The Ethanol Producers Association of the Philippines (EPAP) is pushing for the modernization of the sugar industry to spur the country’s ethanol production so that it can harnessed as an alternate and cheaper fuel resource.
According to Jose Maria Zabaleta, EPAP chairman emeritus, the idea of developing a self-sufficient and sustainable ethanol industry has attracted the attention of sugar millers in the Philippines.
To boost the production of ethanol, Zabaleta said the sugarcane industry should adopt new technological and agricultural practices to produce more sugar from cane to be able to produce other high-value by-products such as fuel ethanol for electricity, bioplastics, as well as aspirin and other pharmaceuticals.
Zabaleta, one of the pioneers of ethanol production in the Philippines, said there is a lot in store for the country’s future in energy and fuel if ethanol production is increased.
He said ethanol is one solution to the country’s growing demand for expensive fuel.
“For an agriculturally oriented country such as the Philippines, however, there is a practical solution—ethanol, a biofuel, is being recognized all over the world as a viable alternative to fossil fuels,” Zabaleta said.
Ethanol may be extracted from various energy-rich crops through fermentation of plant sugars, and further distilled for use as a gasoline additive, sometimes even as a fuel in itself.
“We saw real meaning for both Luzon and Negros. The other countries were all moving to ethanol, especially Brazil,” he said.
He said the country’s dependence on petroleum imports from an unstable region—the Middle East —and Brazil’s successful sugarcane industry exporting fuel from cane, gave rise to the idea to develop a local ethanol industry to help the country gain fuel self-sufficiency.
Although there has been an increase in the production of ethanol, the country’s output remains below the annual demand.
The Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) earlier said the local output is still short of the country’s annual demand of “a little less than 400 million liters” of ethanol.
Based on data from the SRA, local ethanol production has been steadily increasing from 71.5 million liters in 2013.