Wake Up, Philippines!

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

RP expands Bt crop area by 100,000 hectares more

Posted in Agriculture, BT Crops, Environment, Social Issues/Concerns by Erineus on February 15, 2009

The Philippines has posted another biotechnology (Bt) crop growth with a 100,000-hectare expansion of genetically modified (GM) corn to 350,000 hectares, although expansion may later slow down as it saturates the market.

The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) has reported the significant 40 percent growth for 2008 from the previous year’s 250,000 hectare-area for the Asiatic corn borer-resistant Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn.

However, ISAAA Global Coordinator Randy A. Hautea said growth in the future may slow down as Bt corn is now eating up on the hybrid corn area.

“One-third of our yellow corn is now Bt corn,” Hautea said in a press briefing, implying a saturation in the market.

More technologically-advanced farmers planting hybrid rice are normally the ones who have the technical know-how and have the resources to shift to the genetically modified (GM) corn.

ISAAA attributes the fast growth of the country’s biotechnology corn area to the spread of information regarding the benefit farmers get from Bt corn. While organizations like religious ones may be blocking expansion of the technology, he said farmers in religiously-devout countries like Brazil and Argentina have influenced each other in adopting GM technologies.

This, he said, may happen in the Philippines and its neighboring countries which are now adopting biotechnology crops after the country pioneered Bt corn’s commercialization in 2002.

Already 55 countries have officially adopted biotechnology crops of which 25 including the Philippines publicly declare their approval of it.

The other countries with big areas are biotechnology areas are the United States, 62.5 million hectares; Argentina, 21 million; Brazil, 15.8 million; India and Canada, 7.6 million each; China, 3.8 million; Paraguay, 2.7 million; South Africa, 1.8 million; Uruguay, 700,000 hectares; and Bolivia, 600,000 hectares.

While certain countries have policies against-growing GM crops, 30 countries including Japan publicly declare approval for GM crops’ importation.

Moreover, in South East Asia, there are three or four countries that are growing GM crops despite non-official approval. These are Vietnam, Thailand, and Malaysia.

Lydia Lapastora, an Isabela farmer who has become millionaire out of growing Bt corn, said in the same press briefing that her average yield for the Roundup Ready yellow corn, a herbicide-resistant GM corn, is at 6.4 metric tons (MT) per hectare.

Her yield even reaches to seven MT per hectare which is way higher than the 5.5 MT per hectare average for non-conventional corn.

Lapastora, a Magsasaka Siyentista 2008 awardee, said her net income for the herbicide-resistant corn has increased to P45,215 per hectare, up from P34,194 per hectare using the conventional corn.

This as she eliminated her P1,500 per hectare cost for corn borer control and as her weed control cost dropped to P1,240 per hectare in the GM corn compared to P2,750 per hectare in the conventional corn.


From greed to green

Posted in Business, Energy, Environment, Finance, Global Financial Crisis, Greed by Erineus on February 11, 2009

If there is a silver lining to the increasingly ominous specter of a global financial meltdown and the far-reaching implications of Great Depression-like scenarios, it should be the opportunity to move from “greed economics” toward a global green economy. Global capitalism as we know it has imploded with the collapse of Lehman Brothers, Bear Sterns, Merrill Lynch and such other giant investment and insurance houses, and the future is frighteningly uncertain.

But if out of this mess the global economy is more decidedly weaned from the financial world’s propensity to “make money from the movement of money” (what, pray tell, do “derivative contracts” and other exotic futures instruments mean to the average citizen?) and shift it to the creation of new, real value — new technologies, innovative materials and industrial products that sustainably meet energy needs and address eco-efficiencies — then there is hope for economic renewal, and, indeed, a real chance to curb global warming. Jacques Attali, founding president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, would call it a “Global New Deal.”

Countries with powerful reserves — China, Russia and other oil-producing countries — could well finance “greener” infrastructure projects, especially in sustainable and renewable energy, in the developing world to be built among others, by leading American companies. This would ignite broad growth in the “real economy” of actual production and human invention, argues Attali, who recently wrote the trenchant book “A Brief History of the Future.”

It is time leaders took the Herculean challenge of restoring balance in the larger economy and the underlying factors of ecology with the “urgency of now.” The $700-billion bailout of Wall Street is touted by the Bush government as “pivotal for Main Street jobs and homes.” But as several scientists would propound, such a bailout sum — or a fraction of it — will go a long way in “bailing out nature.”

Just think what wonders a hundred billion dollars can do to repair damaged ecosystems, restore biodiversity loss, curb pollution, support technological innovations and renewable energy use, and put in place mitigation measures for climate change — especially in the vulnerable regions of the developing world. Such environmental threats to human health, food security and continued access to clean water, after all, are inextricably tied to poverty indices and the incapacity of millions around the world to meet basic needs and attain higher standards of living.

The contradictions of global capitalism have led to the crisis of overproduction, or as social scientists would have it, “overaccumulation” and “overcapacity” — the buildup of “tremendous productive capacity that outruns a population’s capacity to consume,” given widespread poverty and inequalities around the world that limit purchasing power and reduce overall profitability. Moreover, the financial economy of unbridled speculation or “squeezing value out of already created value,” as sociologist Walden Bello would describe it succinctly [Read Bello’s column], has only exacerbated volatilities in the world economy, such as crippling oil and food price crises; and have ultimately added to the ruin of the earth’s vital life-support systems of fresh water, clean air, the seas, forests and land.

In the wake of the largest financial collapse since 1929, this crisis should perforce move economic planning and activity toward what environmental/eco-efficiency advocates Dan Esty and Andrew Winston refer to in their book “Green to Gold”: the locating of sustainability and new green technologies at the center of business strategy and government policy. The future of humanity surely depends no less on how society embarks on a sustainable track with regard to both energy needs and environmental requirements.

This requires nothing short of folding environmental stewardship into corporate culture and the running of businesses. This likewise calls for increased and more effective global governance mechanisms and, yes, supranational responses. By necessity, governments and civil society actors will have to take larger roles, and what may have been a heretofore near-absolute faith in the self-correcting nature of free markets will require serious revisiting.

These interventions will have to come in various forms — whether in terms of clear country and regional targets for the United Nations Millennium Development Goals or the accountability and commitments of nation-states and governments in global stewardship instruments like the Kyoto Protocol, among others. The world’s economies and the world’s six billion inhabitants deserve no less.

Only then will new social contracts emerge, or a Global New Deal forged, with greed economics supplanted by a global green economy that drives long-term growth … and heals a battered planet.

Neric Acosta was Liberal Party congressman of Bukidnon province from 1998 to 2007 and principal author of the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act; he is now a professor at the Asian Institute of Management.

By Neric Acosta
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:39:00 10/04/2008

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

WB cites firm’s success in wind power tech

Posted in Energy, Environment by Erineus on February 11, 2009

The World Bank (WB) has cited the success of NorthWind Power Development Corp. (NorthWind) in generating electricity through the wind power technology in Bangui Bay, Ilocos Norte.

Neils Jacobsen, Danish engineer and environmentalist who has managed several power projects in the Philippines since the early 1990s, attributed the NorthWind’s success to a combination of three factors: right timing, right financing, and support from the World Bank through its Prototype Carbon Fund (PCF), which enabled NorthWind to generate more resources through the sale of carbon emission reduction credits under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the Kyoto Protocol.

The project started with 15 wind turbines in 2000 with 25 megawatt of capacity and a 60-kilometer transmission line to the Ilocos Norte Electric Cooperative in Laoag City. The project costs million, financed largely through an interest-free mixed credit from the Danish International Development Agency (Danida).

In June 2008, NorthWind added five more turbines, raising the wind farm’s capacity to 33 MW, enabling the company to provide half the province’s power needs.

WB country director Bert Hofman said the World Bank’s carbon finance program is a natural extension of its mission to fight poverty. “We want to ensure that poor countries can benefit from international efforts to combat climate change including the emerging carbon market for GHG emission reductions.”

Author: Edu Lopez
Source: http://www.mb.com.ph/archive_pages.php?url=http://www.mb.com.ph/issues/2009/02/07/BSNS20090207147517.html

Telcos take part in Banahaw reforestation drive

Posted in Environment, Reforestation by Erineus on February 3, 2009

Reviving the country’s forests will take a lot of seedlings, soil, rainfall, sunlight – and a strong spirit of volunteerism.

This was in evident display in a recent tree planting activity at Mt. Banahaw in Sariaya, Quezon, by telecommunications giant Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company, wireless subsidiary Smart Communications Inc., and Japan’s NTT Docomo Inc.

The PLDT-Smart-NTT Docomo initiative to plant trees all over the country adds up to one big effort, according to PLDT-Smart Foundation President Butch Meily.

“It’s important because years from now, we hope to come back here and see that this is a forest. For now it’s just an empty mountain in some areas, so that means a big deal. It’s something we can tell our children about, and they can also enjoy it in the future,” he said.

Employee-volunteers from the foundation and the three companies worked with the local community to plant fruit-bearing and endemic trees to support agroforestry and help improve the ecological makeup of the locality and of the communities living there.

A common goal plus a lot of hand signals, gestures and smiles more than made up for any language barrier between the Japanese nationals and their Filipino counterparts. The target was for the delegation of around 80 people to plant 5,000 seedlings, together with the local community.

“Walang separate culture. What unites all of us is our love for the environment,” says PLDT-Smart Foundation Vice President Rogelio V. Quevedo, referring to the diverse group that went to Sariaya to help restore Mt. Banahaw’s once lush forest.

PLDT and Smart have been vigorously conducting tree planting activities around the country in response to the quickly changing global environmental landscape. The partnership with NTT Docomo strengthened the group’s tree planting initiatives with a ¥3 million allocation for the year.

The blazing sun and intermittent rainshowers, combined with the slippery and muddy terrain, were not friendly to the volunteers, but nobody complained. There was laughter and even singing as employee-volunteers hiked to the planting sites.

NTT Docomo’s Itsunaga Shimojo, Executive Director of the Social Conservation Group, said it was a great experience for them to join Filipinos in the reforestation thrust.

“We are doing our own activity in Japan, which is called Docomo Woods Project. Based on that experience, we know that it’s very difficult and challenging to preserve the natural resources. We know the difficulty so we appreciate the efforts of people here,” he said.

Sachiko Sugano, Manager of NTT Docomo’s Social Conservation Group, said he believes in building ties between neighbors to aid each other in developmental projects.

“It is important for Asian countries to support each other. I hope that tree planting would be an area of collaboration that will expand into other efforts not only in terms of environmental protection but also the economy, foreign affairs, and everything, in the future,” she said.

Source: http://www.mb.com.ph/ENVI20090203146258.html

Prelate joins call for clean recycling jobs

Posted in Church, Employment, Environment, Reduce/Recycle/Reuse by Erineus on February 3, 2009

A Catholic prelate yesterday joined the call of the EcoWaste Coalition for clean recycling jobs amid the threat of massive unemployment due to the global financial crisis.

“With declining employment and warming climate, clean recycling jobs offer real economic opportunities for our people,” Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iniguez said. The chair of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Public Affairs Committee then urged the government to consider the potentials of recycling as a way to generate jobs for the people.

“I urge the authorities to look at the proven potentials of clean recycling in creating a wealth of jobs and in restoring the environment as we grapple with the mounting job woes,” said Iñiguez. The EcoWaste Coalition, for their part, said that safe and non-toxic recycling of discards can stimulate green enterprises that can generate revenues and jobs for the communities. “Diverting funds from dirty disposal to clean recycling aside from creating jobs will also help in conserving resources and in reducing the climate impact of our wasteful lifestyle,” Ofelia Panganiban of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Task Force on Eco-Livelihood said.   The group cited the work of the Invisible Project in Pasay City, Kilus Foundation in Pasig City, Rags 2 Riches in Quezon City, Preda Foundation in Olongapo City, Earth Day Network in Antipolo City, and Buklod Tao in San Mateo Rizal as some of the many innovative people-driven eco-ventures providing income to community women who skillfully transform used juice packs, tarpaulin sheets, plastic bags and fabric scraps into creative functional goods like bags.   To further stress their point, EcoWaste cited the study made by the National Recycling Coalition for the US Environmental Protection Agency that illustrated the value of reuse and recycling to the US economy.

The “US Recycling Economic Information Study” showed that the country’s reuse and recycling industry employs as much as 1.1 million people and generates a whopping annual revenue of $ 236 billion.

The same study also documented that the reuse and recycling industry in US indirectly supported 1.4 million jobs in support industries such as accounting and office supply companies that have a payroll of billion and sales amounting to $ 173 billion.

Labor and Employment Secretary Marianito Roque projected 200,000 job losses in six months, while Citigroup, a US financial services company, calculated that 470,000 Filipinos could lose their jobs this year.

Author: Leslie Ann G. Aquino