The Next Evolution of the Coconut
Our favorite tree answers back to vehicle owners who cry out for cleaner environment and economic development.
The coconut is called ‘The Tree of Life’ because of the wide and ostentatious variety of products, not only with what its fruit, but even what its roots and bark, can furnish. Even the leaves play significant role to this moniker; not to mention components like carbohydrates, protein, calcium, phosphorous, icon, sodium, potassium, magnesium, copper, sulfur and chlorine that drinking the fresh coconut water entails. The tree provides food, shelter and fuel, making it one of the country’s contributory dynamics to its economic growth.
The industry, which started some 140 years ago, and is still in full bloom, first exported mature nuts that are dehusked. Around 80 of our national coconut production goes to foreign and neighboring countries like United States, Japan and Europe. The remaining 20% is distributed locally.
The country’s coconut industry consequentially plays a colossal role in the world’s coconut oil requirements; we supply 65% worldwide. On the other hand, 90% of the Philippine coconut production is processed into oil, fresh nut, canned/tetra pack coconut milk and buko.
Preserving the “tree of life”
Conversely, the vision of conserving the coconut genetic resources belongs to the coconut farmers all over the country and the coconut-producing countries’ countless programs. These millions of farmers have been conserving their coconut varieties on-farm for so many years now, and the Philippine coconut program of the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) has helped preserve selected attainments for the past decades.
PCA-Zamboanga’s Research Center plays home to one of the largest coconut field genebanks in the world. Presently, there are at least 200 coconut accessions consisting of Tall, Hybrid and Dwarf populations from the country and other countries that are planted at the Zamboanga Research Center.
Serving as foundations of relevant, advantageous and unique characters, these diverse coconut genetic resources are currently in use for the improvement of these coconut programs. These collections have already fulfilled the demanding requirements for genetically-improved coconut planting materials for the national replanting programs.
The applications of bio-technology for coconuts, which are currently and rapidly developing, facilitate genetic diversity work such as classification of the different types of coconut and their genetic mapping. This makes the identification of valuable characters like fruit quality, oil quality, high yield, precocity, drought tolerance and resistance to pest and diseases.
Chain of benefits
With the potential of the coconut industry strongly and continually booming, PCA carries on to take steps and means to help maintain the economic and environmental benefits of the tree of life. One of these is the coco-biodiesel.
Renewable and biodegradable diesel fuel extracted from the plant oil, the coco-biodiesel is a natural hydrocarbon that contains negligible sulfur content, which will substantially help the reduction of unhealthy emissions from diesel-fed engines. Other countries that have discovered the benefits of the coco-biodiesel fuel include Thailand, Canada, United States and some areas in Europe.
The Philippines’ coco-biodiesel is known as Coconut Methyl Ester (CME), derived from pure coconut oil. Compared to other forms of biodiesels, the medium carbon chain of CME offers better lubricity, solvency and detergency. This means that it gives better results in combustion, engine power and maintenance. These outstanding characteristics make the coco-biodiesel highly recommendable.
The use of the coco-biodiesel entails numerous environmental and health benefits, like lower emissions of nitrous oxide and sulfur oxide, which are main contributions to smog. Since it is renewable, plant-based and biodegradable, it also significantly reduces serious air pollutants such as black smoke and air toxics that cause lung cancer, pulmonary tuberculosis, pneumonia, bronchitis, heart attack and stroke.
The economic benefits of coco-biodiesel to vehicle owners and drivers are plenty as well. It cuts maintenance costs because of its superior lubricating and cleaning properties, promotes better, more efficient combustion and less engine vibration because of its higher cetane number and inherent oxygen content. Not only does it improve fuel economy by as much as 20%, it also boosts engine power and acceleration, which would produce more mileage and big savings per liter.
The coconut industry is also benefited in the process, providing and establishing long-term and sustainable alternative domestic markets; and in turn, stabilizing the domestic price of copra. At the same time, more income opportunities spring from the farm-based reintegration of the local coconut production.
The approximately 3.5 million coconut farmers in the country and 20 million other Filipinos will reap rewards from this product. Not only will coco-biodiesel spearhead the introduction of the ester industry in the country, which will open and create more job opportunities, it will also provide a potential high-value export product. The Philippines will also be promoted among the huge bio-fuel industry as well, and equally, will be part of the enhanced energy supply through the use of indigenous resources that will result in foreign exchange savings.
Coco-biodiesel can be used in any diesel engine with little or no modification to the engine or fuel system. Blending the coco-biodiesel also improves the quality of the diesel fuel because it protects our engines from wear, cleans our fuel system and the combustion chamber where most of the carbons are deposited.
While the World Fuel Charter, published by all automotive manufacturers worldwide, confers that blending 5% of coco-biodiesel is most effective, studies show that a 1% mix is enough to significantly reduce emissions.
While it would seem like we’re splurging more on our fuel spending, we gain more mileage per liter with the use of the coco-biodiesel. Our savings will amount to about Pi per additional kilometer traveled. And in the long run, save more and help the environment.
Coco-Biodiesel is distributed on outlets by manufacturers and suppliers accredited by the Department of Energy (DOE), which all comply with the Philippine National Standards (PNE 2020:2003). In addition, critical steps of instituting coco-biodiesel have been taken by the President of the Republic of the Philippines by issuing Memorandum Circular No. 55 on February 2004, directing all departments, bureaus, offices, agencies, and instrumentalities of the government-owned and controlled corporations.
With the different benefits of the coco-biodiesel and all the support it has been getting, we can be assured that there will be more sustainable and strategic approaches in cleaning the air and energizing the economy; and surely, more of us will look forward to further evolutions of our favorite tree.