PH Govt Urged to Protect Benham Rise

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Philippine Flag ©OceanaUPLB
Press Update:
Oceana, Earth’s largest international non-government organization working on ocean conservation, urged the Philippine government to protect Benham Rise – an undersea territory east of Luzon brimming with natural resources.

“Benham Rise is part of Philippine territory. We must exercise our sovereignty over this area and assert our rights. The immediate creation of a management framework to ensure the protection of this special place and the conservation of its marine resources is a compelling first step,” says lawyer Gloria Estenzo Ramos, Vice-President for Oceana Philippines.

The Department of National Defense (DND) recently disclosed that a Chinese vessel conducted an unsanctioned survey in the region, believed to be rich in both marine and mineral resources.



Renewable Energy is key to Ph Development

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

Relying more on RE has brought down the cost of electricity with fuel diversity, shielding Filipinos from price fluctuations as no fuel cost is incurred. This shows the care or Malasakit of the government, particularly coupled with increased energy access with distributed RE reaching off-grid communities.

“With the government’s Philippine Development Plan (PDP) for 2017 until 2022 now being finalized, we challenge the government to increase the share of RE to 50% by 2030,” explains WWF-Philippines climate and energy programme head Atty. Gia Ibay. “Green and sustainable development fits perfectly with the administration’s mantra of Malasakit, Pagbabago at Kaunlaran because RE provides affordable, sustainable and accessible electricity – especially for remote communities.”   More

Growing Storm-Ready Trees

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Press Release:

An Acacia tree that stood proudly for over a century at the Malacañang Palace grounds in Manila has witnessed the transition of more than 14 Philippine Presidents – from Manuel L. Quezon to Benigno S. Aquino III. Located at the country’s seat of power, the tree has been a strong fixture, able to withstand wars, coup d’etat attempts, and the passage of time. Today, that tree is no more.


Typhoon Glenda, internationally-known as Rammasun, pummeled Luzon and parts of the Visayas last 16 July 2014. The typhoon packed wind speeds of up to 150 kilometers per hour and gusts of up to 165 kph.


Similar scenes of felled trees were seen along its trail of destruction. Trees with massive trunks littered the streets of Makati City, the Philippines’ financial center. In the province of Albay, Governor Joey Salceda is considering what to do with the Bicol University’s 107-year-old tree that was uprooted at the height of the typhoon.


In some cases, trees added to the damage wrought by the typhoon. Trees flattened cars and electric power lines, causing widespread power outages.


Top environmental solutions-provider World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-Philippines) outlines key ways to manage our trees and make them more storm-resistant:


1.  Find out what makes trees vulnerable to storms.

Trees planted in loose, rocky soil stand a high chance of being uprooted. Disease, damaged roots or trunks, plus pest problems can also weaken trees. Says WWF-Philippines Vice-president for Project Development Luz Baskiñas: “Trees not strongly anchored to the soil are vulnerable to leaning, uprooting and trunk damage. Those with numerous lateral branches and leaves are vulnerable to defoliation, with branches easily snapped off.”

Baskiñas says a combination of factors affects the ability of trees to resist tropical cyclones. Environmental factors include the slope, elevation, exposure, soil type, plus depth. Inherent genetic and morphological characteristics of trees like height, diameter, foliage size, crown structure, root length, plus depth all shape a tree’s vulnerability. Baskiñas suggests that a typhoon risk assessment for urban trees, plus species suitability studies, be undertaken.


2. Prioritize planting trees native to the Philippines.

Anthony Arbias, President of the Philippine Native Plant Conservation Society, Inc. (PNPCSI), observed that most of the toppled trees were the ‘exotic’ ones, such as Mahogany, Gmelina, Acacia, Fire Tree, and Teak wood.

“Because most of these exotic trees are planted on ‘foreign’ soil like ours, there is naturally a major mismatch with Philippine weather patterns, soil, wind, water, and other elements that would challenge their existence with vulnerability or destruction,” Arbias notes.

Examples of native trees are Narra, Molave, Lagundi, Dita Batino, Pandakaki, Balete, and Kalios. “The typhoon was a wake-up call on the vulnerabilities of exotic trees against natural elements. We should set our attention to a more patriotic and ecologically-sound approach on restoring vegetation by using native trees. After all, we have more than 3500 species of native trees to choose from, and they are all part of our natural heritage,” he adds.


3. Re-plant trees that are able to withstand ferocious winds.

Baskiñas recommends that trees with needle-like foliage, spherical canopy-structure, deep root systems, and strong wood should be replanted in areas that are typhoon-prone or high in elevation.


4. Prune trees to encourage good branch angles.

Careful pruning helps trees survive strong winds. Trim rotting branches to develop a sturdy framework around a strong trunk. Good branch angles are 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock. Let strong winds pass through freely, while still providing shade. “Pruning reduces the impact of strong winds and heavy rain on leaves and branches,” notes Baskiñas.


5. Choose trees with strong root systems.

Trees with shallow, fan-like roots are less-resistant to strong winds than those with deep root systems. Plant trees away from utilities and buildings to minimize risk.


Keen observers might have noted that many Acacia trees were felled by Typhoon Glenda. Baskiñas explains that the diameter of an Acacia’s canopy is very wide, which translates to more pressure on the main trunk. Too much pressure can topple trees.


6. Toppled trees can still survive.

Small trees may be righted or replanted if their root systems are relatively intact. Cover or moisten exposed roots, dig a pit around the toppled tree, then carefully push the tree back to its upright position. Ensure that all roots are covered in soil and prune the majority of branches to encourage regrowth. Baskiñas says some damage can be treated with tree surgery, while some trees can heal on their own.


7. Contact your electric company to ask for assistance in cutting off tree branches that interfere with power transmission lines.

Trees whose branches obstruct electric wires increase the risk of power outages and even fires during storms. The Manila Electric Company (MERALCO) deploys teams to trim tree branches.


Managing the Impacts of Storms

We face a climate-defined future. More extreme weather events and tropical cyclones like Yolanda and Glenda will come to batter the Philippines – toppling not just trees but development successes which have taken decades to achieve.

Like trees, we must learn how to bend with the wind and grow roots that enable us to withstand the tempest.

We also have to manage our environmental footprint. WWF and the Global Footprint Network’s 2012 report reveals that humanity’s footprint is 50% beyond sustainable levels. The Philippine footprint has overshot its limits by 117%.

A 2013 Laguna Lake Development Study also showed that though Metro Manila generates 0.05 global hectares per area (GHA) of resources, it consumes 1.7 GHA. Manila is thus 3400% beyond sustainable limits. Our ecological footprint, coupled with the mismanagement of our environment and poor urban planning, aggravates the impacts of climate change and increases our vulnerability.

Concludes WWF-Philippines Vice-chair and CEO Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan: “Trees have adapted to life in forests and plains – not in cities. In a climate-defined future, managing what trees we plant in our cities can greatly reduce our vulnerability to typhoons. This will save human lives and keep vital lifelines – like power and communications – humming and running during the most ferocious storms.”

Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Vietnam join forces to crack down on Turtle Trade

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Balinese sea turtle traders. Bali, Indonesia. Photo credit - Jurgen Freund &   WWF-CanonOur voices are heard! Countries are rallying against the brutal treatment of turtles which we have been witnessing in disgust the past few weeks over social media.  They can’t go on doing this horrible activity, they must be stopped.  The immediate response was truly uplifting and reassuring.

Press Release:

Government representatives from Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Viet Nam committed to improve intergovernmental cooperation to curb the illegal trade of marine turtles in the Coral Triangle.  The commitment was made at a marine turtle trade workshop hosted by the Government of the Philippines on 3 to 4 June 2014.

“With the ongoing issue of poaching of marine turtles, the country recognized the need for an integrated approach in addressing this challenge,” said Mundita Lim, Philippine Biodiversity Management Bureau Director.

“The alarming trend over the decade justifies the need for neighboring countries to make transboundary arrangements and improve the protection between national governments,” added Lim.

“Entire populations of marine turtles are being wiped out by persistent poaching, both targeted and as bycatch,” said Joel Palma, WWF-Philippines Vice President for Conservation.

“As foreign fishing fleets are often involved, such inter-governmental collaboration is essential to strengthen local and trans-boundary law enforcement efforts to prevent marine turtles from being poached and traded for use as food and luxury items,” added Palma.

Enough is enough

The workshop comes on the heels of a recent incident when Philippine authorities arrested nine Chinese fishermen off the coast of Palawan just a month ago for carrying about 500 live and dead turtles on their boat. Involvement of local Filipino fishermen in the incident suggests a higher degree of organised supply and trafficking that requires a trans-national response.

This is just one of the numerous poaching and trafficking incidents that have happened not only in the Philippines but also in important marine turtle range countries of Indonesia, Malaysia and Viet Nam, and across the wider Coral Triangle region.

“We need to halt the illegal turtle trade once and for all, otherwise, the work of protecting nesting beaches and feeding grounds will be futile if thousands of turtles are being wiped out at sea,” said Palma.

Heavy demand

Turtles are used mainly for food, souvenirs, jewellery and ornamentation, and in some traditional medicinal systems. The shells of Hawksbill Turtles (known as bekko) have been carved into ornaments and jewellery for many centuries, particularly associated with Japanese traditional crafts.

“Aside from local consumption of meat and eggs, the demand for marine turtle shell and other derivative parts from market destinations including mainland China and Taiwan, Japan and Viet Nam is driving this trade,” said James Compton, TRAFFIC Senior Programme Director, Asia Pacific.

Research by TRAFFIC has identified the island province of Hainan as a major hub for the illegal trade in marine turtle products in China, and work over the past four years with Chinese government authorities and other local stakeholders has greatly increased the attention to market regulation and control.

“The need for inter-agency collaboration on this illegal trade is essential, including the navy and coast guards in a national task force approach, is essential to protect marine turtles in source countries,” added Compton. “Greater law enforcement effectiveness, including investigations and prosecution are important to increase deterrents against participating in wildlife crime.”

All international commercial trade in marine turtles is illegal under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

We’re watching

“This timely workshop shows that these source countries are paying attention to what’s happening to marine turtles around the region and that they all share the same challenges,” said Joel Palma.

“Since turtles are transboundary in nature, protecting them requires a more cohesive and integrated approach. This workshop is a major step towards that direction,” added Palma.

The Coral Triangle is home to six of the seven known species of marine turtles including Green, Hawksbill, Loggerhead, Flatback, Olive Ridley, and Leatherback.