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    Bioethanol distilling facility launched in Cagayan, Philippines

    With over a decade of bioethanol research, the Mariano Marcos State University has launched a Village-Scale Nipahol Technology (VSNPT) in Cagayan, Philippines – enabling ordinary people to produce their own 70% alcohol and sanitizers out of their nipas.

    In Brgy. Navagan, Western Aparri on March 14, MMSU President Shirley C. Agrupis (PSCA) led the launching of the VSNPT, a 150-liter facility able to produce almost 12 liters of 95% nipa-sap-based bioethanol per operation, which can be processed into 70% Nipahol.

    Nipahol is a high-grade bioethanol produced from nipa sap using MMSU’s proprietary fermentation and distillation technologies.

    The deployment of the VSNPT is part of the program dubbed Technology Franchising of VSNPT for Community Empowerment during the Pandemic, funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) – Science Technology, Research and Innovation for Development (STRIDE) program. In April last year, MMSU received Php 4-million through USAID-STRIDE’s WARP (Widening Application of Research within the Pandemic).

    The program chose to deploy the facility in Aparri because of its wide nipa stand area, nearing 500 hectares.

    Ms. Lea Saboya, president of the Kalalakihan, Kababaihan, Kaakibat (KKK), the main technology adopters, committed the group to be proactive in capacity building activities “so that we can have a fully functional VSNPT.”

    Aparri Mayor Bryan Dale Chan expressed gratitude to MMSU for leading said initiative that “ensures our natural resources like nipa are utilized by the people.” “Ito’y tiyak na makatutulong na maiangat ang kalagayang sosyo-ekonomiko [ng ating mga mamamayan]”, he added. [This project will surely uplift the socio-economic status of our residents.]

    This was echoed by Philippine Senator Win Gatchalian, key benefactor of the MMSU bioethanol project, who himself hails from Aparri. Commending MMSU for forwarding the country’s renewable energy program, the senator remarked, “lalo na sa panahon na naiipit tayo sa pagtaas ng presyo ng produktong petrolyo.” […especially now that we struggle with fuel hike.]

    As chair of the senate committee on energy, Senator Gatchalian provided immense support to MMSU’s bioethanol project. In 2017, he, together with Senator Loren Legarda, the then-chair of the senate committee of finance, provided a Php 200-million fund to MMSU to establish the National Bioenergy Research and Innovation Center (NBERIC).

    Said project was also made possible through the assistance of Rep. Lord Allan Velasco of Marinduque who helped craft the proposal.

    PSCA believes that, “the deployment of the facility to the grassroots implies the vertical integration of the nipa community and the bioethanol industry.”

    She added this will empower farmers to be both feedstock producers and technology operators, explaining the nipa farmers will directly operate the VSNPT.

    MMSU will teach them on how to do fermentation, distillation and production of alcohol and alcogels, and about good manufacturing practices, packaging and labeling of products, and entrepreneurship.

    In addition, MMSU will conduct a feasibility study to know nipahol’s sustainability and inclusivity as a business enterprise in Aparri.

    The university will also standardize the formulation of nipahol, and nipahol gel, and will do product quality and efficacy tests to obtain certification from the Food and Drug Authority. This will be done through a side-by-side laboratory analysis with certified laboratories and in-house researchers.

    To improve cost-efficiency and power efficiency, NBERIC will explore if a solar-powered distiller can be an alternative to the fuel wood-powered distiller.

    To date, MMSU has deployed 4 units 850L and 1 unit 150L reflux distiller in nipa communities in Pamplona, Cagayan; 1 unit 850L in Bugallon, Pangasinan; and 1 unit 150L each in Marinduque State University (MSU) and Central Luzon State University (CLSU). At MMSU, NBERIC maintains 2 units 150L and 1 unit 850L for continuous research and development activities and bulk production of bioethanol.

    The university now has seven partner SUCs namely, Aklan State University, Cagayan State University, Pangasinan State University, University of Antique and Western Philippines University, MSU and CLSU. Other partners include the Department of Energy, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Philippine Rice Institute, Department of Science and Technology, Department of Agriculture, USAID-STRIDE, Ethanol Producers of the Philippines, Sugar Regulatory Administration, and local government units.

    Joining PSCA in the official VSNT launching were Dr. Bjorn Santos, research director, Dr. Marilou Lucas, extension director, Dr. Roque Ulep, chemist, Prof. Marly Cacatian, sociologist, and Mr. Lord Heindritch Casil, social development officer.

    PSCA vowed, “We will deploy another 150L distilling facility soon in Aparri. We will also explore running the town’s floating restaurant using our bioethanol – all these to ensure that research will work for and be embraced by the people.”