Oversight panel to review 5% coconut biofuel proposal

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gas pump
A gas attendant fills up a car. -- PHILIPPINE STAR/MICHAEL VARCAS

THE Congressional Oversight Committee on Biofuels is set to conduct a hearing on the proposal of the Department of Agriculture (DA) to increase the coconut content in biodiesel to 5% from the present 2%, Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian said on Monday.

“We will try to convene next week, before the start of the campaign. Our counterpart in the House of Representatives will be campaigning beginning March 29,” Mr. Gatchalian said in a text message when asked for a schedule of the hearing.

In a statement, Mr. Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate committee on energy and co-chairs the congressional oversight committee, reiterated his reservations towards the proposal, which the DA plans to resubmit to the Office of the Executive Secretary.

The senator said the proposal may result in higher biodiesel prices, which his office estimated in its study might rise 7.5%, equivalent to P2.86.

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol is pushing for the increase in coconut content to help prop up copra prices. In a social media post on Feb. 24, Mr. Piñol maintained that more coconut content in biodiesel would improve the mileage of vehicles by about three kilometers per liter and would help address air pollution.

Mr. Gatchalian said he hopes the congressional oversight committee hearing would allow stakeholders to air their views on the proposed measure.

“I hope that we can agree on action steps in order to move the industry forward and attain the goal of energy security and environmental sustainability as envisioned by the authors of the Biofuels Act,” he said.

The senator also said the Department of Energy (DoE) and the National Biofuels Board (NBB) should “thoroughly study” whether an increase to a 5% blend as proposed by the DA was warranted and whether domestic production of feedstock was sufficient to meet present and future demand.

He cited an earlier public hearing by the Congressional Oversight Committee on Biofuels which aired concerns on the lack of feedstock.

“The DoE and NBB should weigh the impact of increasing the biofuel content from B2 to B5, especially with the recent implementation of the new round of increases in the excise tax on fuel in January. After all, the law requires the recommendation of the NBB before the DoE decides to increase the blend,” he said. — Camille A. Aguinaldo