5% biodiesel blend to start in October — Agri chief Alcala

The 5 percent mandated biodiesel blend is likely to start in October, the Department of Agriculture said Wednesday, as the National Biofuels Board (NBB) is now studying results of the recently-concluded road testing on the viability of a higher biofuels mix.

"The board is now reviewing the result,” Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala told reporters. “Even before, there were already studies starting that increasing the fuel blend is not damaging to the engine," he said.

Testing the 5 percent biodiesel blend on passenger jeepneys started on July 30, which involved a 25-day road test comparing vehicle performance on both the B2 blend (2 percent biofuel blend) and the B5 blend. Proponents of the tests were the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) and the National Center for Transportation Studies of the University of the Philippines.

In June, the board headed by the Department of Energy chief approved an increase in the mandated biodiesel blend to 5 percent from 2 percent. The NBB members were the secretaries of the Departments of Trade and Industry, of Science and Technology, of Agriculture, of Finance, of Labor and Employment, as well as heads of the PCA and the Sugar Regulatory Administration.

The National Economic Development Authority is also coming up with results of a study on the effects of the new biodiesel blend on fuel prices, which the NBB will incorporate into a final report that includes the vehicle performance test.

While a higher biodiesel blend may have an impact on fuel prices, Alcala said market forces that include the supply of coconut oil will have the last say on prices. Coconut oil is required to produce coco methyl ester in blending with biodiesel mix.

Coconut oil exports are dependent on prices in the world market, according to the Agriculture chief.
A higher biodiesel blend will raise domestic consumption of cococnut oil to 350,000 metric tons (MT) from the present demand of 140,000 MT, according to coconut oil refiners.