Press Release
August 31, 2007

Villar to DA: Is jatropha right for Filipino farmers?

Senate President Manny Villar urged the agriculture department to issue an official statement on the practicality and feasibility of growing Tubang Bakod or Jatropha trees in the Philippines following the assertion of an agricultural scientist that the tree variety Jatropha curcas is not suitable for the country.

"While we look at this as an important source of fuel which clicked in India, we should be guided by research findings on biofuels all over the world," Villar, Nacionalista Party president, said.

Villar made the appeal after Dr. William Dar, an agricultural scientist, said in an interview that an assessment of Jatropha planting in the Philippines should be made, adding that right varieties and its economic feasibility should be studied anew.

"Filipino farmers are expecting that Jatropha tree planting will improve their livelihood, thus, a truthful information by relevant government agencies on its viability and feasibility should be earnestly made so as not to bring false hopes," Villar said.

He cited that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has also cautioned that seeds of Jatropha curcas or Tubang Bakod can cause vomiting and violent inflammation of the mucous membrane with a burning sensation of the throat.

"We should take into consideration the experience of other countries on Jatropha, where some of them indicate that this is not the "miracle tree" as it was reported to be," Villar said.

"The adaptability of Jatropha trees should be thoroughly checked because what thrived in India will not necessarily thrive in the Philippines," Villar said.

Oil from Jatropha curcas seeds is used for making biodiesel fuel and is promoted as an easily grown biofuel crop in hundreds of projects in India and other developing countries. A hectare of Jatropha produces 1,892 liters of fuel. The rail line between Mumbai and Delhi is planted with Jatropha and the train itself runs on 15 to 20- percent biodiesel.

At the same time, Villar filed a resolution in the Senate urging the Senate committee on energy to study the rationality of the recent policy of government directing the massive planting of Jatropha trees for the last two years, citing that it may be a solution to the country's continuous and growing dependence on imported oil.

In filing proposed Senate Resolution 110, Villar said the Senate study on Jatropha should be made with the end in view of formulating a long-term and more economically feasible energy program for the country.

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