Senator Win Gatchalian is urging the Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Biofuels Board (NBB) to thoroughly study the proposal of the Department of Agriculture to increase coconut content in biodiesel from two percent to five percent, particularly its impact on the pump price of diesel.
Gatchalian, chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and co-chair of the Joint Congressional Biofuels Oversight Committee, made the call after Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol announced he will be lobbying for the increase of biofuel content in diesel from B2 to B5 to absorb oversupply in the copra industry.
B2 biodiesel is a blend of two percent agricultural products and 98 percent clean diesel, while B5 biodiesel is a blend of five percent agricultural products and 95 percent clean diesel.
The lawmaker pointed out that is paramount for the NBB, an advisory body to the DOE, to study whether an increase to five percent blend is warranted and whether the local production of feedstock is sufficient to meet present and future demand.
“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,” Gatchalian said.
“Sa kanilang gagawing pag-aaral, dapat isaalang-alang ng DOE at ng NBB ang kapakanan ng nakararaming Pilipino na ngayon pa lamang nakabawi sa kaliwa’t kanan na pagtaas ng presyo ng langis noong nakaraang taon,” he added.
Citing the study his office conducted, Gatchalian estimated that increasing the biofuel content in diesel from B2 to B5 may result in a 7.5 percent increase, equivalent to ₱2.86, in the pump price of biodiesel.
Gatchalian pointed out that an ordinary jeepney driver, who consumes around 15 liters of diesel per day, might need to tighten his belt further since he will be expected to shell out an additional ₱1,286.30 per month if the blend is increased; an amount Gatchalian said could instead be used to buy a half sack of rice or additional groceries.
Furthermore, the lawmaker recalled that during the last Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on Biofuels hearing, there had been concerns of lack of feedstock, which he said prevented the DOE from mandating the increase from the current two percent blend.
Data from the DOE shows that for biodiesel, the annual capacity in 2017 was 574.9 million liters but production was only at 39 percent of capacity.
Meanwhile, Gatchalian said the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee is set to conduct a hearing on DA’s proposal to increase the biodiesel blend in the fuel market from 2 percent to 5 percent to cushion the falling prices of copra.
“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,” the lawmaker said.