Retired Marine Fights New War Against Dynamite Fishermen

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Fish Warden Training (Gregg Yan & WWF-Philippines)Watch out, stubborn dynamite fishermen, Sarge  is keeping an eye on you.

Sgt. Armando Pante  (Gregg Yan & WWF-Philippines)Retired Marine Corps Sergeant Armando Pante vowed to fight a new war – this time, to protect the seas of Ilocos Norte from illegal fishers. On 23 January, Pante and 19 other fishermen from the town of Pasuquin were deputized as Bantay Dagat or fish wardens volunteers who patrol and protect Philippine waters.  ‘Sarge’ to his troops, Pante saw 21 years of action with the Philippine Marines. He survived the battle for Camp Abubakar in 2000 and won four medals before retiring in 2002.

The famed Bantay Dagat system began in the 1970s, augmenting government capacity to protect coasts. “Members are drawn from local fisherfolk who undergo three days of standardized training. Upon graduation, they are issued ID cards sanctioned by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and the local municipality, giving them a three-year window of authority to enforce the Fisheries Code when operating in their respective areas,” explains BFAR Fisheries Regulatory and Law Enforcement Division Head Mary Ann Salomon.

jowrDynamite or blast fishing, which became rampant in the Philippines after the Second World War, is a highly destructive means of collecting fish. Powdered Ammonium Nitrate, kerosene and small pebbles are packed inside a glass bottle and covered with a blasting cap. New designs integrate long metal rods which absorb sound and act as sinkers.

The blast’s shockwave, which travels at about 1500 meters per second (the length of 15 football fields), kills or maims fish – sometimes liquefying their internal organs. Aboard boats or diving using hookah air compressors, collectors scoop scores of dead and dying fish. Obscured by wafting clouds of silt are the pulverized remains of corals. All this takes under a minute. Recovery takes decades.

Section 88 of Republic Act 8550 or the Fisheries Code of 1998 prohibits dynamite or blast fishing. Even so, many Filipino fishers – driven perhaps by poverty – still use homemade bombs. A 1999 study by Rupert Sievert estimated that 70,000 fishers use the dangerous contraptions. Many are missing limbs due to accidents.

Fortunately, things are improving. “Better enforcement has proven to be an effective deterrent for illegal fishers. Enhanced education also creates a sense of stewardship for coastal communities to more stringently safeguard their waters,” notes World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Project Manager John Manul. “Who better to protect the ocean than those who rely on it for food?” Manul oversees a partnership between WWF and Century Tuna to protect vital fishing grounds in Ilocos Norte.

Held from 21 to 23 January 2015 at Barangay Naglicuan in Pasuquin, Ilocos Norte, the training was led by BFAR, WWF, plus representatives from the local and provincial governments of Pasuquin and Ilocos Norte. Modules on fisheries laws, gear, practices, apprehension procedures, plus dynamite-caught fish inspection were led by BFAR’s Mary Ann Salomon, Mario Racho, David de Guzman, Genesis Tadije, Roy Gonzales and Dante Noces, plus Arthur Valente from the Provincial Government of Ilocos Norte.

“This training shall hopefully curb blast fishing, which still takes place in Badoc, Bacarra, Currimao and other parts of Ilocos Norte,” shares Valente. More remains to be done as each day, fishers still heave their deadly bombs into the sea, pockmarking reefs.

But help is on the way. Each month, newly-trained Bantay Dagat volunteers take to the sea.

“Anyone we catch using dynamite will serve five to ten years of jail time,” says new Bantay Dagat member, Sergeant Pante. The grizzled Sergeant, plus 19 new fish wardens, will soon patrol the waters of Ilocos Norte. They issued a warning to illegal fishers. “Watch out – we’ll be watching you.”


Papal Visit: Time to Reflect on Climate Solutions

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pope3Will it finally take a Pope to convince Filipinos to be more pro active and  take the climate solutions to heart? The visit of Pope Francis encourages us to focus on climate solutions, strengthening the recommendations of  World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) as a response to natural calamities. “Seize your Power” and “Seize the Wind” campaign may be the key to saving the earth as well as lives in the future but more support is needed to achieve its noble goals.

Tacloban After Haiyan by Gregg YanThe fact is the Philippines is the third most vulnerable country to climate change,  besieged by no less than 20 storms yearly, with its location on the northern tip of the Coral Triangle along the Pacific Typhoon Belt,

Two months before Typhoon Haiyan barreled through the country, WWF and Tacloban city’s leaders predicted the possible arrival of a mega-typhoon within a decade. It arrived much too soon – Typhoon Haiyan took over 6000 lives and caused over $14 Billion in economic damage.

With impacts ranging from stronger typhoons, floods, droughts to forced migration, climate change is a reality that millions of Asians have had to face early. Whether or not the Philippines is a major carbon emitter is beside the point. Many countries which contribute the least to global carbon emissions are the most vulnerable, having fewer resources to cope with disasters.

WWF believes in proactive – rather than reactive – climate solutions. Philippine climate adaptation efforts include a four-year, 16-city study to prepare the largest Philippine cities for climate impacts. Climate mitigation will be crucial. Though the Philippines contributes less than 0.35% of global emissions, its share will spike due to economic and population growth coupled with rapid urbanization.

In 2013, WWF led a global campaign called Seize Your Power, which called on financial institutions, private investors, pension and sovereign wealth funds, plus governments to significantly increase investments in renewable energy while divesting from fossil fuels. This year, the initiative lives on through WWF-Philippines’ Seize the Wind campaign, which aims to convince public sector players to enhance support for local wind power projects.

“The world must learn from Typhoons Ondoy, Sendong and Haiyan – lessons paid for in lost lives and livelihoods,” says WWF-Philippines Climate Change and Energy Programme Head Atty. Angela Ibay. “The Pope’s visit to Tacloban shows that the Church cares deeply about people affected by climate change – many living in vulnerable, developing nations. The onus is on negotiators and leaders in Paris this December. Lives will be saved should they do what is right.”

WWF Calls on DOE Support to Seize The Wind This 2015, Lower Electricity Prices

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The Bangui Windmills by Gregg Yan & WWFToo Expensive.  This has almost always been the reaction I get from most for not giving much attention to solar and wind power. Without a response, I just keep quiet and start to wonder if this is really just an impossible goal for the majority.  But I just can’t give up on the earth just like that.  Most of us shouldn’t too, so WWF continually looks for alternative feasible solutions to help us sustain healthy environment practices.

First we need the support of those in authority and extensive influence like the Department of Energy to get the ball rolling.The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-Philippines) believes that the Department of Energy (DOE) has a prime opportunity to generate an INDC by increasing the share of RE in the country’s power mix. About 70% of Philippine electricity is currently generated from fossil-fuels, with 90% of coal and oil resources imported at varying prices from other nations. In response, the DOE recently supported an increase in the installation targets for solar energy under the Feed-in Tariff regime.

The 2015 United Nations Climate Conference, which is slated from 30 November to 11 December this year, expects outcomes that include Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), country-wide climate change mitigation and adaptation commitments. World leaders gathered in Lima last month for the 20th Conference of Parties (COP 20), designed to set the stage for strong climate change agreements in Paris this 2015.

WWF believes that with the increase in solar, an additional increase in wind energy installation targets is a firm, next step that the DOE can commit to. Philippine Climate Change Commission Vice-Chair Lucille Sering last month stated that the country is committed to submit an INDC by June – the first pledge by a developing country.

Clean and renewable sources of energy such as geothermal, hydro, wind and solar energy are among the Philippines’ few competitive advantages, especially since the country has no significant deposits of fossil-fuels. Its continued reliance on imported fuel has made Philippine electricity rates among the highest in Asia.  

Increasing RE Support Will Lower Philippine Electricity Prices

Pay close attention naysayers, non-believers, and those in doubt still, here are some facts you should be aware of as well as where we should focus our efforts as a nation.

In 2001, the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) was implemented to limit the cost of electricity. At that time, the Philippine power generation mix was composed of 37.29% RE and 62.71% fossil-fuels. Unfortunately, RE share dropped to 28.37% a decade later.

The price of imported fuels fluctuates wildly. “Most of our power rate jumps were caused by generation cost hikes. With fossil-fuel prices continually rising due to dwindling supplies and soaring demand, the cost of our electricity shall rise even further. The best solution is to use existing RE resources to shield us from the cost volatility of fossil fuels,” says WWF-Philippines Climate Change Head Atty. Gia Ibay.

In 2013, WWF’s global Seize Your Power campaign called on financial institutions, private investors, pension funds and governments to avoid fossil-fuel investments and instead support clean and affordable RE sources.

RE can provide a stable source of electricity at a constant price for years, especially with the implementation of the government’s Feed-in Tariff (FiT) system. Under this system, RE projects are guaranteed a rate for the electricity they produce per kWh that will be held constant for the next 20 years, with the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) doing periodic reviews to adjust rates for foreign exchange and inflation.

This means that the price of RE-generated electricity will continuously become cheaper over time. Many RE plants can also be directly embedded onto certain key areas to further reduce the cost of electricity, eliminating the need for transmission and distribution lines to deliver electricity from power plants to households.

Unlike fossil-fuels where VAT is applied to add to existing cost, RE has been given a 0% VAT rate. In contrast, the International Energy Agency forecasts a steady increase in the cost of coal and other fossil-fuels over the next decade.

In short, increasing RE share will make electricity more affordable for Filipinos in the long run. WWF-Philippines aims to continue its Seize Your Power campaign by convincing both public and private sectors that RE is the primary solution to the country’s power needs. Seize the Wind, which encourages stronger support for Philippine wind farms, is its first phase.

“What better way to demonstrate leadership before the Paris talks than to show that the Philippines embraces clean and renewable sources of energy?” asks Ibay. “It’s time for us to divest from fossil-fuels and prepare for a windfall of clean and affordable power for all Filipinos!”

Produce More with Less, One Goal of New WWF PH Pres Palma

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Joel Palma (WWF-Philippines)Press Release:

Top environmental solutions-provider World Wide Fund for Nature Philippines (WWF-Philippines) recently named Jose Angelito Palma as its new President and Chief Executive Officer, effective January 2015. Palma brings with him a wealth of experience, plus strong leadership and expertise in the environment and conservation sectors.

Palma handled the sea turtle conservation project of the Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) before moving to WWF-Philippines as Project Manager for the Turtle Islands in Tawi-Tawi.

He rose from the ranks – serving as Director of the Species Conservation Program and Assistant Vice-president for Field Operations.

In 2007, Palma was appointed Vice-president for Conservation Programs. During his posting, he provided organizational direction and strategic interventions for WWF-Philippines’ national programs, while being involved in regional programs of the WWF Global Network, such as the Coral Triangle Initiative. He designed and implemented the integration of national and regional programs, plus the organization’s contribution to the achievement of the WWF Global Network’s meta-goals: biodiversity conservation and the management of the human footprint.

Palma earned his BS Fisheries (Major in Inland Fisheries) Degree from the University of the Philippines in 1984. In 2007, the Chevening Scholarship Program of the United Kingdom awarded him the Governance and Environmental Democracy Fellowship at Wolverhampton University.

Palma succeeds Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan, who served as the organization’s President and CEO from 2001 to 2007, and 2009 to 2014. Tan retains his position as Vice-chairman of WWF’s National Advisory Council.

“We will scale up our work in managing our natural capital, preparing communities to adapt to the impacts of climate change, and promoting practical and long-term environmental solutions. But the current challenge is for us to produce more with less, to help secure food, water, and energy sources for future generations,” says Palma.

“The challenges confronting us are non-linear and very daunting. But with the strong collaboration of WWF-Philippines with allies in government, the business sector, local communities, development and aid agencies, plus individual supporters, we can formulate solutions towards a more sustainable Philippines.”