September 5, 2009
(STAR) By Paolo Romero - Due to the Philippines’ high vulnerability to rising sea levels and destructive typhoons, President Arroyo has ordered concerned government agencies to rush the formulation of an adaptation plan for the country against the effects of climate change, officials said yesterday.

Mrs. Arroyo cancelled her visit yesterday to Negros Occidental to inaugurate a bio-fuels plant due to bad weather conditions. She, however, proceeded in the afternoon to Taguig City for a climate change event.

The President has set Fridays as her “green day” or her public engagements would be on protecting the environment, promoting alternative renewable sources of energy, and waste reduction and recycling.

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said Mrs. Arroyo earlier issued Executive Order 774 reorganizing the Task Force on Climate Change into 14 task groups, each one headed by a Cabinet member, that will jumpstart a national action plan to reverse climate change.

“This order was later supplemented by EO 785 for the development of a National Climate Change framework,” Remonde said. “We are now formulating the related Adaptation Strategies on Climate Change for the country.”

“Our country is a net taker of climate change. We contribute very little to the global emission of greenhouse gases which cause climate change, but we are disproportionately affected by it,” he said, quoting Mrs. Arroyo.

He said were sea levels to rise by a few inches because of global warming, the United States might lose only a few acres of coastal land. “But an archipelagic country like ours could end up losing entire islands to the rising waters,” he said.

He said Presidential Adviser on Global Warming and Climate Change Heherson Alvarez has been authorized to commit the country to cut its carbon emissions up to 80 percent well in excess of Kyoto Protocol standards, when he meets with the environmental heads of other countries in December.

“The President continues to believe that the choice between economic development and environmental protection is a false choice,” Remonde said. “Both objectives are essential and can be pursued together with the appropriate technology and public policies.”

“All that is needed from us is the political will and determination to unite behind this urgent global agenda,” he said.

Ilocano farmers ready for El Niño (The Philippine Star) Updated August 30, 2009 12:00 AM

[PHOTO AT LEFT - STOOPED AND BENT BUT STILL GOING: On the way to Sitio Tapao, Barangay Cammangan, San Juan, Ilocos Sur to inspect a prospective water impounding dam, San Juan Mayor Bernardo Sarmiento and Sorsogon Rep. Salvador H. Escudero III chanced upon farmers Federico and Gaudenciana Valeroso. Stooped and bent at 92 and 72 years old, respectively, they continue to support themselves by working on their farm lot raising vegetables and small animals. The couple has seven children but can’t remember how many grandchildren they have. According to water impounding project director Richard Yao, the Tan Yan Kee Foundation and Fortune Tobacco Corp. of businessman Lucio Tan have built and upgraded 11 irrigation dams to enable far-mers to plant a second crop during the dry season]

SAN JUAN, ILOCOS SUR , Philippines —Farmers in Ilocos region are concerned but not alarmed by the likely recurrence of El Niño, thanks to the private initiative to build water impounding dams.

Rep. Salvador H. Escudero III, a two-time Agriculture secretary, visited these dams this week to inspect the condition of those already in existence and the progress of the construction work of those just being built to make sure they are ready if the drought comes.

The state weather bureau has already warned about the 90 percent possibility of El Niño, which might start late this month, and asked those concerned, especially the agriculture sector, to prepare for it.

Among those that Escudero visited was the catch basin in Barangay Casilagan Norte, Banayoyo, Ilocos Sur, which was built at the cost of P2.56 million to collect runoff water during the rainy season for use during the dry months. It can store 15,000 cubic meters of water and irrigate at least 60 hectares of land.

He also went to nearby Sitio Tapao, barangay Cammanggan, San Juan, Ilocos Sur for the possibility of another impounding dam. He was accompanied by San Juan Mayor Benjamin V. Sarmiento and project contractor Cesario Gemino Jr.

These and other water impounding dams in Cagayan, La Union, Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte are the concrete realization of a dream of a businessman, Dr. Lucio C. Tan, who has already spent P12 million and plans to spend more to rehabilitate old dams and build new ones.

Tan is using his Tan Yan Kee Foundation and Fortune Tobacco Corp. for these water impounding projects after anticipating the drought five years ago during a visit in Ilocos. He learned that farmers were getting water from the aquifer through 10-15-foot deep wells that allow seawater to seep into the water table, causing bigger natural disaster with damaged soil and rotten plants

The taipan tapped Escudero because the latter has been the apostle of water impounding dams, launching a program for this during his watch. Unfortunately, many of these dams were left in disrepair.

Because of the dams, Ilocano farmers can now plant two rice crops and a tobacco crop a year, boosting their income. It used to be only one rice crop and one tobacco crop a year.

Tan admits to benefit from the water impounding dams because it will assure steady source of tobacco for his cigarette plant, but the biggest beneficiary are the farmers because the resulting additional crop is rice, not tobacco, which does not go to him.

These dams are not really intended for tobacco, which is usually planted in December when there is still enough water and harvested by March just at the onset of dry season.

Ilocos is wet from May to October and is dry the rest of the year. The farmers suffer water shortage during the second cropping season due to very minimal rainfall.

In the case of Patpata, Balaoan, La Union, its two old dams now hold 73,000 cubic meters of water that can irrigate at least 30 hectares of rice field, making it possible for a second rice crop and, thus, additional food source and more income.

Tan also revived the diversion dam in Barangay Quiling, Batac, Ilocos Norte a t a cost of P3.67 million, the line canal in Barangay Garab, Iguig, Cagayan at a cost of P0.96 million, the earth canal in Barangay Dadda, Tuguegarao, Cagayan at a cost of P0.96 million, and the diversion dam in Barangay Silag, Sta. Maria, Ilocos Sur at a cost of P3.73 million.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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