MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 17 Aug) – A bioenergy company, Secura International Corporation (SIC), signed a joint venture agreement with two cooperatives in Bukidnon and one in Lanao del Sur today for the production of biodiesel from Napier grass and other biomass.
Engr. Danilo Manayaga, president and chief executive officer, signed contracts with Franscisco Abaton of the Higaonon Indi Tribes Cooperative in Baungon and Democrito Comaling of the Tumanod Indi Napier Marketing Cooperative in Talakag, both in Bukidnon.
A third cooperative, Landowners and Producers Cooperative of Bumbaran, Lanao del Sur, was represented by Datu Haron Kalaw.
Among the signatories was Damulog Mayor Romeo Tiongco, who chairs the Ecogreen Integrated Resources, Inc., SIC’s local partner.
Manayaga told MindaNews each cooperative has to gather landowners with a total of 2,000 hectares to be able to produce enough materials for the company to build a processing plant that converts biomass into biodiesel.
He said they will be exploring possibilities in other Mindanao provinces, including Agusan del Sur, Compostela Valley, the Davao provinces, South and North Cotabato, Maguindanao, Sarangani, and Sultan Kudarat.
According to a briefer included in the copy of the event’s program, biodiesel is “chemically identical to petroleum diesel,” “directly replaces petroleum diesel,” and “carbon neutral if made from biomass.”
The company also produces biocoal.
The joint ventures eye to open plantations in “idle” lands, which Manayaga said are mostly owned by the indigenous peoples.
He said their foreign investors are flowing in US$35 million to put up a plant in every 2,000-hectare area. The firm will pay P36,000 per hectare per year, or P3,000 a month, to landowners.
Manayaga said a total of 17 cooperatives, most of them applying accreditation before the Cooperative Development Authority (CDA), intended to sign a joint venture agreement with them with a share of 30-60-10. He said 30 percent goes to the cooperative, 60 percent to their company, and 10 percent to the local business partner of SIC.
But not one plant is in the drawing board yet, Manayaga said.
He said they are still in the pre-development stage and are formalizing agreements with their partners.
The process to get permits and other requirements, he said, will follow. He admitted that even the application for a free and prior informed consent process is yet to be pursued.
The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples was not represented in the signing, although representatives from the CDA and indigenous peoples’ organizations like the Bukidnon Unified Tribal Development Council of Elders (Butridce) witnessed the event.
Datu Inlantong Erwin Marte, Butridce chair, reminded the audience in the contract signing to mind not just their personal but their collective good in the project.
“Let’s check the cultural impact. Is this project likely to empower the Lumad?” he said when asked by organizers to speak.
He expressed hope that the project will be done in “mutual cooperation” and will adhere to transparency so it won’t suffer the fate of earlier projects offered to the Lumad.
He also challenged the Lumad to mind their development perspective since the project is a joint venture.
“Let us check if having large plantations like this won’t compromise food security,” he added.
Marte, however, signed the contract as witness. He clarified to MindaNews that he did so to apprise SIC, not to mess with the Lumad as the council will side with the latter.
Speakers in the event repeatedly mentioned attacks they got over the radio about some personalities who allegedly conned village folks using SIC’s name.
Officials denied the allegation and introduced their “official” business partners.
Francisco Abaton, a tribal leader of one of the three cooperatives who signed, welcomed the opportunity provided by the firm.
“We accept the company to plant Napier in our ancestral domain,” he said during the project acceptance and commentary time.
According an online profile in 2006, Secura claims it is “the only bulk manufacturer of natural ingredients in the Philippines.”
“We utilize the latest bioprocess technologies such as chromatography, lyophilization (freeze drying), ultrafiltration and dehydration technologies to produce standardized extracts and pharmaceutical active ingredients,” the company added.
The firm said they have a network of contract growers and own commercial plantations. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)