The Philippines was hit by a double whammy a few days ago.
One was the report by the World Bank saying that the Philippines is at increasing risk of massive storms due to climate change and global warming, as South Asia and Southeast Asia are projected to “heat up” in the next few years. The report projected that typhoons will increase in intensity to Category 4 and 5, with the cities of Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh, Jakarta, Manila and Yangon among those likely to be most affected, the devastation particularly severe in the coastal areas.
“If the world warms by two degrees Celsius, it will cause widespread food shortages, unprecedented heat-waves, and more intense cyclones. In the near-term, climate change, which is already unfolding, could greatly harm the lives and the hopes of individuals and families who have had little hand in raising the Earth’s temperature,” warned the report.
The second piece of bad news didn’t have the same apocalyptic ring, but it was troubling nonetheless in light of the WB report. Nathaniel Servando, the administrator of the weather bureau Pagasa, confirmed in a text message to officer-in-charge Vicente Malano that he has resigned his post after serving the agency for 23 years. Servando, 48, had been on leave from his job for health reasons, but last Thursday he formalized his absence by availing himself of optional retirement. He is said to have accepted a teaching post in Qatar with a salary vastly higher than the gross monthly pay of P68,428 plus P2,000 cost-of-living allowance that he received at Pagasa.
And so it goes on—the continuing flight of the Philippines’ best scientific minds for better opportunities abroad, even as it faces overwhelming developmental problems that require their expertise—from deforestation and the loss of natural resources to flooding, urban sprawl, the lack of public health and the meager state of technological and social safeguards against natural disasters.
Can one fault Servando for leaving? His children are said to be in college; his wife is a teacher by profession but runs a sari-sari store in their house. Unconfirmed reports said Servando was lured to work in the Middle East with a promised salary of P600,000. “If you get an offer for that kind of pay, perhaps you would bite, too,” said Malano. “Even our doctors are taking nursing courses to go abroad. They sacrifice being doctors to become nurses.”
According to the Philippine Weathermen Employees Association (PWEA), more than 20 forecasters and employees in other divisions of Pagasa have left for better-paying jobs overseas in the last 10 years. President Aquino finesses that number by saying that only five have left the agency since year 2000, and only three under his watch. In any case, he said, there is no cause for worry because Pagasa has just hired 37 new meteorologists and more are expected.
The President misses the point. The likes of Servando, with his 23-year experience in the field (he was a weather specialist for 10 years, then chief of the weather forecasting division and later deputy administrator for research and development of Pagasa), are a valuable resource that new graduates and trainees would be hard put to match. Also, mere personnel replenishment will not solve the woes that have long plagued Pagasa, whether the inadequate equipment it has had to make do with, or the perennial bureaucratic difficulties it has had to endure to receive proper attention and funding from the government.
Last August, at the height of Typhoon “Helen,” Pagasa employees startled the public when they conducted a lightning rally to press for the release of unpaid benefits, which, it turned out, had been suspended since March. The move jolted Malacañang and Congress to work to increase the salaries of Pagasa employees, and to embed their benefits in the annual budget instead of being sourced from the savings of the agency and the Department of Science and Technology.
That’s not the end of it. This year, the employees’ benefits were delayed again, revealed PWEA head Mon Agustin. “Our hazard and longevity benefits haven’t been given since January this year.”
It’s the same old story, with the beleaguered workers, many of them highly trained, some even with master’s degrees, still scrounging around for the respect they deserve for work that directly impacts the lives of all Filipinos. The departure of Servando et al. isn’t Pagasa’s loss alone, but also the nation’s.
As if finding squirrels weren’t unusual enough in highly urbanized Metro Manila, the posh Manila Golf and Country Club in Forbes Park, Makati City, on Friday yielded another out-of-place creature: a tarsier.
The tarsier, one of the smallest known primates in the world, was found by the golf club’s caddies before noon on Friday, general manager San Agustin Albina told the Inquirer in a phone interview. The saucer-eyed creature was found clinging to the low-lying branches of a tamarind tree near the caddies’ barracks, he added.
Though squirrels have become regular residents in trees within the country club, it was the first time a tarsier has been found in the premises, the club official said.
“It was my first time to see one and I didn’t even see it in Bohol (where tarsiers are usually found) but here [in Metro Manila],” an amused Albina said.
He said they had no idea how the creature got into the golf club but surmised that it could have escaped from neighboring residences where it might have been kept as a pet.
It might have climbed a tree but was chased down to the lower branches by the squirrels, Albina said. “The caddies decided to capture the tarsier before the squirrels or stray cats could hurt it,” he added.
Albina said they immediately called the the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (DENR-PAWB) to take custody of the animal.
“It seems healthy, but we don’t know what to feed it. We [waited] for the PAWB, who could take care of it better,” Albina said of the creature that had sat quietly inside a cardboard box lined with netting before the PAWB picked it up.
PAWB official Theresa Mundita Lim promptly sent veterinarian Esteven Toledo to examine the tiny primate after Sen. Loren Legarda called her up for assistance.
“First, it will need a health check,” Lim said of the tarsier. “We’ll have to find out if it’s healthy and in good condition. And if it’s healthy, then it will be transported and possibly reintroduced to the wild.”
Lim said the PAWB would also have to determine if the tarsier was a Philippine species and investigate how it got to Forbes Park.
“There’s no way it could have gotten there on its own,” she said, adding that a tourist might have smuggled out the creature and decided to keep it as a pet, and that it might have escaped.
Tarsiers can leap from tree to tree but are not known to travel long distances, Lim said.
The DENR-PAWB veterinarian, who came early evening Friday to pick up the tarsier, echoed Lim’s view, saying there was no known tarsier population in Metro Manila. “We believe someone living in Forbes Park [could] have been keeping it and that it escaped,” Toledo said.
But the DENR also noted that a baby tarsier was spotted at singer Jose Mari Chan’s house in Forbes Park a month ago, but that it had died by the time the agency came to retrieve it.
Toledo said that keeping wildlife is illegal, except among registered breeders and wildlife farms. He added that keeping tarsiers as pets is highly unadvisable because “they are highly strung and sensitive.”
Because the tarsier “had already undergone enough stress,” including during transport, Toledo said the DENR-PAWB was careful not to touch it any further. It was kept in a box during transport to prevent further handling,” the veterinarian said.
Though they could not handle the creature to determine if it was male or female, Toledo said it was an adult and seemed alert.
But the vet declined to state categorically if the tarsier was healthy, saying it will be examined over the weekend. “We have to check first because it could be malnourished,” Toledo said. With a report from DJ Yap
Thousands of liters of bunker fuel supposedly released on Saturday night from a storage tank at a small depot in Sta. Ana, Manila, caused panic among residents as gas fumes wafted through the densely populated area, according to a City Hall official.
Four people were hospitalized after experiencing “difficulty in breathing” apparently caused by the strong smell, according to Rick de Guzman, chief of staff of Mayor Alfredo Lim.
De Guzman, one of the first to respond to the incident, said among those taken to the hospital was a 2-month-old infant, who was briefly placed in an intensive care unit. “They are now OK and have been discharged from the hospital,” he said.
At least 3,000 liters of gas flowed into the Pasig River, based on information from the Coast Guard, said City Administrator Jay Marzan.
Malacañang sounded unperturbed by the gas spill that reportedly happened close to President Aquino’s residence in Bahay Pangarap inside the compound of the Presidential Security Group (PSG).
“We will let the PSG assess that. [They are] aware of the situation,” Undersecretary Abigail Valte, deputy presidential spokesperson, said when asked if the spill posed any danger to President Aquino.
De Guzman said the gas spill happened in a compound at 2657 Old Panadero Street along the Pasig River near the Lambingan Bridge.
He said the compound, which served as a depot, occupied an area of at least 2,000 square meters. It had four 3-meter-tall storage tanks for bunker fuel.
No evacuation took place as the source of the fumes was immediately located and its further spread stopped, he added.
Supt. Remigio Sedanto, Sta. Ana Police commander, said investigation showed the spill came from one of the storage tanks with a busted pipe. The valve of the tank that caused the spill had been closed, he said.
Four depot workers were taken in for questioning and 17 others will be interviewed to shed light on the incident, Sedanto said. He identified the four workers as Eddie Bitonio, Ronaldo Vidania, Juner Intal and Benjie Binggot.
Inspectors wearing masks arrive at the spill site. RICHARD A. REYES
Sedanto also said that among the things police were investigating was why responding Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) personnel and policemen were not immediately allowed to enter the compound.
“They had to climb the fence to enter the compound,” Sedanto said.
Elmar Malapitan, lawyer for Teresita Enriquez, owner of the depot Larraine Marketing, said the “sabotage angle” was also being looked into. Enriquez is abroad, he said.
“A labor dispute is ongoing and there could be a sabotage,” Malapitan said. He said the owners were ready to face an investigation.
Sedanto said that when the police arrived in the area, the compound was deserted but oil tanker trucks were parked outside it. The area was far from the area in Pandacan that houses the depots of three big oil companies, he added.
Marzan said the BFP and Philippine Coast Guard personnel were wearing antifire gear and oxygen masks when they inspected the storage tank suspected to be the source of the gas.
He said a no-smoking area had been declared over a 100-meter radius near the compound and authorities had closed the streets leading to the place.
A new leak from the same bunker was observed Sunday morning, but Marzan said “we decided to empty the bunker to ensure no more gas could come out.”
Marzan said city authorities had noted “a lot” of violations of regulations in the management of the depot.
“From safety and environment. It depends. We haven’t seen the permit that they applied for,” he said.
Marzan said gas had also drifted toward the Pasig River, but the Coast Guard put up oil booms to stop the spread of the spill.
Personnel from the Laguna Lake Development Authority and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) had arrived at the scene to investigate, he said.
As far as Taft Avenue
Police records showed that residents started to smell the strong gas odor at 10 p.m. Soon, complaints about the strong odor began pouring into the police station.
Based on the calls, the strong smell reached as far as Taft Avenue.
Coast Guard personnel were then immediately dispatched along the Pasig River to look for the source of the gas leak.—With a report from TJ A. Burgonio
(The Philippine Star) | Updated June 24, 2013 - 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines - The Supreme Court (SC) has acted on the petition filed by a multisectoral group in April seeking higher penalties for and criminal prosecution of US Navy officers and crew of the USS Guardian, which ran aground on Tubbataha Reef last January.
The SC has asked the US government to answer the petition that named as respondents Scott Swift, commander of the US Seventh Fleet, and Mark Rice, commanding officer of the Guardian.
A member of the high court confirmed to The STAR over the weekend that a letter has been sent to the US embassy in Manila for this purpose.
“The US embassy has been notified that they must file a comment on the petition, among others, to pay a fine for the destruction of the World Heritage Site and for illegal entry into a protected site,” the insider said.
The insider, who asked not be named, said the US government’s response would serve as a test case if the US will even pay attention to it or invoke international treaties or laws,” the source stressed.
Apart from the US embassy, the SC also sought comments from Malacañang, Cabinet members and officials of the military to the petition for writ of Kalikasan filed by two Catholic bishops, environmentalists, activists and lawyers.
The SC, however, did not immediately issue a temporary environment protection order (TEPO) on the UNESCO world heritage site sought by petitioners.
The month-long recess of justices intended for writing of decisions delayed the action on the case. The high court resumed session last June 4.
In a 90-page petition filed last April 17, the group asked the SC to assess the damage caused to the reef by the grounding of the Guardian.
Apart from issuance of the writ and TEPO, they also sought a determination of the fine to be imposed on the US Navy and the prosecution of the officers of the Guardian.
Petitioners are also asking the SC to order a stop to US war games and port calls by US ships in the absence of clear guidelines on environmental protection under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).
The filing came exactly three months after the USS Guardian, a minesweeper of the US Navy, got stuck in the corals in Tubbataha Reef, a UNESCO heritage site.
The last section of the ship was removed last March 29 and more than 2,000 square meters of reef were assessed to have been damaged by the warship.
This is the first time foreign troops have been named respondents in a petition for writ of Kalikasan.
The petition cited, in general, the violation of the right to a balanced and healthful ecology and Republic Act No. 10067 (Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park Act of 2009).
The petitioners include Bishop Pedro Arigo of Puerto Princesa, Palawan; Bishop Deogracias Iniguez Jr., Bishop-Emeritus of Caloocan; Frances Quimpo, Clemente Bautista Jr. of Kalikasan-Pne; Maria Carolina Araullo and Renato Reyes Jr. of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan); Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares; Roland Simbulan of Junk VFA Movement; Teresita Perez; Kabataan party-list Rep. Raymond Palatino; Peter Gonzales of Pamalakaya; Giovanni Tapang, Agham; Elmer Labog, Kilusang Mayo Uno; Joan May Salvador, Gabriela; Jose Enrique Africa; Theresa Concepcion; Mary Joan Guan; Nestor Baguinon, and public interest lawyer Edsel Tupaz.
Bayan, together with other petitioners, are seeking a fine for the US that is 12 times the initial estimate of the Philippine government.
Comparing valuations in the 2009 grounding of the USS Port Royal in Hawaii, the petitioners said the just and reasonable compensation for the damage to Tubbataha is between $16.8 million and $27 million, a far cry from the $1.4 million Philippine government estimate.
Four years ago under similar circumstances, they said the US Navy paid the state of Hawaii a total of $15 million for restoration and settlement for damage to an Oahu reef, which while larger than Tubbataha, has not been identified as a world heritage site.
Petitioners pointed out Tubbataha’s biodiversity concentration is 2.3 times more than that of the Hawaii reef.
As for their call for prosecution, petitioners said the US Navy cannot invoke immunity under the VFA.
They also believe that the US war games and port calls by US warships pose a threat to the environment, especially since there are no clear guidelines under the VFA.
Beach collapses in Zambales; Army securing shoreline
By Czeriza Valencia
(The Philippine Star) | Updated June 24, 2013 - 1:00am
MANILA, Philippines - The beach of Puerto del Mar in Candelaria, Zambales collapsed Saturday afternoon, possibly due to soil erosion caused by strong tidal waves, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) said yesterday.
MGB director Leo Jasareno said the incident occurred at around 4:30 p.m.
Around 80 to 100 meters of shoreline slumped to a depth of two meters. As a result of the phenomenon, the sea moved about 10 meters facing land, Jasareno said in a telephone interview.
There were no fatalities reported.
“This is a natural phenomenon. There may have been soil erosion because of the strength of the tidal waves or there may be a sinkhole,” Jasareno said.
He said an eight-man team composed of MGB geologists was expected to arrive at site yesterday to determine the exact cause of the slump.
“We will also be determining if the same phenomenon is occurring in nearby areas,” he said.
Jasareno noted that there are no magnetite mining operations in the area.
Swimming is temporarily prohibited on the beach.
Meanwhile, a shore protection project of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in La Union saved the coastal village of Barangay Pilar from being totally wiped out.
At least 15 hectares of the total land area of the village were submerged due to strong waves caused by storm surges and typhoons in the past, according to Councilor Protacio Cabueñas.
But with the completion of the P36-million shore protection project of the DPWH, it is expected that portions of the village’s total area will be restored.
Cabueñas said the sinking of Barangay Pilar started after a sand mining company left the area in the late 1970s.
“Some of our constituents have transferred to nearby barangay Santiago because there’s no more space to build houses in Pilar,” he said. - With Jun Elias
By Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) | Updated June 24, 2013 - 12:00am
Whether he’s old or new in the job, your mayor should know the geohazards in your town or city. That’s his duty. The law tasks him with preparing for floods, landslides, and other adverse geological conditions. If he goofs, and constituents lose lives and property, sue him for criminal dereliction and civil damages.
The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) gives each mayor at the start of his term hard and soft copies of your locale’s geohazards map. It then convenes them, with the help of the governor, to teach how to read the map. Scaled 1:50,000 centimeters (500 meters), the topography is color-coded. Mayors must pay special attention to the areas shaded red, the most landslide-prone, and purple, the most flood-prone.
(The maps are also in the MGB website: www.mgb.gov.ph/lhmp.aspx. Director Leo Jasareno’s agency is preparing more detailed ones, scaled 1:10,000 cm., for distribution next year.)
Landslides occur due to natural terrain or manmade faults, usually quarrying, mining, or carelessness. Like, the 1999 fall of Cherry Hill Subdivision down the mountainside of Antipolo, Rizal, that killed 59 persons and injured 32, was the developer and city hall’s fault. The firm had erected 379 houses with weak concrete footings, on steep, unstable slopes, and ignored telling earth slippage that started five months prior. The city engineer had approved the subdivision plan and sloppy construction. Such were basic ingredients for disaster during downpours.
Negligence also caused the 2011 trash-slide in Asin, Tuba, Benguet, in which dozens of homes were crushed and six residents were buried alive. For years the residents had been begging adjacent Baguio City to close down the garbage dump on the shared boundary atop the hill. For, the Solid Waste Management Act already forbade dumping, and cities and provinces were supposed to shift to sanitary landfilling. City hall ignored the law of gravity, and the residents’ pleas. At the height of a typhoon, the dump’s riprap wall gave way, unleashing thousands of tons of garbage onto the village below. The homeowners, with Tuba and Benguet officials, have sued Baguio.
Jasareno recounts the worse case of Barangay Kingking, Pantukan, Compostela Valley. Thousands of illegal cliff-side miners were triggering frequent rockslides onto their own family dwellings below. Two such slides had killed dozens in 2011. Still, they defied orders from authorities to stop. Another slide struck in 2012; more people killed. The local officials had the temerity to deflate the casualty count, even though the stench of decomposing flesh pervaded for weeks from under the rubble. The national government has sued them.
Floods are also mostly manmade. Global warming has caused ocean waters to rise around the Equator, thus threatening coastal villages. Meantime, in- and highlanders clog the waterways with trash, silt, and even construction. A governor in Central Luzon was blamed for destructive rain floods due to fish pens choking the rivers, including by his wife’s family. (I have long been decrying the erection of an apartment row on a creek packed with earth inside Doña Carmen Subdivision, Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City.)
The MGB recommends to the mayors two options: adaptation or relocation. Either the local execs build floodways, dredge rivers, build strong enough retaining walls and levees, and stop haphazard mining, or they remove their constituents from harm’s way. Jasareno laments that some mayors live by the motto, “To see is to believe”: they wait for disaster to strike before thinking of prevention and mitigation. Such was the case of massive destruction in Surigao, Davao, and Compostela Valley by Typhoon Pablo (international name Bopha) last December. The mayors knew that typhoons, though unusual, already were visiting Mindanao – one had struck only a year before – yet paid no heed to the MGB’s flood and landslide warnings.
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Congratulations: OJ Mariano, awarded outstanding male lead performer in a musical, by the 2012 Philstage Awards for the Performing Arts, for his role in Ballet Philippines’ “Rama, Hari”; and
Atty. Dennis B. Funa, law book author, professor of law, and constitutionalist, on his appointment as Insurance Commission deputy.
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Two of many reactions to my piece, “Lack of experts slowing down government projects” (Gotcha, 21 June 2013):
Ramon Quebral: “The Mines and Geosciences Bureau will lose its senior geologists under the ‘rationalization plan’ that Budget Sec. Abad is implementing. And they say geo-hazards and disaster management are the top priorities? What they do is not what they say. Only six out of 18 supervising geologists will be left. These are experts in whom previous administrations invested by overseas study and training.”
Daniel B. Valdez: “The reason for the dearth of technical experts for infra projects is their underpayment. Probably strict compliance with the administration’s ‘tuwid na daan (straight path)’ worked against the pursuit of the projects. Considerable reduction of perks (commissions, percentages) may have discouraged those entering the government service from the private sector with those in mind. I recall the Makati Business Club suggesting that ‘a little corruption is necessary.’ Although contrary to President Aquino’s view, that may be true. It should be noted that the Anti-Graft Act penalizes only contracts that are ‘grossly disadvantageous to the government.’ What of those which are simply disadvantageous?”
(Associated Press) | Updated June 24, 2013 - 7:08am
NEW DELHI — US Secretary of State John Kerry on yesterday urged fast-growing India to work with the United States on global warming before it's too late. "The irreversible climate challenge is speeding towards us, crying out for a global solution, " he said.
Kerry spoke on climate change in a speech in New Delhi, the second stop on his two-week swing through the Mideast and Asia, just two days before President Barack Obama is to unveil his long-awaited plan for the United States on the issue.
"The world's largest democracy and its oldest one must do more together, uniting not as a threat to anyone, not as a counterweight to a region or some other countries, but as partners building a strong, smart future in a critical age," Kerry said in a reference to how India is often viewed as a counterbalance to China.
People consulting with White House officials on Obama's plan say they expect the president to put forth regulations on heat-trapping gases emitted by coal-fired power plants that are already running. Environmental groups have been pleading with Obama to take that step, but the administration has said it's focused first on controls on new power plants.
More than half of India's power comes from coal and while the US has emission issues of its own, it wants to see India and other nations in the region rely less on old, coal generation facilities. The US is backing a Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline that would bring energy to a power-starved region.
Speaking at a convention center to a crowd of several hundred businessmen, students and others, Kerry noted that federal scientists in May reported that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere passed 400 parts per million — a level never before experienced by man.
"When the desert is creeping into East Africa, and ever more scarce resources push farmers and herders into deadly conflict ... then this is a matter of shared security for all of us. ... When the Himalayan glaciers are receding, threatening the very supply of water to almost a billion people, we all need to do better," he said.
During his first trip to India as secretary of state, the top US diplomat was expected to discuss a myriad of other topics, including enhancing security in the region and prospects for finding a political resolution to the war in Afghanistan.
As NATO troops leave, India fears the country could fall into the hands of a Taliban-led regime, endangering many of India's interests there. Kerry reassured India, which has invested more than $2 billion to reconstruct Afghanistan, that the US commitment to the Afghan people will not end at the close of next year when NATO-led combat troops complete their withdrawal.
In meetings before Kerry heads to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, the US expects Indian officials will want to query Kerry about prospects for peace talks with the Taliban. US talks were scheduled to begin in coming days, but a last-minute diplomatic rift over how the Taliban rolled out their new political office in Doha, Qatar, has threatened to scuttle the talks.
"Obviously, we are very realistic about the difficulties of making progress. Making peace is never easy, and a final settlement may be long in coming," he said.
"And let me be clear: Any political settlement must result in the Taliban breaking ties with al-Qaeda, renouncing violence and accepting the Afghan constitution, including its protections for all Afghans, women and men. Afghanistan cannot again become a safe haven for international terrorism."
Kerry also spoke about India's archrival, Pakistan.
There is widespread hope that Pakistan's new President Nawaz Sharif will try to improve relations with its Indian neighbor, thus reducing the chance of a fourth major war between the nuclear-armed foes.
But India has been frustrated by Pakistan's failure to crack down on Islamic extremists, which have strong historical links with Pakistani intelligence. Kerry called on Pakistan to continue normalizing trade relations with Pakistan. "Just last year, bilateral trade increased 21 percent," he said.
Washington wants New Delhi to speed up economic reform to increase US business and trade opportunities with India. In the past decade, bilateral trade has increased five-fold, but Kerry is expected to share the concerns of the US business community about trade and about other problems American businessmen are facing in India.
More than 150 US lawmakers teamed up with American business groups last week to press the Obama administration to further press India to ease policies they claim are bad for American exports, jobs and innovation.
The window to ease the impacts of global warming is closing more rapidly than earlier estimated, says the World Bank in a study released last Wednesday. Sea level surges will double as mountain glaciers melt. They’ll interlock with intense storms inflicting deaths and damage.
What happens when, in the words of the study, “rainfall becomes more sporadic and, in rainy season, even more intense”? Inquirer’s Michael Tan sketches a graphic answer from “Emong,” this season’s first storm.
“Monday night, I broke my own record of airport commuting ordeals, clocking 13 hours to get from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport to my home in San Juan. I left Naia at about 5:30 p.m. in a taxi.” By 8 p.m., Tan was still stuck in Makati. At 11 p.m., he gave up and took a hotel room. “I finally got home at 6:30 a.m. the next day.”
Hindi ka nag-iisa, supporters of political prisoner Ninoy Aquino used to say. Thousands were also stranded. Storm “Fabian” lurks around the corner. And rainy season’s end is still 17 or more typhoons away.
Among seven cities, Manila is second most at risk from climate change, reports the 2013 Climate Change Vulnerability Index, which studied 197 countries. Others are: Dhaka, Bangkok, Yangon, Jakarta, Ho Chi Minh and Calcutta.
Rising sea levels could uproot 13.6 million Filipinos by 2050, the Asian Development Bank projected in an earlier study titled “Addressing Climate Change and Migration in Asia and the Pacific.” Three typhoons, in as many years, lashed Mindanao. The island used to reel from a wayward storm every 17 years or so.
World leaders are committed to curb greenhouse emissions and tamp down temperature increases to about 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, (2 degrees Celsius). There are concerns “that temperatures will soar to 5 degrees Celsius over a century,” the 2012 World Bank study noted.
The 2013 study, therefore, narrowed the focus on the next few years. The heaviest impact will slam parts of Asia most prone to flooding and harsh tropical storms, it warned. Bangkok could be swamped by floods in 2030. Hanoi’s just-built new flood control systems are obsolete. Rising ocean temperatures and saltwater intrusion into rivers could ruin local fisheries. Fish is a key source of protein for the people of Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines.
Countries must redo earlier estimates. A projected 20-centimeter sea-level rise here over the next 40 years is an obsolete projection. This threat still runs “along the Pacific seaboard: from Samar to eastern Mindanao,” Wendy Clavano wrote in “Environmental Science for Social Change.” Only it is more severe.
The high-risk provinces flank Lingayen Gulf, Camotes Sea, Guimaras Strait, waters along Sibuyan and central Sulu, plus bays in Iligan, Lamon and Bislig. Chances of Manila flooding yearly rose to 65 percent, and Davao’s to 90 percent, estimates Clavano, a Cornell University PhD holder. “Rising sea level took a back seat because increased flooding had a more immediate effect.”
This issue is a major stumbling block to alleviating global poverty, warned World Bank President Jim Yong Kim. Progress of the last 20 years could be set back if nations must divert scarce resources to recover from storms and natural disasters. Those funds are needed in health, education and other services.
The bank will provide loans for Asian countries to cope with inevitable climate shifts. It prods agribusinesses to focus “on how major crops can be altered to live with less water, hotter temperatures.” Support is given for crop science and genetics. Will scientists win the race to produce drought-resistant varieties of corn and other plants—or lose to mass hunger, say in Sub-Saharan Africa? A “magic bullet” may prove elusive.
In a report released Friday in Nairobi, the UN Environment Programme said that the private sector’s future will hinge on its ability to develop goods and services that reduce impacts from sea levels to emissions of harmful chemicals.
“GEO-5 for Business: Impacts of a Changing Environment on the Corporate Sector” notes significant business opportunities for greener urban construction and retrofits. These are in cities where 60 percent of infrastructure still has to be built. Markets for organic food and beverages expanded by 10 to 20 percent yearly during the last decade. Companies certified as sustainable food producers can also tap into growing customer demand.
Eight out of 10 Filipinos say they “personally experienced” climate change impacts over the last three years, Social Weather Stations found in a survey conducted March 19-22, 2013. The affected proportions were highest in the National Capital Region (91 percent). Luzon had 87 percent; the Visayas, 84 percent; and Mindanao, 78 percent.
Many survey respondents say they have to fully understand climate change’s impacts. Thirty-seven percent participated in at least one effort to reduce risks resulting from climate change (e.g., contacted civil society organizations, gave donations, etc.). And 63 percent said they did not do anything.
At a Bonn meeting last week, Bangladesh said its cities plan to adapt to more water. It allocated $470 million to grow forests on the coastal belt and build multistory shelters to house cyclone victims. Thailand awarded bids for flood management. “Solutions to the problem of rising seas are being studied.”
Cebu is the most ecologically brittle of Philippine cities. Debate swirls around Rep. Tomas Osmeña’s becoming barangay captain. That would wedge him into the city council—and place him in position to harass reelected Mayor Mike Rama.
“We are on the verge of a global transformation,” billionaire David Rockefeller said. “All we need is the right major crisis.” Is this it?
Metro threatens Phantom Planter with arrest if he tends his Dupont Circle station flowers
By Robert McCartney
Published: June 23 E-mail the writer
Quirky garden artist Henry Docter has been surreptitiously planting flowers in public places on four continents since 1979. His unauthorized beautification efforts have frequently aroused surprise and delight — but never a problem until this month, when he ran afoul of Washington’s Metro transit system.
Metro threatened Docter with “arrest, fines and imprisonment” if he dared to weed, water or otherwise tend to more than 1,000 morning glories and other flowers whose seeds he planted in 176 barren flower boxes alongside the top stretch of the north escalators at the Dupont Circle station.
Metro said it’s only concerned about safety. The boxes are set in steep, cobblestoned inclines, so Metro fears that Docter could hurt himself or others if he fell.
That doesn’t impress the man who calls himself the Phantom Planter. He said Metro is exaggerating the risk. He’s had little difficulty walking up and down two narrow service ramps to get to the boxes since he started planting there in October.
In addition, Docter has told Metro that he’s willing to use a harness as Metro workers do. He’d sign a liability waiver saying he wouldn’t sue Metro if he’s hurt.
“I’ve never gotten in trouble for planting flowers,” Docter, 52, said last week. “Never has anyone overreacted with such an absence of common sense.”
Docter spoke in the first interview in which he openly discussed 34 years of clandestine horticulture. The District resident estimated that he’s planted more than 40,000 flowers in spots ranging from the Israeli Embassy and Navy Memorial in the District to faraway locales, including Argentina, Spain and Cambodia.
He has newspaper clips to support his account. The Israeli Embassy acknowledged that it has tolerated his plantings in security barriers on the street for four years.
“I’m not denying that I’m a little nuts,” Docter said. He calls his plantings a form of performance art, saying, “Flowers are nature’s way of affirming how beautiful life can be.”
Docter is a husband, a father of two and — when he’s not sneaking out to garden — a part-time lawyer, children’s book author and collage artist. He was student government president at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda (Class of 197 and is the son of well-known District community activist Charles Docter.
Henry Docter has gone public partly to rally community support in the face of Metro’s warning. He seems to be succeeding: A Web petition he launched last week has drawn more than 800 signatures. (It’s reachable via letmyflowersgrow.com.) Neighborhood activists are planning a meeting in July to try to work out a compromise with Metro.
When I was interviewing Docter on Friday at the Dupont Circle station, a passerby guessed that he was the planter and enthusiastically praised his action.
“I think it’s fantastic,” Mike Stirratt, 43, who lives nearby, told Docter. “That seems incredibly unfair that they would prosecute you for doing something to help the neighborhood.”
Ironically, Metro wouldn’t have known about Docter’s act if he hadn’t sent it a polite letter June 3 describing how he’d planted the flowers a week earlier. His letter said he’d like to continue caring for them.
“In retrospect, it was a mistake to ask for permission,” Docter said last week. “After I planted the seeds, they sprouted very quickly. I kind of panicked and got concerned they would interpret it as a weed and destroy it.”
It’s clear that Metro wasn’t paying much attention. In October, Docter planted 150 daffodils and tulips in the same boxes. After they bloomed and died, he pruned the spent flowers and turned down and secured the leaves for future vitality.
Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said that round of gardening apparently slipped under the radar. “It’s sort of beyond the scope of what you would imagine some private citizen would do,” he said.
Stessel also conceded that Metro’s real estate department might have gone too far with its June 11 “cease and desist” letter to Docter.
“The word ‘imprisonment’ is one we probably would have omitted had it originated in our general counsel’s office,” Stessel said.
Metro’s position now is that it wants to work with the community to find a solution that’s affordable, sustainable and safe. It’s not clear if that’s going to include Docter. He told me he’d do the work for $1 a year if Metro wanted to hire him and make it all official.
Docter is respecting Metro’s order but frets about the plants.
“The heat has returned, and I already noticed some of the leaves are wilting,” he said. “Every day that passes without water means the plants will not be as strong when they begin blooming in August.”
Metro had best act quickly. If the flowers die, its bureaucrats are going to look even more foolish than they do already.