Japanese industrial giant Marubeni Corp. plans to put up at least five ethanol-run co-generation/distillery plants in the Philippines, a lawmaker said yesterday.
Rep. Juan Miguel Zubiri, the main author of House Bill 4629 or the Biofuels Act of 2005, said Marubeni officials expressed their intention to put up the plants during a meeting last week.
"They informed me of their plan to bid for the building of at least five ethanol-based plants. They are also willing to become a part owner aside from being the builder of the plants," Zubiri said in a press briefing.
He said Marubeni is looking at thepossibility of bidding for the construction of five ethanol plants in San Carlos, Bukidnon and other areas in Negros.
"Being part of the Fuel Ethanol Alliance, we are trying to help both foreign and local groups who would want to push for the development of the ethanol industry in the country. We are assisting those who would want to get in the industry," he said.
Marubeni has been a long-time player in the Philippine power sector. It has contracted a number of power projects for renewable energy sources such as geothermal and coal.
Aside from Marubeni, Zubiri said Asia Generation Corp., an independent power producer (IPP) based in economic zones in southern Luzon, has also expressed interest to form a consortium that would put up an ethanol plant in the area.
There are already five ethanol processing plants being planned for construction. Two will be built by Bronzeoak in Negros and Bukidnon. Another one in Negros is being eyed to be put up by a group led by Rep. Ignacio Arroyo, while another group of businessmen is also planning to construct a plant in the Silay area. A sugar planters association in Tarlac is also eyeing to build one ethanol plant in the said area.
Industry estimates show that some P1.5 billion in investments is needed to put up a 20- to 25-megawatt (MW) co-generation plant and at least P550 million for an 80,000-liter capacity distillery plant.
Investors have been waiting for the passage of the Biofuels Law so they could start pouring in fresh capital in this industry.
"We are optimistic that more investors will come in once the bill is passed into law," Zubiri said.
HB 4629 has been unanimously approved on third and final reading early this week.
Zubiri is also hopeful both houses of Congress will pass the bill into law not later than February next year.
"We believe that we should give priority to this bill as this will not only be pro-consumers but will also help provide a cleaner environment and create new jobs," he said.
Once passed, the bill will mandate a five-percent blend of bioethanol in gasoline products used in transportation sector.
According to Zubiri, two years after the passage of the bill, the country would need to put up at least five ethanol processing plants. By 2008, another five ethanol processing facilities should be constructed.
By 2010, the country would need 20 ethanol plants to meet the five-percent blend demand.
He said there are other areas which are being eyed as potential sites for these facilities. These are Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, and Cagayan Valley. "We would need at least five ethanol plants in Luzon," he added.
At the same time, Zubiri said they would try to incorporate in the bill the one percent mandatory blend of coco-biodiesel.
"We are amenable to consider putting in the bicameral committee version of the bill the one percent coco-biodiesel blend. This will make the law encompassing all alternative fuels, not just ethanol," he said.
Donnabelle L. Gatdula
The Philippine Star