Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Environmental Summit in Los Banos

On the front page of The Philippine Star (TPS) on August 13, 2014, a story about a looming fresh water crisis appeared.  It was written by TPS’s Neil Jerome Morales,  titled “Water Rationing Looms in 2015.”  True, it was placed on the front page but like any other environmental story it was positioned where it hardly generated urgency and  significance.  It could have been treated more significantly in terms of page placement, headline size, and column size.  But we’re happy, just the same, because the story appeared at all.

In this story, Morales focused on the possibility that if the El Niño phenomenon becomes serious toward the end of 2014, there is this possibility that fresh water shall be rationed in Metro-Manila because the water level at Angat Dam, the source of water for Metro-Manila, will not go higher than 200MASL.  It is said that the ideal level should be at least 210MASL.  Without rains and perhaps typhoons, the water level in that dam will quickly spiral down to critical level, which could even mean water rationing until Summer 2015.

The treatment of this story (considerably minor relative to others such as politics and crime) is representative of how environmental issues are treated and viewed in this country.  Sure political leaders talk about the environment during times of catastrophes, but that’s just lip service.  They talk about environmental problems but they don’t do much in terms of plan implementation and budgets.  The unfortunate part of it is that some may even do not understand what the environmental problem is for us Filipinos.  (Have you ever wondered why few appear to be interested in climate change?)

To be fair, however, let me cite that perhaps there are more things being done by government and corporations to solve the problems of the environment but we’re not aware of these.  What could be my verdict?  There simply isn’t enough information about these going around that people may become aware of.

This brings me to the environmental summit yesterday (August 13, 2014) at the UPLB.  This summit was organized by the Municipal Government of Los Banos, UPLB, and the School of Environmental Science and Management (SESAM).  [Oh, I thought SESAM was part of UPLB, but that’s another story.]  The very important issues discussed in the summit included fresh water supply and surface water quality, disaster risk and management, and sewage and solid waste management.

I was amazed at the number of specific activities that both the Municipal Government of Los Banos and UPLB have been doing to mitigate environmental problems, and more amazed by the fact that there are only a few people who know enough about these very significant activities. 

During the second half of the summit, the participants sat in a series of three workshops.  The output of these workshops were the documents which became part of the agreement that leaders of Los Banos and UPLB  signed in a covenant.  The activities that shall be launched in Los Banos during the next months are worth waiting.  From these may come out a model for other LGUs and educational institutions to emulate.

Here are some pictures:

Dean Nards Florece of UPLB-SESAM explaining the overview of the Environmental Summit.

The Summit participants took this activity very seriously.  Let's see what happens in the succeeding weeks and years.

 Dr. Tony J. Alcantara, retired professor of environmental science at SESAM, explains the current envirponmental situation in Los Banos.  He's the MENRO of Los Banos.

To watch out for is the issuance shortly of an Executive Order from the Office of the Mayor authorizing the drafting of an Environmental Code of Los Banos.

In his brief Message, Mayor Caesar P. Perez, said, "What is UPLB?  UPLB is part of Los Banos and is a government institution. It occupies 55% of the land of Los Banos,  and since government institutions do not pay taxes, the fund resource of Los Banos is short 55%."  

To be sure, there are numerous issues that Los Banos and the municipal government of Los Banos need to discuss and agree upon.  It is good thing that these two institutions are coming closer together in the discussion of issues and concerns.

 There have been summits in the past, most important of which was the one undertaken a few years ago where the UPLB Chancellor and the Mayors of Los Banos, Bay, Calamba City, and Sto. Tomas, Batangas signed a Memorandum of Agreement on the conservation of Mt. Makiling as a rich biodiversity resource.

There are a lot of things to look forward to.  Kudos to our leaders in Los Banos and UPLB.  Abangan ...


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