Press Release
August 31, 2016

Speech of Sen. Juan Miguel F. Zubiri
3rd Energy Smart Philippines
SMX Convention Center, MOA, Pasay City
31 August 2016

Topic: Promoting Agricultural Development and Inclusive Growth through Biomass Energy Development

(Greetings to VIPs, ladies and gentlemen, good morning!)

First of all let me congratulate the organizers and sponsors of this 3rd Energy Smart Philippines. The combination of business and environmental advocacy in the Philippines' renewable energy sector is like a beautiful marriage, always passionate and never loses steam. Just like the people who are here today, passionate in advocating for cleaner and renewable energy in the country.

I was tasked to delve on the topic: Promoting Agricultural Development and Inclusive Growth through Biomass Energy Development.

I just came from the Committee on Energy meeting in the Senate and the Department of Energy was presenting its Briefing on the plans and priorities of the Department.

We all understand the meaning of the much used buzz words - "inclusive growth", but let me recite again the definition used by the National Economic Development Authority on its Philippine Development Plan of 2011-2016: "Inclusive growth means, growth that is rapid enough to matter, given the country's large population, geographical differences, and social complexity. It is sustained growth that creates jobs, draws the majority into the economic and social mainstream, and continuously reduces mass poverty. Inclusive growth means growth that is shared by all and opposed to the trickle down, jobless growth that we have seen over the recent years."

This is an apt definition for biomass energy development in the country. We know that many of the poorest Filipinos are in the agricultural sector and agricultural wastes are some of the most viable feedstocks for biomass.

Current biomass energy situation.

(Flash this table)

Source: Biomass Energy in the Philippines, Mr. Bert Dalusong presentation for Thor Energy

We could see that from the four major agricultural crops alone, a total of 35.5 million tons of biomass resource can be generated. If utilized properly, this will give additional income to our farmers and agricultural workers in these crops. This does not include agricultural wastes from other crops such as banana and pineapple.

Recent data from the Department of Energy shows that the installed capacity for Biomass (as of December 2015) is 221 MW. This figure is equivalent to one percent (1%) of the total energy mix in the Philippines and accounts only for into-grid biomass energy and excludes own-use.

(Flash slide on energy mix)

The energy capacity share of biomass is likely to increase once the commissioning of new plants start. With these developments in the biomass industry, is there a room for farmers and agricultural workers to increase their income and for them to experience inclusive growth?

How to increase income of farmers and workers in the agricultural sector?

The cliché "may pera sa basura" holds true in the biomass energy industry.

During the campaign in the last elections and even in my travels around the country, it pains me to see agricultural wastes such as rice straw being burned in the open or in the rice fields. This practice of open burning of solid waste is already prohibited under the Solid Waste Management Act (RA9003), and if we can only utilize this biomass resource and put in-place a system of collection of these wastes, our farmers will realize that there is really money from agricultural wastes.

The challenge therefore to biomass developers is the aggregation or consolidation of collection of these agricultural wastes. There are many farmers' cooperatives and associations organized, biomass developers can ask these groups for a systemized collection of agricultural wastes. To get the interest of small farmers and farmers' coops or associations to sell their agricultural wastes to biomass energy producers, biomass producers should provide the hauling or trucking facilities. We can also tap the local government units on this and possibly collect even their municipal solid wastes which can also be used as biomass feedstock. Public infrastructure is also critical to this approach.

Another crucial task in the biomass energy development is the audit of the country's agricultural wastes and assessment of its potential for biomass energy production. We have identified the volume of agricultural wastes from our four major crops, we should be able to factor-in the wastes from other crops. If we are to believe the result of the study in 2013, which was conducted by the DOE in partnership with the USAID - the Biomass Resource Assessment for Selected Sites in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, the initial results indicate that there is a total potential power generation capacity of 4,450 MW in the Philippines from Biomass resources.

As in other businesses, the stability of the supply of feedstock and demand functions is critical in biomass energy development in the country. Once the supply-side challenges are met, biomass energy can provide a steady and stable supply of electricity into the grid, biomass being one of the least intermittent renewable energy sources.

To safeguard the environment, our forests and trees, in the absence of a law or regulation, my request to biomass energy producers is not to use wood-chips as feedstock for biomass energy. It would be hard for biomass producers to distinguish whether the wood-chips to be supplied to them are forest wastes or by-products or freshly cut from forest trees.

Biomass as well as the other renewable energy sources must increase its share in the country's energy mix. With the continued growth of the Philippine economy and the expected depletion of the Malampaya natural gas reservoir in less than a decade, which accounts for fifteen percent (15%) of the total energy mix, these developments will pose a serious challenge in our energy sector. The renewable energy sector should see an opportunity in this development, especially if we want to sustain the gains of renewable energy in the country.

Thank you and again, good morning!

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