PhilRice, French firm to study rice straw as feedstock for power source THURSDAY, 16 AUGUST 2012 20:08 RAMON EFREN LAZARO
THE Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) and Enertime, a France-based company, recently signed an agreement to assess the feasibility of using rice straw for power generation that could help farmers reduce production cost. Eufemio Rasco Jr., executive director of PhilRice, said, “The cost of petroleum is increasing. So it’s important to develop a new energy system that will serve as an alternative to the non-renewable, highly centralized, and not diversified system. The exact opposite of that is what we’d like to do. That means utilizing local sources of energy.” The country was cited as producing 15.2 million tons of rice that leave behind 11.3 million tons of rice straw a year that farmers usually burn in their open field after harvest, causing air pollutants such as carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxide, and sulfur dioxide. To minimize the post-harvest waste, a two-year collaboration between PhilRice and the French company will explore the possibility of collecting, transporting, and conditioning rice straw to be used as feedstock or raw material in generating electricity. The initiative, a part of the project “Use of Rice Straw as Fuel to Generate Electricity Using Organic Rankine Cycle Technology in the Philippines,” will cover Nueva Ecija and Laguna. About 10,000 tons of rice straw per year is targeted to be acquired from these major rice-producing provinces.
SRA: No early export of sugar to the US THURSDAY, 16 AUGUST 2012 20:10 JENNIFER A. NG / REPORTER
MANILA will not frontload sugar shipments to the United States for fiscal year 2013 as there is no excess sugar that needs to be shipped out earlier than the usual schedule, an official of the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) said on Thursday. Butch Alisla, chief of staff of SRA administrator Ma. Regina Bautista-Martin, said shipments to the US under the tariff rate quota (TRQ) scheme will be undertaken in December or January. “We frontload sugar shipments when there is excess production. During the last crop year, we started out shipping out sugar to the US around September,” said Alisla in a telephone interview. In recent years, the Philippines has been shipping out sugar to the US earlier than usual to prevent a glut in the domestic sugar supply. A glut could depress prices. Sugar exporting countries such as the Philippines are allowed to ship sugar to the US under a quota system. The volume allocated for each country is slapped a relatively low tariff. For the current US fiscal year which ends on Sept. 30, the Philippines was granted an additional 72,373.65 metric tons (MT) of sugar under the TRQ scheme. The volume is on top of the 138,827 MT earlier allocated to the Philippines. For the current crop year ending Aug. 31, Alisla said sugar output will settle at 2.24 million metric tons (MMT). This, he said, is enough to cover the requirements of the domestic market and the annual allocation of 138,000 MT from the US. The country’s sugar output for 2011-2012 is 6.4 percent lower than the 2.39 MMT produced in the previous crop year. The government was forced to scale down its expectations for sugar production for the current crop year due to the ill effects of climate change. In February, the SRA said the lack of sunlight and continuous rains would adversely impact on sugarcane production for the current crop year.
Pangilinan: P1.9‐B agriculture fund for grants, loans approved THURSDAY, 16 AUGUST 2012 20:13 BUTCH FERNANDEZ / REPORTER
THE Congressional and Oversight Committee on Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization (COCAFM) has facilitated the release of P1.9 billion of the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF), 60 percent of which is earmarked for grants, 30 percent for approved loans, and 10 percent to scholarships, Sen. Francis Pangilinan reported Thursday. Pangilinan, COCAFM chairman, said the ACEF will start processing applications for grants and scholarships starting next month. The senator reported that during COCAFM’s en banc meeting last Aug. 16 at Club Filipino, Budget Secretary Butch Abad has agreed in principle to release the ACEF to approved loan applications and it will be coursed through the Department of Agriculture. He said the Department of Agriculture will then coordinate with government financial institutions in expediting the loans and the collection of payment. “We could not have been more pleased with what we have accomplished in this meeting. We have been discussing the mechanics and addressing the loopholes that have left the ACEF program riddled with corruption and controversies. We know the program could work to benefit the agriculture sector. We commend those who have patiently worked with the COCAFM in rebuilding the ACEF program and making it more relevant in meeting the current needs of our farmers and fisherfolk. Now we have a clearer roadmap for enhancing competitiveness for our small farmers through this new and improved ACEF.” Pangilinan called on the DA, the Department of Budget Management, Department of Finance, and COCAFM to sign a memorandum of agreement to ensure that collected MAVs will go directly to the ACEF or fund 183. From 2007 to 2012, MAV collections were remitted to the general fund of the national budget. “While we could not, and should not, disregard the unpaid loans and mishandling of ACEF funds in the past, it is important that the program continue and be implemented properly, as this can help improve the lives of our farmers and fishers. Now with the help of all the stakeholders both in the public and private sector, we are now seeing the fulfillment of the mandate of the ACEF.” Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala has said in the en banc meeting that it will start processing grant and scholarship applications to the ACEF in September. Under its new guidelines 30 percent of the fund will be alloted for loan and credit, while 60 percent will be alloted for grants and 10 percent for scholarships. “The timeline between the approval of the new ACEF guidelines to its full implementation and release of funds were done in a little over a year,” Pangilinan said. “While we would have wanted it to be faster, we strove to be more cautious on how we ought to release the funds. But without the help of the DBM, the DA, the DOF, and our COCAFM leaders and proponents, we would not be able to yield concrete results. This is just the beginning. With regular consultations and meetings with all stakeholders as this one, we are confident that the full implementation and the proper utilization of the ACEF will positively impact the agriculture sector.” Also present in the en banc meeting were representatives from various agricultural and fisheries cooperatives around the country. Their pleas and recommendations were put on record and will be addressed in future meetings.