BAYBAY, LEYTE, APRIL 28, 2006 (STAR) By Rudy Fernandez - German Ambassador Axel Weisshaupt believes there is more to the Philippines than just "negative headlines." And he is proving his point by bringing German journalists and businessmen to this town so they can see for themselves what the country has to offer.

Weisshaupt welcomed German journalists and corporate officials who flew to this town all the way from Germany and "braved the bad news about political turmoil and natural disasters" to study a German-initiated project in the province.

"You will see that a lot of these negative headlines are overdrawn and by no means representative for this country," Weisshaupt said.

He also expressed hope that his guests will "leave the prejudices behind you and you will experience the Philippines as what it really is: A beautiful country with the most hospitable people living here."

The project that drew these German journalists and businessmen, as well as their local counterparts, to Leyte is an innovative, plant oil-fueled cooking stove — the first of its kind in the world.

Called the Protos, the stove was developed by German firms BSH Bosch and Siemens Hausergate GmBH in partnership with the Leyte State University (LSU), DEG Deutsche Investitions-und Entwicklunggesselchaft (KfW Bankengruppe), Deutsche Gessellschaft fur Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) GmBH, Bellagie Forum for Sustainable Development, Germany’s Hohenheim University and the European Nature Heritage Fund (Euronatur).

The environment-friendly stove was unveiled in rites in which Weisshaupt was special guest.

Part of the "exclusive expedition" to Leyte during the first and second weeks of April were Bosch und Siemens vice president for international sales Dirk Hoffman, Bosch vice president for product area cooking Gerd Strobel, Dr. Peter Keller of GTZ, Rolf Gerber of DEG and Eva Delabre of Bosch.

Leyte Reps. Remedios Petilla and Carmen Cari and Baybay Mayor Jose Carlos Cari were also on hand to greet their German guests.

LSU officials and staff led by university president Dr. Patricia Po-Milan, LSU vice president Dr. Manuel Palomar and College of Engineering and Agri-Industries dean Dr. Robert Guarte were also present. Guarte is also the Protos project director.

Weisshaupt and the rest of the German delegation were shown the plant oil stove project involving the participation of the townsfolk of this municipality located 120 kilometers south of the Leyte provincial capital of Tacloban City.

The Protos users demonstrated the operation of the stove, which is fueled by inexpensive and environment-friendly crude coconut oil, which is abundant in Leyte province.

The visitors from Germany and from other Philippine cities — including this reporter — noticed the stove did not emit any noxious fumes.

In a speech delivered during the project launch, Weisshaupt said the Protos stove "has the potential to change patterns in the daily lives of many Filipino families."

Cooking in the countryside is commonly done "with either wood or with petroleum-fired cookers," he said, adding that "the plant oil stove can replace these fuels," a development "which has significant advantages."

He said firewood-fed stoves are still the biggest source of indoor air pollution, adding that the smoke emissions from burning wood pose a serious hazard to the human respiratory system.

He summed up the impact of the Protos project thus: "For the Philippine economy as a whole, this is a step towards energy independence because it reduces oil imports."

Initially, 100 units of the Protos stove were fabricated in Germany and flown to Leyte for trial use in homes and professional kitchens in cooperation with the LSU’s project partners.

Because they were convinced of the stove’s efficiency and user-friendliness, some of the product testers purchased their test unit stoves for P2,000.

According to Bosch, the Protos stove will be manufactured locally to reduce production costs.

The project proponents, LSU and the Baybay local government have provided support for the setup of a coconut oil processing center by the Barangay Ciabu Primary Multipurpose Cooperative. The center, which supplies fuel for the Protos stove, is now operational.

Bosch said the stove was designed to help solve energy problems in cooking; eliminate health risks associated with open-fire cooking, especially for women and children; reduce deforestation for firewood or charcoal; promote effective cooking systems that use renewable fuels and protect biodiversity.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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