There’s a lot of talk about ethanol, which is widely used in Brazil, and would be a boon for corn/maize farmers in the US midwest.

But here in the Philippines, we use a lot of diesel, and biodiesel seems to be the way to go, since we can make it from local plants like palm trees and Jatropha tree. Indeed, both Indonesia and the Philippines used this source of fuel during World War II.

The Philippines lacks oil resources, so is especially sensitive to the possibility of a rise in oil prices. If we could grow trees, we could actually export the diesel for a profit.

Malaysia is already on the forefront of this, and now there are worries about ecological destruction by tearing down rain forests and replacing them with palm plantations.

Few in the West have the nerve to tell off to upper class yuppies who want to keep poor villagers in their pristine villages, yet the dirty little secret is that the phrase “nasty brutish and short” is still the norm in much of the rural third world, and, as my husband reminded me, you can’t eat the scenery. Yes, there is a need to protect the environment, but stewardship means balance, not the ecoreligion that favors birds and trees over people.

Yet there is another danger in using biodiesel: That these companies will be owned by outside investors. The Marxists call this neocolonialism, an overblown word but accurate.

Governments have failed to exert substantial control over the country’s energy resources because of the foreign firms’ tight grip over the sector. One result of this is the endless rounds of oil price hikes that local consumers continue to suffer from.

Although local oil firms are quick to blame high global oil prices for the hikes, in fact exorbitant and unreasonable oil prices may be traced to the global cartel of the largest transnational corporations that manipulate international prices and domestic pump prices through transfer pricing.

It should also be noted that the Biofuels Act by itself will not have any consequential impact on high and escalating local pump prices.

But is diverting money to outsiders beneficial?

Real public ownership, control and regulation of the country’s energy sector are vital for this to be truly oriented towards the needs of Filipino consumers. This includes responsible state control over resources such as biofuels. This underscores yet another challenge: to ensure that the government in place is one that is fully and genuinely accountable to the people.

Ah yes, but in reality this means not the people, but the oligarchy that run the country. And a lot of people might prefer the honest Japanese over the local feudal lords that run rural areas and steal “everything on the table, under the table, and the table” as one wag put it…
On the other hand, if people discover how to make biodiesel on their own, it will be a real boon for farmers and others who have lots of palm trees but few pesos.

Of course, it will increase local pollution, and the government will put all sorts of rules and regulations on those who try to sell it, but this is the Philippines, after all, and the farmers will just ignore the government, and the local businessmen will just bribe the officials.


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket

Be Sociable, Share!