Michael Bengwayan: The revolutionary environmentalist

Do you think this finalist deserves to be the Pitong Pinoy "People's Choice" awardee?

Vote at Yahoo! PH Pitong Pinoy

Cordillera Ecological Center director Michael Bengwayan has a secret that can revolutionize the energy industry: that of extracting fuel from the petroleum nut, a plant endemic to the Philippines. Why is it revolutionary? "Because it can eliminate our dependence on LPG for cooking," he tells Yahoo! Southeast Asia.

Right now, the secret is known to people in four communities in Ifugao and the Mountain Province who have planted around 15,000 seedlings of the petroleum nut. The communities plan to form a cooperative to produce bio-fuel from the trees.

The trees need four to five years to mature so fuel can be harvested from the fruits, time enough for Bengwayan to spread the knowledge to other communities there.

He has developed a cold press that will allow households to extract a liter of fuel from 13 kilograms of petroleum nut fruit. "It's very simple," he says.

If it's so simple, why don't more people know about it? The answer is also simple: the government isn't interested in supporting research and production of fuel from petroleum nut. "I think I've done everything," he says. He has approached the Department of Energy as well as the chairs of the Senate and House committees on energy to no avail.

Bengwayan demonstrates the flammability of the petroleum nut (Photo courtesy of Art Tibaldo)

Although the government has ignored the petroleum nut, preferring the imported jatropha plant for a failed bio-fuel project, the plant has attracted the attention of a U.S.-based bio-fuel corporation. The bio-fuel corporation has already harvested petroleum nuts from Kabayan, Benguet and might soon apply for a patent for the use of the plant.

Bengwayan has applied for a Philippine patent for the petroleum nut to protect it from what he calls bio-piracy. He has yet to get the patent, though, because it costs too much time and money to process.Without a Philippine patent, Filipinos will soon lose the right to grow, process, and use the nuts for fuel Bengwayan warns."It’s going that way," he says, unless the government moves to develop the petroleum nut as a fuel source.

"That's why I'm teaching the communities, so we can prove that we've been doing it even before they got a patent," Bengwayan, who holds training seminars paid for with his own money, says. He said that when he realized there would be no government support for the project, he decided to just teach people how to plant and process the nut while he still can. 

"What we want is for Filipinos to benefit from this first," he says, and if that means spending his own money, and spending his birthday teaching residents of Sagada town in the Mountain Province how to cultivate and use the nuts, he considers it a gift to himself, to his people, and to the earth. Using bio-fuel will lessen the use of fossil fuels and will fight deforestation too, since locals will no longer have to cut down trees for firewood.

He adds the petroleum nut tree’s broad, thick leaves also make it an excellent carbon sink since it absorbs more carbon emissions than other trees.

Bengwayan is an environmental activist, a scientist, and has a doctorate in Environmental Research Management from the University College-Dublin in Ireland.

In his own words, though, he is an earth-healer. “I like feeling the soil in my hands knowing how much it does to make the world live,” he says on his blog.

“There is nothing that I like doing more than caring for the Earth. I love planting. I love working to see to it that soil is not wasted away by slides, erosion and mudflows  whether I plant trees or crops or anything that has roots reaching out for the soil,” he says. And that attitude is yet another secret he is trying hard to spread.

Read about the other Pitong Pinoy finalists here.

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Sy moves up, Villar enters Forbes list of billionaires
    Sy moves up, Villar enters Forbes list of billionaires

    Eleven Filipinos are included in Forbes’ 2015 list of richest people in the world. Filipino-Chinese tycoon Henry Sy Sr. continues to be the wealthiest man in the Philippines. The 90-year-old SM supermalls, banking and property tycoon ranked 73rd among the world’s richest with an increased net worth of $14.2 billion from $11.4 billion last year. Sy’s net worth was attributed to the continued growth of his SM Investments Corp. and his more recent venture, the City of Dreams Manila resort and …

  • Jolo apologizes to Bong in visit
    Jolo apologizes to Bong in visit

    Cavite Vice Gov. Jolo Revilla wept and embraced his father as he apologized for the “accidental” shooting incident in their Ayala Alabang residence, the family’s spokesman said yesterday. Lawyer Raymund Fortun came out of the private room at the Asian Hospital and Medical Center in Muntinlupa City to speak to reporters, who were barred from entering the hospital compound during the visit of Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. …

  • US billionaire says WWII Japanese ship found in Philippines
    US billionaire says WWII Japanese ship found in Philippines

    Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen said Wednesday he had found one of Japan's biggest and most famous battleships on a Philippine seabed, some 70 years after American forces sank it during World War II. Excited historians likened the discovery, if verified, to finding the Titanic, as they hailed the American billionaire for his high-tech mission that apparently succeeded after so many failed search attempts by others. Allen posted photos and video online of parts of what he said was the …

  • Australian drug smugglers being taken to Indonesian island for execution - media
    Australian drug smugglers being taken to Indonesian island for execution - media

    By Jane Wardell and Beawiharta SYDNEY/DENPASAR, Indonesia (Reuters) - Two convicted Australian drug smugglers were removed from a prison in Bali on Wednesday to be taken to an Indonesian island where they will be shot by firing squad, Australian media reported. The planned executions of Myuran Sukumaran, 33, and Andrew Chan, 31, have ratcheted up diplomatic tensions amid repeated pleas of mercy for the pair from Australia and thrown a spotlight on Indonesia's increasing use of the death …

  • World's oldest person wonders about secret to longevity too
    World's oldest person wonders about secret to longevity too

    TOKYO (AP) — The world's oldest person says 117 years doesn't seem like such a long time. …

  • Pacquiao big hit so far in Vegas sports books vs Mayweather

    LAS VEGAS (AP) — Manny Pacquiao has always believed he can do what 47 other fighters before him have failed to do — beat Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the ring. …

  • Another source of SAF execution video identified
    Another source of SAF execution video identified

    The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is still tracing the source of the video showing one of the wounded police commandos being finished off by Muslim rebels during the encounter in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last Jan. 25. A source from the Department of Justice (DOJ) said they have identified two persons who first uploaded the video that went viral over social networking sites. The supposed source of the video was elusive and claimed that somebody just placed it on an external drive. The …

  • US ambassador slashed in Seoul attack
    US ambassador slashed in Seoul attack

    The US ambassador to South Korea, Mark Lippert, was slashed on his face and arm by a blade-wielding assailant shouting anti-war slogans in an attack in Seoul Thursday, police and reports said. The United States strongly condemned the "act of violence" which left the ambassador bleeding profusely as he was rushed to hospital, and said that President Barack Obama had spoken with him. "The President called (Lippert) to tell him that he and his wife Robyn are in his thoughts and prayers, and to …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options