Negros may become biofuel center source

Sometimes it takes an outsider to notice what is going on in a province or island. That was what happened when President Arroyo visited this province Friday to address the convention of the Vice Mayor’s League of the Philippines.

The problem is that we often focus on specifics or, as somebody aptly pointed out, we see the individual trees but fail to grasp the forest.

Majority of local officials and supporters focus on topics other than the most important ones — the need to plant jatropha (kasla) as well as the possibility of producing ethanol from sugarcane which may be started by the San Carlos Bioethanol Plant in northern Negros Occidental.

Earlier, the National Bioethanol Council had reportedly mapped out expansion areas beyond Sugarlandia where sugarcane intended for ethanol production may be planted.

But this runs counter to many investors’ idea of having small distilleries in several mill districts that could produce bioethanol.

Jatropha, however, was something that only a handful had focused on. Most have set their sights on ethanol, produced from sugarcane, the main agricultural crop of the province.

But the President must have also noted the absence of large-scale opposition to the government’s plan when she mentioned during the VMLP meet at the Bacolod Convention Plaza Hotel, which will soon become a call center that will employ 1,000 workers.

Speaking of call centers, there are many more being put up in the city. Manila-based call center recruiters are now encountering difficulties recruiting English-proficient applicants for employment.

GMA ordered local officials to help boost English-proficiency among local students. She pointed out that local government units will benefit from the tremendous demand of 100,000 workers for call centers.
Warm reception
When she arrived at the Bacolod Airport, the President may not have noticed that the police had pushed out beyond her sight a small group of anti-GMA protesters who had wanted to greet her with slogans calling for her resignation.

Instead, GMA found herself lionized by a big group of local government leaders, headed by Negros Occidental Gov. Joseph Maranon, Vice Gov. Isidro Zayco, Bacolod Mayor Evekio Leonardia, and Representatives Monico Puentevella, Traquilino Carmona, Alfredo Maranon III, Jose Carlos Lacson and Ignacio Arroyo, the President’s brother-in-law.

Also on hand to greet her were officers of the Vice Mayor’s League, headed by convention chairman Bacolod Vice Mayor Renectio Novero.
Tourism destination
The President then paid tribute to what "Women in Travel" had dubbed as the Philippines’ most outstanding secret tourism destinations — the beaches and scenic spots of Sipalay City.

But she must have missed the fact that Sipalay City is just one of the communities that boast of some of the most beautiful spots of southern Negros Occidental.

Actually, on this side of Negros, tourism spots abound all the way from Cauayan to Hinobaan, the last town in the south. The scenic spots also extends to Bayawan City of Oriental Negros and even further.

"Let’s not keep it a secret anymore, let’s have more investments in tourism," the President rallied her audience.

Actually, it is an open secret in Negros that a horde of local investors have been buying up lands in Campomanes Bay, while visionary businessmen like Bomber Zyco had developed Puntabulata in Cauayan as a primary destination for beach lovers.

There are a lot more "hidden" spots although they had become famous after the Pilgrimage to Asia and while the Insular Lumber Company Philippines was still operating in Hinobaan, Salvacion. The caves though have sort of fallen into a limbo.

This was the cave where the Pax Plante Party of the late Col. Jesus Villamor had first sought refuge when they landed in the Philippines, the first allied group to return to the country post the fall of Bataan and Corregidor.

The cave is interesting. It has a rocky ledge which can serve as a diving board and resting place. Incidentally, this gets covered up during high tide, the reason why the Japanese never made it to the spot.

Another interesting spot is the white beaches of Barangay Asia of Hinobaan, which had drawn the interest of American and Japanese investors. Unfortunately that is owned by the Pfielder family. Nearby is the "Hidden Valley," called us such by the Japanese investors before the insurgency conflict drove them away during the ’70s.

There is an interesting facet to Sipalay City’s beach front. The more than 30 hectare accretion came from the mine tailings of the former Marinduque Mining Corp. and brought there by the waves over along period of time.

Campomanes Bay, the favorite of many Negrenses and curious visitors, is in a town visited by a school of dolphins and tuna. Once in the ’70s, my children and I joined local folks trying to push back into the sea a school of tuna which beached along Campomanes.

We failed and Sipalay folks had the time of their lives getting tuna fish by the jeeploads, some of them weighing as much as 85 pounds.

But with no less than the President adverting the "secret tourism spots" of Sipalay, you can be sure that it could stimulate a stampede of investors into the area.
The promise of biofuel
I had already mentioned ethanol and the fact that the National Bioethanol Council had pinpointed areas outside Negros for possible plantation to provide sources for ethanol distilleries.

For one, Rep. Jerminio Teeves recently announced that all is ready for the development of one ethanol plant in Tamlang Valley. There, according to the Oriental Negros lawmaker, some 12,000 hectares can be planted to sugar land.

But the most promising is jatropha and no less than the President had urged local officials to promote its planting and eventually become an oil substitute such as ethanol and coco-diesel.

Presidential Assistant for Western Visayas Rafael Coscolluela said the Negros Occidental Dacong Producers Cooperative Marketing Associate and the provincial government already had jatropha nurseries in the upland area of Kabankalan City.

Coscolluela said the cooperative had put up a five-hectare jatropha nursery in the area with the help of P1-million fund from the Philippine National Oil Corp. (PNOC). It expects to receive 60,000 more jatropha seedlings that could cover 50 hectares. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is eyeing Barangay Pinggot in Ilo for another jatorpha plantation.

Gov. Maranon, Coscolluela said, had already put up a jatropha nursery in the Phaad Park in Mansilingan, Bacolod.

The President, however, boosted hopes for the fuel substitute when she announced that she is allocating P500 million to the PNOC Biofuel Crop. to promote the cultivation of jatropha.

All these augur well for the future of Negrenses and the province of Negros Occidental. There are a lot more things going on but these will be included in the next column.











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