Palawan Seizes Clean Power with WWF

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SYP Mendoza Park by Gregg YanGoodbye Coal Power as World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Philippines has finally launched its  Seize Your Power campaign in Palawan.   This global movement calls on financial institutions, private investors, pension funds and governments to invest in clean and affordable renewable energy sources and divest from dirty and expensive fossil-fuel plants.

Palawan can become an example for the rest of the country by veering from outdated, business-as-usual thinking and embracing future practices – particularly the use of locally-abundant renewable energy resources,” explains WWF-Philippines Vice-chair and CEO Lory Tan. “The question has never been whether Palawan should develop – but how it should develop.”

The campaign was launched at 6PM on 22 October at Puerto Princesa City’s Mendoza Park, drawing in over 500 representatives from the city plus the adjacent municipalities of Aborlan and Narra. Palawan was chosen as one of the campaign’s iconic places due to its exceptional levels of biodiversity and biological-productivity. The province’s rich resources are currently threatened by a plan to construct a coal-fired power plant in Aborlan.

Palawan is rapidly developing, thus our rising need for power,” explains Provincial Economic Affairs Adviser Caesar Ventura. “We’re just waiting for renewable energy investors to approach so we can finally fund local projects.”

WWF highlighted Palawan’s plight through a short program featuring testimonials from local renewable energy champions and stakeholders, capped off by cultural dances and a unique sand art performance. The event was supported by the Palawan Alliance for Clean Energy (PACE), a coalition of local NGOs pushing for indigenous renewable energy solutions.

Renewable energy projects like mini hydropower plants have been proposed for Puerto Princesa, Narra and Aborlan since 2010. Unfortunately, the mini hydro projects have been unable to obtain contracts with local distributor PALECO. Despite obtaining all other requirements, they have been unable to start generating power for the people of Palawan.

These mini hydro projects will sell cheaper power than the planned coal plant. Why should Palaweños buy expensive, dirty energy when cheaper and cleaner alternatives are already available? The extra expense will not just be incurred by Palaweños, but by the rest of the country,” says Executive Director of the Environmental Legal Assistance Center (ELAC) and PACE Lead Convener Atty. Gerthie Mayo-Anda.

Under the rules of the National Power Corporation’s Special Power Utilities Group (NPC-SPUG), non-grid-connected areas like Palawan shall have portions of their electricity cost subsidized by both the national government and consumers.

First proposed for the municipality of Narra, the coal plant faced such united local opposition that the company was forced to look for a different site – one of which is in the municipality of Aborlan. The proposed site in Narra would have directly impacted the Rasa Wildlife Sanctuary, home of the world’s largest nesting population of the critically-endangered Katala or Philippine cockatoo.

The proposed coal plant would have impeded the flight path of hundreds of Philippine cockatoos from Rasa Island to the mainland, where they fly each morning to forage. This would have had grave impacts on the Katala’s breeding population, putting years of conservation work to protect this iconic species in peril,” says Katala Foundation’s Indira Lacerna-Widmann.

The proposal was subsequently moved to Aborlan, where a massive protest was held on 30 September. Over 1500 people – ranging from Western Palawan University students to members of the academe and local stakeholders – united to oppose the coal plant.

Palawan is currently considered a UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve and hosts two UNESCO World Heritage Sites – the Tubbataha Reefs and the Puerto Princesa Underground River. The island was also recently named by the tourism industry as one of the best islands in the world.

WWF’s Seize Your Power Campaign has been launched in numerous countries and highlighted other iconic areas facing threats from fossil fuels such as the Virunga National Park in Africa and the Great Bear Sea in Canada. 

Spa Treatment with a Dose of Electricity

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Mom's the Word

SAM_3380SAM_3399SAM_3398Back pains, neck pains, shoulder pains? . . . try electricity.  It will shock the pain out of you.  But seriously, it feels good.   I tried it at NULiving Spa in Binondo and it felt more soothing than anything. Making use of a fusion of Asian treatments that includes Chinese, Thai, Indian and Filipino, NULiving Spa Studio offers solutions to body aches caused by physical exertion or stress-induced factors through special massages or through the electricity treatment in combination with  the usual spa treatments.

The moment you enter, you feel good and healthy already, as the sweet smell of ginger penetrates your nostrils and lungs. The sound of water, soft music will relax you as you wait for your turn inside the clean, lowly-lit cubicles. The soft human touch against your skin completes the whole sensory experience (sound, scent, touch) which will  rejuvinate and de-stress you physically, mentally and…

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Integrated Organic Farming is Key to a Lucrative Farm Business

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SAM_3999SAM_4077“No Filipino should go hungry.”–Ramon Penaloza, Penaloza Farm.

Is Integrated Organic Farming the solution to our country’s problem of poverty? Well that seems to be the proposition in the second farm we visited in the Bacolod agenda. At the Penaloza farm, we got a whole lot more than we bargained for. Seriously, it was information overload but in a good way. It was the most inspiring, educational, uplifting talk I have ever encountered as it presented a solution to our country’s insurmountable problem of poverty. Okay so maybe I’m getting too excited and too optomistic. It won’t be a simple solution for sure, but I believe it’s a step in the right direction.

SAM_4005So as we were welcomed by Mr. and Mrs. Ramon Penaloza with a delicious, organic, health-promoting tea concoction. Honestly, it was so good I should have noted the ingredients which Mr. Penaloza generously shared. After an eye-opening introduction and a tour of his 50-bed capacity home, we proceeded to a lunch buffet of organic dishes specially cooked by Mrs. Penaloza. This was followed by the lecture with visual presentation and illustration of how far he has gone with his farming theories and how he applied these learnings to create a vast income earning business from multi-sources connected to the main business. What he shared was really a lot to digest in one sitting so this post is a simplified version of what was discussed.SAM_4017

Let’s say your main business is piggery, in every stage of the pig’s life you can earn income already, no waiting period. You can sell the piglets for breeding or lechon de leche, then when they get older, you can sell them as studs or for lechon. You can further divide the pig into parts and sell the raw meet in the market or supermarket.   You can also cook the raw meat then sell as ham or other dishes. On the next level, you can make your own pig feeds from food scraps and fertilizer from pig waste. Pig waste can serve as food for fish or fertilizer for plants that feed other animals, and which can be another source of livelihood.

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SAM_4161“There is no unproductive soil, only an unproductive farmer.”  The idea presented by Mr. Penaloza is that most farmers do not maximize available resources or see other income opportunities from farm waste products. He shares that farming can be a lucrative business if you can make use of what you have instead of spending for supplies you can make.  Then create that interrelated cycle of piggery or livestock raising with vegetable farming where one group’s waste is the other group’s nutrients. Recycle into compost and feed the soil instead of throwing away, re-use and re-create from excess into another income-generating potential. My illustration may not be so accurate as I am really highlighting the various possibilities when you maximize your available resources which means making use of nature or organic materials. That will mean less money going out and more coming in.

SAM_4011But before reaping the fruits of your labor, you must learn and understand the language of the soil, plants, and animal and art of war against pest and diseases to be able to know when is the right time and what is the right action.  And here is the clincher, if you master these languages, you can even decide how you want the plants to behave and when you want them to bear fruit according to Mr. Penaloza.

SAM_4083“The farmer who does not know how to pray is not a good farmer,” is a quote by Mr. Penaloza which is insightful and full of wisdom as we all know that nature is controlled only by the One Above.  There is much to be in awe of in the way he manages and maximizes his farm. First, you won’t smell odors from his piggery area or his compost area. Thanks to his organic practices. Second, his construction materials come from sugarcane wastes. His home is testimony to the strength of his materials, recycled and re-used as much as possible. For those who plan to get into the agriculture business and succeed, a visit to his farm is a must.

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Bacolod Farmers Help Each Other to Succeed

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If there is an industry that does not have a backstabbing strategy with its competition, it is in Agriculture where farmers even share their secrets and train fellow farmers to succeed. This has been ingrained in my mind during my three Organic Farm Tours in the various provinces I have visited. The farmers are trusting and generous with their knowledge towards other struggling farmers. They see no point in holding back as they believe the impoverished farmers and general public will benefit in the end. Why hold back indeed when there is way too much demand, more than the farmers can provide. The problems in the slow or even stagnating development in Philippine Agriculture  is focused on underutilized land, not enough machines, some lazy farmers, abusive middlemen, fund support going to personal pockets, lack of support from local government officials.

SAM_3877The Bacolod organic farmers have decided to do something about it among themselves, without waiting for the slow support from govenement . They experimented, learned from mistakes, looked for viable options, built their own machines, then trained the other farmers, loaned them machines in a pay-when-able mode. They help each other to increase their fold and make farming a good, income-generating businesss.

In my third Organic Agriculture Immersion to Bacolod, the bloggers had the good fortune of staying in May’s Organic Garden. This picturesque, fresh air, comfortable farm with accommmodation owned by Ramon and May Uy made the trip to Bacolod memorable 

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as we experienced farm life with city comforts. The women shared a room with two clean bathrooms, soft beddings in cheerful colors, with color-coded towels. It was so tempting to just lie in those comfortable beds in between farm visits. Meals were tasty, healthy treats with home-grown vegetables and fruits, red rice, organic coffee, clean fish, and organic desserts. Though exhaused from our farm trips, we were still pampered with an evening of music, that is videoke with drinks and pika-pika. Needless to say, our host, May’s Organic Garden farm, made the Bacolod trip a lot of fun for all of us

SAM_3884Mr. Ramon Uy was the first to share about the Bacolod Farmers’ plight. He explained how most of these provincial farmers were by nature trusting and generous to the point of almost working for nothing. They could easily be taken advantaged of by shrewd businessmen. They sell their harvest for a song but when these produce are sold to end consumers, we spend an extra 70% profit that goes to the retailers and not the farmers.

SAM_3895Mr. Uy, being one of the Bacolod farmer leaders, is the motivational speaker for farmers to love what they do and earn a decent living for their toils. He holds regular training sessions in his home and also developed a threshing machine that would save time and money for the farmers. These machines cost a lot but he made a deal with the farmers to collect when they already start to have income. His strategy of collection from these struggling farmers is to get a percentage from “earned income rather than their available wealth”. He understands the farmers’ situation, being one himself, making it his goal to help them become self-sufficient which overrides his businessman’s instinct of acquiring profit right away. “Let’s create wealth then partition, don’t get existing wealth from the farmers.” 

SAM_3897Along with ways to make money by developing organic fertilizer, ways to price their goods, developing end user products from excess, Mr. Uy ‘s lecture gist is to “Train Farmers, support them financially, then when they are earning that is when it is time to collect debt owed”.  “Government should address livelihood instead of setting up guards, ” adds Mr. Uy regarding conservation projects.  Because, according to him,  if people are earning enough to feed their families, they don’t need to poach or steal.

For the rest of us non-farmers, we should look for and patronize organic produce to support our farmers so they farm responsibly, not using toxic fertilizers, but making the effort to grow naturally, more nutritious and disease-preventing vegetables and fruits.

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Philippine’s Sikat II Expected to be Among Top Finishers at the World Solar Challenge

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image_2imagePress Release:

Glendambo, South Australia – The Philippines’ Sikat II has reached eight of the nine control stops of the 2013 World Solar Challenge, the global solar car race currently being held in the Australian continent.

The country’s representative to the biennial event travelled a total of 2,171 solar miles, keeping its third place ranking in the Adventure Class.  A solar mile is the distance traveled by a vehicle relying solely on the sun’s energy.

Sikat II is expected to reach the finish line in Adelaide on October 11.

Team Manager Dr. Alvin Culaba is hopeful that the Philippines will be among the top finishers. “The race to the finish line is exciting because we are being challenged by the unpredictable weather, but the team is confident that we will cross the finish line with the world’s best.

Team Sikat Solar Philippines is composed of a core group of mechanical and electrical engineering students and faculty members from De La Salle University. Additional improvements, which took seven months to complete, were applied to Sikat II to make it race-ready for WSC 2013.

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First Phil Holdings, First Gen, Energy Development Corporation, Sunpower, Ufreight, Shell, and Motolite helped make the improved Sikat II possible.

The solar car team wishes to further the cause of promoting the use of renewable energy and clean technologies in the field of transportation.

Started in 1987, the World Solar Challenge has been a strong platform for young engineers and scientists from all over the world for the pursuing the ideals of sustainable transport. Forty-two teams from 24 countries are competing this year.

Breaking News: The Philippines Leads In Qualifying Round at the World Solar Challenge

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DSCN1407Press Release:

DSCN1400Darwin, Australia — Sikat II, the country’s representative to the 2013 World Solar Challenge (WSC) in Australia, reached another milestone when it placed first in its class during the qualifying round of the world’s biggest solar car competition held at Hidden Valley Raceway on October 5.

The Philippines clocked 2:30.53, beating closest competitor Team Aurora of Australia which timed 2:32.95. There are five other solar cars participating in the Adventure class.

This achievement earned Sikat II the pole position in the biennial meet, beginning October 6 in this Northern Territory city and will end in Adelaide on October 11.  It covers 3,021 kilometers of the Australian Outback.

This is the best performance of the Philippines in the qualifying round since it joined the WSC in 2007. Sinag placed 12th that year while Sikat ranked 19th in 2011.

“I’m estatic that we reached the coveted pole position. The whole team has prepared hard for the past few days so I’m very happy,” says Carl Mamawal, Sikat II main driver.

A core group of 20 mechanical and electrical engineering students and six faculty members from De La Salle University modified and made some improvements to the 2011 Sikat II car.

First Phil Holdings, First Gen, Energy Development Corporation, Sunpower, Ufreight, Shell, and Motolite helped make the improved Sikat II possible.

A total of 42 teams from 24 countries are joining in this year’s WSC, competing in three classes.  

For updated news and information on Sikat II and Team Sikat Solar Philippines, go to Facebook: Team Solar Philippines, and Twitter and Instagram: SikatSolarPh.

Palawan says No! to Coal Plant’s Dirty Power, Yes! to Cleaner, Hydro Power

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Estimates of participants number towards 1500 people (Chris Ng and WWF)

Press Release:

Palawan, touted as the Philippines’ final ecological frontier, may lose its status as a UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve if the proposed construction of a coal-fired power plant pushes through in the province.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared Palawan as a Man and Biosphere Reserve in 1990, classifying the province as a “site of excellence where new and optimal practices to manage nature and human activities are tested and demonstrated.”

The UN body is currently reassessing Palawan’s special status. However, the plan to put up a coal plant threatens the viability of the title.

The question is not whether Palawan should develop. The question is how it should develop. Business as usual will no longer cut it. We need to mainstream next practices. Fifty year old formulas, such as fossil fuel dependence, will fall by the wayside,” says Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan, Vice-chair and CEO of the World Wide Fund for Nature Philippines (WWF-Philippines).

If we do not want to find ourselves latching on to old-school technology, we need to break away from centralized grid-dependence, and balance our energy mix. The key is to seize our power, and spread the risk,” he adds.

The current proposed coal-fired power plant in the province is facing stiff, on-the-ground opposition from local communities, such as members of civil society and the academe.

On Monday, 30 September, Western Philippines University students organized a march to protest the proposed coal plant in the municipality of Aborlan in Palawan. Doctor Lita Sopsop, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences of the Western Philippines University, estimated the number of people who participated at 1,500, composed of members from the academe, civil society and locals in Aborlan.

Dr. Sopsop, who took up a doctorate in Environmental Science at UP Los Banos, said that the WPU’s mandate is clean energy, with the WPU declared as an Affiliated Non-Conventional Energy Center (ANEC) of the Department of Energy in Palawan.

We oppose the coal plant because of the negative impacts to health and the environment, particularly to locally declared fish sanctuaries in the area. Hanapbuhay ng mga tao dun ang fishing. The discharge of waste water from the coal plant will cause thermal pollution that is hazardous to the marine ecosystem, especially coral reefs.”

The coal plant had originally been intended to be put up in the municipality of Narra but faced such strong local opposition that the developer was unable to garner the local LGU endorsement it needed to continue with the project and had to transfer the proposed site to the municipality of Aborlan.

The price of electricity for the proposed coal power plant has also been questioned by local Palawan NGOs as the price will be much higher than indigenous, cleaner renewable energy projects. The proposed coal plant will sell electricity at a rate of Php 9.38/kwh. With VAT, that rate would rise to Php 10.51/kwh. A hydropower project being proposed in the province will produce electricity at a rate of Php 6.59/kwh – much lower than the fossil fuel power plant.

Why should Palawan buy more expensive, dirty power when we have cleaner, cheaper alternatives available? It is also important to note that it is not just Palawan that will pay for this expensive electricity but the whole country as well due to the subsidy that NPC-SPUG (National Power Corporation – Small Power Utilities Group) areas receive from the national government. Palawan could be helping the country save money rather than wasting it.” Said Atty. Gerthie Mayo-Anda, Executive Director of the Environmental Legal Assistance Center (ELAC) and convener of the Palawan Alliance for Clean Energy (PACE)

WWF-Philippines, with the support of the WWF global network, will be highlighting the plight of Palawan to the globe through the Seize Your Power Campaign.

Seize Your Power is about calling for our financial institutions and governments to divest from dirty fossil fuel investments and to invest more in cleaner, renewable energy solutions. This is the clear case with Palawan, which has numerous renewable energy resources available, such as hydro, biomass, wind and solar,” says WWF-Philippines Climate Change and Energy Programme Head Atty. Angela Ibay.

The current pending hydropower projects in the region could save the Philippines an estimated Php 750 million pesos a year from fossil fuel costs and mitigate about 26,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions. Renewable energy projects also generate a greater number of jobs per MW compared to fossil fuel plants.

The criticisms put forth by some people against hydro technology are simply not true. They are oversimplifying it, saying it will not be reliable due to the unpredictability of rivers. Actually, energy engineers conduct exhaustive studies to find out how much reliable, dependable capacity hydro projects can churn out and that is the supply taken into account. This means that the proposed supply agreement should always give out at least that much energy, barring any catastrophic change in the environment,” added WWF-Philippines Climate Change and Energy Communications Officer Christopher Ng.

Palawan has long been considered the last frontier of the environment in the Philippines. It also holds two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, namely the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Marine Park and the Puerto Princesa Underground River. Palawan is also one of the country’s most popular tourism hotspots.

To build a coal plant in a place all Filipinos have worked so hard to conserve for so many years, when cheaper, cleaner alternatives are available, especially with the looming threat of climate change, is just a travesty,” concludes Tan.