MANILA, September 26, 2005
 (STAR) BIZLINKS By Rey Gamboa - There are thousands of stories of how our kababayans overseas share the bounty they received in their new host countries with their less fortunate brothers here in the Philippines. One such is from New York-based Rudy Abad, but with a sentimental twist.

Rudy, a widower of four years, donated $50,000 (about P2.8 million) to Gawad Kalinga for three row houses of 16 units each in the Baseco compound in honor of his wife, Marie Rose, who died in the World Trade Center’s Sept.11 tragedy.

I met Rudy at a Sunday lunch held in the residence of Jun and Menchu Lopez of the Rustan’s and Starbucks fame. Despite her duties of keeping eyes and hands on the business activities of the Rustan group of companies, Menchu still manages to be a perfect host on these regular Sunday lunches with family and friends. On this particular Sunday, we had my favorite dish, bacalao.

Back to Rudy. During our initial conversation, Rudy had his heavy New Yorker accent and I thought, here is another Filipino who has junked his native tongue to impress his former countrymen. But, boy, was I wrong. Rudy may have mastered another way to speak to survive and flourish in the tough business environment of New York but he has not forgotten his Tagalog nor has he had a change of his Filipino heart.

Rudy’s touching tale is documented in a DVD that shows how he and his wife Marie Rose were touched by the extent of poverty they saw around the country. They had decided to do something about it, and it was the tragic death of Marie Rose that urgently moved Rudy to make it a reality.

Gawad Kalinga was, for Rudy, the perfect vehicle to perpetuate her memory and her expressed desire to do something for the poor of the poorest in the Philippines.

Getting To Know GK

In memory of Rose, there are now 48 families striving to rise from the ashes of poverty that had left them homeless by a raging Baseco fire last Jan. 11, 2004. GK, a program started by the Couples for Christ movement to provide homes for poverty-stricken communities, has now helped build a new kind of shelter for more than 15,000 families to shield them from the harsh realities of life.

GK together with its growing list of partners that include businesses and generous individuals, by the way, is not just about building homes for the poorest of the poor. This tireless army of lay Christian workers believes in a holistic approach towards eradicating poverty.

Their work has education, health, livelihood, and community empowerment components that aim to transform the lives of the people that they help. There are GK sites now all over the country supported by an extensive network of socio-civic groups, local government representatives, churches and parishes, as well as academe and media institutions.

For more information on GK and its work, their website provides a comprehensive view of what they do and how other generous souls may help. You may also call them at 7270681 to 87 local 47 or send an e-mail to

Revive Alcogas And Cocodiesel

As the world continues to be pummeled by high crude oil prices, we must not forget that the Philippines is a country that is rich in both sugar and coconut, two agriculture products that can be substituted for non-renewable fossil-based oil.

Aside from the two alternative fuels’ role in alleviating the country’s dependence on imported fuels, reader Andrei M.L. Postrado, a freshman at the Ateneo de Manila University, reminds us alcogas and coco-diesel are more environment-friendly substitutes.

Read on about these two bio-fuels.

"The Clean Air Act has been signed a few years ago with much publicity about the use of unleaded gasoline. And yet everyday, in my commute from Parañaque to Quezon City, I see so many vehicles spewing black smoke so thick, visibility becomes almost zero. True, I sometimes see MMDA anti-smoke belching teams going after these but the guilty ones apparently never learn their lessons.

"Of late, we had been experiencing unabated increases in the cost of gasoline and diesel fuel for our transport vehicles, mainly due to the continued increase in price of crude petroleum in the world market from just $26 before the American invasion of Iraq in March 2003 to today’s level of $70 per barrel.

"These two problems of our country today, severe pollution from transport vehicles‚ smoke emission and escalating dollar requirement to buy our fuel, luckily can be alleviated to a great extent if we can only effect wide use of ‘ethanol alcogas’ and ‘coco bio-diesel.’

"Ethanol alcogas or plain "alcogas" is a blend of gasoline and five- percent to 10-percent anhydrous ethanol (technically up to 25 percent is feasible). Alcogas is said to provide an equal if not better efficiency than pure gasoline owing to the high Octane Rating of ethanol.

"Toxic combustion by-products is also minimized due to the need for lesser octane-enriching but harmful chemicals. Ethanol can be produced locally through fermentation of sugarcane, molasses, corn, cassava, or other root crops. A newly launched 10-percent alcogas blend, utilizing ‘imported’ ethanol will be cheaper by 65 to 71 centavos over pure gasoline. Bigger price reduction surely can be attained if ethanol can be produced locally.

"The Department of Energy estimated annual foreign exchange savings of about $294 million if the Bio Ethanol Bill is enacted and a 10-percent alcogas blend is mandated within four years. Given proper support, the setting up of large ethanol production facilities should be no problem to Filipino capitalists owing to the great number of sugar centrals we have and our extensive experience in sugarcane planting.

"Coco Biodiesel on the other hand involves blending of indigenous coconut oil with additive, i.e., Coco Methyl Ester (CME) to diesel fuel, and this results to a much cleaner exhaust gases with no effect on efficiency. DOE estimated savings of around P6 billion per annum if only five percent of total oil importation is displaced by biodiesel.

"It follows that if these products will be patronized by the Filipino motorists, other benefits aside from cleaner air and a more secure sourcing of fuel and foreign exchange savings shall be substantial employment in the rural agricultural areas, and the promotion of a more stable sugar and coconut industries with more diversified products.

"Government therefore has to lay down and implement a clear, consistent, long-term program to encourage and support private corporations to set up production and agricultural facilities for alcogas and biodiesel, and at the same time pursue a massive information campaign through media to educate the Filipinos on the many benefits from use of these blended bio-fuels.

"We can perhaps take lesson from our neighboring Asian-country, Thailand, which has extensive natural gas deposits and yet has targeted a 10-percent ethanol alcogas mix by year 2008."

Flying V Leads Bio-Diesel Push

Reader Andrei M.L. Postrado’s view, particularly about bio-diesel, is now being put into actual practice. Flying V, headed by Ramon "Chito" Villavicencio, has taken up the challenge of marketing and distributing bio-diesel.

The company has earmarked millions of pesos worth of investments for the construction of more depots and service stations to handle the storage and distribution of this alternative fuel. Recently, Ramon "Chito" Villavicencio and his management team hosted GMA in the opening of one of their bio-diesel service station in Metro Manila.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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