

Fernando Martinez, chair of the Independent Philippine Petroleum Companies Association, earlier said their group backs the development of biofuels but expressed doubts if the government has political will to fully enforce it. "Government should muster political will to make it mandatory, with 30 percent blend, in three to five years," Martinez said during one of the many hearings on the measure.

He said funding for local development of biofuels is proving difficult for lack of friendly banks.

Officials of Caltex, Shell and Petron earlier maintained that vehicle engines will have to be modified if the total blend of ethanol fuel exceeds 10 percent. They also said transport and packaging of ethanol fuel would be a challenge since it is "sensitive to humidity." – Dennis Gadil

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