Byline: David Cagahastian
President Arroyo stands by her policy of pursuing an alternative energy industry anchored on jatropha, amid fears that the world's preoccupation with alternative energy sources is eating up food production and driving prices upwards, as reflected by an impending rice crisis in the country.
Mrs. Arroyo said the government's faith that jatropha could reduce the dependency on imported oil does not affect food production since jatropha is planted in marginal lands and not in prime agricultural lands.
She said jatropha does not take up space that are used to grow rice, unlike in the United States, where the diversion of some corn produce as feedstock for ethanol is being blamed for increases in the prices of food.
"We can pursue both the alternative energy industry and programs on food security because jatropha is not planted in prime lands, and besides we have more funds to produce more food," she said in an interview with the Manila Bulletin and Radyo ng Bayan last week.
But while the government has increased the budget of the Department of Agriculture (DA) this year, it still depends on rice imports to ensure that supplies are adequate, and the increasing prices of imported rice would definitely be passed on to consumers, according to DA Secretary Arthur Yap.
The DA has a budget of P24. …