Environmental News Roundup: The Philippines

Astronaut photograph of coal mine on Semirara Island, the Philippines
"Japan has allocated 9.24 billion yen in official development assistance (ODA) to the Philippine government’s forest management programs in Luzon and the Visayas, the Japanese Embassy announced." - Japan extends P5B aid to Philippines for forest management

"In 2002, 250 hectares were selected as the site for the development of Manila's first transit-oriented mixed-use central business district (QC-CBD). At the same time long-established informal settlements — some more than three decades old and home to more than 25,000 people — occupy much of the land earmarked for development." - An inside view of community organising in Quezon City's slums

"Philippine President Benigno Aquino III ordered security for mining companies beefed up Tuesday after raids by communist rebels shut down operations of the country's largest nickel producer and sent its stock plummeting... The rebels accuse mining operators of destroying the environment and exploiting workers." - Philippines beefs security after rebels raid mines

"Most people will have seen at some time, a depiction of one of the Philippines most famous sights, the 2,000 year old Rice Terraces in the Philippine Cordilleras. These too, have been severely damaged in major mudslides, when Typhoon Nesat blew across the Ifugao Province." - Flooding in S.E. Asia: Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam Philippines

"Chad Oppenheim unveiled the first certified “Green Project” in the Philippines, under the county’s own new green building rating system, BERDE (Building for Ecologically Responsive Design Excellence). As the first design under the BERDE rating system, the Net Lima, is one of three towers under construction at Net Metropolis." - Chad Oppenheim Selected to Design the Philippines' First Certified Green Project

"While rigid rules are imposed on environmental and social practices of large-scale mines, small-scale mines do not go through such stringent scrutiny. This has induced destructive environmental practices among some small mines, which impute a bad reputation on the entire industry, the chamber said." - DENR asked to regulate small mines

"Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam lose about $9bn a year, 2% of their combined GDP, due to problems caused by poor sanitation. According to the study, households in these countries see up to seven times their initial investment in basic sanitation improvements, such as building a pit latrine." - Facing up to the global water crisis

""If you put garbage in Salambao, Obando River, it will be like putting garbage in our plates, because this is where our food comes from," said Mercy Dolorito, former barangay chairman of Salambao where the 44 hectare landfill is proposed to be set-up." - Obando folk oppose landfill plan

"A lawmaker Saturday filed a bill seeking to promote agricultural and farming activities in highly urbanized areas, particularly Metro Manila. In House Bill 4750 to be known as the “Urban Agriculture Act of 2011,” ALE Party-list Rep. Catalina Bagasina said Metro Manila has a huge area where food production through agriculture can be pursued." - Urban farming in Metro Manila, Philippines sought

""We haven’t seen any progress as to the DENR’s effort to combat climate change, especially in reducing carbon emissions. Also, as long as we allow mining entities (which are dependent on HCFCs) to flourish in this country then this phase out plan will just go to waste," ICSC executive director Red Constantino said." - Philippines to cut imports of ozone-depleting substances by 2013

All Your Base are Belong to Us

Kumarian published a book in 2008, Reluctant Bedfellows, that documented the legacy of prostitution around Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines. Though the base closed in 1991, the local town of Angeles City now attracts a host of sex tourists from around the world. Turns out the military left more than a prostitution industry. Stars and Stripes reports that while Clark and Subic Naval Base (also shuttered in '91) were in operation, they regularly dumped raw sewage into local fishing waters and fuel and chemicals into the groundwater supply. Three landfills at Subic contain toxic metals and other materials which the indigenous population used to sort through for pennies. Unsurprisingly, local residents have come down with a host of illnesses. Both the US and the Philippines continue to ignore the problem. When the two governments shook hands in 1991, money and legal responsibility were tossed like hot potatos.

Static Heritage

An interesting land use irony was highlighted in the 2009 UN Report State of the World's Indigenous Peoples. That is, what happens when protecting a particular culturally significant spot actually leads to its decay? In this case, the place is the Ifugao Rice Terraces in the Philippines, a striking, 2000-year-old water-harvesting system. The site was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1995. The heightened attention due to this designation has increased tourist traffic to the area, driving up demand for hotels and nicknacks produced from cash crops.

Whilst land management of the past placed most importance and protection on the
forested areas above the terraces in their roles as water sources and soil
stabilizers, the “heritage” view delineates the terraces from the rest of the
landscape as the places of greatest importance and protection, hence more recent
houses are built for the most part in the “muyong” 76 zone of the mountain,
above the terraces.

While it's questionable whether the area wouldn't face the same problems were it not classified a UNESCO site, this shows how conservation efforts are sometimes misplaced on one (flashy) aspect of the environment at the detriment to the entire system in which it exists.