The National Federation of Sugarcane Planters (NFSP) objected to the request by the Ethanol Producers Association of the Philippines (EPAP) to import molasses as feedstock for the production of bioethanol.
“The importation of molasses will adversely affect the prices of domestically produced molasses, which will be disadvantageous to our thousands of sugarcane farmers,” said NFSP President Enrique D. Rojas.
Aside from its main product of sugar, the sugar milling process also produces molasses as a by-product, and it is one of the major sources of income of sugarcane farmers. Molasses is mainly used to ferment rum, feedstock for bioethanol, additive for animal feed and as cooking and baking ingredient.
The Biofuels Law of 2006 (Republic Act No. 9367) mandates the use of at least 10% bioethanol blend in all gasoline fuel sold in the country, and it also mandates that the biofuel should contain locally-sourced components, such as bioethanol from molasses. The law boosted the price of molasses in the local market.
However, local bioethanol production is only 51.4% of the actual demand, based on the Department of Energy’s 2019 figures. In case of supply shortage of local ethanol, oil companies are allowed to import ethanol from countries such as Vietnam and Brazil to produce the mandated biofuel blend, in accordance with the Biofuels Law.
To boost local ethanol production, ethanol producers requested for permission to import molasses, which they will use to produce bioethanol. The Bioethanol Consultative Board (BCB) recently called for an online consultation on the ethanol producers’ request.
The BCB is chaired by Sugar Regulatory Administrator Hermie Serafica, with representatives of planters’ federations, sugar millers’ associations, Philippine Sugar Technologists Association and Department of Agriculture as members.
During the consultation, NFSP registered its objection to the request.
“The objective of the Biofuels Law is to develop and utilize indigenous renewable energy to reduce dependence on imported oil, and increase the income of our farmers. The importation of molasses affects local prices. It will adversely affect the income of our farmers who depend on the sale of their molasses,” said Rojas.
He pointed out that there is no clear provision in the law which allows ethanol producers to import molasses for bioethanol fuel.
“What is permitted, and what has been the practice since the passage of the Biofuels Law in 2006, is for oil companies to import ethanol, only after consuming local ethanol production. Since this is the practice recognized by the Department of Energy and by the ethanol players, particularly the oil companies, we should stick to this practice,” Rojas added.*