Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

Posts Tagged ‘Blog Action Day’

Protecting Philippine Corals

Posted by butalidnl on 7 June 2011

Save Philippine Seas

(This blog post is my contribution to the Blog Action Day to Save our Coral Reefs and Seas.)

The Philippines is blessed with having a lot of coral reefs, which are not only nice to look at; they’re also sanctuaries for fish and other marine animals. The problem is that there are people who are actively destroying these reefs – people who harvest the reefs, for sale abroad;  and fishermen using methods that destroy reefs.

Coral Harvesting
The harvesting of corals is a direct way of destroying the reefs. If we note that corals are actually tiny animals which grow about 1 cm/year, it takes a long time before they are able to form reefs of any size. And the harvester just takes these away, undoing decades of growth. It will take a very long time to rebuild corals in these same locations.

With the corals gone, the many fish and other animals who take refuge at reefs are exposed and will disappear. Reefs are very important especially for recently hatched fish and the like, since they are able to avoid being eaten while still very young and vulnerable. Thus, the presence of reefs means that these fish are able to grow to maturity. Fishermen have everything to gain from reefs – less reefs mean less fish to catch.

Dynamite Fishing. There are fishing methods that are destructive for coral reefs. The most obvious of these is dynamite fishing.  In this, the fisherman throws dynamite in the water, and this explodes stunning the fish, which then floats. Often, the shock of the explosion also destroys coral reefs.

Cyanide and Electricity. Another destructive way of fishing is by the use of cyanide. Cyanide stuns fish, making them easier to catch. The fisherman squirts cyanide inside coral reefs to stun the fish hiding there. Then he opens up the reef with a crowbar to get at the fish that is stunned. The cyanide itself also poisons the coral polyps, killing them.

Electricity is also used to stun fish, in a manner similar to that of cyanide. It also has detrimental effects on the reef.

Muro-Ami (kayakas).   Muro-ami is a method of fishing where the nets reach the sea floor, and where divers are sent down to smash the reef, forcing the fish to get trapped in the net.  A variation of this is when heavy sinkers are attached to the net, and these sinkers smash the coral. This kind of fishing is a very short-sighted method; after one run of catching coral fish,  the reef is destroyed, and could not produce fish anymore.
While Muro-Ami is no longer as widespread as before, it is still done in some remote seas off Mindanao.

“Traditional Fishing”. Even some forms of traditional fishing at coral reefs could prove destructive to the reef.
Wrasses and Triggerfish eat “Crown of Thorns” Starfishes (as well as other ocean dwelling invertebrates). Traditional fishing at reefs may harvest too many of these fish that the “Crown of Thorns” Starfish will start multiplying, and then they will eat up all the corals.

Other Destructive Activities
Human Contact. Even casual human contact can damage reefs. Divers who look at reefs should refrain from touching them. They should also not “stand” on the reef. The coral polyps are so sensitive, that they will die with this kind of contact.

Boats that go out to reef areas should refrain from dropping anchor. Anchors can also destroy coral reefs.

Pollution. Pollution is also another way by which people damage coral reefs. Mine tailings very often get dumped at sea, and often in coral reefs. If there is too much organic waste dumped into the sea, these would result in plankton multiplying so much that they use up all the oxygen in that part of the sea, resulting in fish dying en masse and also corals dying.

Fishpond owners sometimes use poison to clean their fishponds. If the fishpond is near a reef, the corals may die because of the poison.

Responding to Coral Reef Damage
There needs to be a comprehensive approach to preventing damage to our coral reefs. This mostly involve have stricter laws against damaging corals, and stricter enforcement of these laws. At the same time, steps should be taken towards regional cooperation, as well as coral recovery.

Stricter Laws. There are laws against the harvesting of corals e.g. (particularly in RA 8550: Fisheries Code of 1998). However, the penalties are extremely low (e.g. 6 months to 2 years imprisonment, up to P 20,ooo fine, and confiscation for harvesting corals). In the face of the enormous profits that are made in this business, the penalty for violating these laws are puny. Congress should stiffen the fines and imprisonment for direct coral harvesting.

While it is prohibited to pollute the sea with mine tailings and other pollutants, there are no real penalties for these offenses. Thus, companies can go about polluting with impunity. Stricter laws and penalties need to be made against marine pollution.

Better Enforcement. Fisherfolk communities should be encouraged to form Bantay Dagat, one of whose tasks is to protect corals. They should be backed by their municipal governments, especially the police force. The Coast Guard should also be beefed up to help to enforce the law.

Coral Rehabilitation. Local government units should initiate coral rehabilitation activities and even help designate protected zones.  Where possible, those who are found guilty of harvesting or destroying corals should be mobilized to help rehabilitate corals, as part of their punishment.

Posted in corals, environment, LGU, Philippine politics, Philippines, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Reforming Water Distribution in Metro Manila

Posted by butalidnl on 14 October 2010|Start Petition
This blog is my contribution to Blog Action Day, when people throughout the world will be blogging about: Water.

It’s a recurring problem in Metro Manila: lack of water.  People complain about high water bills, and of water service interruptions.  But at the same time,  many people use water “as if it was water”, i.e. in quite a wasteful manner.  I believe that the price of water in Manila could be restructured in such a way as both to conserve water and to distribute it more equally among the people.

Change price structure for water
I think the structure for water charges should be changed. The first change will be to separate a per-connection charge from the charge for water use. Then, the price for water use for amounts less than 20 cubic meters a month should be lessened, while the price for use above 20 cubic meters raised. 20 cubic meters (or 20,000 liters) seems to be a fairer cut-off amount (as opposed to the present cut-off amount of 10 cubic meters), since the average consumption of water is about 3500 liters (or 3.5 cubic meters)/person/month; making a household with 5 members consume less than 20 cubic meters/month.

The present price structure in Manila is to have a lump sum for the first 10 cubic meters, and then a steadily increasing charge after that. For example, Manila Water (in the Eastern Zone) charges Php 69.16 for the first 10 cubic meters, and then Php 8.44 per cubic meter for the next 10 cubic meters, and then Php 16 per cubic meter for the next 20 cubic meters, etc.

I would propose something like Php 40 as connection fee, then Php 5 per cubic meter for the first 20 cubic meters, and then Php 18 per cubic meter for the next 20 cubic meters, etc…

This way,  there will be a price incentive to have a separate connection per household; since the price of having two households connected to a single water meter will be significantly higher than that of having two water meters.

If more households have water meters, and get water bills, then they will also tend to be more conscious of their water use.  So, instead of having a single water connection for a compound of houses; there would be one connection per house.

All-in bills tend to promote wastage of water. So, for boarding houses, the water bill should be charged separately from the rental fee. If the boarders use too much water, they should pay more, and this will surely result in them being more thrifty in using water.

Check meters once in two months
Water meters are read once a month, and this is the basis for the monthly water bill. Now, if meters are read once every two months; the expenses for doing so would decrease by 50%.  I don’t mean that the bills be made for two month periods. Let the bill be for a month’s use, but base it on a two monthly reading – and simply divide the reading by two, for the bill for the next two months.  Doing so will not only reduce the cost of taking the readings, but also even out some peaks in water use, and make it more affordable.

With this change, the water companies’ cost per connection will go down, and make it possible for them to implement the lowering of the price for poorer households, who use less water.  At the same time, we could encourage the water companies to establish water supply lines to everybody.

Community Charge for “Leakages”
Instead of the current practice of dividing the cost of “leakages” (actual leakages, plus illegal connections) among all the customers; the water companies should charge specific neighborhoods for their leakages. Thus, a neighborhood would have a water meter measuring the whole community’s water use. Then, there would be meters in specific households. The difference between the total readings per household and the overall community meter would be the “community leakage”. This would either be illegal connections, or actual leaking water from pipes. The cost of these leakages should then be charged to all the water users in the community.

The rationale for this approach is community responsibility. If their individual bills are affected by leakages elsewhere in their community, then people will report leaking pipes or illegal connections. And there will be stronger community pressure against illegal connections.

Posted in environment, Philippine economics, Philippine politics, Philippines | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Lessening carbon emissions and preparing for disaster can be done together

Posted by butalidnl on 15 October 2009

This blog post is my contribution to Blog Action Day

Typhoons Ondoy (Ketsana) and Pepeng (Parma), which caused extensive damage in the Philippines through extensive flooding and landslides, were unprecendented in Philippine history.  They are also graphic proof for the ordinary Filipino that the climate has indeed changed, and that we should take action to respond to this. The range of responses that people want is quite wide: from those calling for radical steps to cut our carbon footprint, to those who want more disaster preparedness, and even those who want to prosecute corrupt officials for diverting emergency funds.  There are even those who think that the typhoons are a scourge from God,  as punishment for the sins of the country’s leaders.

The proposed actions generally fall in two categories: first, those which seek to lessen the country’s carbon footprint, and thus contribute to lessening the greenhouse effect; and second, those which seek to protect lives and property from the ravages of such a changed climate (and in particular, the phenomenon of severe rainfall that comes with typhoons).   And the problem is that many Filipinos may feel that the latter is the priority, and that the country can ill afford the “luxury” of limiting its carbon emissions.

But the two categories are not really mutually exclusive. There are steps which can be taken – and I believe should be taken – which address both the overall carbon footprint while increasing disaster preparedness.

Planting Trees
This has become a “motherhood” issue when it comes to floods and even climate change.  Millions of trees have been planted (although a lot more, I believe, have been cut down at the same time) but we don’t have much to show for it. What we need to do is not simply to plant the trees, but to make sure that the trees are planted where they are needed most, and that there are people that nurture and protect these trees.   This could be done in various ways. A community could be given a whole area of forest for their protection, which is paired with that community’s right to harvest from this forest.  People could be paid to act as forest rangers, whose task is to protect the trees.  And the trees should be planted especially in watershed areas – hilly or mountainous terrain – where they help to hold the soil (lessen siltation downstream). Trees should also be planted in places which experience dry periods as a result of climate change; the trees help to retain the water and thus help prevent droughts.

And at the same time, the trees would absorb carbon dioxide from the air, and lessen the overall carbon footprint of the country.

Carbage Recycling
People were scandalized by all the garbage that clogged the rivers, mixing with the flood waters, and with some garbage even ending up hanging from electricity lines when the flood had receded.  The handling of garbage in the Philippines is primitive – it is just a matter of gathering the garbage from households, etc and dumping them somewhere – where people go through them looking for things to resell (and in vary dirty conditions).  And some people merely dump their garbage in the most convenient open space or waterway. But Metro Manila has grown too big for this primitive handling of garbage.   We need to put in place a modern garbage collection and processing system which would recycle everything that could be recycled. Segregation of garbage should be done – preferably at the source. So, paper, plastic, tin cans, glass,  “green waste” (leaves, and other compostable materials), electronic products, appliances, should be gathered separately.  This could be done either by stimulating people to gather them house-to-house, just like what they already do for used iron,  paper and glass.  We could also put up a modern garbage handling plant to fully segregate the “rest” garbage.  Experience in other countries show that more than 90% of the garbage can be recycled. This leaves only a small amount of garbage which could either be incinerated or placed in  landfills.  And energy can still be generated by this: incineration plants could be used to produce electricity, and landfills could be set up to produce biogas.

Recycling garbage is not only good for helping to unclog the drainage system of Metro Manila; it also helps to lessen global warming. The materials which are recycled don’t have to be produced from scratch – and this in turn saves on the energy used to produce them.

Expand the Light Rail Transit System
The LRT  system in Metro Manila was able to operate even under flooded conditions during Typhoon Ondoy, for the simple reason that it is elevated.  It would be a good idea to consolidate and expand the extent to the LRT system in order to provide more commuters with reliable all-weather transportation.  Expansion should be considered also in places such as the C5 highway or the South Expressway.  In addition to expanding the places reached by the LRT, its capacity should also be increased by adding more trains.

An expansion of the reach and capacity of the LRT has also definite benefits for the world’s climate to a modest degree.  LRT passenger growth will be at the expense of cars, buses and jeepneys – and this will mean a reduction in gasoline and diesel consumption, resulting in less CO2 emissions.

The three measures above will, in addition to making the country more prepared for disaster and lessening carbon emissions, also help to stimulate the economy and provide jobs to many people.

Posted in environment | Tagged: | 1 Comment »