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PIA Press Release
2007/09/12

PNOC-AFC stays on jatropha as a biodiesel feedstock

Manila (12 September) -- The Philippine National Oil Company - Alternative Fuels Corporation (PNOC-AFC), the biofuels arm of state-owned PNOC, remains firm on its commitment to initially use jatropha as a biodiesel feedstock and to deliver on its committed projects.

"There are a lot of people who wanted to ride on the popularity that jatropha is getting right now. It would be easy for officials who refused to be identified to say suppositions on jatropha as a biodiesel feedstock. But nonetheless, we have already dealt with the issues and hesitations on jatropha as a feedstock not only through our research initiatives with the University of the Philippines - Los Banos (UPLB) but also through actual field tests in various plantations," said PNOC-AFC Chairman Rene Velasco.

The PNOC-AFC has already conducted actual field tests in plantations in Talakag and Camp Kibaritan in Bukidnon, Barangays Lumbia and Pagatpat in Cagayan de Oro City, Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, and the Royal Green Energy Development Corporation in Palawan.

Results of Royal Green's experimentation showed that there has been a positive result on the viability of jatropha propagation particularly in Palawan.

Based on Royal Green's research and experience, "the traditional cultivation practices in India and Africa are not suited to the climate and soil conditions in Palawan and Mindanao thus should not be compared at all. The Philippines has a higher annual rainfall compared with African nations and India. The average rainfall in Palawan is 2,600 millimeters (mm) compared with 600mm in India. In addition, the fertility of soil in Palawan and Mindanao are far better than that of India since most lands in India are quite dry, hot and red in color."

On arguments that jatropha was a failure in India after 30 years with only around one metric ton (MT) to three MT seed yield per hectare, Royal Green President and CEO Caesar R. Ventura said that the argument might be true in India due to its low 600mm average rainfall and low soil fertility.

"India actually utilized lands that no other plants or trees could thrive in that is why they resorted to jatropha which can survive even without proper cultivation. But then, even without proper cultivation, jatropha can still yield an average of three tons per hectare in a year," said Ventura. "We agree with PNOC-AFC President and CEO Peter Anthony A. Abaya that the Philippines' jatropha, by nature, are far superior in yield," he added.

"There are land areas which might be marginal but yet can be productive nonetheless for biofuel crops such as jatropha. There are niches for which biofuel crops can be explored," said Chancellor Luis Rey I. Velasco of UPLB.

According to Chancellor Velasco, "Yield levels of these biofuel crops at the moment may be quite low but this may be attributed to the marginal condition of the agro-ecosystem. However, if provided with appropriate management inputs, these yield levels can still be increased. Therefore, crop improvement and scientific crop management offer a very promising strategy in further increasing yield levels so that variation across ecosystems may be comparable."

One scientific crop management is Ventura's Modified Jatropha Technology. Based on the aforesaid technology, a hectare of jatropha plantation can yield a minimum of 15 tons per year or almost equivalent to five hectares of a jatropha plantation practiced in India and Africa.

The Modified Jatropha Technology was perfected after three years of extensive research and experimentation in the CRV Integrated Agricultural Center in Narra, Palawan. It will yield a minimum of 15 tons per hectare per year on the fifth year. The results of the research and experimentation include: a) Five jatropha varieties have been identified to have a higher yield and the seeds are heavier than the Indian variety. Jatropha seeds in Palawan have 1,325 pieces per kilo while Indian seeds have only 1,400 seeds per kilo; b) The right combination of organic materials to provide the right nutrients to induce flowering at an early stage of the tree was found; c) The multiple branching technique producing a minimum of 30 branches on the ninth month from the germination stage has been perfected. The actual recorded branches based on the existing Palawan jatropha plant have 240 branches; and d) The flowering is not seasonal but a whole year round with an interval rejuvenation period in order to produce more flowers.

"The bottom line here is that you should study the character growth of jatropha. The principle is to give what jatropha wants and jatropha will also give you what you want," Ventura said. (PIA-MMIO) [top]

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