By Alena Mae S. Flores

The Philippines is looking at increasing its exports of coco-biodiesel after yesterday's inauguration of Chemrez Inc.'s P650-million plant, the biggest and most modern facility in Asia, The new plant, located in Libis, Quezon City, represents an additional 60 million liters of coco-biodiesel production per year.

In her speech during the inaugural ceremony, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said the Philippines is looking at the US, Australia and China as potential markets for coco-biodiesel.

Chemrez operations manager Dean Lao told reporters that the company is also looking at other European markets like France, Netherlands and Italy. Its existing export markets are Germany and Japan.

For now, however, Chemrez is still concentrating on the domestic market as its primary market.

"At this time we want to focus on the Philippine market," Lao said.

According to Lao, the passage of the Bio-Fuels Bill mandating the use of 1 percent blend of coco-biodiesel will serve as catalyst for the expansion of the market.

Due to the continuing uptick in world oil prices, there has been pressure on Congress to pass the Bio-Fuels Law this year.

The inauguration of the bio-diesel plant is a major boost to the Philippines' Energy Independence Agenda, which outlines the roadmap for the attainment of 60 percent energy self-sufficiency by 2010.

The country's annual diesel demand is about six billion liters. It is expected that the country's diesel consumption will be reduced by 540 million liters per year of every diesel vehicle in the country will use at least one percent for coco-biodiesel.

The President said this will "free our people" from the uncertainties of an energy supply heavily dependent on imported oil.

Chemrez is currently one of the three Department of Energy-accredited coco-biodiesel manufacturers in the country with an existing capacity of 15 million liters per annum.

With the additional 60 million liters production per year of Chemrez expected to come on stream in the next two days, the country now produces about 110 million liters of CME per year.

Of the 110 million liters, 25 million liters are being produced by Senbel while 10 million liters are being produced by RI Chemicals.

Energy Secretary Raphael Lotilla said the inauguration of the plant is one of the country's sustainable and long-term solutions to the rising oil prices.

"The inauguration of this bio-diesel plant comes on the heels of soaring oil prices. The use of CME or coco-biodiesel as an alternative transport fuel will reduce reliance on imported oil thus more foreign exchange savings for our country," Lotilla said.

Apart from foreign exchange savings, the use of coco-biodiesel as alternative transport fuels is expected to yield savings to motorists in terms of mileage efficiency.