Farmers may expect improved livelihood with biofuel dev’t
Filipino farmers and investors may profit from biofuel ventures in idle, upland, and other so-called marginalized areas without disrupting food supply.
According to the study “Assessment on the Use of Marginal Areas for Cultivation of Feedstock for Biofuel” by Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) research fellow Dr. Roehlano M. Briones, concerns on food security, economic viability, and environmental sustainability of biofuel ventures “find weak support in the case of the Philippines.”
The country has implemented safeguards in favor of domestic farmers and food production, relegating biofuel development to underutilized and marginal lands, the PIDS study said. But biofuel producers may offer farmers viable contracts and even market competition, as in the case of bioethanol producers with sugar millers—a venture that may improve the livelihood opportunities of farmers.
Citing data from the Bureau of Soils and Water Management, Briones said marginal lands account for just over six percent of total land area.
Land allocated for feedstock production is usually idle property, as in the case of upland cassava plantations for biodiesel, and any biofuel company must shoulder initial input and establishment costs.
Coconut and sugarcane farmers, meanwhile, often get added benefits such as technical assistance, free fertilizer, cash payment or other arrangements that may be advantageous for the farmers, apart from competitive pricing.
“Farmers who have entered into contract growing arrangements have a reasonable expectation of improved livelihoods,” Briones said.
The Biofuels Act of 2006, which took effect in early 2007, aims to promote energy security, renewable energy, higher rural incomes and employment.
But Briones noted in his study that, in the past few years after the Biofuels law was enacted, prices of sugarcane and coconut have soared due to world demand.
“Furthermore, the policy environment, at least for ethanol, has been uncertain owing to lack of clear guidelines regarding import tariffs and the mandatory blend,” Briones explained.
He said that other policy instruments, such as direct subsidies and other support, should be established to promote indigenous sources of renewable energy without adding undue costs on consumers of fossil fuel.
“This would help resolve the various conflicting goals of the national biofuel program, laying the basis for greater predictability and coherency in biofuel development policy,” Briones said.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.