Category Archives: environment

Earth Hour 2009

Earth Hour pictures of the Quezon Memorial Shrine, and some playing around with light streaks. Thanks Don for letting me use the tripod!
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a different celebration

So I sit here, barely two hours before my birthday, typing away at my laptop, which was exactly the way I feared I would spend my birthday. A couple of weeks ago I was toying with the idea of celebrating it by stuffing my backpack and going off somewhere by myself, but obviously, nothing came out of that idea.  I wanted to do something major, see, to distract myself, because my birthdays have always been either appallingly uneventful or else heralded by bouts of merciless self-assessment, self-esteem plunge, panic attack, and severe depression, in that order.

This time, though, the past weeks have been so crazy that I didn’t really have time to sit down and have that merciless self-assessment and the whole ball of wax that goes with it.  Instead, I have been busy juggling several commitments and tasks, and, well, ahem, helping to pass a landmark legislation on environmental sustainability and energy security.

The House passed its version of the Renewable Energy Bill last June, the Senate passed its version early last week, and, sooner than expected, both chambers immediately convened the bicameral conference session needed to reconcile the two versions of the bill and prepare it for final approval.  Yesterday, the bicam panel finished its job in a three-hour meeting and today, the eve of my birthday, the House of Representatives and the Senate gave me the best birthday gift and finally approved the Renewable Energy Bill.   It just needs to be zipped over to Malacañang, wait for the President’s signature or just dilly-dally at her desk for thirty days, whichever comes first, and then, finally, the country will have its Renewable Energy Law, or, officially, “An Act Promoting the Development, Utilization and Commercialization of Renewable Energy Resources and for Other Purposes.”

Tidbit: the earliest form of the RE Bill, then called the Non-Conventional Energy Bill, was filed way back 1989.  It later on got called the New and Renewable Energy Bill, before subsequently settling into plain Renewable Energy Bill.

Today’s approval at the House and Senate were just formalities, though. The real high point was the day before at the Hotel Sofitel, when the bicameral meeting adjourned and we knew that all the hard work had finally paid off. Towards the last half of the meeting, as the legislators quickly went through the last of the provisions that did not need lengthy discussions, we in the Renewable Energy Coalition were looking at each other in excitement going, wow, they’re really going to end this today! It could have gone worse, see; some bicams need several meetings or go on until the wee hours. Evidently, in this case, there really was no need for much debate, the legislators just agreed that yes, we need to encourage renewable energy development, and hammered out a pretty generous package of incentives and market mechanisms. Continue reading

i was there

I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy reading about the same piece of news over and over.

Inquirer.Net: Senate approves renewable energy bill on 3rd reading
ABS-CBN News: Senate OKs renewable energy bill
BusinessWorld: Renewable energy bill OK’d by Senate; bicam is next step
Manila Bulletin: Senate passes Renewable Energy bill
GMANews.TV: Senate approves clean energy bill, seen to cut oil dependence
The Manila Times: Senate approves Renewable Energy bill

Some people in the Senate gallery clapped, something that’s usually frowned upon during session. Nobody tried to shush them, I mean us 🙂

Image: A father-and-daughter who signed our support RE Bill board during our exhibit at Greenbelt a few months ago

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.” Continue reading

Kagsabua, 3

Even as I was gushing about the magnificent beauty of the Philippine Eagle in my previous entry, yet another eagle was shot dead in the forests of the Mt. Kitanglad Range Natural Park in Bukidnon province.

Kagsabua, a three-year old male, has not had an easy life. He was shot and captured n 2006, then rescued and brought over to the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) to be taken care of. He was released back to the wild just last March. Fitted with a satellite transmitter and a VHF radio, he has since then been transmitting information on Philippine Eagle habits back to the PEF, specifically on the animal’s movements.

Almost five months after the eagle’s release, the movements stopped. The transmitter and radio were found, as well as Kagsabua’s leg band and feet.

A 22-year-old tribal farmer, yielding to community pressure and undoubtedly fearing the wrath of the tribal elders, surrendered to authorities.  He said he didn’t know that it was a Philippine Eagle, a ludicrous claim that’s nevertheless quite difficult to verify. Ludicrous, because it’s not like there are a lot of look-alikes out there. A biologist friend who witnessed Kagsabua’s release last March also told me that the event was practically a community fiesta and it was a really big deal. The community as a whole fully embraced the Philippine Eagle and understood the need for its protection, and it took just one person to undo all their efforts.

One hardly knows which is worse – sheer malice or sheer ignorance.

This is not just about conserving specific species for sentimental reasons, this is about preserving the integrity of our ecosystems and protecting their ability to deliver vital services that we take for granted, such as water flow, air quality, climate regulation, and of course forest products.

In the long term, Kagsabua’s death may serve as a way of further raising awareness and support for conservation work – at least, one can only hope. That’s also more or less what I said when I blogged about the death of Kabayan a year ago. Disheartening? Yes, definitely.  Is it reason to give up hope? No, definitely not.

Practical responses:

  • As much as possible, do not keep wildlife as pets, especially the rare ones. Let’s foster a culture of appreciating wildlife in the wild instead of in cages. If you have to have a pet, make sure that you buy it from legitimate sources – that it’s bred in captivity and not captured from the wild.  In most cases, threatened species sold in shops (Philippine Cockatoo, Hill Mynah, etc.) are definitely illegally captured from the forest.
  • Do not eat so-called “exotic” food that use threatened wildlife.
  • When traveling, avoid patronizing tour packages and sites that disturb the wildlife and their habitats. Offhand, an example is those Loboc river cruises that pass by facilities where they keep tarsiers captive and let visitors handle them.  Do not feed the fish when snorkeling, and avoid stepping on the corals. Be careful in buying souvenirs. Other travel tips here.
  • Be informed. Spread the word.

Images: Kagsabua: AFP, courtesty of PEF; Kagsabua’s tarsi and leg band: PEF, as posted in Mindanao Blog

Lord of the Forest

If it’s possible to fall in love with a bird…

this would be The One.

“It is possible that no one has ever described this rare raptor, one of the world’s largest, without using the word “magnificent.” If there are those who did, then heaven heal their souls.”

“In the kind of irony all too familiar to conservationists, however, the very evolutionary adaptations that made it magnificent have also made it one of the planet’s most endangered birds of prey.”

where have all the forests gone?

where have all the forests gone?

“Awareness about conservation issues, however, is rising in the Philippines. A series of devastating floods and mud slides in the past decade has convinced Filipinos that the loss of forest affects not just wildlife but people too.”

Head over to National Geographic here to see the rest of the magnificent photo gallery, photos taken by Klaus Nigge. The text in italics are from the accompanying article “Lord of the Forest” by Mel White, here. Go.

House passes RE Bill!

With a vote of 192-yes, 3-no, and 0 abstentions, the House of Representatives approved the Renewable Energy Bill on third reading this afternoon, on the last day of the current session.

Over at the Senate, it was decided to continue deliberations on the bill when Congress resumes session in late July.

So now, the mission is clear: pester the Senate!