Sustainable Development in Negros island

A blog about the work of the Head of Mission at the UK embassy in Manila.

Readers of my blog may recall that in October I wrote about the non-profit organisation AIDFI from the Philippine island of Negros. AIDFI were finalists in the BBC World Challenge competition 2010, with their ram pump technology. As Ambassador I clearly couldn't "campaign" in support of the entry, but I was delighted when on 4 December they were announced as winners of the competition at the awards ceremony in the Netherlands. It's a great success story for the Philippines, and even better news for all the people who continue to benefit from AIDFI's low-cost technology in many different developing countries.

It reminds me that it's not the only example of sustainable development good practice in Negros. My first visit out of Manila as British Ambassador last year was to the sugarcane producing province of Negros Occidental, for the inauguration of the San Carlos Bionenergy project. This UK-invested project (by Bronzeoak plc) is designed to produce ethanol from sugarcane for use in car fuel, using 100% renewable energy sources - bagasse (sugarcane waste), methane and rubbish, all used to generate electricity. Surplus energy is delivered to the local grid. There are still some regulatory complications which the Philippine authorities need to address to ensure the viability of this and similar projects - but as a model for integrated renewable energy production, San Carlos is an inspiring example.

While I was in Bacolod (provincial capital), fellow Briton and features writer for the "Negros Daily Bulletin", Robert Harland, introduced me to the island's conservation group NFEFI - Negros Forests and Ecological Foundation. Before the 20th century, Negros was heavily forested, but massive logging changed all that. NFEFI has been at the forefront of efforts to address the impact of this on the island's fragile environment. As well as leading efforts in support of reforestation, their Biodiversity Conservation Center in Bacolod serves as a captive breeding and rescue station for many of the endemic and threatened animals found in Negros. Robert is on the board of NFEFI, and of course didn't pass up the opportunity to recruit me as a new NFEFI member.