Government seeking alternatives to reduce dependence on imported oil In an attempt to reduce its dependence on imported oil, the Philippines is turning to coconuts, sugarcane, vegetables and volcanoes. The Independent Philippine Petroleum Companies Association has been working with the Department of Energy (DOE) to find alternative fuel sources and coconut diesel fuel has been under study. 'We aim to activate coco-diesel as an alternative fuel and introduce control mechanisms to ensure that we don't run out of it,' said association president Fernando Martinez. The DOE and the United States Energy Department were also working together to develop coco-diesel in the country, he added. One of the country's most successful alternative-fuel programmes is the tapping into geothermal energy, a renewable and abundant energy source given the country's volcanic geology. 'The Philippines remains the world's second-largest user of geothermal energy for power generation with 1,931MW [megawatts] of installed capacity,' the DOE said. Power generation from geothermal resources accounts for 19 per cent of the nation's total electricity requirement. And based on the 2003-2013 Philippine Energy Plan, about 860MW of additional geothermal capacity are expected to be put on stream in the next five years. As a back-up measure, Energy Secretary Vincent Perez said the government was working with foreign investors and other countries to accelerate oil and gas exploration in the Philippines. 'We have been talking with other Asean countries and China, Korea and Japan to improve oil and gas supply and to secure the region's energy resources,' he said. The DOE is also working with the country's research institutes to study vehicle fuel substitutes such as coco-diesel and the sugarcane-based ethanol blended fuel. Compressed natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas, bio-diesel, methanol, vegetable oils, electricity and hydrogen are other potential fuels under study. Mr Perez said the need to reduce foreign-oil dependency was urgent, given the nation's financial deficit. This year alone, the Philippines will spend about US$5 billion on imported diesel and petrol. In the five months to May, the country consumed 50.8 million barrels of oil, most of it imported. The government, which is struggling to contain its deficit, aims to reduce oil consumption by at least 23 million barrels to save US$784 million in foreign exchange a year. Still, the government's efforts to curb oil imports seem to be working. Based on DOE data, the country is now sourcing just over 50 per cent of its oil needs from abroad, a big drop from 92 per cent in 1973.