September 4, 2016 by Stephen Bentley
Bacolod Focus: The Fusion of the Sugarcane and Energy Industries
A further article from the ‘Cane Points’ series written by Butch Bacaoco. In fact this was his introductory article that appeared in the Negros Daily Bulletin.
For those of you interested in Bacolod and the Philippines, I hope you find it as informative as I do.
Though I resigned three years ago as editor-in-chief of another Bacolod-based newspaper, I have stayed on the fringe of mainstream media, maintaining warm relations with friends I have met during my stint. It is one of these friends who gave me the opportunity to revive my column “Cane Points” here at Negros Daily Bulletin (NDB). Salamat gid, pre!
“Cane Points” is basically understood as ”patdan”, the sugarcane planting material. Patdan is cultivated primarily for sugar production but, with the advent of ethanol and electric power generation from sugarcane and its by-products, the cane has become a more versatile, strategic crop. In fact, alternative energy advocates refer to it as the “energy cane”.
The fusion between the sugar and energy industries has now bestowed upon the cane more “talking points” than just its sweet product. Hence, I titled this column “Cane Points” because I will be writing on various points or topics touching the sugarcane and energy industries.
Since this is my first column for NDB, allow me to indulge in the “soft” matters before we go to the nitty-gritty. This is my way of asking your indulgence to give me some time to work off the writing rust which has accumulated in my system.
Most of my life was spent in Victorias City, home of what was once the largest sugar refinery in Asia. However, I learned more about the sugar industry during my tenure with the National Federation of Sugarcane Planters (NFSP) than during my more than three decades stay in Victorias.
Under the tutelage of NFSP President Enrique D. Rojas, I learned valuable insights into the dynamics of the industry direct from the industry leaders themselves. Through Nene Rojas and the other NFSP officers, I gained access to the world of other sugarcane industry stakeholders.
Cane Points first saw print in another newspaper about eight years ago. It gained a modest following. The subjects I discussed and the statistics I presented prompted the late Primo Esleyer to invite me as a resource person in his talk show “Feedback”.
Sir Primo introduced me as an expert in the sugar industry. I demurred, explaining that I was just a student doing painstaking research on the industry. If there are people who can be considered as sugar industry experts, then they are none other than the illustrious gurus, namely the late Primo Esleyer and the still very active Modesto Sa-onoy, Rolly Espina and Henry Streegan.
Let me share a piece of trivia. Feedback was a show originally conceptualized and sponsored by NFSP during the time of Cong. Armando Gustilo with Primo Esleyer as its long-running host. After my first appearance with Sir Primo at Feedback, he invited me to join him again, this time as co-host. Eventually, he asked me to take over the hosting chores of the program, as he admitted that he was getting weaker by the day.
Unfortunately, by the time Sir Primo tendered the hosting chores of Feedback to me, I already accepted the long-standing offer to handle the local paper where my column was published. As editor-in-chief, I couldn’t be the face of the local paper and simultaneously be an independent talk show host.
It was also during this time (late 2010) that the Philippine Sugar Research Institute Foundation (Philsurin) was looking for somebody to handle its corporate communications. I submitted an application but, by the time Philsurin replied and scheduled an interview, I had already committed to handle the local paper.
Still I attended the interview, out of respect to personally inform then Philsurin head Leon Arceo that I was no longer in the job market. The following day, Sir Leon and I met at the airport while he was on his way back to Manila and I was flying to Cebu. He told me that Philsurin had been eyeing to hire me, had I been available.
Well, that’s what commitment means. No halfway with it.
From late 2010 until after the 2013 elections, I inhaled and exhaled, ate and slept (however little) and essentially lived for that paper to which I committed myself. I don’t think any of my former colleagues will dispute that.
After a three-year hiatus, I am back to clicking these keyboards, churning out this column with the same commitment.
It seems I can’t dispense with writing, in the same manner that we all can’t do without sugar.
Glad to be back! *
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