Press Release
April 30, 2008


With the prices of food and medicines going up, Sen. Loren Legarda is urging Filipinos to plant malunggay trees in their backyards as a supplement for vitamins and medicines, and as a cure for malnutrition.

In a bill filed in the Senate, Senator Legarda also urged government to support commercial planting of malunggay for its oil extract from its seeds, which can be used as lubricant for machinery as well as ethanol, a biofuel, and other uses.

In Senate Bill 1799, Loren proposed the establishment of a Malunggay Development Fund of P500 million to be taken from the budget of the Department of Agriculture, Department of Agrarian Reform, Central Bank, the Cooperative Development Agency and the departments of science and technology, trade and industry, environment and natural resources, interior and local government.

With the DA as lead agency, Loren proposes that the fund shall be used to "promote the planting of livelihood as a source of livelihood, a means of attaining food security, and as an effective approach to poverty alleviation through the production, processing, marketing and distribution of malunggay in suitable areas of the country."

Known by its scientific name of Moringa Oleifera, malunggay is one of the most useful tropical trees, said Loren. Citing a scientific study, The potential of Moringa Oliefera for agricultural and industrial use, Loren said that young malunggay leaves are commonly cooked and eaten like spinach, or used to make soups or salads. The leaves and seeds, when cooked, are exceptionally good sources of vitamins A, B and C, iron, amino acids and cystine.

When dried, the seeds can be ground to a power and used for seasoning sauces. The roots from young plants can also be dried and ground for use as a seasoning base with a flavor similar to that of horseradish. This is the reason that the Moringa tree is also known as "horseradish tree".

For industrial uses, the oil content of de-hulled seed (kernel) of malunggay is approximately 42 percent. A brilliant yellow, the oil is used as a lubricant for fine machinery such as timepieces because it has little tendency to deteriorate and become racid and sticky. It is also used as vegetable cooking oil, according to Senator Legarda based on her research.

The extract obtained from the leaves of Moringa is 80 percent ethanol, and can be used for perfume and perhaps refined into biofuel.

A DA biotechnology study also discovered that malunngay is good for medicinal purposes. Malunggay leaves are good for headache, bleeding from a shallow cut, bacterial and fungal skin complaints, anti-inflammatory gastric ulcers and diarrhea and malnutrition.

Malunggay pods are also effective as dewormers, for treating liver and spleen, arthritis, rheumatism, gout, cramps, STD, boils and urinary problems, and a relaxant for epilepsy, the study showed. Malunggay nurseries and a biotechnology information and organization network have been established by the DA in various regions of the country to study the uses of malunggay and propagate its cultivation.

"Despite these efforts, there is a need for legislation to institutionalize the production, processing, marketing and distribution of mnalunggay through a sustainable framework for development," stressed Loren.

Aside from enlisting the support of various national government agencies, Loren also asked for the support of local government units and the private sector in the effort to utilize malunggay as nutritional food and supplement for Filipinos, as well as to explore its possible use as a raw material for ethanol.

Production of ethanol from sugarcane and other crops is being promoted by the Philippine government for use as biofuel and an alternative to oil and petroleum whose prices have become prohibited in the global market.

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