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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

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

‘A balanced and healthful ecology’

Posted in Constitution, Environment, Laws by Erineus on February 2, 2009

A PROVISION in the 1987 Constitution, which once some saw as unnecessary, has been gradually gaining attention. Section 16 of Article II says: “The State shall protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature.” In tandem with it is Section 15, which says: “The State shall protect and promote the right to health of the people and instill health consciousness among them.”

Section 16 is unusual among those found in Article II in that, whereas almost all the other provisions in the Article are not self-executing but need implementing legislation to make them effective, Section 16 has been recognized by the Supreme Court as self-executing like the provisions in the Bill of Rights. As early as 1993 the Supreme Court already recognized it, in conjunction with the right to health, as anchoring the right of a group of minors to challenge logging practices in the country. The minors, speaking for themselves and for “generations yet unborn” under the concept of “inter-generational justice,” asked the Court to order a stop to the harmful effects flowing from deforestation. The Court upheld their right to raise the challenge as flowing from their “right to a balanced and healthful ecology” and “the correlative duty to refrain from impairing the environment.”

Not long after that the Court upheld the right of the Laguna Lake Development Authority to be responsible for the ecological protection of Laguna Lake against the claimed authority of the local governments around the lake. The Supreme Court linked Section 16 with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Alma Conference Declaration of 1978.

Along a similar vein, in 2007 the Supreme Court upheld the validity of an ordinance of the City of Manila requiring the oil companies to close and transfer the Pandacan Terminals to another location within a specified period.

The latest on this subject came out only last December. In Metropolitan Manila Development Authority v. Residents of Manila Bay, the Supreme Court ordered various agencies of government to clean up Manila Bay.

All these have come about because of the desire of the state as enunciated in the Constitution to ensure for the people a healthy environment. This constitutional policy, even if already self-executing, has been injected with an element of urgency through various laws.

The latest development on the subject is an ordinance promulgated by the City of Davao ordering a stop to aerial spraying of fungicides in the plantations of Davao. I wrote about this last week saying that this is unfinished business. The ordinance was brought to court and one of the issues was whether conclusive evidence existed to prove that aerial spraying was the cause of ailments reported as affecting some people in the area. The Court of Appeals found no conclusive evidence and saw this as one of the reasons why the ordinance should be invalidated. (Another reason was the alleged impossibility and enormous cost of switching to a different method of speeding fungicides.)

About the issue of lack of evidence, Fr. Jett Villarin, S.J., president of Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro and a scientist whose area of expertise is environmental matters, made some interesting observations in a letter he sent me. He says:

“Environmental laws and regulations must abide by the precautionary principle. This principle simply holds that uncertainty in the science should not be an obstacle or excuse to postpone mitigating action. It is a conservative principle which in the case of scientific uncertainty places the burden of proof on the polluter, not on the affected, i.e. the polluter has the responsibility to prove that what is being spewed into the environment is not harmful. [The Court of Appeals had said that the planters had failed to do this.] Corollary, it is not the responsibility of the affected to prove that the effluent is poisonous. In view of scientific uncertainty, the presumption is that the chemical is harmful.

“Aerial spraying is better deployed in advanced countries where there is mechanized agriculture and land buffers are maintained. In the Philippines and other developing countries, communities live close to the plants and the land they till.

“The degree of harm depends on the lifetime, human exposure and concentration levels of the chemical. These will depend on the state of the atmosphere. Greater control of the dispersion of chemicals is possible in stable atmospheres. Tropical atmospheres are frequently unstable and less predictable. You only need to ask a fisherman who knows how locally unpredictable amihan can be these days.

“If I were a banana plant manager, I would seriously weigh the marginal cost of mitigating the impact of aerial spraying or the total cost of adopting another technology alongside the externality costs of possible medical, rehabilitation, and legal class action in the future. If three months are not enough to change systems, I would negotiate for a protracted withdrawal schedule. Time, like air, can dilute costs.

“If I were a banana farmer, I would try to convince my amo that people are better than planes. People can say thank you. Planes can only fly.

“As a priest, I hope that our judges and our agriculturists see that heaven might be an aerial place and that God’s bottom line might be different from theirs.”

Of course, the last two paragraphs are neither science nor law. But they can be of greater significance than either science or law, or bananas.

By Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas, S.J.
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:18:00 02/02/2009

DENR Going After Crematoria & Cemeteries

Posted in Crematoria/Cemeteries, DENR, Environment by Erineus on February 1, 2009

Even the dead have to follow environmental standards.

Expressing concern about the potential pollution and danger posed by waste from facilities catering to the dead, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is now requiring crematoria, cemeteries and funeral parlors to secure an   environmental compliance certificate (ECC) from the government.

“Crematoria involve the burning process. Funeral parlors make use of formaldehyde. So because of the hazardousness of wastes coming from these establishments, we have amended the AO to upgrade the classification of these business establishments and require an environmental impact statement,” Atienza pointed out.  Full Story