Showing posts with label environment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label environment. Show all posts

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Off-season atis

My trip to the wet market last Saturday allowed us to re-supply with seafood, particularly fresh tuna and shrimps from our 'suki' vendors. But my most interesting find, well according to me, is that my favorite fruit is available at the market. Atis or sweetsop is something I would have expected during the dry season in the months we often refer to as summer in the Philippines. We are currently in the middle of the wet season and experiencing some heavy rains almost everyday although there hasn't been a major typhoon to affect our area, which is close to Metro Manila.

Atis or sweetsop is a popular fruit that's usually available during the summer (dry season).
Though I welcome having atis at this time of year, I wonder if this pleasure is actually in exchange for something quite serious and maybe bad. Perhaps change is really coming (to use this favorite tagline of supporters of the current Philippines president). Only this time, this is climate change that's probably already here.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Silly policies on shopping bags and tactless security

Most if not all major supermarkets in the Philippines now encourage their customers to bring their own reusable bags for their groceries. Many supermarkets have even made the effort to design their own reusable shopping bags that many call 'eco-bags' to reflect their intended purpose relating to the environment. The observation many years ago was that there was just a lot of plastic waste due in part to the plastic bags used by supermarkets and groceries that, despite their being reusable, always ended up in the trash and sewers.

So we were surprised when when a major supermarket chain, Puregold, barred the wife from taking her reusable bag (which was clearly from Puregold Duty Free in Clark). The guard told her that she was supposed to leave her bag at the counter, get a number and someone was supposed to get her bag when she checked out the items she would be buying. The same was being told to other customers including one senior citizen who was offended by the manner he was told by another guard.  I assume that this was a policy only in their branch at Fairview Terraces because I had been taking my reusable bags to the Puregold branch in Q-Plaza and I have not been prevented from taking the bag as I shopped in their grocery there. Regardless, perhaps it was the manner by which their security staff were telling people that they couldn't take their bags inside that offended people.

What's with such policies? It is one of those silly policies that don't make sense. I'm sorry to say but other, even bigger retailers allow customers to go inside their supermarkets and shops with their reusable bags and I am not aware of a proliferation of shoplifting or stealing in these supermarkets. Even the old Cherry Foodarama, from which Puregold seems to have patterned its style of checking what their paying customers are taking out their doors, had no policies that discriminated and judged their customers. I would say that their security problems will not be solved by such policies and that these only hinder or discourage people from using reusable bags. And I did see a lot of people ending up having their groceries in plastic bags - a clear violation of a Quezon City Ordinance that is supposed to ban plastic bags (even those that are claimed to be biodegradable) from supermarkets.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Some thoughts on a Good Friday

For a change, this will be our first Good Friday in many years that we are staying home instead of going out for Visita Iglesia. For me, this comes after many years of spending Good Fridays in my father's hometown in Cabatuan, Iloilo where we usually went during the Holy Week. It is a nice change in pace as we didn't have to drive around. And it seems a good thing after seeing all those posts about traffic congestion along routes typically used by travelers to go to the churches in and around Metro Manila. 

The more adventurous go to the provinces of Bulacan, Laguna, Cavite, Pampanga and Tarlac either for religious trips (e.g., Visita Iglesia) or recreation (e.g., swimming, hiking, etc.). These trips are usually by car or motorcycle and lead to congested roads in many areas, particularly near popular churches. Private vehicles are the main modes of transport because there  are less public transport vehicles operating during Good Fridays. Tricycles rule many streets in the absence of jeepneys and buses despite the demand for their services on this day.

An inconvenient and rather irritating sight through what many people claim as expressions of faith in the form of Visita Iglesia, alay lakad or, what a friend has termed as bisikleta iglesia (for the cyclists) are the piles of garbage along the routes. Ortigas Avenue, Marcos Highway and Sumulong Highway, which are the most popular routes to Antipolo Church, for example, are basically trashed and quite literally considering all the garbage accumulating along these roads. These are by-products of people claiming to go on pilgrimage but forget that they also have a responsibility to the environment. Most of the trash are non-biodegradable; plastics that need to be processed if not recycled. These are the same wastes that clog streams and drainage systems that eventually lead to flooding during the wet season. This is something that I think people should also reflect upon as they impose their waste on others and disregard the environment while claiming to do so in the name of pretentious faith. After all, it is a grave sin to the environment and to your neighbor when you are irresponsible with your garbage.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Intro to Summer: "Beaching" in Bohol - 1

We interrupt the series on Melaka to feature the beaches of Bohol in central Philippines. I was listening to the radio this morning and the DJs were proclaiming the start of summer. And I firmly believe that beaches are definitely more fun in the Philippines! Following are photos from our 2008 trip to Bohol where we stayed at the Bohol Beach Club, perhaps one of the oldest resorts on the island of Panglao, which is connected to the main island via a bridge and causeway.

Who can resist such tempting hammocks along the beach?
Footprints in the sand?
Early morning tides bring sea weed to the beach
The powdery white sands of Panglao rival Boracay's (perhaps the most popular island in the Philippines)
Be sure to bring your goggles if you want to explore further away from the beach
It's the perfect place for an escape from the urban jungle
Leave your worries behind and take a dip in the pristine waters off Panglao Island
Alona Beach in the late afternoon can be quite busy as several resorts and inns share the stretch. Rates are quite inexpensive, translating to a lot of visitors who would probably prefer to shell out more for their dives.
Boats anchored off Alona Beach

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Baguio City in 2009

News about the garbage in Baguio City and the slide that caused the death of many in that city brought back memories of my last visit. That was back in June 2009 when we were conducting consultation workshops for the formulation of the national environmentally sustainable transport strategy. We stayed and held the workshop at a hotel that was a short walk away from the Good Shepherd Convent. The convent, of course, is famous for the strawberry jams and other delicacies bearing the convent’s name. Also nearby was the Mines View Park that used to give a breathtaking view of mountains covered with pine trees. Those among my older friends who were able to experience this many years ago attest to the pleasing scent of pine in the cool breeze that is also a characteristic of this city. Nowadays, the view is mainly of mountains covered with shanties and looking downwards you would have a good view of a lot of roofs and, surprise, even a couple of structures that look like graves! If you’re unlucky enough, you would be taking in the scent of smoke coming from something that is being burned nearby.

Another thing that caught my attention in 2009 was the uncollected garbage along the streets and in front of many houses and other buildings leading to the convent and the park. Residents explained to us that Baguio already had a garbage problem and that waste management and disposal has been an issue in the city for quite some time. Previous to this visit, I had the chance to go to the city a few other times, even staying there for almost week in 2004 when we were conducting another study. At that time, I was not aware of the garbage problem probably because the problem has not yet manifested itself as it did in 2009. It is sad that the city has done little to address such issues considering the many indications of impending (if not ongoing) disaster due to their waste. It is also disappointing to see their leaders pointing fingers at others but seemingly refusing to take responsibility for the tragedy of the garbage slide.

On the way up to Baguio, we usually take Kennon Road, which is usually my choice when riding our own vehicle, rather than the more common Marcos Highway. The latter is a relatively easier route that was constructed as a safer alternative to the two more traditional routes via Kennon or Naguilian Roads. I usually choose Kennon because the drive provides great vistas including those you can view from observations points along the road. During bad weather, however, Kennon and Naguilian can be treacherous with both being relatively narrow as compared to the newer and upgraded Marcos Highway. There are many incidences of rockslides or landslides that have often made these roads impassable. In fact, Kennon Road is usually only for light vehicles and can be challenging to those who are unfamiliar with its combination of curves and slopes. Naguilian is no longer a choice among travelers from Metro Manila as it starts further from both Kennon and Marcos. Buses and trucks commonly use Marcos Highway, which has slope protection along critical sections and even a roof along one that makes it look like a tunnel section. It is also easier to negotiate this highway for most motorists though there is one long climbing section just before you get off the highway that has caused many radiators to overheat or brakes and clutches to malfunction.

Hopefully, Baguio will learn from the harsh lessons brought about by the garbage slide and that city will be managed better. It is a pity that a city that was designed for 20 to 30 thousand people that is now home to more than 300,000 souls is deteriorating fast because its carrying capacity has been breached a long time ago. It will remain as the economic center of the region but urgent action is required to arrest its decline in primarily in terms of the environment. The summer capital of the Philippines as it is called is already in a depressing state and certainly deserves to be preserved if only because of the warmth the city has provided to many people who come to Baguio to experience life.

Friday, September 24, 2010

1 A.O. (After Ondoy)

It's been almost a year now since Ondoy ravaged what is commonly termed as Mega Manila, that is, Metro Manila and its effective influence area. The rain started pouring on a Friday (September 25) and didn't let up until the following day. We knew that there was a typhoon arriving early morning but the information only indicated the wind speed, which for most typhoons in the past was good enough for people to prepare themselves. After all, the most destructive typhoons in memory seem to be those that were categorized by Signals No. 3 or 4, including a recent one that brought down a lot of billboards. If there was one info that seemed not so important at the time for the general public it was the estimated rainfall from the typhoon. The local weather agency also did not bother so much as to inform the public of the potentials for inundation; partly because it had limited capabilities (i.e., no Doppler radars). Little did we know that it was the most critical information for that typhoon. Cities and the metropolitan development agency were caught flatfooted and the armed forces were exposed to tasks they were trained for but not in the scale of the devastation that started manifesting itself on September 26.

Today, I still get a bad feeling from looking at photos the Clairvoyant and I took during the rise and recession of flood waters. Then there were also photos showing our cars during the various stages of the flood. Deep inside, I still sense my own sadness for the loss of my car, which was the first big purchase for me not counting my contributions to our house in Cainta (the devastation there is much more hurtful considering memories lost and too difficult to recover).

I no longer depend on the forecasts of the local weather agency. In fact, right after the floods I was able to find a reliable source of information on weather including rainfall. The Weather Underground site provides up to date information that includes terrific visuals and forecasts of typhoon strengths and paths. It also provides daily and even hourly forecasts for weather conditions based on satellite data and info from local weather stations like Ateneo's Manila Observatory. It reminds me of the reliability of forecasts in Japan where the chance of rain and the estimated intensity has allowed me to plan ahead (umbrella? coat? water proof shoes?) when going outdoors for my commute or other trips.

Perhaps, after watching news features of cities having rescue units prepared for Ondoy-type typhoons, we should feel secure that there will be help or assistance ready in case of another similar situation. Cities and the national government claims to have spent a lot to build capabilities for dealing with the impacts of typhoons. However, what I am worried about is the inaction in dealing with the root of the problem of flooding. The root or roots after all are within all of us in social terms. We still continue to pollute our environment - filling up our waterways with garbage and other wastes. Esteros being transformed from their navigable state to something where we could practically walk on due to the density of flotsam. We still do very poorly on ensuring that the same waterways are freed from the constriction of squatters (I prefer to use the term for people settling in these areas rather than on idle lands) whose structures have effectively dammed critical rivers, streams and even floodways and have led to floods that were actually preventable.

Preventable, it is perhpas the mother of all key words when talking about disasters. Its one thing to mitigate impacts of disasters. It is another thing to prevent disasters from occurring. Earthquakes and typhoons are inevitable. They are not disasters per se. Disasters are what occurs due to years of neglect and indifference to the potential for disasters because of our actions and policies. Are we really prepared for another typhoon because we have trained rescue units or resources that can be tapped and deployed to mitigate impacts? Perhaps we should revisit preparedness by seeking out what can be done to prevent such disasters from happening in the first place. Then we won't have to rescue anyone, do we?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

No Car? No Problem!

It's been months now since I've had a car. Lost old reliable to Ondoy last year and decided to commute part-time (I still drive when I'm with the wife.) to work. Sometimes, I am able to get a ride from officemates to our subdivision's gate but that doesn't happen often considering my work hours.

One night, I decided to walk home from SM Marikina partly out of necessity and partly out of choice. Of course, it can be argued that I made the choice out of necessity or that it was a necessary choice given the circumstances but these are just semantics. The choice to walk and the choice to commute is something that was essential to re-establish a routine I came to know and appreciate when I was still a student both here and in Japan - but mostly in Japan where I lived for some time.

I used to walk a lot during my stays in Japan. It's always a delight to take long walks as long as the environment is conducive. I started walking when I stayed in the University dormitory that was a kilometer away from my laboratory. I also walked when I got off the train station to get to the church. This was no easy task considering that Sacred Heart in Yamate was located atop a hill. I could tell then that I was healthy as I didn't have to make stops as I negotiated the steps to the cathedral.

When I transferred to an apartment (or mansion as the Japanese called it), I walked more from the nearest train station to my laboratory. Again, since the university was essentially on top of a mountain, the walk to school was a workout of sorts. I usually covered the distance without any stops but aided apparently by a piece or two of candy that I consumed while trekking. At times, the candies would be replaced by cold drinks during the summer and hot chocolate during the winter. I remember the hot can turning cold even before I reached the comfortable warmth of my laboratory. Of course, the walks back to my homes away from home was always the easier, mainly downhill and usually with the company of friends who were similarly heading home and using the same train station.

I enjoyed my walks in Japan mainly because the environment was conducive to walking (and commuting). The design of the steps, the pedestrian crossing facilities and the sidewalks, not to mention the driver discipline and courtesy in that country allowed for safe walks. Proof of this, I believe, is seeing a lot of children and elderly people walking (and commuting).

In contrast, it was both smoggy and noisy along Marcos Highway. I always had to watch out for vehicles that might sideswipe me as I walked near the carriageway when I ran out of sidewalk or foot path. I was lucky that it didn't rain that night. I can only imagine walking in the rain and most parts of the foot paths transformed into mud. If so, I could also imagine that people would have to walk on the carriageway, risking life and limb to speeding jeepneys and reckless trucks. And in Philippine streets, I know for a fact that private cars aren't that good either. You just assume that they won't be joyriding and looking for people to splash water from the puddles forming on the road.

People who are supposed to find solutions to our traffic problems should try walking and commuting to see how bad traffic and our transport systems are. People who walk would always be able to notice what facilities are needed to enhance the experience and to ensure that walking would be a safe, enjoyable and healthy activity. Road safety audits, after all, are not performed while riding a vehicle but while traversing the length of the road and making detailed observations of its features. Such details will allow the auditor(s) to recommend specific measures based on well-grounded assessment. It is a lesson I know from first-hand experience both as a pedestrian and a road auditor. Perhaps it is a lesson a lot of people would be better of learning and applying. It is a lesson that will probably make our lives better and our cities a nicer place to live in.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Compromising EST

I, together with my colleagues at the University of the Philippines, have been advocating for environmentally sustainable transport (EST) in the Philippines. In one of our more recent workshops with representative of various government agencies, some participants insisted on identifying targets that we attainable based on agencies' present capacities. That was obviously premised on these same agencies not making any significant effort to improve themselves through capacity building or enhancement. As such, it was to me a resignation, an act of compromising when the stakes are high and there are no clear terms being offered by the enemy, which is environmental degradation due to transportation.

The results were tell-tale and indicative of how government has engaged the challenges brought about by unsustainable transport systems. Strategies convenient with respect to the status quo were stated, and any real effort to come up with more aggressive (and challenging) targets, such as those critical in effecting EST, were not achieved.

I believe that our role is to influence these people and, if necessary, take them by the hand and guide them like a another leads a blind person, so that they may realize the urgency of the situation. That same urgency is inherent in the inconvenient truth that Al Gore and other advocates for the environment, for the survival of our future, our descendants, have bravely presented for all to reflect and act on. We should and must formulate and implement inconvenient strategies. Strategies that will translate into meaningful programs and projects that will stave off the detrimental impacts of our present activities, if only to preserve this world for the next generations.

The advocacy for the environment and EST requires sacrifice. Indifference and resignation to our current lot will get us nowhere and ultimately dooms us as well as our world. It is not too late to try and it would certainly help if we do our part and make a genuine, honest effort to keep our earth alive.