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Archive for August, 2008

“Over the past two decades, the Abuan River has been a highway for contraband wood logged in the precious forests of the Sierra Madre . Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of bugadors skilled in the ways of a treacherous river have made their living here, braving the rocky currents to supply narra, lauan and other precious wood species to Isabela’s famed furniture industry. But the trade has long been illegal and is wreaking havoc on what is one of the planet’s most valuable forest ecosystems. It became an established trade and livelihood because no one before Padaca has seriously tried to stop it. As her task force rounds up the wood, she is under pressure from other politicians in the province to just let it go for another year.”

Howie Severino blogs about his team’s foray into the Sierra Madre, observing Isabela governor and 2008 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee Grace Padaca as she went after illegal logging activities happening in the  Abuan River.  The result is a documentary airing on I-Witness Monday midnight (Philippine time, a day or two later on Pinoy Tv overseas): Si Gob at ang mga Bugador.

Read his full post here.

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a natural storyteller

My sister flew home from Taiwan for a visit a few weeks ago, and she alerted me that Cebu Pacific’s in-flight magazine contained an article on Dr. Laurence Heaney. Fortunately, the article is available online and I didn’t have to book a flight to be able to read the feature on one of my favorite scientists. You can read the article here, or you can also check out my own profile on Larry Heaney, which I did when I was still with Haribon. I’m posting it here in a sudden fit of nostalgia and affection for Dr. Heaney and his work. You’ll see why.

“Meeting Larry”
Originally published in Haring Ibon magazine, 3rd Quarter 2003

It was a familiar but still captivating story. I watched across the dinner table as biologist Laurence Heaney related the details to one of Haribon’s board members:  how a rat specimen sat unidentified for 20 years at the Chicago Field Museum of Natural History until somebody realized it was an unknown species; how a team of scientists came to Mt. Isarog and “re-discovered” it; how they despaired at trying to feed it everything in the forest until they discovered that it eats practically nothing but earthworms.  It happened in 1988, and he must have told the story and written about it dozens of times, but to hear him tell it he might as well have just come home from the mountains still flushed with the joy of discovering a new species.

“I went to the Philippines for the same reason that Charles Darwin went to the Galapagos Islands. I wanted to know where the species live, how do they live, who their relatives are… to study biodiversity – where they come from.”

The Galapagos Islands, of course, are known for harboring amazing biodiversity, and Charles Darwin was its most famous visitor.  But in the Philippines, Larry Heaney has found his own Galapagos.

“The Galapagos Islands are dull and uninteresting compared to the Philippines,” says Heaney.  “The Philippines has fantastic diversity, both in plants and animals.  The level of endemism is certainly the highest in the world.” (more…)

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I came across two articles from the GMA news feed several weeks ago, both about the establishment of proposed renewable energy power plants and the opposition they presently face from local constituents. While the articles are not as recent, the issues they present are ever as fresh. I quote them both at some length here:

Class suit vs. geothermal project in Kanlaon filed

MANILA, Philippines — At least 200 people, including children, will lodge before the Bacolod Regional Trial Court Wednesday a petition to stop the Energy Development Corp. (EDC) from entering the Mt. Kanlaon Natural Park (MKNP) buffer zone for geothermal development.

…the petitioners’ lawyer Andrea Si said they would seek a temporary retraining order and a permanent injunction on the EDC move. Si said the petitioners remain opposed to the tapping of geothermal power from the buffer zone and to the purchase of power for Negros Occidental from a coal-fired plant in Cebu.

They said government and the business sector should push for alternative renewable power, such as hydro, solar and wind, and should not compromise what little is left of the province’s forest.

…Si said the class suit will ask the court to stop EDC from entering the buffer zone because of questions on the constitutionality of Republic Act 9154, which established MKNP as a protected area and a peripheral area as a buffer zone. The suit will also question the Energy Development Corporations’ (EDC) Environment Compliance Certificate and the firm’s plan to drill for geothermal energy from the buffer zone to the MKNP protected area.

…Tapping 40 megawatts of geothermal power from the buffer zone is not worth destroying irreplaceable rich biodiversity in the area, she added.

Energy officials earlier warned that Negros Occidental no longer has reserve power and its power shortage will worsen by 2010 if it does not have new sources of energy in place by then.

Cooperative eyes P2.8 hydro plant

KORONADAL CITY, Philippines — An electric cooperative here plans to build a 20-megawatt hydropower plant in Lake Sebu, the tourism capital of South Cotabato province, as it anticipates a supply shortage in the area two to three years from now.

Santiago C. Tudio, general manager of the South Cotabato Electric Cooperative said, “…the generated power from the waters of the Seven Falls of Lake Sebu will be used to supply the power requirement of South Cotabato in anticipation of the power shortage…” Mr. Tudio said a hydropower plant is safer than a coal-fired power plant.

But Sangguniang Panlalawigan member Jose M. Madanguit, chairman of the environment committee, said residents of Lake Sebu would oppose the project due to concerns about biodiversity. This could affect the area’s eco-tourism potentials and might displace the T’boli tribe.

But Mr. Tudio said a hydropower plant is the best option given the rising cost of diesel fuel. A hydropower plant is also more environment-friendly than one fired by coal, he pointed out.

Lake Sebu’s mountains are rich in coal pursued by several mining firms. But the local electric cooperative here, Mr. Tudio said, prefers a hydropower plant given the town’s abundant water resources. Lake Sebu is home to waterfalls and several lakes.

Mindanao has a generating capacity of 1,850 megawatts, but the dependable capacity is only 1,520 megawatts. Peak demand is projected to hit 1,440 megawatts this year. Industry regulations, however, require the Mindanao grid to maintain a reserve capacity of at least 23.4% of its generating capacity. Peak demand for power supply by 2015 is expected to hit 1,750 megawatts.

At the onset, I can recognize the potential benefits that the introduction of power sources—let alone renewable energy sources—will bring to these areas. Not only does it provide electricity for communities that did not used to have it, it can also augment the much needed energy demands of the province or the region. Communities that used to rely on diesel generators running for just several hours in a given day can now enjoy continuous power supply. Power generation can stimulate trade; refrigeration, for example, is now made possible unlike before when it was too costly to run on generators, and consequently, perishable goods like fish and other meats can now be stored longer periods and stocked more for mass volume trading in the market. The scales of production increase as a consequence, which in turn enhances the livelihoods of people.

Apart from the tangible benefits of electricity to local communities, the generated power to begin with is cleaner; it comes from cleaner energy sources such as geothermal plumes or hydropower, as opposed to coal-fired plants which emit harmful CO2 into the atmosphere. The national government presently promotes the shift to cleaner, renewable energy sources in pursuit of its commitment to mitigate global climate change. By utilizing these cleaner energy sources, not only is the country’s carbon emissions reduced, but so is its dependence on imported oil for power generation minimized; thereby, lowering the risks of its constituents to inflation and food price hikes due to exorbitant oil price surges.

(more…)

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