By Reynaldo E. Andres
BATAC CITY–Three proposed multi-million peso projects of the Mariano Marcos State University (MMSU), whose main campus is located in this city, are set for implementation next year, university officials reported.
These projects are the National Renewable Energy Research and Innovation Center (NRERIC) and the Garlic Research Center (GRC), which are national in scope; and a modern stadium with a rubberized oval.
MMSU President Shirley Agrupis said an initial P150 million fund for the establishment of the national NRERIC was assured by Senator Loren Legarda after submitting her proposal to Sen. Cynthia Villar, chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture.
She said the NRERIC will serve as hub of all renewable energy centers in the country and a laboratory for MMSU’s Professional Science Master on Renewable Energy Engineering course.
“Because biofuel is our banner program in MMSU, Sen. Legarda has approved the P150 million for the first two years for the establishment of the center,” she said adding that the project was immediately endorsed by the Department of Energy (DOE), Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA), and various bioenergy stakeholders.
Dr. Agrupis said Sen. Legarda wanted the NRERIC to be a national center instead of being regional in scope and DOE Secretary Alfonso Cusi will spearhead the drafting of a national program that focuses on nipa as feedstock for bio-ethanol. In line with this, Sen. Win Gachalian has also asked DOE and SRA to direct all their resources to MMSU for the development of nipa bioethanol feedstock.
Dr. Agrupis said Sen. Legarda advised DOE and SRA to minimize too much researches, but they should delegate their research work to MMSU so that the university can focus more on nipa. The senator wants this national RERIC center to be deployed in Ilocos.
Aside from the P150 million as a start up fund, Sen. Legarda has pledged another P20 million for every year thereafter for the sustainability of the center. The budget, she said, will be released in 2018.
“I am deeply honored because of all higher education institutions (HEIs) in the country, only MMSU was invited in the Senate meeting as an academic resource institution in the evaluation of the Biofuel Act,” Dr. Agrupis said.
The MMSU president also said that in that Senate meeting, everybody was given the chance to give their justification why the government should continue to implement the Biofuel Act of 2006.
“On technical justification, they focused on the feedstock, because the facilities for bio-ethanol are already in place, large-scale industries are already in place, and the biofuel outlook is there,” Dr. Agrupis said, noting that the country still cannot meet the demand for ethanol especially for the 10% needed as mixture of gasoline, thus, the Philippines still imports 60% ethanol from other countries.
Records show that nipa crops cannot substitute sugarcane, because the present palm plantation can only sustain 19 to 20 percent of the total ethanol demand.
“That is why I justified it since biofuel is the flagship project of MMSU and we have embraced all kinds of feedstocks. All of them have potential, but when we talk of sustainability, we focus on nipa. For economic reasons, acceptability and sustainability, nipa is the best,” she beamed.
Also, Dr. Agrupis said she was already assured of the P25 million allocation from the office of Sen, Richard Gordon for the construction of a modern grandstand and stadium with a rubberized oval, and another P57 million from Sen. Cynthia Villar for the construction of a modern GRC.
“The MMSU’s 39-year-old sports oval should now be rehabilitated because it caters to numerous sporting, social and even religious activities in the province. A rubberized oval will not only become an institution to develop athletes, but also an important and necessary element for good health among the student and staff,” said Prof. Arsenio Gallego, director of the university’s Center for Human Movements and Studies (CHuMS).
He said a modern GRC is needed to revitalize the garlic industry since the crop is now facing numerous problems and the production has not been improved significantly during the past decades that resulted in farmers’ low profitability. (By Reynaldo E. Andres)