DENR earmarks P50-M to build nipa plantation in Region 1

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has allotted P50 million for the establishment of a 25-hectare composite area of nipa plantation in Region 1 in an attempt to arrest the 221 million liters of bioethanol shortage in the country.

Engr. Thomas Ubiña, chief of the MMSU’s National Bioenergy Research and Innovation Center (NBERIC) said the volume represents the 61 percent annual shortage, a major reason of  bioethanol importation that is draining the country’s dollar reserves, while the government implements Republic Act No. 9367 otherwise known as the Biofuels Act of 2006.

“The country is only capable of producing 39 percent of its total bioethanol requirements and the volume is not enough to sustain the demands of local industries,” he laments.

Ubiña said the MMSU community led by MMSU President Shirley C. Agrupis is happy for the DENR’s fund allocation for such a massive plantation, adding that “we can now continue the efficient restoration, management and protection of existing nipa plantations in the province for bioethanol production.”

He said the money was already confirmed by DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu after it has reached the MMSU coffers.

According to Ubiña, the MMSU, through the NBERIC, is now working to establish the 25 hectares composite sites located in Bacarra (8 hectares), Currimao (3 hectares), Paoay (4 hectares), and Laoag City (10 hectares).

These areas have fertile brackish water ecosystems that are conducive for nipa plantations.

Dr. Agrupis said that as soon as this nipa plantation is established, “we will become a major advocate in minimizing the effects of climate change through reduction of greenhouse gases, and in reducing the importation of fossil fuels.”

She, too, urged the institutional partners of MMSU’s NBERIC to uphold their ultimate goal as key players in upgrading the life of the people in the countryside.

Since 2013, there are now three village level bioethanol facilities established in Regions 1 and 2 as part of MMSU’s multidisciplinary bioethanol project. The first was established at MMSU’s Crops Laboratory Building for sweet sorghum feedstock; while the other two were launched in Pamplona, Cagayan and in Bugallon, Pangasinan for nipa palm fruits.

Last January, a groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of the NBERIC building was held in the MMSU campus and was spearheaded by Rep. Dennis Laogan of the Ang Kabuhayan Party List who expressed support to this project.

After the launching, MMSU has started exploring sources of alternative fuels from renewable cellulosic biomass found in the province such as plant stalks, trunks, stems, and leaves that are expected to significantly reduce local dependence on imported oil while enhancing national energy security and decreasing the environmental impacts of energy use. -- (R.E Andres)