, DECEMBER 6, 2007 (STAR) By Ted P. Torres - The Philippines and Spain have signed two agreements on biofuels production, fisheries and microfinancing.

In line with this, the Philippines immediately forwarded several project proposals to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food of Spain for possible funding.

“These include joint partnerships on mariculture parks development, biofuels, greenhouses, improvement of meat lab facilities, swine genetic improvements, development of blue-fin tuna industry, and development of biofuels feedstock,” Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap said in a press statement.

The agriculture department also formalized an agreement with Fundacion Codespa, a group of Spanish non-government organizations (NGOs), to implement agricultural projects on microfinance, training, and technology transfer.

The accord will accelerate the approval of a P57.2-million proposal to conduct a feasibility study on the development of the biofuels feedstock industry in the Philippines, and a P25.42-million project to ensure the sustainable use and management of bluefin tuna resources in the country.

It will provide opportunities for the agriculture department to engage in technical exchange and training for postharvest fisheries inspectors; upgrading of laboratory facilities; and undertaking joint research activities, especially on mariculture parks development.

Codespa pursues development initiatives in Latin America and Asia, including Vietnam, China, and the Philippines, especially in the areas of microfinance, training, technology transfer and business development.

Earlier, the Philippines welcomed plans of Bionor Transformacion S.A. to invest $200 million to develop at least 100,000 hectares of land into jatropha plantations that will be used as feedstock for biofuel facilities in the country.

Bionor is represented in the Philippines by AME Bionergy Corp., which will identify suitable jatropha plantation sites, consolidate lands, organize and train farm labor, use appropriate cultivation and agronomic practices, organize local support to install plantation infrastructure, and study the cost structure for production to determine if the jatropha development project is economically viable and internationally competitive.

Bionor’s main thrust is to develop feedstock plantations worldwide using raw materials that do not compete with the food sector and do not lead to deforestation.

Bionor is currently operating two biodiesel plants in Spain and Italy with a combined output of 125,000 metric tons (MT) and constructing an additional five plants in Spain and Brazil that will add an additional 900,000 MT of capacity in 2008.

An initial P106.29 million worth of initiatives to boost abaca production and improve the Philippines’ livestock sector will also be submitted for funding, as well as another P82.52 million-worth of projects with Spain.

Other projects for consideration are a P60-million project to rehabilitate and expand the local abaca industry; a P23.11-million project on swine genetic improvement; and, a P43.18-million project to strengthen the meat central and satellite laboratories in the country.

In 2006, the Philippines exported a total of 24,425 mt of agricultural products to Spain worth $20 million. The country’s top agricultural exports to Spain last year were coconut oil ($7.9 million), carageenan ($2.18 million), canned pineapple/juice ($2.6 million), tobacco ($1.06 million), desiccated coconut ($0.9 million) and tuna ($1.3 million).

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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