PRA, Japanese firm ink deal on Buenavista reclamation

By Dave S. Albarado

If things stay on course, Buenavista could have found its ticket out of poverty, and may become an economic rockstar for the province.

A fortune awaits Buenavista once the Jatropha processing plant will be realized with the arrival of a Japanese investor willing to put up the plant, spurring growth to the town.

Buenavista Mayor Ronald Lowell Tirol said he envisions his town to become a “city” soon, once the plans for a jathropa processing plant will be realized.

The department heads and other town officials, including Buenavista Vice-Mayor Dave Duallo were on hand during the signing of the memorandum of cooperation between the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) and the Aoyama Jathropa Trading Corporation (AJTC) in simple ceremonies at the Metro Center Hotel on Friday, April 13, 2018.

Lawyer Janito Rubiato general manager of the Philippine Reclamation Author signed a memorandum of cooperation (MOC) with the Aoyama Jathropa Trading Corporation (AJTC) for the “reclamation of 40 hectares” in the existing marginal wharf in Buenavista town.

Duallo read a portion of the memorandum which explains the concept behind the cooperation.

However, the final version of the MOC will be returned to the the PRA board for revisions as Tirol and Duallo pushed for the inclusion of the Buenavista local government unit (LGU) as party to the cooperation.

The vision is that Buenavista will be the hub, which jatropha oil will be processed and exported to Japan.

Tirol said in the past Filipinos go to Japan to seek greener pastures, with the plant, Japanese people will now be coming to Buenavista and Bohol to do some business and perhaps sightseeing.

Buenavista mayor said the project will transform the town from a “problematic” area towards a bustling city.

It is envisioned the processing plant will be producing 50,000 metric tons of jatropha oil to be exported to Japan.

The company is also looking for 40,000 hectares to be used as jathropa plantation. To make the enterprise more feasible, the transport cost should be lowered and ideally the plantation should be within Bohol or nearby provinces.

Isao Aoyama led the AJTC in the signing of the MOC.

Aoyama expressed his appreciation for the help he has been getting to make the project work.

Speaking through an interpreter, the Japanese businessman relies on symbiosis to make the project a success.

Aoyama said Buenavista is lucky because of the economic development that the processing plant will bring to the town.

RECLAIMING THE LAND

The processing plant will have a port component which will cater to panamax vessels that will transport the finished products to Asian countries.

Rubiato said the MOC is just a start since the AJTC will submit all the requirements before the process of reclamation will start including all the environmental studies.

He assured the environmentalists the law will be observed and the impact will be assessed thoroughly.

Tirol said he is excited about the prospects of the plant as it will surely spur economic growth not just for his town, but for the entire country.

He said aside from the plant, the town also has a ship yard that can provide more opportunities for livelihood.

Buenavista town is also one of the towns near the friendship bridge that will be built to connect Bohol to Cebu.

BACKGROUND

The PRA is the one tasked to regulate all reclamation activities in the country. Thus, the agency is engaging in partnerships with the private sector or LGUs with interests to reclaim land.

Rubiato said it is within the mandate of the PRA to see to it the proposals for reclamation is in order.

The PRA needs to make sure all of the environmental concerns are taken cared of. This way, the impact on the environment of reclaiming land can be mitigated.

Rubiato clarified the MOC is not a permit yet to reclaim land.

“It is just an expression that every party to the memorandum will collaborate towards the success of the project,” he said.

He also said one of the components the proponents need to submit to the PRA will be the approval of the local government units both the town and province on the project.

The PRA’s involvement is to assist the LGU and the proponent so that there would be proper guidance.

Rubiato there is always an engineering solution to reduce if not mitigate the impact of any reclamation project.

He said the proponent will be the one that will submit the studies and other requirements. After the submission, the PRA will start the process for the approval for the reclaimation.

WHY RECLAMATION?

The project needs a large tract of land. The potential lands inward are already titled and owned by various persons. It will be a gargantuan task to consolidate the needed land such as the processing plant project, said Rubiato.

Since the project has a port component, given Buenavista has no longer any land available for purchase of the investors near the water—Rubiato said it makes sense to reclaim land.

GOVERNOR’S MESSAGE

Gov. Edgar Chatto wasn’t able to attend the signing ceremonies but sent Provincial Legal Officer lawyer Mitchel John Boiser.

In the message read by Boiser, the governor reiterated the importance of protecting the environment.

Boiser said the Boholanos are more than willing to welcome investors and development in the province. The opening of the new airport spurs more investments to provide more opportunities for livelihood.

He thanked the PRA for the collaborative effort for the jathropa processing plant.

The legal officer said projects such as reclaiming land the issue on the environment should be considered. Environmental protection, said Boiser, is one of the mandates of the province.

There shouldn’t be any problem, Boiser said, as long as projects comply with the necessary studies and clearances with the aim to protect the environment.

JATROPHA OIL EXPLAINED

Jatropha oil is an alternative fossil fuel and the potency of the oil has been known throughout the Asian content, but the Philippines is lagging behind.

The oil is mainly used as a bio-diesel blend. The cultivation, according to experts, has plenty of advantages compared to any other plants.

As an alternative fuel, the oil blend has the potential to end over reliance from fossil fuels.

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