Wake Up, Philippines!

Protest vs BNPP evokes EDSA scenes

Posted in BNPP, Congress, DOE, Energy, Entertainment, Legislation, Social Issues/Concerns by Erineus on February 24, 2009

BALANGA CITY, Philippines—Evoking scenes from the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution, residents of Bataan and neighboring provinces clutched rosaries, carried images of the Virgin Mary and prayed as they marched here Monday in protest of a plan to reopen the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) located in this city.

Meeting in front of St. Joseph Cathedral, nuns, tribal folk, environmental groups, students and parish leaders joined the protest in response to a call from Balanga Bishop Socrates Villegas to block a bill reviving the facility built during the administration of the late President Ferdinand Marcos but later mothballed because of safety concerns and corruption issues.

Authored by Pangasinan Rep. Mark Cojuangco, son of business tycoon Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, with Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo, eldest son of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as co-author, the measure seeks to revive the $2.3-billion BNPP purportedly to address the problem of global warming and an impending power crisis in the country by 2012.

“Let’s stand up for each other like we did at EDSA in 1986,” Villegas said, reading from a pastoral statement during Mass.

More than 15 priests concelebrated the Mass with Villegas, who had served as secretary to the late Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin, one of the EDSA revolt’s major players.

Pope Benedict XVI and the late Pope John Paul II only advocated safe nuclear science for health purposes and for the welfare of humankind and nature, Villegas said.

He added that reputable geologists like Dr. Kelvin Rodolfo had advised against the nuclear plant’s revival because of the possibility of a volcanic eruption and an earthquake at the site, while Dr. Nicanor Perlas, an environmentalist, said the BNPP was built without experts monitoring its construction.

“All the priests and nuns here have stood up to the BNPP to give a voice to Bataan,” he said. “Our parishioners see it as a threat to their health and life.”

A separate rally was held Sunday by the international environmental organization Greenpeace, its affiliates and their families on the University of the Philippines campus in Diliman, Quezon City.

Greenpeace and the Network Opposed to BNPP have stepped up its campaign against the plant, urging congressmen to withdraw their signatures from House Bill 4631.

The alleged “undue haste” in the passing of the bill in the energy committee headed by Mikey Arroyo had also been questioned by critics. With a report from Nikko Dizon

By Tonette Orejas
Central Luzon Desk
First Posted 05:33:00 02/24/2009

http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/inquirerheadlines/nation/view/20090224-190693/Protest-vs-BNPP-evokes-EDSA-scenes

Anti-nuclear and ‘pro-life’

Posted in Abortion, Congress, Contraception, DOE, Energy, Entertainment, Family Planning, Legislation by Erineus on February 24, 2009

That was a most compelling photo on the front page of Monday’s Philippine Daily Inquirer. Hundreds of people seated on the grassy grounds of the Sunken Garden in University of the Philippines, Diliman, forming the words “No to BNPP,” their graphic way of declaring their objections to the re-opening of the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant.

The measure is currently being debated in the House appropriations committee, after it passed the committee on energy headed by Rep. Mikey Arroyo. Main sponsor Rep. Mark Cojuangco has argued that the only way to stop climate change and achieve energy security in this country is through nuclear power.

Speaking of the human graphic, which the group helped organize, the Greenpeace Southeast Asia campaigns manager for the Philippines, Beau Baconguis, said it was “a statement of the people’s opposition to the revival of the BNPP. Congressman Cojuangco’s plans to ‘validate’ with the purpose of reviving, and commissioning, this nuclear plant is the height of irresponsibility and arrogance. The BNPP was mothballed for safety reasons which today still remain undisputed by any expert or study.”

* * *

And if anyone has reason to fear the presence of an operational nuclear power plant, that would be the people living near it, who would arguably be the first to feel the effects — including being killed — as a result of any accident, mishap or neglect involved in running the plant.

Yesterday, residents of Bataan, among them members of the Catholic clergy and hierarchy, took part in a rally against the plant’s reopening. The march and rally drew various sectors from all corners of Bataan, among them youth and parish delegations and civil society groups, converging at the Balanga Cathedral.

Among the invited speakers were Msgr. Tony Dumaual who was parish priest of Morong, Bataan, where the BNPP is located, in the 1970s when construction on the power plant began. Dr. Nicanor Perlas, who headed the presidential commission tasked to investigate the safety standards of the nuclear power plant in the 1980s, was also invited.

If the intent is to delay or reverse the effects of global warming, then reviving the BNPP makes little sense, avers Green Peace. Said Baconguis: “Our congressmen must face the simple, indisputable facts: 1) Nuclear power is the most dangerous way to generate electricity, there is also no known scientific solution to safely storing plutonium and its deadly radioactive waste-product which remains radiotoxic for 200,000 years; 2) it is the most expensive source of power: aside from pricey construction costs, nuclear power involves expenses for decommissioning, as well as storage for nuclear waste, each of which can cost as much as a new power plant; 3) it cannot solve climate change — the contribution it can potentially make is negligible, especially if you consider that the processing of uranium as fuel uses so much electricity; and 4) importing more fuel, in this case uranium, is not the way to achieve energy security.”

* * *

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile has been quoted as saying that he “had always been pro-life” and that he would only support so-called “artificial methods” of family planning “as long as it will not destroy life.”

The Senate president was referring to recent developments in the ongoing committee deliberations on the Reproductive Health Bill, with the representative of the bishops angrily walking out of a recent technical working group meeting. The House version of the bill has already been reported out of committee but faces a very long queue of interpellators who are bent on wasting the time of legislators rather than shedding more light on the measure.

Enrile was perhaps referring to the contention of some conservative groups that some methods of contraception are actually “abortifacients,” that is, they induce abortion. There is a clash of opinion on this matter, based on one’s belief on when “life” begins. The religious right insists that life begins the moment sperm and egg meet. The scientific community, though, considers a pregnancy “viable” only when the fertilized ovum successfully implants itself in the wall of the uterus.

I find myself agreeing with the evidence-based argument, for there is no way a fertilized ovum can develop into a fetus unless it is first implanted in the mother’s womb. We must also contend with the large numbers of fertilized ova that do not develop further, most probably because they were “blighted” from the start. And what do we do about ectopic pregnancies, a condition that endangers the mother’s health when the fertilized ovum stops its journey to the uterus and remains in the fallopian tube?

A woman I met recently told me about the time she had an ectopic pregnancy and her doctor opted to wait until the zygote grew big enough to threaten her life before she was operated on. Was it part of the doctor’s “ethics” and “conscience” to put her patient in peril because of her qualms about excising “live” tissue?

* * *

But while conservative forces and their allies dither about the fate of fertilized ova, women are dying by the hundreds each year in this country as a result of getting pregnant or while giving birth. In a policy outlining new guidelines for maternal and newborn care, the Department of Health said one of the factors that put mothers and babies at risk is that of “having mistimed, unplanned, unwanted and unsupported pregnancy.” A healthy pregnancy and safe delivery actually begin with choice, with the free decision of a woman to get pregnant given her ability to look after herself and the baby sheltering in her womb.

But when policies withhold contraceptives from the women who most need these, then the policies could only result in more women “dying to give life.”

By Rina Jimenez-David
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:02:00 02/24/2009

http://opinion.inquirer.net/inquireropinion/columns/view/20090224-190656/Anti-nuclear-and-pro-life

Countries turn to resource-efficient, less-carbon-emitting technologies

Posted in DOE, Energy, Environment by Erineus on February 18, 2009

More countries are turning to more resource-efficient, less carbon-emitting, and less water-consuming systems as compelled by a global effort to mitigate the impact of predicted increasing temperature.

A Year Book released by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) noted that an international consciousness on global warming over the last decade has caused a shift to more environment-friendly practices in the use of resources.

In construction, at least 10 percent of domestic construction work has already moved up to resource-efficient technologies as reported by the McGraw-Hill Construction Analytics.

“The United Kingdom for example has launched a voluntary industry agreement aimed at cutting by half (by 12.5 million tons) in 2012 the amount of construction waste going to landfill. It could recover materials worth an estimated billion,” UNEP reported.

Governments have already introduced programs that eliminate carbon emission in construction of buildings. These include Canada, France, and the UK where certain buildings are being designed to be energy neutral.

Instead of using fossil fuel-based energy, such structures make use of solar and combined heat and power systems enough to supply electricity need of these buildings.

While there are about 880 million people internationally that do not have enough access to clean water and 2.5 billion lack proper sanitation, efforts to cut water consumption in various sectors have been noted.

From chemical means of treating pulp (used for paper), a paper mill in Finland has turned to the use of thermo-mechanical ways of treating pulp, and has also constructed a biological wastewater treatment facility that enables water reuse. This generates savings in water use by up to 90 percent.

In India, the use of zinc in synthetic fiber for textile manufacturing is cutting water use by 80 percent of a fabric producer from its former use of aluminum in textile production. This Indian textile company now channels clean water for irrigation in neighboring farms.

A sugarcane manufacturing system in Mexico now cuts water use by 90 percent through the separation of process water from sewage water. In Sao Paolo, Brazil, a Spanish construction firm managing a 300-kilometer highway has enabled rainwater to replenish groundwater through its road system that channels rainwater to 250 dams that have a two million cubic meter-capacity.

With this global consciousness on reversing climate change’s effects, UNEP noted an increasing ice cover in the Arctic Sea in 2008, although it is still minimal at just 10 percent more than in 2007.

“While 2008 saw 10 per cent more ice cover than in 2007, the lowest figure on record, it was still more than 30 per cent below the average for the past three decades.. (Year) 2008 had the second smallest area of Arctic sea-ice left following the summer thaw since satellite monitoring began in 1979,” noted the Year Book.

It is apparent that mere natural melting may not be the cause of the loss of ice sheets in Greenland at its 100 cubic kilometer per year ice sheet melting. This turning into water of the Greenland ice sheet can raise sea level by six meters, it was estimated.

These facts have been causing an alarm for environmentalists along with observations of the opening of the Northern Sea Route “along the Arctic Siberian coast.”

“The two passages have probably not been open simultaneously since before the last ice age some 100,000 years ago.”

Because of the many manifestations of climate change, the Year Book said that “urgent action is needed to curb greenhouse gas emissions, not least because some of the natural carbon storage systems or ‘sinks’ may be losing their absorption capacity raising the spectre of a runaway greenhouse effect.”

By Melody M. Aguiba
http://www.mb.com.ph/BSNS20090218148380.html

Public to pay for BNPP revival—solons

Posted in DOE, Energy, Social Issues/Concerns by Erineus on February 11, 2009

MANILA, Philippines – The public will partly shoulder the cost of reviving the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) that is being pushed at the House of Representatives as an alternative and cheaper source of energy for the country.

House Bill 4631 or the “Bataan Nuclear Power Plant Commissioning Act of 2008″, authored by Representative Mark Cojuangco, intends to raise as much as $1 billion, to be sourced from the 10-centavo per kilowatt hour surcharge of the total electric power generated and which would be collected from consumers and international or domestic loans.

On Tuesday’s hearing at the House of Representatives, members of the committee on appropriation engaged anew in debates on the funding for the plant’s rehabilitation, decommissioning, and commercial operation.

Albay Representative Edcel Lagman questioned why funds should be sourced from the General Appropriations Act, or the annual budget, to be able to operate the plant again.

Cojuangco agreed to delete that contentious portion, but maintained that Section 22 of the bill, which provides the 10 centavos surcharge and the loans, should stay.

“Section 22 is still unacceptable because of the surcharge and the international and domestic loan agreements. The surcharge will be levied to consumers even before the plant starts running. … We heard from the Department of Finance that the government is still financing for the principal and interest of the BNPP . . . it’s not even fully paid for. . . . So it would be like throwing good money after bad,” Akbayan partylist Representative Risa Hontiveros told the committee.

Bayan Muna Representative Teodoro Casiño said removing the section of the source of the funding would be “deceptive and misleading” since it would still be the government that would impose the 10-centavo surcharge.

And when government borrows, Casiño said that payments would be made through automatic appropriations, which would, in effect, mean getting the money from the annual budget.

Cojuangco countered that having the plant as a source of energy would save the public P2 per kilowatt hour. And shelling out a measly 10 centavos per kilowatt hour would make the consumers owners of the plant.

With the P2 per kilowatt hour savings, the consumers will save at least P9 billion annually, Cojuangco added.

The committee will hold another hearing to vote on the “appropriation language” of the bill, but Hontiveros vowed to block it, saying the revival of the plant will need further study.

Pope against nuke for power

Posted in DOE, Energy, Graft and Corruption, Social Issues/Concerns by Erineus on February 11, 2009

MANILA, Philippines—It appears the pope and another ranking Vatican official were misquoted on the use of nuclear energy by a local politician.

Pope Benedict XVI supports the use of nuclear energy but only for improving the medical field and helping the poor but not for generating electricity, Balanga Bishop Socrates Villegas said Tuesday.

In an e-mail to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Villegas refuted Pangasinan Rep. Mark Cojuangco’s claim the Pope and Renato Cardinal Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, supported the use of nuclear energy to produce electricity.

“This is not about nuclear power for electricity generation but nuclear science to promote medicine and help the poor and the sick,” Villegas said.

The bishop highlighted the part of the Pope’s statement made in July 2007 where he said “to support the use of peaceful and safe nuclear technology for authentic development, respecting the environment and ever mindful of the most disadvantaged populations, is always more present and urgent.”

“The statement is not about nuclear power plants but nuclear science for the benefit of medicine. The perennial question about storage and disposal of nuclear waste is still unresolved and poses a threat to the environment which the Pope warns about,” Villegas said.

Vatican statements

Cojuangco is campaigning to have the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant opened and has a bill pending in Congress to do just that.

Villegas, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz and Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo have condemned the plan.

On Monday, Cojuangco visited the Inquirer offices and, quoting Pope Benedict on the 50th anniversary of the International Atomic Energy Agency in July 2007, said the Vatican fully approved and supported the IAEA’s mandate “to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world.”

The lawmaker also quoted from Cardinal Martino’s statement which followed the Pope’s message: “Nuclear power could be part of a balanced energy mix alongside forms of clean energy. With maximum safety requirements in place for people and the environment and with a ban in place on the hostile use of nuclear energy, why should the peaceful use of nuclear technology be barred?”

Using the statements from the Vatican, Cojuangco said he was able to convince Cruz (but not Villegas as earlier reported) to be open to the possibility of having the BNPP put into operation.

Villegas said Cardinal Martino’s statement was made in the context of the situation in Italy and not in the Philippines.

“The commendation of nuclear power was based on two premises: First, that maximum safety requirements are in place and, second, that the ban on the hostile use of nuclear energy be in place. Is the first premise present in the Bataan nuclear power plant? Geologists and nuclear experts say otherwise,” Villegas said.

“This comment was made in the context of Italy. The Philippine geological context is certainly very different. The corruption situation in the Philippines is so bad that corrupt politicians are very likely to make money again from the rehabilitation,” he said.

By Philip Tubeza
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 06:03:00 02/11/2009

Shift to CFLs, avert 2nd BNPP disaster

Posted in DOE, Energy, Environment, Social Issues/Concerns by Erineus on February 11, 2009

Recent environmental disasters around the world have only succeeded in driving home the urgency of addressing climate change and global warming — and the food security problem in their wake. Note the rampaging floods in Australia’s northeast and the killer bush fires in the south, the severe drought in central China and the snowstorms that recently battered the United Kingdom. These natural calamities are being blamed on climate change.

In an interview we taped for radio dzRH this Sunday at 8 p.m., Presidential Adviser on Global Warming and Climate Change Heherson Alvarez stressed that increasingly severe natural disasters and the see-sawing of oil prices make it more imperative than ever to develop clean, renewable energy sources. But he also pointed out a most encouraging development: the successful founding conference and first session of the preparatory commission of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in Bonn, with the Philippines as one of the signatories.

After four years of global negotiations led by Germany, world leaders finally agreed to create this new international agency to push the development and use of renewable, climate and resource-friendly technologies throughout the world, such as wind, solar, hydropower and biomass energy. IRENA will act as a reliable advisor and partner for its members, networking closely with them, in the realization that, to quote Germany’s Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs Frank-Walter Steinmeier, “only with global structures can the world achieve secure and sustainable energy supply.”

* * *

Alvarez says Germany comes with good credentials to lead these efforts, and the Philippines, which is now being tempted to flirt not only with nuclear energy as a concept but with operating the defect-riddled “Monster of Morong,” could learn a lot from it. He notes that Germany is the world’s biggest user of wind energy, with 18,000 installed wind turbines contributing 6 percent to its total electric power.

Germany also accounts for 39 percent of the world’s total power from wind energy. It’s surpassing even the US in terms of producing power from renewable sources and is fast closing in on Japan as a leader in the use of solar power as well. Together, wind and solar energy provide more than 10 percent of Germany’s electricity and this is expected to double by 2020.

What’s good for developing countries like the Philippines to remember is that, as presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain repeatedly stressed in their campaign, there are plentiful jobs in these new energy forms. In Germany 60,000 people are employed in the design and manufacture of equipment for wind and solar energy.

* * *

Alvarez joined the delegation led by Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes, armed with Republic Act 9513, the Renewable Energy Act, signed last month by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and said to be the most comprehensive renewable energy law in Southeast Asia. It aims to accelerate the exploration and development of renewable energy sources.

Right now, there’s the Bangui Bay Project in Ilocos Sur province, the first commercial capacity wind farm not just in the Philippines but in Southeast Asia, with a 33 megawatt-capacity equivalent to the reduction of 62,951 tons of greenhouse emission gases per year. Moreover, the Philippine delegation carried President Arroyo’s support for an 80-percent reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, first expounded by Alvarez at the UN Climate Change Conference in Poznan last December.

* * *

For the Philippines, the founding of IRENA is timely. As Alvarez puts it, “Hopefully it would draw us away from the temptation of using ‘Star Trek’-like technologies’ like nuclear power, and develop instead alternative energy sources of which we have a lot.” Speaking of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP), which a group of House members wants to operate without considering its state of unfitness, Alvarez opines that if the nation were to shift to CFL bulbs for light, which is a $31-million project now being implemented by the Department of Energy through a loan from the Asian Development Bank, about 500 megawatts of electricity would be saved each year, which is nearly equal to the BNPP’s capacity, but without the problems of site dangers, expensive fuel, waste disposal, decommissioning, etc. I suggest that Alvarez begin his campaign for renewable energy in homes, schools, offices, civic clubs and the media with the punch-line: “A shift to CFLs helps avert BNPP’s second disaster. “

* * *

Last Tuesday, I wrote about the Cebu-based Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom (WIL) which has undertaken the “aesthetic enhancement” of the Cebu City landscape. Their major project is to clean up and restore Colon Street, the country’s oldest street, founded by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi in 1565. Networking with the old families in Colon, WIL put up 52 historical markers that are now part of its “Heritage Walking Tour,” at a cost of P15,000 per marker with lamppost.

An example is the marker in front of Mariano Albao Cuenco’s residence, Imprenta Rosario, which details how he founded the Cuenco newspaper dynasty with his “Ang Camatuoran” (The Truth). With Mariano’s early death in 1909, his widow, Doña Remedios Diosomito Cuenco, took over the family printing press on the ground floor of their Sanciangco Street residence and reared children who became publishers in their own right: the future Archbishop Jose Ma. Cuenco, the future Sen. Mariano Jesus Cuenco and Rep. Miguel Cuenco. From this clan also sprang Cebu City Rep. Antonio Cuenco.

Intramuros could also use similar markers memorializing the lives and achievements of many illustrious families who resided in the Walled City, never mind if World War II destroyed virtually all their homes.

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:51:00 02/12/2009