Saturday, March 11, 2006

Pinoy's coconet tops BBC World Challenge


LEGAZPI CITY, Albay -- Agricultural engineer Justino Arboleda of the Philippines won the first prize in the First World Challenge contest sponsored by BBC World television in London on Nov. 17 for his soil erosion control net or coconet.

Coconet, made from waste coconut husk, was adjudged the best environmental grassroots project in the world. It was among 456 entries from 90 countries.

Malta, which introduced a biodiesel product, took the second prize, while Vanuatu was in third place for its rechargeable battery.

From 12 finalists, the field was cut down to three.

Fifty percent of one's score was given by the judges and the other 50 percent by votes cast on the Internet, according to Arboleda's wife Julie. She, however, could not give the exact number of the Internet votes her husband received.

Arboleda, who is still in London, told the Inquirer in a text message that he received the award at 7 p.m. (London time) on Nov. 17, [2 a.m. on Nov. 18 in the Philippines). He also received a cash prize of $20,000.

The winners will be featured by the BBC in a special program on Dec. 3 and 4 and by Newsweek magazine in its Dec. 3 issue, according to the agricultural engineer.

Arboleda said winning the first prize was a great honor for the country.

"With the world recognition, it would be very easy for us to promote our cocofiber products throughout the world," he said.

He expressed confidence that increased demand for coconet would help alleviate poverty in the country because more jobs would be created. He said demand for coconut materials would also benefit thousands of poor Filipino coconut farmers.

Coconet is manufactured by Juboken Enterprise, which Arboleda owns.

His coconut husk business was featured by the Inquirer in January. It has provided jobs for at least 1,650 families in the Bicol region and other parts of the country.

About 800 families have benefited from the venture in Albay province, 400 in Mindanao, 150 in Aklan and 300 in Southern Leyte.

Arboleda has also developed other uses for the different waste products generated by his coconut farm. These include doormats, stuffing for car seats and mattresses, and fertilizer (made from coconut dust).

source: PDI 11.21.05

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