The Philippine government has implemented laws requiring the use of coconut-blended biodiesel this week (6 May).
The Philippine biofuels act mandates all oil firms to blend one per cent coco-methyl ester in their diesel products. The act also requires the addition of at least five per cent ethanol in other gasoline products by 2008, increasing to ten per cent by 2010.
Raphael Lotilla, the Philippine's Energy Secretary, said that the government hopes to decrease the amount of fossil fuels imported into the Philippines.
The biofuel law will offset 70 million litres of diesel — out of the seven billion litres used every year — and will save the country at least US$167 million annually in foreign exchange, he said.
The move by the Philippines came just days before the publication of a report by UN Energy (9 May), which states that adopting biofuels could impact negatively on people's livelihoods and the environment, especially on the biodiversity of plants and animals.
Professor Sandy Gauntlet, Asia program coordinator of the forest-protection organisation Global Forest Coalition (GFC), said that increased biofuel production will ultimately destroy the few remaining forests of the world by converting them into plantations.
She said biofuel farming was becoming the main cause of deforestation in countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and Brazil.
The Philippines' Department of Agriculture and the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) plan to develop 740,000 acres of land to meet the demand for coco diesel.
PCA Administrator Oscar Garin said the Philippines would need at least 70 million litres of coco biodiesel to comply with the biofuels act.
Armando Galvez, one of the estimated 3.5 million coconut farmers in the Philippines, is worried about the massive destruction of forests that could occur when farmers rush to meet the biofuel demand.
"Farmers will now be competing with each other because of the government's demand on us to produce more coconut for biodiesel," Armando told SciDev.Net
Galvez also fears the local population will suffer from a scarcity of food in the future.
"There will be more coconut farmers now. Others might stop producing food crops for the local population and as a result, prices of basic commodities and food staples could soar. That would be devastating," he said.