Wake Up, Philippines!

DENR: Ponder on agony we cause to environment

Posted in Church, DENR, Environment, Social Issues/Concerns by Erineus on April 3, 2010

By Alcuin Papa
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 13:34:00 03/31/2010

MANILA, Philippines—Do penance for the environment on Holy Week, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said Tuesday.

In a statement, Environment Secretary Horacio Ramos said the country’s estimated 81 million Catholics should observe a “green” Holy Week and “ponder on the agony of the country’s environment as the nation grapples with the effects of El Niño and the aftermath of typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng.”

Ramos said Catholics are in a “unique position to offer thoughtful solutions to the natural resource and environmental problems and issues in the world today and embarking on simple acts of everyday sacrifices, especially this Holy Week.”

“Because Holy Week holds a central place in the life of majority of Filipinos, these calamities become auspicious in that we could reflect on the agony of our water bodies, skies and forests that are facing almost certain demise, to the greater agony of poor Filipinos, unless the collective will is forged to save and resurrect our physical home in this corner of Planet Earth,” Ramos said.

Things we can do

“Doables” on the environment chief’s lists include: Collection and segregation of waste, especially by park- and beach-goers; prevention of grass and forest fires through monitoring of campfires and proper disposal of cigarette butts; participation in environmental cleanup activities, be it on a beach front, roadside, estero, or public park; religious application of water and energy-saving tips at home, in the office or on vacation; conscientious use and maintenance of motor vehicles; respect for wildlife and their habitats; vigilance against violators of environmental laws by reporting smoke-belching vehicles, polluting firms and illegal logging activities; and for candidates running in the May elections, to spare trees from their campaign materials.

Ramos said an ailing environment “ails the plight of the poor even more. Those who are better off in life [should] take to heart the duties of Christian stewardship over the nation’s environment and natural resources.”

The World Bank reported that total losses due to the two typhoons that struck last year amounted to P50.3 billion, affecting mostly informal or labor workers with some 480,000 of them added to the country’s poverty rolls.

The waste watchdog EcoWaste Coalition urged Holy Week travelers to “think outside the bottle” and give up bottled water on their trips.

Water bottle blues

“We expect increased consumer demand for bottled beverages like water as people hit the road or frolic on the beach under the broiling April sun,” said Chin Chin Gutierrez of Alaga Lahat and EcoWaste Coalition.

“The ever increasing production and consumption of bottled water bring myriad environmental and health problems that consumers are hardly informed about, including the release of greenhouse gases from the whole life cycle of bottled water, the potential leaching of chemicals from plastic bottles, microbial contamination due to poor regulation, and marine litter,” she said.

Instead of single-use water bottles, the group urged travelers to use reusable water jugs, stainless steel, or lined aluminum containers filled with clean tap water or, if necessary, with boiled, filtered, or purified water to cut on greenhouse gases and trash.

According to Ocean Conservancy’s “Marine Debris Index” released in 2008, the Philippines registered the highest number of littered beverage plastic bottles in Southeast Asia.

“To turn the tide against bottled water, Filipino consumers further need to assert their right to drink healthy and safe water straight from the tap and insist that bottled water is no sustainable solution to our thirst for water,” EcoWaste Coalition said.


DENR stands by report on coal pollution

Posted in DENR, Environment by Erineus on April 24, 2009

By Nestor P. Burgos Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 21:44:00 04/23/2009

Filed Under: Environmental Issues, Pollution, Mining and quarrying

ILOILO CITY – The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Western Visayas is standing by its report alleging that the Semirara Mining Corp. (SMC) violated environmental laws by polluting the waters and marine resources of Semirara Island.

Bienvenido Lipayon, regional director of the DENR Environment Management Bureau (EMB), defended his recommendation to the DENR’s Pollution and Adjudication Board (PAB) to file a pollution case against the company and issue a cease-and-desist order (CDO) on its coal washing plant.

The SMC has threatened to file criminal and administrative charges against Lipayon for allegedly filing false reports against the company.

In a statement issued by its lawyer Romulo San Juan, the SMC accused Lipayon of being hostile to the company because it opposed his request to replace the chairman of a multiparty committee that oversees an environment fund put up by the SMC.

“I’m not aware that they will be filing a case against me. But my report is not erroneous or false,” Lipayon told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in a telephone interview on Saturday.

He said the report was based on the complaint filed by residents of Barangay Alegria, one of the three villages of the island, and the results of meetings of the Multi-Partite Monitoring Team (MMT).

The MMT, composed of representatives of the DENR, SMC, residents and local government units, ensures that the operations comply with conditions of the environmental certificate of compliance (ECC) issued by the DENR for the company to operate.

In his recommendation, Lipayon noted that there was “prima facie evidence” against the company on the “disposal of coal material and tailings into the Suja Creek and to the sea.”

The EMB also recommended the issuance of a P45,000 fine against the company for violating three conditions of its ECC.

SMC has denied that its operations and its coal washing plant have caused the siltation. It said typhoons in recent years have caused the run-off from old coal stockpiles.

Ricardo Calderon, DENR Western Visayas regional executive director, said it would be up to the PAB to rule on the merits of the allegation against SMC.

“[Lipayon] is just doing his job. And it’s normal for us working in government to be subjects of complaints,” Calderon told the Inquirer on Monday.

Calderon said due process was observed in the complaint filed by the residents and the issuance of a notice of violation against the SMC.

A group of environmentalists and scientists who conducted an inspection on April 16-17 also confirmed the coal siltation.


Cry me a river of hope

Posted in Environment, Luzon by Erineus on March 27, 2009

FROM THE HEART By Gina Lopez Updated March 08, 2009 12:00 AM

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Hope for the Pasig: Kapit Bisig Sa Ilog Pasig is a movement that aims to clean the Pasig River. There is no way we can clean this river if we don’t work together.

In the latter part of 2007, as La Mesa was winding down, my brother suggested that I take on the cleaning up of Pasig River. I thought he was nuts for suggesting what seemed to be an impossible task; I actually thought he was teasing.

But a few months later former First Lady Ming Ramos decided to close shop and turn over the Pasig River Project to Bantay Kalikasan — and then a few days later Sec. Lito Atienza agreed to let me co-manage the rehabilitation of the three waterways: Laguna Lake, the Pasig River and Manila Bay.

A year into the job and flush from a hugely successful press launch on Feb. 24, I am convinced it can be done. I had set a timetable of seven years. But the more I go into it, the more it looked like it could be accomplished in less time. Some readers must be thinking, What?

Let me first share with you my passion. Did you know that Tagalog comes from Taga-Ilog? Our ancestors were originally river dwellers. The river is intimately connected to our history and to our identity as a people. How can we resign ourselves to the fact that we are Taga-ilog — Taga-ilog na marumi? Some parts of the river are not only dead — they are toxic. I was horrified to visit the San Juan River and see whirlpools of methane gas there! The San Juan River is a recipient of the toxicity that comes from Quezon City, and it is at the mouth of the Pasig River.

I was shocked to see how the people live near the river banks. The river is literally their toilet bowl. Under the Mindanao Avenue Bridge, there are 52 families living without windows, inhaling all those toxic fumes. The other week, one baby fell into the river and drowned!

How did we ever come to this?

In the same vein, I have heard stories of how pristine the river once was — and this was not so long ago. I myself can remember water-skiing across Manila Bay when I was in my teens. This is not something I would even momentarily consider now.

It is very clear to me that the cleaning of the Pasig River and all its tributaries is not only a physical exercise; it will have tremendous impact on our psyche. Just last Sunday when we launched the Kapit Bisig sa Ilog Pasig on ASAP, when the stars were singing songs of paradise and hope, I felt a stirring within me.

And since then I have gotten texts and e-mails on the project. The cleaning of the river definitely strikes a chord in our collective psyche.

So, how is it going to be done? The first order of the day is to relocate the illegal settlers. As long as there are people living along the river banks — with the river as their toilet — no cleaning will be possible. I am fortunate to have a very strong partner in the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission headed by Jun Tablan. He is dynamic — a real doer. Under his leadership we have, over the past month, already relocated more than 100 informal settlers and will resettle a little over 300 by the end of March. Jun says this is not even his job description but he is helping to do it anyway.

Where are we going to put the rest? NHA, under the leadership of Rico Laxa, is entrusted with the project management of the Calauan Resettlement Site, which can hold between 8,000 to 10,000 families. That is enough to make a huge difference. Globe Asiatique’s Delfin Lee has generously agreed to finish the existing 800 houses on the site as well as build better houses for the 168 families already there. site. Delfin has even agreed to fix up the existing elementary school building. When he offered to also fix up the sports field, I teasingly said I would put up a statue of him onsite. Teasing aside, Delfin has been really great! His efforts ensure that by June we will have moved 1,100 illegal settlers — and cleared up a sizeable portion of the riverbanks. Aside from livelihood, the game plan is to put up a really good school there — similar to the Xevera School of Globe Asiatique where our children are winning regional awards. A good school, livelihood, fresh air, and good management — I doubt that they will go back to the subhuman conditions they were experiencing in Metro Manila.

So now I need to find the funds to resettle the rest. There are exciting possibilities offered by the MMDA and certain congressmen, so I continue to be upbeat. But I do need help from the private sector.

Why else am I so upbeat? I have great partners! Manila Water and Maynilad have been tremendous. I had a very successful working relationship with these two companies for La Mesa and the relationship continues to bear fruit for the Pasig River.

I also have great LGU partners. Mayor Sonny Belmonte has already given P2 million for a solid waste management program. Mayor Jejomar Binay has said that he is with me all the way. The other mayors have also been wonderfully cooperative. Mayor Fred Lim and Col. Carlos Baltazar of Manila have been great in clearing up Estero de Paco after the informal settlers left, and MMDA was great in having their cranes speed up the job. The cooperation of the mayors is crucial. They need to make sure the law is implemented — that none of their residents continue to toxify the river. Ed Manda of the Laguna Lake Development Authority is also a great partner — and has committed to make sure that the factories along the river will not be allowed to dump toxic water into the river.

What continues to infuse me with optimism is the existing technology. I love scientists! The DOST has come up with great machines that can turn plastic and Styrofoam into chairs, tables, bricks — the possibilities are many and promise not only functional value but revenue possibilities. This means that instead of ending up in the waterways, the trash will be recycled and render service to the community.

Egay Maranan, a presidential awardee for Science and Technology, has had great results with his bioremediation technology: a 99 percent reduction in coliform — from 18,666,000 to 160,000 parts — in one month! Of course the allowable level is 5,000, but his success offers much promise.

Dinky Hermentera of Plantex has technology that can bioremediate at the source — this means microorganisms, fungi, green plants and their enzymes can be used to return natural environments altered by contaminants back to their original condition. She came to my home to demonstrate, placing organic materials in my septic tank. Before the input, the COD (chemical oxygen demand) was 4,789. In five days, it went down to 100! Class C is 70 COD, which could easily have been reached had she put a little more of her material in. With this technology, we can attain Class C liquids coming out of our septic tanks. It would be a great stopgap measure until we get central sewage treatment facilities.

I love the technologies above because they are effective, they are inexpensive and they are Filipino!

Oh, I could go on and on about the technologies that are cropping up that show promise. And the scientists keep saying seven years? We could do it in less!

The role of media is key. This was the missing link in previous efforts. Even if billions are spent on engineering and cleaning the river, it is going to stay dirty unless we change our mindsets. The river is not our toilet bowl! It’s our life. It’s God’s gift to us. The shifting of consciousness, the touching of hearts, the ability to inspire and tell the story — that’s the role that media plays. The Philippine STAR has committed itself to the cause. How can we not make a difference?

Kapit Bisig Sa Ilog Pasig is an apt name for the movement. There is no way we can clean this river if we don’t work together.

Last December, I was at a retreat and the river kept coming up in my meditation. One “message” that repeatedly came to me was that the cleaning of the Pasig River was all about hope. It is hope that is the receptacle of divine help. It’s when people have lost hope — when there is cynicism — that our angels have no one to give to.

When we manifest our positive hearts and spirits in the way we work, the heavens can help. By showing people these miracles — the things being done to improve the river — I believe there will be a snowball effect. Once people start to believe, once they start to see the possibilities — then the greatest heights can be reached.

Kapit Bisig Sa Ilog Pasig needs all the help it can get. Let me end by sharing with you a beautiful quote by one of the staff of Bantay Kalikasan:

Once, there was Pasig River

Let this no longer be a story of how the once-glorious river lost its wonder but how sincere, untiring commitment and well-meaning, strong partnerships brought it back to life.

Be part of the story. Let’s give our children a future they can believe in.

* * *

I can be reached at gina_lopez@abs-cbn.com.

For volunteer information/inquiries please e-mail Girlie Aragon, project manager of the Pasig campaign, at girlie_aragon@abs-cbn.com.

For direct donations, you may deposit at Banco de Oro, Scout Albano Branch, account number 393-0078222.

You may also donate through text by typing GIVE [space] ILOG then send to 231 for Smart and Talk & Text or 2366 for Globe, Touch Mobile, and Sun Cellular. Every time you text, you’re giving life to the Pasig River.

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RP has second-dirtiest seas, report says

Posted in DENR, Environment by Erineus on March 24, 2009

March 15, 2009 08:23:00
Alcuin Papa
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines ranks second in the world for most trash recovered from its oceans, an international conservation group has revealed.

The US-based Ocean Conservancy reported that 1,355,236 items of trash were recovered from the country’s shorelines, ocean surface and underwater during the International Coastal Cleanup conducted by the group in September 2008, which involved nearly 400,000 volunteers around the world.

The results of the cleanup were presented in a report by the group titled “A Rising Tide of Ocean Debris” was released on March 10 and available on the group’s website.

Topping the list of trash items were plastic bags (679,957 pieces), paper bags (253,013) and food wrappers (103,226). Also recovered were 38,394 pieces of clothing and shoes, 55,814 tobacco-related items including cigarette butts (34,154), lighters and wrappers, and 11,077 diapers.

The United States topped the list of countries with the most trash recovered, with 3,945,855 items. In third place was Costa Rica with 1,017,621 items.

Ocean Conservancy said it collected 11.4 million pieces of trash from 6,485 sites in 104 countries, including the Philippines.

“We are all connected to the ocean. The disheartening amount of trash afloat in the sea, littering beaches and piling up on the sea floor affects the earth’s life support system, the ocean and all the living things in it,” the report said.

“Marine debris is more than a blemish on nature, it is a potential threat to our food supply, to tourism and economic activity, to marine wildlife and ecosystems, and to our personal health. It even relates to the impacts of climate change,” it added.

Because of the study, local waste and pollution watchdog EcoWaste Coalition called on the public to help restore the health of Philippine waters.

On World Consumer Rights Day on Sunday (March 15), the coalition called for more awareness, responsibility and action to save the oceans and waterways, particularly from plastic garbage.

“We urge local and national authorities to fully enforce Republic Act No. 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, to stop the dumping of trash in the canals and esteros that eventually find their way into the marine ecosystem,” said Manny Calonzo, EcoWaste Coalition president.

To prevent garbage from entering the marine environment, the coalition urged consumers to adopt basic practices in ecological waste management, including waste prevention, reduction, separation at source, recycling reuse and composting.

In 2006, the group together with Greenpeace conducted a joint discards survey of Manila Bay which showed that 76 percent of the garbage in the bay was made of plastic and 51 percent was plastic bags, Calonzo said.

The coalition also urged the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and National Solid Waste Management Commission to do something about the trash in the oceans.


Arroyo to sign EO on waste segregation

Posted in DENR, Environment, Laws, Legislation, LGUs by Erineus on March 24, 2009

By Nikko Dizon
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 21:57:00 03/15/2009

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is drafting an executive order to be signed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo this week that will compel the public to segregate their garbage, according to the agency’s press statement.

The executive order “will hasten the implementation” of Republic Act (RA) 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, said the DENR statement released over the weekend.

“To support and strengthen RA 9003, the DENR is preparing an EO directing households to segregate their garbage and local government units (LGUs) to implement separate garbage collections for biodegradable and non-biodegradable wastes,” DENR Secretary Lito Atienza said.

The law stipulates garbage segregation but it is hardly followed.

“Filipinos must be reminded of their responsibilities on waste disposal and the system of separate collection will definitely reduce the volume of garbage that accumulate daily,” Atienza said.

“We must continuously guide everybody on the proper disposal of garbage as we strictly monitor and enforce compliance to RA 9003, especially now that the effects of global warming and climate change are being experienced all over the world,” Atienza said.


Solons: BNPP study to block nuke plant rehab

Posted in Congress, Energy, Environment, Legislation, Social Issues/Concerns by Erineus on March 6, 2009

By Lira Dalangin-Fernandez
First Posted 17:17:00 03/05/2009

MANILA, Philippines — Lawmakers opposed to the revival of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) said Thursday they had succeeded in inserting a “killer amendment” they predict will block the rehabilitation and reopening of the facility anytime soon.

The committee on appropriations approved a proposal by Albay Representative Edcel Lagman to allocate P100 million to undertake a feasibility study on the nuclear plant’s rehabilitation that the lawmaker predicted would “validate structural defects, safety risks and ecological hazards of the BNPP, which led to its mothballing in 1986.”

Akbayan party-list Representative Risa Hontiveros said the approval of the amendment “practically killed” House Bill 4631, authored by Pangasinan Representative Mark Cojuangco, which seeks the immediate rehabilitation and operation of the 620-megawatt nuclear plant.

”Whatever the result of the feasibility study is, it will require a new bill. The nuke plant is not yet dead, but we have put it once again in the freezer. We will kill it in due time,” she said.

In Cojuangco’s bill, the P100 million would have been used to validate, in a two-stage process, whether the BNPP could still operate.

But Lagman’s approved proposal would use the money “for the conduct and completion of a validation or feasibility study to determine the viability of rehabilitating, commissioning and commercially operating the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) as a nuclear facility, taking into consideration technical, safety, economic, financial and ecological concerns, and using as references previous feasibility studies conducted before and after the BNPP was mothballed in 1986.”

The Albay solon and Parañaque Representative Roil Golez had insisted that a feasibility study, and not just a validation process, was needed for the BNPP.

The appropriations committee, chaired by Quirino Representative Junie Cua, approved Lagman’s proposal and incorporated this in the “appropriation language” of HB 4631.

The P100 million is to be sourced from the Department of Energy and augmented by the National Power Corporation.

Cojuangco’s bill also seeks a $1-billion budget for the BNPP’s revival, to be sourced from the 10-centavo per kilowatt hour surcharge on total electric power generated collected from consumers, and from international or domestic loans.

After the hearing, Cojuangco found himself in a heated exchange of words with Nicanor Perlas, a technical consultant to a study commissioned in the 1990s by a Senate ad hoc committee and the Presidential Commission on the Philippine Nuclear Power Plant.

The $9.5-million study, which was conducted by 50 nuclear experts, found 40,000 defects in the plant.

But Cojuangco called the results of the study “lies.”

Perlas, who was standing with journalists interviewing Cojuangco, objected and asked that he be allowed to explain.

“Ini-interview ako rito, eh bigla kang sumisingit [I am being interviewed here, and you just cut in],” the lawmaker berated Perlas.

Perlas said he had to defend himself because Cojuangco had called him a liar.

The committee hearing was marked by debates early on, with Bataan Representative Albert Garcia saying the local government is vigorously opposed the nuclear plant’s revival.

Garcia said a provincial board resolution had been passed “signifying strong opposition to the immediate reopening, commissioning and commercial operation” of the plant. So had the Bataan mayors’ league, he said.

Golez said the opposition of the local community should be considered because “social engineering might be difficult if the local government is opposed to this.”

“They will make it very difficult to implement the project…No amount of vote[s] in this committee can surmount this local problem,” he said. ”I’d like to resolve this prejudicial problem.”

But Cua said the “matter of legislation should be left to legislators.”

Last week, Lagman, Hontiveros and Quezon Representative Lorenzo Tañada III submitted a bill seeking to require the National Power Corporation to “conduct and complete a technical, economic, environmental, and financial feasibility study comparing technology options for electricity generation and appropriating funds thereof…”

The proposed study would not look at the viability of nuclear power but treat it as a possible source of energy.

It was envisioned as an alternative to Cojuangco’s bill.


New rat species found

Posted in Conservation, DENR, Discovery, Environment, Faura/Fauna, News Feature by Erineus on February 19, 2009
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MANILA, Philippines – Environment Secretary Lito Atienza yesterday called for greater biodiversity conservation in the wake of the discovery of a new species of small rodent found only on Mt. Hamiguitan in Davao Oriental by the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) and the Chicago-based Field Museum of Natural History.

Mt. Hamiguitan is home to a forest of pygmy trees.

The Hamiguitan batomys or Hamiguitan hairy-tailed rat is a yellow-brown animal with a long furry tail and a weight of 175 grams, discovers said. It is related to several other species known in Central Mindanao, Dinagat Island and Luzon, and lives only from an elevation of 950 meters up to the peak, in dwarf mossy forests of areas less than 10 square kilometers.

“We have long taken great pride in our wealth of flora and fauna and this new discovery reinforces our efforts to make the protection of these unique and endemic species found in the country our top priority,” Atienza said.

He said there is a very high chance of more discoveries of new species in the country, but some of these might already be threatened before they are even discovered. He urged everyone to do their share in protecting the country’s forests, home to the wildlife.

Atienza said the Philippines has been declared by global scientists as one of only a few mega diverse countries in the world.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources said the new species was found in May 2006 during an expedition that sought to learn more about the region, which is also home to the globally endangered Philippine Eagle, the country’s national bird.

Quoting expedition team leader and lead author Danilo Balete, the DENR said that the “Hamiguitan batomys is the first mammal to be described from Eastern Mindanao, and is the first mammal that is thought to live only in that area. Most mammals unique to Mindanao were described from Mt. Apo or Mt. Kitanglad. This points to eastern Mindanao, especially Mt. Hamiguitan, as a biologically unique part of the Philippines.”

PEF executive director Dennis Salvador said Mt. Hamiguitan and the rest of Eastern Mindanao are poorly known biologically but the mountain is known as a mining and logging hot spot.

The DENR said that at Mt. Hamiguitan, six mining agreements cover more than 17,000 hectares of forest, more than half of the mountain’s forest cover.

Meanwhile, DENR’s Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau director Dr. Mundita Lim said Mt. Hamiguitan “fully deserves” to be among the global heritage sites and endorsed its inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Lawrence Heaney, Curator of Mammals at the Field Museum, and a co-author of the batomys description, believed that additional species currently unknown to anyone except local residents are likely to live in eastern Mindanao due to its “unusual geological history.”

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