P1 B down the drain in Arroyo-era jatropha project—DOST chief
MANILA, Philippines—The Department of Science and Technology said the Arroyo administration should have started small with a project to explore the viability of the jatropha plant as an alternative fuel source, a failed venture that has cost the country around P1 billion in losses.
Science Secretary Mario Montejo said the past administration should have first pilot-tested the jatropha project, from planting and harvesting to extracting jatropha oil and blending it into biofuel.
“A successful pilot testing of jatropha’s viability as an alternative fuel source should have been conducted before going into large-scale production. This is something that the previous administration failed to do,” Montejo said in a statement.
“The proper scientific protocol in programs involving new technologies such as this is to conduct first a pilot-test and a thorough evaluation of its results to prove its viability before rolling it out,” Montejo said.
Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras recently disclosed that the Arroyo administration had already spent P1 billion of a P1.4 billion allocation for the project, covering the cost of planting some 4,000 hectares of land with jatropha plant.
While earlier studies had found that jatropha oil could be converted into methyl ester, a material “suitable as blend for diesel fuel” according to DOST, commercial production is said to be not viable.
“Technical feasibility is sometimes different from commercial viability because it involves other issues.” Montejo said.
While DOST intends to finish reviewing and evaluating past research on jatropha, Montejo said the department “is not keen” on studying the possible use of the plant as a fuel source.
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