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Archive for the ‘Protected Areas’ Category

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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The July 7/14 issue of Newsweek featured Yale University’s 2008 Environmental Performance Index (EPI)—“a global ranking of nations with the best, and worst, environmental track records,” the magazine cover said. Curious as to how the Philippines fared, and wanting to find out the “who’s who” in the best and worst around the world, I bought a copy after briefly browsing through the contents (and initially finding out the Philippines scored somewhere between the range of 79.99 to 70, with 100 being highest).

I learned after poring over the special report, and reading further from Yale’s website, that the EPI sought to be a comprehensive yardstick of the world’s environmental issues and how each country was responding to them. Although considering the EPI as far from being entirely an accurate measure of national performance, Newsweek stated it as the “best measure we have of how nations are faring in the battle to save the environment…” The EPI provided measures for two objectives, specifically: (1) reducing environmental stresses to human health, and (2) promoting ecosystem vitality and sound natural resource management. It used 25 performance indicators which were tracked in 6 well-established policy categories such as climate change, biodiversity and habitat, water, air pollution, productive natural resources, and environmental health.
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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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Negros Bleeding-heart

Figure 1. The Negros Bleeding-heart.

Aside from the elusive Negros Fruit dove (Ptilinopus arcanus), which has not been sighted since its first discovery in 1953, another species bearing the name Negros on its common name is a facing severe threat of extinction in the wild, and this is the Negros Bleeding-heart (Gallicolumba keayi). This beautiful and colorful species is already included in the list of globally threatened species classified as critically endangered, which means its population and distribution are getting limited and it is already highly susceptible to extinction. Before its discovery in Panay in 1997, the Negros Bleeding-heart was only known to exist in Negros Island and nowhere else in the world.

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