Archive for Philippine Environment

Philippine Environment: The Green Agenda Philippines: NOW!

Posted in All About The Philippines, Philippine Environment with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 8, 2009 by South Arts Festival

[The following piece was written and shared by John Paul LAKAN Olivares]

In the past months we have been witness to the awesome power of nature a our inadequacies and failures in addressing environmental issues. This has been capitulated in the damage wrecked upon Metro Manila and the surrounding provinces by Bagyo Ondoy, and the damage to Northern Luzon by Bagyo Pepeng.

We, the concerned citizens of the Philippines, now speak up and decide to take charge of our communities in addressing this most urgent of all matters. From these tragedies we have seen the best of the Filipino people rise in unison for a greater purpose, as they united in light of other recent events (the death of President Corazon Aquino and Bro. Ed Manalo of the INC). Now, we must once again rise up and unite to change the very fabric of society, lest we wait in denial for nature to once again wreak havoc upon our country.

Support The Green Agenda Philippines and Sign Up For The 10 Million Movement Now

Support The Green Agenda Philippines and Sign Up For The 10 Million Movement Now

The Green Agenda Philippines: NOW!

The single most important issue the human race is facing is its own extinction due to effects created by the damage of our natural environment. From pollution to the degradation and loss of natural resources, such practices put to risk the very survival of our people. And if we do not address these concerns immediately, we will face greater effects of Global Warming, the shrinking of resources (famine), wars over food and water, disease brought upon by pollution and mutations, and much more.

No government or even the United Nations can address this problem with a long termed large scale impact, unless whole populations take the initiative to undo the damage and save ourselves.

Today, we, the ordinary Filipino citizens, can no longer deny that our environment is no longer stable due to human disregard, and now threatens the lives of all sectors of society. In this realization, we must take matters into our own hands for a truly community based social-environment peace revolution. This revolution starts now, with the 10 Million Movement, initiated by the Earth Day Network Philippines, as an online petition for people to signify their participation in the environmental awareness movement.

And in this relaunching of the 10 Million Movement, we seek to create a network of people and communities that will reclaim their stewardship of the planet and actively work to create a Green Philippines; and we, the Filipino People, become co-creators of a world that we would truly want to live in, through the process of self-empowerment and collective action.

From this network, we seek to build a new society that breaks the old paradigms of neglect, abuse and conflict; and create a Green Agenda that revolves around a humanist national community with a sustainable socio-economic culture.

From this network, we aim to link environmental organizations with Community and Sectoral Leaders, and develop local eco-friendly cultures through:

  • Conducting Environmental Awareness Education and Community
  • Consultations Developing Sustainable / Profitable Eco-Friendly Livelihood Initiatives
  • Creating Community Waste Segregation and Recycling Programs
  • Initiating Community Stewardship
  • Cleaning and Rehabilitating of local Natural Resources
  • Patronizing Eco-Friendly Products, Services, and Businesses
  • Develop a National Barangay Network, in which communities can share information on best practices and alternative eco-friendly technologies

From this network, we aim to convene all Local Environmental, Humanitarian and Peace Organizations to mount a unified campaign for a Green Philippines through:

  • Holding Eco-Awareness Festivals and Events
  • Conducting Regional and National Environmental Conferences
  • Lobbying for Government Legislation and Participation
  • Developing a National Environmental Council that monitors positive and negative developments, and links the necessary local organization and government agency to address the issue
  • Creating a National Information Portal that allows all members to share information in expertise, best practices, technological development, etc.

From this network, we aim to address the Business Sector and work with them to:

  • Support Environmental Programs as Part of Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Develop Eco-Friendly Business Practices
  • Create Profitable Eco-Friendly Products

From this network, we aim to partner with Media and work with them to:

  • Develop Environmental Awareness Programs Support Environmental
  • Organizations and Causes through free (or reduced rate) advertising and media reportage
  • Give reduced rate advertising for Eco-Friendly Products

From this network, we aim to link up with International Environmental Groups and Agencies to:

  • Create a Global Resource Center for Eco-Friendly Community Practices, Business Practices and Technologies
  • Create a Global Resource Center for International Funding for developing Eco-Friendly Community Practices, Business Practices and Technology

From this network, we aim to work with Academic Institutions to:

  • Help develop Curricula that addresses Environmental Awareness
  • Help build programs for students to participate and create their own Environmental Awareness Events
  • Create initiatives for students to develop Technologies, Business Practices and Products that are Eco-Friendly
  • Help construct a network of academic institutions and agencies that will allow information sharing on Eco-Friendly Community Practices, Business Practices and Technologies

From this network, we aim to work with Architectural, Engineering and Scientific Institutions to:

  • Develop technologies and systems that will reduce consumption of natural resources and maximize practical output without pollution
  • Develop technologies and systems that will recycle non-biodegradable waste, including construction material, to reduce consumption of existing natural resources
  • Develop eco-friendly waste disposal technologies and systems to deal with the continuing garbage problem
  • Develop eco-friendly alternative energy sources that will reduce consumption of fossil-based fuels

From this network, we aim to work with Local Government Units to:

  • Develop and support Eco-Friendly Community Programs Help build and support Sustainable Eco-Friendly Business Initiatives
  • Support and participate in Eco-Friendly Events

From this network, we aim to work with National Government to:

  • Create Eco-Friendly Legislations Support and Participate in Eco-Friendly Events
  • Develop a Comprehensive Long-Term Green Philippines Agenda

Now we come to you, not just to sign up for the 10 Million Movement, but to take that great step towards a Green Philippines, and in the future, a 90 Million Strong Filipino Green Revolution by 2012.

Sign up now.

Who Do We Blame For Untrammeled Mega-Urbanization In Manila?

Posted in All About The Philippines, Philippine Environment, Philippine News with tags , , , , , , , on October 4, 2009 by South Arts Festival
[The following piece was written by Kenneth Cardenas. It is being re-posted in the Philippines Funwall from his Facebook notes.]

We need to bring public scrutiny to bear on the big, if hard-to-answer, issues of unsustainable urbanization and land use planning.

It comes as no surprise that public anger in the aftermath of the Ondoy disaster has focused on corruption and incompetence among government officials: on how Arroyo’s Le Cirque dinner could have paid for disaster response equipment, how her son was spotted stocking up on booze even as people were dying in the rising floodwaters, and how unscrupulous politicians were taking advantage of the situation by plastering their grinning mugs all over relief goods. It is, after all, easier to lay responsibilities on names and faces rather than on structural causes.

There is, however, a critical aspect of the issue that evades easy association with names and faces, and is consequently not addressed by the public debate: the problem of untrammeled, private sector-led urbanization.

Whose face do we associate, for example, with the following problems?

1.) As Felino Palafox pointed out, large areas of the east bank of the Marikina River—the exact same areas that were subjected to a 2-meter flash flood—should not have been settled in the first place. Plans that have been drawn up in 1970 called for limits on construction in these areas and public works designed to withstand even the once-in-a-century flooding we saw last weekend.

2.) The west bank of the Marikina River, which should have been preserved as a watershed, was paved over as exclusive subdivisions (such as La Vista, Loyola Grand Villas, and Ayala Heights), schools (Ateneo de Manila and Miriam College) or settled as slums. In fact, the 1941 Frost Plan for Quezon City identified a protected area on the west bank that stretched from the La Mesa Reservoir in the north down to Libis in the south. (See figs. 1 and 2)

Fig. 1. The 1941 Frost Plan for Quezon City side-by-side with a satellite image of actual land use. Note the green protected area stretching from the Batasan area (military academy on the plan) all the way to Libis.
Fig. 2. Actual land use northeast of the UP Diliman campus. Note that in the original Frost Plan, this would have been protected parkland. Instead, it has been transformed into private subdivisions, a golf course, and slums.

Ideally, a forested catchment basin would have prevented flash flooding by maintaining soils with a high absorptive capacity, but as these slopes were graded and paved over for subdivisions, their ability of the soil to retain rainwater was severely compromised.

It is definitely no coincidence that these were perhaps the worst-hit areas in all of Quezon City, where mansions built on slopes unsuitable for residential areas collapsed and entire slums drowned in floodwaters.

3.) Further upstream in the Marikina River system, this process of paving over watersheds is being repeated by new suburban developments in the Sierra Madre foothills of Rizal. Interestingly, at least two presidential aspirants are heavily invested in this process.

I’ll leave it up to you to guess who.

4.) Last but not the least, an altogether more complex problem: a well-meaning policy requires that real estate developers allocate 20% of their “horizontal” house-and-lot developments to socialized housing. However, no such requirement exists for “vertical” condominium developments.

Since urban land prices are ridiculously high for our level of wealth, and since newly freed-up parcels (like Fort Bonifacio, Camp Bago Bantay and North Triangle) are typically privatized to the highest bidder, the tendency is for real estate developers to build condominiums for the low-risk, high-return markets of high income demographics.

There is absolutely no incentive to develop high-rise residences in the urban core for the majority of the population, effectively denying them, through pricing, the right to legitimate settlement in the urban core.

This has two consequences for how Mega Manila grows, how it is built, and how it was affected by tropical storm Ondoy.

The first is the growth of slums in core areas. Social groups that are so poor that they are not served even by socialized housing, but nonetheless depend on the city for employment, have no choice but to live in slums. As the events of the past weekend show, slums are disproportionately vulnerable to natural disasters, as they are often built on marginal land and have high population densities.

Systematically abandoned by the state and shunned by the market, a disproportionate number of poor Filipinos therefore have to live in slums. While we have roughly the same GDP/capita as Indonesia (Ph: 3,510; Id: 3,975) (PPP$, 2006), fully 44% of urban Filipinos live in slums, compared to 23% of urban Indonesians.

The second consequence is sprawl: the city grows out, rather than up. To tap demographics that are priced out of core urban lands, as well as to meet the government’s 20% socialized housing requirement, developers opt to build house-and-lot subdivisions in the urban periphery, where land is still relatively cheap, and where old landlords are eager to dispose of properties about to be subjected to agrarian reform. Thus, within the past two decades, Manila’s metropolitan area (as defined by a population density of at least 1,000 persons per square kilometer) has grown to become a 3,105 sq. km. monstrosity, with much of this growth occurring as encroachment on prime agricultural land in Bulacan, Cavite, and Laguna.

This worsened the extent of this weekend’s disaster by expanding the land areas that were affected. With a larger land area to cover, transportation and communications for the relief effort was more difficult than it should have been, and the need to coordinate between different local governments prevented a quicker response.

More importantly, most of the growth occurs in suburban and peri-urban areas that do not have the infrastructure, manpower, and equipment to address these sorts of disasters. Keep in mind that some of the most hard-hit areas, such as Marilao in Bulacan, Biñan in Laguna, and San Mateo, Rodriguez and Cainta in Rizal fit this description perfectly: suburban areas that have seen explosive urbanization but did not see a corresponding improvement in infrastructure and local government capacity.

We therefore end up with a city that is more prone to natural disasters than it should be, in a century that will likely see an out-of-whack ecosystem throwing stronger typhoons and unpredictable monsoons at us.

Now, the hard questions: given our propensity to heap public anger on Jaque Bermejos and UglyYuBins, to publicly shame Mikey Arroyos and Manny Villars, and to present Gloria’s resignation as the solution to what is most definitely a persistent, structural problem, how do we, as a public, come to terms with this situation?

If it’s a matter of laying blame, shouldn’t we also be lining up the Ayalas, the Solivens, and hell, even the Jesuits for developing on lands that should have been preserved as watersheds? If we do, how would it solve these problems?

Or if it’s a matter of pinning hopes on our politicians: would a different president, a different NDCC, a different MMDA chair, and different mayors translate to substantial changes in how we build our city?

Philippine Travel: Review Of Montemar Beach Resort in Bataan

Posted in All About The Philippines, Duke420 Articles, Philippine Environment, Philippine Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 16, 2009 by South Arts Festival

After New Year’s Day, the second of January 2009, I took a trip to Montemar Beach Resort in Bagac, Bataan to attend the wedding of my good friend Joey Zamora and his wife Geri.

I drove up to Bataan from my home in Paranaque, leaving home just a bit after breakfast at around 8am. The drive through EDSA in Manila was pleasant enough, and thanked the holiday season for not making it the congested traffic hell that Metro Manila is known for.

The drive along the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) all the way to the end at Tarlac was also easy, and of course I really enjoyed the long straight drive along the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX), which leads directly to Bataan via the Dinalupihan Exit.

After the exiting the SCTEX, it’s roughly another hour to an hour-and-a-half of winding roads that eventually lead to Montemar Beach Resort. What’s interesting is that the roads to Montemar follow the path of the historic Bataan Death March and also provides a great view of Mt. Samat. But anyway, that’s how to get there. It’s a long drive, but as long as you follow the explicit directions to get to Montemar Beach Resort, you really can’t get lost. Well, not really.

Anyway, Montemar Beach Resort has been around a long time, and it has gone through some renovations to keep it rated AAA by the Department of Tourism. The beach itself is awesome, covered with mocha-colored powder and receiving a cool breeze from the South China Sea. Very little rocks and corals around the beach, which makes it perfect for wading and comfortably lounging around. The ocean’s pulse also sends shallow waves, which offers a good opportunity for skim boarding, but not strong enough to suck a wader out with an undertow.

Montemar Beach Resort also has a very cool lagoon pool, and an awesome “backyard” that is abundant with green shade and a well-maintained garden landscape. In fact, I really admire the manner with which the Montemar staff constantly busy themselves sweeping off dry leaves to uphold the pristine cleanliness of the resort.

The rooms of Montemar Beach Resort are very spacious. I was given a basic room with a double bed and a balcony overlooking the resort backyard with the sound of the ocean surf  just hypnotizing a few meters away. Montemar Beach Resort even has huge inns that are capable of hosting families.

All in all, the Montemar Beach Resort experience is very relaxing. The only complaint I had was the breakfast bufet. I don’t know if it’s because of the meal pass that came with the wedding guest deal, but when I went down for breakfast at the main cafe and restaurant, there was a delectable spread of awesome breakfast dishes – beef tapa, pork tocino, salted fish, salted egg, scrambled eggs and longganiza among others. I was about to choose around 2 viands, but was told that I could only pick one among the many offered. That was a bit disappointing. I just wish they could give the entire option for the breakfast buffet instead of relegating the guest to just one viand. But then, maybe that’s the deal for the wedding guests and might not apply to the “regular” customers, but still… It’s the only setback I faced despite a near-perfect on everything else about Montemar.

Sunrise At Montemar Beach Resort

Sunrise At Montemar Beach Resort

What I found interesting also about Montemar Beach Resort is that their beach is actually a nesting ground for sea turtles, or what the Filipinos locally refer to as Pawikan. Sea turtles come to the shores of Montemar to nest their eggs. Once they hatch out, the sea turtles go back to sea, roam around the oceans to wherever, and return again to the beach once a year to nest once again.

The sea turtles nest every November, which prompted Montemar Beach Resort to come up with the Grand Pawikan Fest, which is held annually every November. Apart from witnessing the spectacle of the sea turtles in their nesting grounds, audiences are also informed on activities and ecological concerns of the sea turtle. As part of Montemar’s Eco-Tourism and Eco-Conservation efforts, a team tags the turtles and also raises funds through those who would wish to adopt sea turtles. Not that they get to take them home, but just that they get to name one and have a tagged turtle that bears their patronage.

In any case, the Eco-Tourism aspect of Montemar Beach Resort is something that I laud. It’s different and unique, and really offers something more than just what comes with just being a beach resort. Plus the fact, that Montemar Beach Resort really takes a step further in the conservation of the sea turtles is an admirable cause.

Anyway, for more information on Montemar Beach Resort, you can visit their site.

Philippine Environmental Solutions: The E-Jeepney

Posted in All About The Philippines, Duke420 Articles, Philippine Current Events, Philippine Environment, Philippine News, Philippine Technology, Philippine Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 5, 2008 by South Arts Festival
The E-Jeepney in Makati City

The E-Jeepney in Makati City

The Electronic Jeepney, or the E-Jeepney, is a minibus that runs on electricity. The E-jeepney carries 17 passengers and can run 120km on an 8-hour charge from an electric outle using power from biodegradable waste.

In response to calls for reduced greenhouse gas emissions and the rise of oil prices, Robert Puckett, the President of Solar Electric Company in the Philippines, made the E-Jeepney his brainchild. With the support of Greenpeace and through the office of Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay, four E-Jeepneys were deployed to ply routes around Makati City. Two of the E-Jeepneys were prototypes from Guangzhou, China and the other two were made by the Motor Vehicle Parts Manufacturars Association of the Philippines (MVPMAP). The E-Jeepney runs a maximum 40km per hour.

The E-Jeepney is still on its test phase, and will undergo technical and commercial test for 6 months in Makati City. If all goes well in the test phase, then the electric fleet of E-Jeepneys will increase to 50 units. Also, as stated in the project’s MOA, Makati City will also provide a facility that will generate power from the biodegradable wastes from the city’s food establishments and wet markets where the E-Jeepneys can be plugged.

Bacolod City in Negros Occidental, Baguio CIty in Benguet and Puerto Princessa City in Palawan have already also launched a similar campaign to make use of E-Jeepneys in their respective cities.

The E-Jeepneys are the first public transport system of its kind in Southeast Asia. Well, if you exclude the golf cart. Oh yeah, the golf cart isn’t public transportation, it’s privilege transportation.

Anyway, The E-Jeepny is a step in the right direction towards providing an environmental solution to the problems of pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in the cities of the Philippines and Southeast Asia. In fact, it’s so damn good that Greenpeace and GRIPP (Green Renewable Independent Power Producer) extended their support during the inauguration.

In today’s edition of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, there were reports that Boracay mayor Wilbec Gelito will also be making use of the E-Jeepneys in the island of Boracay to lessen the air and noise pollution caused by the 2-stroke engine tricycles that are abundant on the island. According to the article, the tricycles in Boracay have increased by as much as three times over the last 5 years, with a total of about 1,800 tricycles in the area. These tricycles give out a lot of smog and are also responsible for the noise pollution which goes to up to around 70 decibels. Hearing damage due to long-term exposure is pegged at some 80-90 decibels and a jack hammer is at around 100 db. In other words, the tricycles are loud. However, they have been made the main choice of transportation because of its affordability, durability and easy maintenance.

But then, so far, the studies on the E-Jeepney have shown that eventually it will save money for the drivers because it will do away with the expenses for oil and gasoline. How much it will save is currently being studied with the Makati project.

My Two Cents on The E-Jeepney

I’m all for the E-Jeepney and I really do hope that more of these vehicles will be deployed in the country. Makati City will be deploying 50 units if the test phase works. That sounds good, but I’m sure they can do better. I see the potential of the small step being undertaken by Makati City, Bacolod City, Puerto Princessa City, Baguio City, GRIPP, Greenpeace, the Solar Electric Company, and “to whom else is concerned” but the 50 units that will ply Makati City is still no match to the thousands of carbon-dioxide emitting vehicles, which includes the buses and the other jeeps. Apart from putting the E-Jeepney into the picture, there should also be efforts to get rid of the smoke-belching vehicles from the streets. If you don’t take them out, the pollution will still be significant, and 50 E-Jeepneys might not be able to compete with the thousands of smoke-belchers in bringing down greenhouse gas emissions. This is not Sparta! And worse still, the 50 E-Jeepneys might just add to the traffic problem. Of course, I mean that in humor and not in skepticism.

Eventually, the E-Jeepney should also be considered to become an E-Bus, so that they can replace the smoke-belching buses that ply the EDSA route. I’m sure everyone will appreciate an E-Bus on EDSA that runs 40km per hour.

Apparently one of these E-Jeepneys will costs around Php370,000. Well, at least the prototypes from China. Definitely, it’s not that cheap for the regular jeepney driver to afford, but then with the proper financing from other groups, corporations and organizations, then these can be made more affordable. Maybe even the oil firms of our country can step up to include an electric charging unit in their gas stations that runs on biodegradable waste. Bright idea there.

Personally, I would love to see the E-Jeepney dominate the entire public transportation system in the cities. Leave the buses for provincial routes, but let the E-Jeepney dominate the city scene. EVERY CITY!