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Treading lightly

First Posted 13:20:00 04/27/2009

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The five-hour blackout that hit Visayas islands on a sweltering Saturday seems to be a foreboding sign of things to come if we continue our merry unsustainable ways. The world faces a climate crisis that demands us to tread lightly, do our share in minimizing our impact on the dwindling limited resources, and look at the alternative clean energy solutions.

That means using wind, solar and other technologies that do not ?sacrifice ecological concerns.? This is the tenor of Republic Act 7638, the law creating the Department of Energy in 1992.

However, despite the law, and the enactment of the renewable energy statute, we are still dependent on coal for our energy requirements. Burning of coal releases more carbon dioxide than any other energy source. It is the dirtiest source of energy.

In the United States, there is a growing opposition to new coal-fired power plants (www.earthpolicy.org/Updates/2009/

Update81_data.htm). In March, thousands converged in Washington, DC, urging Congress to pass legislation to reduce carbon emissions.

Recently, Al Gore testified before the US Congress on a pending climate change legislation that would curb greenhouse gases. He said it is ?one of the most important pieces of legislation? ever in Congress, and which he calls ?a moral imperative.?

Aside from honest-to-goodness implementation of our laws, a global warming bill that reduces carbon emissions is one that this country needs, more so that we are considered one of the most vulnerable countries in the world.

?We can not ignore climate change and global warming because it?s happening, now,? Tony Oposa was quoted to have said (ABS-CBN North America News Bureau, April 24) when he received the 2008 International Environmental Law Award from the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL). He is the first Asian, and first Filipino to win the prestigious award.

We are now living in an era of unparalleled seeping ecological disasters, of a magnitude worse than what humankind has experienced. Yet, except for a handful, we pretend there is no climate crisis.

We have no equipment to measure the amount of methane released into the air and only a few to determine the particulates and polluting gases in our midst. How can we possibly calculate and regulate the greenhouse gas emissions in this part of the world with the current state of affairs?

The illegally operated and obnoxious open dumpsites that emit a greenhouse gas called methane should already be closed. This is the call as well of the citizens who joined the Earth Run last Saturday.

Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia should reconsider the planned lifting of the cease-and-desist order for the carbon-emitting and polluting oil drilling in Cebu Sea. The issues involving the constitutionality of the service contract are pending before the Supreme Court. Can she not wait for the High Court?s decision?

The pollution of the Mactan Channel highlights a classic example of our lackluster response to the ailing ecosystem. We all know it is polluted and we know why. What we do not know is the severity of the degradation.

Two years ago, lawyer Liza Osorio, Coastal Conservation and Education Foundation (CCEF) executive director, relayed at the 888 News Forum the Department of Environment and Natural Resources? (DENR) report on the state of the Mactan Channel.

This study was disclosed in an earlier dialogue held at the University of Cebu. The LGU representatives were present. Chief executives cannot say that pollution issue is news to them.

The most important question is: What has been done to address the problem? Health, sanitation and environmental protection are mandates of the LGUs. Are the cities of Lapu-Lapu, Mandaue, Cebu and Talisay and the municipality of Cordova and other LGUs adopting and implementing solutions to this age-old problem, in tandem with the business sector, the barangays and civil society?

It is high time our public officials initiate the regular testing and monitoring of the quality of the waters, and not wait for the DENR to do it. They should put signs on the beach regarding the real state of our waters. It is the only way to awaken the sleeping giant within us. More than anything else, the enforcement of our environmental laws should be prioritized.

Instead of being harassed, the DENR deserves commendation for disclosing the result to the public. It is their Earth Day gift to all of us.

What leaves an ugly taste in the mouth is the LGUs? over emphasis on the impact on tourism, as if we, the residents, do not exist. We all deserve a healthy environment. We have beautiful islands and rich marine ecosystems that we are so blessed with but which, unfortunately, we do not really care to maintain and protect.

It is touching to see that in other areas of Cebu, serious efforts are being made to nurture nature.

Last week, Transco (now National Grid Corp.) officers and staff invited me to join them in their mangrove planting activity at Aloguinsan under the ?Million Mangroves Program? of Cebu province and CCEF.

It is inspiring to see that under Mayor Cynthia Moreno?s leadership, the focus is now on sustainable eco-tourism program. The constituents are getting ready for the Bojo River cruise to be open to the tourists. Birds were singing as we savored the beauty of the green landscape along the river. Our favorite marine mammal scientist, Dr. Lem Aragones, currently leads a team in assessing the potential for a dolphin-watching activity in the area. Mabuhay, Mayor Moreno!

Kudos also to Timex management for instilling and living the values of responsibility, integrity and discipline among the officers and 2,000 employees. Timex is the only locator at Mactan Export Processing Zone that had a week-long series of activities protecting Mother Earth, including mangrove planting of 5,000 seedlings at Borbon.

Timex?s dedicated pollution control officer, Ms. Joy Besa, showed me the organic vegetable garden in their backyard that the employees and managers planted themselves and the huge rainwater catchment. I saw the hazardous waste containers in the enclosed premises that require a permanent storage facility for the industry, including those for the mercury-based instruments. Calling on the DENR to establish one soonest.

There are many environmental issues that need to be confronted. This can be done only with the active participation of the community and sincere political leadership. No shortcuts or quick fixes.

With the increased involvement of the business sector, I am hopeful Cebu will lead the way in finding solutions to hurdle the life-threatening climate crisis. Meanwhile, let us tread lightly on this planet and make it a habit.

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