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60-earth-hour

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“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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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.

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Is it too late?

Just the other day, online news sources reported that a new species of fruit bat was discovered from the lowland forests of Mt. Siburan in Sablayan, Mindoro Occidental. According to Protected Areas and Wildlife Director Mundita Lim, the Mindoro Stripe-Faced Fruitbat (Styloctenium mindorensis)–another species endemic to the Philippines and the island of Mindoro, much like the Tamaraw–raises the total bat species in the country to 74, of which 26 are found only in the Philippine Islands.

Not three months ago, a team of biologists from Conservation International-Philippines went on an expedition to Mt. Mantalingahan in Southern Palawan. There, they similarly discovered new species of animals and plants, including a shrew; a terrestrial orchid; and a parrot finch; as well as the rediscovery of the Palawan soft-furred mountain rat. All of these are highly likely to be endemic to the island of Palawan. You may find out more about the wildlife discoveries from a press release by CI-Phils posted previously on this blog here.

And then, in the summer of last year, I remember reading about the discovery of two new species: the Camiguin hanging-parrot and the Philippine forest mouse, both in the small island of Camiguin off the coast of northern Mindanao. There could probably be others more that may have been discovered just in the last five years, which I may have failed to mention here.

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[Press release – Conservation International-Philippines]

New species of animals and plants were recently discovered by a team of biologists who conducted a biodiversity survey in Mt. Mantalingahan, Palawan last June and July 2007. The survey was organized by Conservation International – Philippines to update the biodiversity data of Mt. Mantalingahan, a proposed protected area covering 120,000 hectares. Members of the team include representatives from the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff (PCSDS), South Palawan Planning Council (SPPC), Western Philippines University (WPU), Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, Katala Foundation, Municipality of Rizal, Barangay Ransang, and indigenous peoples’ groups.

Unidentified shrew

The Philippines has not had a new species of shrew discovered for the past 40 years or so, until this still undescribed species was discovered on Mt. Mantalingahan this year (photo© CI, D.S. Balete).

“All I was looking forward to when we started this survey was to rediscover some of the small mammals that were first discovered and described from Mt. Mantalingahan but had not been seen for almost five decades now,” related Danny Balete, a mammal specialist who is part of the survey team. On the very first day of the survey, working at their first study site at 1,550 meters above sea level (masl), the team already had two remarkable finds. “This survey has been amazingly successful. The Palawan soft-furred mountain rat, Palawanomys furvus, that they have rediscovered has not been seen since it was first discovered in 1962,” said Dr. Lawrence Heaney, curator of mammals at the Field Museum in Chicago and long-time researcher in the Philippines. The team also discovered a new species of shrew that probably lives only in the high mountains of Palawan.

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Last year, we at Dumaguete and its surrounding Municipalities heard about plans to conduct oil explorations in Tañon Strait. For those who have not heard about this important piece of Philippine treasure, this area follows dolphin and whale migration routes. Bais City’s famous dophin and whale watching tours depend on this relatively small area between Cebu and Negros. Talk of this exploration died down last year, but have now resurrected, thanks to the vigilance of some marine biologists and concerned citizens. I am thus attaching an on-line petition against oil drilling in the Tañon Strait. I hope this initiative helps policy-makers overcome thier short-sightedness and start to think about longer-term benefits.

Bow Riders

Dear Friends,

Please take time to read and sign this online petition against drilling for oil in the Tanon Strait. We need all the help we can get.
I have also attached a brochure so that those who are not familiar with the issue can learn what they should know.

Kindly write your name address at the end of the petition and for those who are signing on the 10th, 20th, 30th, etc. slot, please CC me (portianillos@yahoo.com) so that we can keep track of the people who have signed online.

We are hoping to get at least 5,000 signatures so that we can present this to the people in government who did not consult the people about their intention to ruin the future of fishing communities in Negros
and Cebu.

Thank you very much for your support.

Portia Joy Kleiven

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At What Cost?

Let it be known to all and sundry that we are not against development and progress! But development and progress must be obtained in a responsible manner and must ensure the sustainability of resources and the future of our nation’s children. Consequently then, we stand opposed to destructive forms of development and progress that regards the short-term influx of investment and employment. We stand opposed to a development and progress that disregards and neglects the long-term negative impact of such development on both the environment and humanity.
Upon such premise do we come and raise issues and concerns over the on-going development efforts at the Tañon Strait and Bohol-Cebu Strait.

1. Under Pres. Decree 1234, a law which has not been rescinded nor repealed, Tañon Strait is and remains to be a protected marine area, how on earth is it now up for development inconsistent to its protected status?

According to the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR-R7), Tañon Strait ranks in the Top 10 major fishing grounds in the country. It produces big and quality fish stocks, including blue marlin and tuna. It is also well-known for its schools of dolphins, which has put Negros in the map for eco-tourism.
Tañon Strait is home to a marine biodiversity (11 species of cetaceans alone) that would be critically disturbed and destroyed by development aggression.

Tañon Strait is a vital food source for millions of peoples living in 45 towns and cities covering three provinces: Negros Oriental, Negros Occidental and Cebu.
Tañon Strait is home to 60 marine sanctuaries and the Cebu-Bohol Strait has 80 marine sanctuaries. The local government units have consistently invested in coastal resource management Oil exploration will surely affect in the negative environmental gains and progress made.

2. We call to task national government agencies, like the Department on Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), that are there supposedly to protect our natural resources from entry of destructive development aggression but instead have been very liberal in giving Environmental Clearance Certificate (ECCs) and Certificates of Non-Coverage.

It is only when there is public outrage and high media visibility that these agencies “review” the clearances they have given.
Like the case of the Korean construction atop the crater of Taal Volcano, an ECC has been given, but subjected to thorough review only when it was exposed. It is a fact that national agencies at times totally disregard and ignore Local Government Units (LGUs). It was admitted by no less than the Department of Energy Secretary that in the very beginning of the project, that it has done oil exploration in Tañon Strait without informing the LGUs.

3. Development for Whom and for What?

  • Former Secretary of the DENR Heherson Alvarez has aptly put it: “What does it gain a nation to be short-sighted and merely think of money when an irreparable damage to the environment will cost human lives, health, and livelihood capacity of our farmers and fisherfolk endangering the food security of our people?”
  • If we are to use the figures used in a similar exploration between Cebu and Bohol, for every $100 gross proceeds of the project, only $3.46 will go to the local government (this miniscule amount to be further divided between the province and the municipalities).
  • Mining companies can avail of economic privileges like 100% repatriation of capital and profits; 6 years tax exemption on profits; 10 years tax exemption for export; tax exemption for imports; employment of foreigners; right to transfer or sales of mining agreement; and confidentiality rights. They are also given other rights like timber, water, easement and ingress and egress rights. In the past, the multi-national mining companies paid local taxes where their main headquarters are located, (usually in Makati) and not where the extractables are taken. Who will benefit from these explorations? The people of the affected places Negros, Cebu and Bohol? Who will be holding on to the empty bag when all the oil has been drained? The multi-national corporation would have left to destroy another part of the planet while the people in Negros and Cebu and Bohol will live in an area forever scarred by exploration and extraction.

4. We call on government to exert more effort in more sustainable alternative to oil that will not only reduce our dependency on oil but can spur development in agriculture as well such as the bio-fuel and ethanol production, solar and wind power and other renewable energy sources.

5. We call on government to carry out the intent of the Philippine Constitution: “The State shall protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthy ecology in accord with rhythm and harmony of nature” (Article II Section 16).

“Which are more important for the people in the long run, biologically replenishing (and sustainable) marine and coastal resources or limited, exhaustible, non-replenishing oil resources, if any? As the Metro Post editorial put it: “Let us not rush to destroy our environment in our quest for black gold. For all we know, the cost for such a mistake could be much, much greater.”

NO TO DEVELOPMENT AGGRESSION!
NO TO DEVELOPMENT AT ANY COST!
YES TO SUSTAINABLE AND ECO-FRIENDLY ENERGY ALTERNATIVES!
YES TO SAFEGUARDING THE PATRIMONY OF OUR NATION!

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