MANILA, APRIL 14, 2008 (STAR) By the Go NEGOSYO team - While global environmental concerns have led to a food-vs-fuel debate on land use, two Filipino entrepreneurs have found ways to respond to both needs from different angles.

“We conducted countless trials to prove that the Philippines possesses the best biodiesel in the world,” said Dean Lao Jr. “There were very tough critics like car manufacturers and oil companies.”

Lao owns Chemrez Technologies Inc., whose comprehensive research studies and tests served as basis for the landmark Biofuels Law in 2007, the first in Asia to mandate a coco-biodiesel blend in all grades of diesel used in the country.

He noted that coco-biodiesel is derived from coconut oil, the most abundant and indigenous vegetable oil in the country. “Why shouldn’t we harness what we already have?” he said.

“Four years before it was passed into law, there was very little known about coco-biodiesel. No information was available on biodiesel made from coconut oil. It was then that Chemrez, together with the Asian Institute of Petroleum Studies Inc., started to gather scientific data,” Lao added.

He said he does not see biofuels conflicting with food supply and even admitted that they have “wide-ranging benefits for the agriculture sector and the environment as they moved us one step closer to energy independence.”

Chemrez operates the Philippine’s first continuous-process biodiesel plant and distinguishes itself by investing in research and product development, new technology and human resources.

On the other hand, as the country faces a looming food supply shortage, Dr. Saturnina Halos is offering another solution.

“We are now looking for a partner to bring into the market a broad spectrum of biopesticides,” said Halos, who was also behind a safe and bacteria-based biofertilizer that naturally enhances crop productivity.

“We’re now exploring other ways to harness agricultural productivity through biotechnology,” Halos said. “Aside from mainstreaming biopesticide, we are also planning to commercialize tissue culture for malunggay in partnership with Phytophilippines Inc.”

In 2003, Halos, together with husband Ponciano and children, Ari, Manny and Pinky (in-law), started Arnichem Corp., a venture that capitalizes on biotechnology.

She has been investing in agricultural innovations to help increase food production since the 1990s. Years of research led to their breakthrough product, Vital N.

Vital N, an environment-friendly and economical fertilizer that guarantees higher yield, uses a technology to preserve microorganisms, which promote extensive root development and increase plant tolerance to drought.

It was developed with the help of the Philippine Rice Research Institute and has since increased farming productivity in the Ilocos region and Cagayan Valley through its use as a supplemental fertilizer.

To date, Arnichem is the only biofertilizer manufacturing firm in the Philippines and has been recognized as the manufacturer of the first biofertilizer in the world.

But amid their pioneering credits, Lao and Halos remain modest and dedicated. “More than profits, it is satisfying to see a product you’ve worked so hard to develop be really appreciated, especially by farmers,” Halos said.

“Even more rewarding is when some colleagues tell me they too are thinking of going into the business. When that mindset is nurtured, you can expect our talented scientists to expand their creativeness and develop products that are innovative and affordable,” she added.

“This business gives purpose to my life and allows me to contribute to society in many ways,” Lao said. “The challenge of running my business keeps me alert. While it comes with stress and responsibility over the livelihood of all your staff, the biggest reward is to see them flourish with the business.”

On April 16, the Philippine Center for Entrepreneurship (PCE) will recognize Lao and Halos’ contributions, as among Go Negosyo’s Most Inspiring Biotechnology Entrepreneurs, in the 4th Annual Philippine Biotechnology Venture Summit at the Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health Auditorium in Ortigas Avenue, Pasig City.

The summit is organized by Hybridigm Consulting, a pioneering firm under the leadership of Maoi Arroyo, a constant partner of Go Negosyo.

The PCE, an organization founded by Presidential Consultant for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion, has been recognizing model entrepreneurs throughout the country in line with its aim to popularize entrepreneurship.

For more information on the Bitoech Summit, call 810-8639 or log on to

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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