CNO in soapmaking pushed

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    Coconut industry stakeholders are calling for the reimposition of a rule mandating the use of local coconut oil in the production of soaps and detergents.

    In a virtual briefing yesterday, Evelina Patiño, president and chief executive officer of United Coconut Chemicals Inc., said government in 2000 stopped the implementation of Executive Order (EO) 259 series of 1987 which led to a loss of 150,000 metric tons (MT) daily consumption of coconut oil.

    It also resulted to a reduction in exports of locally-produced oleochemicals which led to an increase in imports of petroleum-based raw materials for detergents and soaps.

    The EO mandated the soap and detergent surfactant industry to increase the use of chemicals derived from coconut oil to at least 20 percent initially, which was later raised to 60 percent to protect the environment from the use of harsh chemicals.

    Patiño said reimposing the requirement will effectively create an additional market for CNO. Per capita consumption of detergents in the Philippines is about 5.2 kilograms.

    “It will also provide a baseload for oleochemical plants and lead to production of specialty oleochemical products. At the same time, it will reduce dependence on petroleum-based raw materials and allows the utilization of excess methyl ester capacity,” Patiño said.

    She added government can look into how EO 259 can be revived, using a revised guidelines to consider new developments in the industry.

    Dean Lao Jr., chairman of the United Coconut Associations of the Philippines, in the briefing said consumers now recognize the benefits of using CNO-derived chemicals compared to those from hydro carbon and palm sources.

    Lao, however, said “the merits should be translated into consumer speak” to get the support of government and lawmakers.

    Trade Undersecretary Rafaelita Aldaba said government supports calls to find an alternative market for CNO but noted production of coconut must also be improved.

    “We need to improve and increase capacity of our coconut industry since it will be the source of all raw materials. In the present value chain, there are so many products competing for coconut as raw material but production of coconuts itself is not expanding,” she added.

    Aldaba said an existing law, Republic Act 8970 which prohibits the manufacture, importation, distribution and sale of laundry and industrial detergents containing hard surfactants is favorable to the local oleochemicals industry.

    Most coconut trees in the country are now senile with a low productivity at 45 nuts per tree annually.

    According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, the country produced14,765,057.06 MT of coconuts with husk in 2019, a 0.3 percent improvement from 2018’s 14,726,165.43 MT.