The new SRI world record in rice yield: what does it mean?

In November 2011, five Indian farmers broke the old world record in rice yield of 19.0 tons/hectare (380 cavans/ha), held by world-famous scientist Prof. Yuan Long-ping, inventor of hybrid rice.

The best of the five, Sumant Kumar, got a yield of 22.4 tons/ha, the new world record.

How did these five farmers beat the old world record? They all used a new method of growing rice, which they learned in 2008. The method is called System of Rice Intensification (SRI).

The new world record tells us three things about SRI:

ONE: SRI is farmer-friendly. Using it, ordinary farmers obtained a yield higher than the best rice scientist in the world could attain. They got a yield higher than IRRI, Philrice, or any other rice scientist has attained. With SRI, farmers can do better than scientists.

TWO: SRI leads to quick results. Prof. Yuan Long-ping had devoted almost 40 years of his professional to improving rice yield, and managed to go as high as 19.0 tons/ha. The five farmers learned SRI only in 2008. Within three years, they had broken Prof. Yuan’s record.

THREE: SRI is reliable. If only one farmer had broken the world record, we might hear comments like, “Tsamba!” (“Lucky break!”). If two or even three had done it, Doubts might persist among a few hardline skeptics. But with five SRI farmers, there is no doubt at all, that SRI is effective in improving rice yields.

We have been promoting SRI among farmers since 2000, long before it became the world record-holder in rice yield. With this development, there is no more reason for the government to keep ignoring this method.

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Philippine SRI map: where are the SRI trainers, farm trials and trainings conducted so far

I have not been very active in posting messages lately because a particular advocacy has kept me really busy.

I coordinate SRI Pilipinas a national network of farmers and organic farming advocates that promote the System of Rice Intensification (SRI). I’ve made a few previous posts about this method, including the Nov. 2011 news that five SRI farmers in India have broken the world record in rice yield previously held by world-famous Prof. Yuan Long-ping, inventor of hybrid rice.

I am posting here two maps — 1) Luzon, and 2) Visayas and Mindanao — showing the areas where we have SRI trainers (who can conduct one-day trainings for free), where we have conducted one-day SRI trainings (almost 130 throughout the country so far), and where farmers have conducted SRI trials, as far as we know.

The maps may not show any place marker at first (teardrop-shaped icons) at first, because loading them takes time, especially over slow connections. Be patient. The man/woman icons stand for locations where we have SRI trainers.

The Luzon SRI map:

https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msa=0&msid=217660476975716136489.0004bfc0fb7925a183aed&ie=UTF8&t=m&ll=14.186057,121.52486&spn=8.393733,5.322091&output=embed
View SRI Pilipinas (Luzon) Trainers, Trials and Trainings in a larger map

 

The Visayas/Mindanao SRI map:

https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msa=0&msid=217660476975716136489.0004c186951922be416d5&ie=UTF8&t=m&ll=9.283828,122.552533&spn=6.462083,7.511902&output=embed
View SRI Pilipinas (Visayas & Mindanao) Trainers, Trials and Trainings in a larger map

Eventually we hope to have at least one SRI trainer in every rice-producing province.

 

 

From NOT ON OUR WATCH, a book of martial law recollections: the full text of “Lest We Forget” by Roberto Verzola

The book NOT ON OUR WATCH by Jo-Ann Maglipon (ed.) is now in bookstores, after a successful launching at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila, Central Bank Bldg., last May 10.

I wrote a chapter in that book, which is entitled “Lest We Forget”. The chapter includes my personal account of the torture I suffered under the military, the first time I tell the full story in public.

If you want the full text of this chapter, please click on this link: Full text of the chapter,

My online version is slightly different from the book version due to minor editing changes.

Some excerpts: (p.155-158)

Sometime in the afternoon, still within the critical twenty-four hour period after our arrest, my name was called. I braced myself for another round of interrogation. It was Esguerra and a few more officers. I repeated my Story, which no one believed, of course. So they made me do a “squat jump.” With one foot forward and the other back, you squat first, then jump as high as you can, falling with the other foot forward. Then you jump again, for as many times as you can. Until I could barely stand. No body contact at all. Esguerra told me, “O hindi yan torture ha! (See, that’s no torture!) We do that to PMA cadets all the time!” Well, I’ll take the “squat jump” over blows to the solar plexus anytime. After the session, my legs hurt so much and I couldn’t walk by myself. Two men had to assist me on the way back.

But I was not going back to the ISAFP jail cell. I was being “borrowed” by another intelligence unit for further interrogation. ISAFP had its methods; Metrocom intelligence had its own. Metrocom was the Metropolitan Command of the Philippine Constabulary (PC), headed then by Gen. Fidel Ramos. Lieutenant __ Garcia of the Metrocom Intelligence and Security Group (MISG) took me to Camp Panopio along EDSA near the PC headquarters. He made a perplexing comment which made sense only later, “So, you’re taking up electrical engineering!”

The MISG office was bigger than the ISAFP office I saw. It was longish, and the middle served as an aisle separating a row of perhaps eight to ten tables. I was taken to the far corner, on the right. With Garcia was a senior officer whose name escapes me now. After the usual questions, I told them the Story. They didn’t believe me. They gave me paper and time to write my personal background and history in the movement. Same Story. Then they brought in the Machine. Two lengths of wire extended from it, both ending with bare wire, the insulation stripped. One end was tied around the handle of a spoon. The Machine is a field telephone generator. It has a wheel with a handle. The wheel turns a dynamo, which generates electricity that causes a distant telephone to ring. An operator at the distant end picks up the phone, and the two ends can talk. The field generator probably generates forty to sixty volts and, if turned really fast, may give as high as ninety volts or even more. The standard house wiring in the Philippines is 220 volts. In the U.S. it is 110. My interrogators tied the end of one wire around my right index finger and inserted the spoon into my pants, on my right waist, until it rested where the leg meets the lower abdomen, near the crotch. My body would complete the circuit.

When I was young, I used to watch my uncles and older cousins as they slaughtered a pig. As soon as the pig realized something bad was going to happen, it would shriek for dear life. It was a grating shriek of helplessness, desperation, and terror, one that rang in your mind long after the pig was dead. It was that kind of scream that issued from my throat every time my torturers spun the wheel around. It was totally involuntary, the automatic response of a body invaded by an alien current of a thousand spikes snaking through one’s cells and nerves. I could stifle it no more than I could stop my hand from jerking away when shocked briefly by live house wiring.

Across the aisle were two civilian Metrocom employees. They were women, apparently on overtime. They went on with their work, as if they heard or saw nothing. Business as usual. No sign of surprise or concern. Metrocom apparently used the electric shock treatment often enough to make its civilian employees inured to screams.

Since it was mid- to late afternoon by the time we got to the Metrocom headquarters, I knew that my twenty-four-hour margin was almost up. I had already missed several meetings. Within twenty-four hours, houses whose locations I knew would be abandoned. In those twenty-four hours, I had forced myself to forget all the names and aliases I had ever heard in the underground. (As a consequence, my memory of people’s names has been bad ever since.) I also realized that the smallest information the MISG got from me now would only lead to more questions and further interrogation. And if I gave some more, then they would want even more, and the torture would not stop until I had given all. So I’d have to spill all, or nothing. At this time, they were still asking me details about the story I had made up. And we all knew that this was leading to a dead end.

Eventually, they moved the spoon’s position so that it now cupped my genitals. The senior officer had become so exasperated by this time that he spun the wheel really hard, earning them a particularly bad case of screaming. He admonished me, “Ang hirap sa iyo, alam mo na, na alam namin, na nagsisinungaling ka, ipinipilit mo pa rin ang istorya mo! Kaya pala Obet ang pangalan mo, e. Obstinate ka!” (“The problem with you is, you know that we know that you are telling us lies. Yet, you insist on your story! So that’s why your name is Obet. You’re obstinate!” I thought back: Well, it’s all or nothing. Whether my twenty-four hours are up or not yet, I choose nothing.

Spin a wheel. All or nothing?

Nothing. Like Basilio.

When they escorted me to my cell, I was utterly exhausted, physically and emotionally. But I was at peace with myself.

A day after, the jailers brought in a new detainee. It was Jun Suarez, who handled the printing of Taliba ng Bayan! I stared at him, unbelieving. I was never even asked about it, so how did they trace him? Apparently, Jun’s wife, who was a journalist, was under suspicion and placed under surveillance. That led the military to their home, where Jun kept the printing paraphernalia. So, the “sunog” (series of raids) was still raging.

One or two nights after that, we were telling each other stories to pass the time and distract ourselves from the tension. Onie was telling us about his girlfriend, who had broken up with him, a real sob story. Then it was the turn of somebody else, who ended up telling us about his girl too. After he gave a detailed description, Onie’s ears perked up. He was suddenly curious. Then Onie asked, pointing to his face, “Did she have a mole here?” Silence. When it dawned on us that he thought that was his girlfriend, we all spontaneously erupted into hard, long, boisterous, tearful laughter. As the laughter rolled on and on, we sensed that the tone had gradually shifted, and it was now directed at our jailers. As it died down, someone shouted a defiant, “’Tang ‘na ‘nyo!” (cuss words are the same in any language, aren’t they?) That triggered another round of even more boisterous, intentionally louder laughter, directed this time at more than our jailers. It sounded like we wanted the whole camp – no, the whole city – to hear our taunts. In the darkest days of martial rule in the Philippines, inside a cramped jail cell in a military camp that housed captives with battered bodies, unbroken human spirits proclaimed their freedom and flaunted their defiance of dictatorship with contemptuous laughter at their military captors and the authoritarian system that jailed them. I slept well that night.

New world record in rice yield set using the System of Rice Intensification (SRI)

Below are the first few paragraphs of a story on the business pages of the Philippine Star (page B-4), Dec. 18, 2011.

Indian farmer sets new world record in rice yield

MANILA, Philippines – Indian officials have confirmed a farmer’s claim of beating the rice yield world record of 19 tons per hectare previously held by hybrid rice developer Yuan Long-ping of China.

Sumant Kumar, a rice farmer from India’s state of Bihar who uses a new rice-growing method called the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), reported a harvest of 22.4 tons (448 cavans) per hectare last November. His claim was confirmed in a verification visit by Bihar State agriculture officials, including the agriculture director, the official in charge of national food security, “a team of agriculture experts”, and the Nalanda district agriculture officer, who said, “the team found the claims true.”

Sumant’s neighbors got slightly lower yields, but still ahead or at par with the previous world record. Rice farmer Krishna Kumar got 22 tons, Nitish Kumar 19.6, Ramanand Singh 19.2 and Sanjay Kumar 19 tons. All used the SRI method. Almost 90 percent of rice farmers in the Nalanda district are already using SRI, district agriculturist Sudama Mahto said.

100-kilometer zone around the BNPP

The radius of the danger zone around the Fukushima nuclear plant that must be evacuated has now been extended to 100 kilometers.

If a similar 100-kilometer danger zone were declared around the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP), the following maps show which areas will be affected:

100-km zone around the BNPP

100-km zone around the BNPP

100-km zone around the BNPP

BNPP hypothetical 50-mile (80.5 km) radius evacuation zone: Batangas

 

Japanese authorities declared a 20-km evacuation zone around the Fukushima nuclear plant. But the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued on March 16, 2011, a warning to U.S. citizens living in Japan to evacuate to safer areas if they were living within 50 miles (80.5 km) of the radioactive plant.

These series of maps show which parts of Central Luzon, Metro Manila and Souithern Tagalog will be affected if a similar 80.5-km radius evacuation zone had to be declared due to a hypothetical nuclear disaster at the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (14.6291667N, 120.3136111E). The whole of Bataan will have to be evacuated.

In Batangas, the following areas will be affected:

 

 

BNPP danger zone 38/43

BNPP danger zone 39/43

BNPP danger zone 40/43

BNPP danger zone 41/43

BNPP danger zone 42/43

BNPP danger zone 43/43

BNPP hypothetical 50-mile (80.5 km) radius evacuation zone: Cavite

 

Japanese authorities declared a 20-km evacuation zone around the Fukushima nuclear plant. But the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued on March 16, 2011, a warning to U.S. citizens living in Japan to evacuate to safer areas if they were living within 50 miles (80.5 km) of the radioactive plant.

These series of maps show which parts of Central Luzon, Metro Manila and Souithern Tagalog will be affected if a similar 80.5-km radius evacuation zone had to be declared due to a hypothetical nuclear disaster at the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (14.6291667N, 120.3136111E). The whole of Bataan will have to be evacuated. The western most barangays of Laguna, Brgy. Magsaysay and Brgay. Langgam are just outside the danger zone.

In Cavite, the following areas will be affected:

 

BNPP danger zone 30/43

BNPP danger zone 31/43

BNPP danger zone 33/43

BNPP danger zone 34/43

BNPP danger zone 35/43

BNPP danger zone 36/43

BNPP danger zone 37/43

BNPP hypothetical 50-mile (80.5 km) radius evacuation zone: Southern Metro Manila

Japanese authorities declared a 20-km evacuation zone around the Fukushima nuclear plant. But the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued on March 16, 2011, a warning to U.S. citizens living in Japan to evacuate to safer areas if they were living within 50 miles (80.5 km) of the radioactive plant.

These series of maps show which parts of Central Luzon, Metro Manila and Souithern Tagalog will be affected if a similar 80.5-km radius evacuation zone had to be declared due to a hypothetical nuclear disaster at the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (14.6291667N, 120.3136111E). The whole of Bataan will have to be evacuated.

In the southern part of Metro Manila, the following areas will be affected:

BNPP hypothetical 50-mile (80.5 km) radius evacuation zone: Northern Metro Manila

Japanese authorities declared a 20-km evacuation zone around the Fukushima nuclear plant. But the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued on March 16, 2011, a warning to U.S. citizens living in Japan to evacuate to safer areas if they were living within 50 miles (80.5 km) of the radioactive plant.

These series of maps show which parts of Central Luzon, Metro Manila and Souithern Tagalog will be affected if a similar 80.5-km radius evacuation zone had to be declared due to a hypothetical nuclear disaster at the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (14.6291667N, 120.3136111E). The whole of Bataan will have to be evacuated.

In the northern part of Metro Manila, the following areas will be affected:

BNPP hypothetical 50-mile (80.5 km) radius evacuation zone: Bulacan

Japanese authorities declared a 20-km evacuation zone around the Fukushima nuclear plant. But the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued on March 16, 2011, a warning to U.S. citizens living in Japan to evacuate to safer areas if they were living within 50 miles (80.5 km) of the radioactive plant.

These series of maps show which parts of Central Luzon, Metro Manila and Souithern Tagalog will be affected if a similar 80.5-km radius evacuation zone had to be declared due to a hypothetical nuclear disaster at the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (14.6291667N, 120.3136111E). The whole of Bataan will have to be evacuated.

In Bulacan, all town lying along Manila Bay and the southwestern towns of San Rafael, Baliuag, Bustos, Pandi, Sta. Maria, including San Jose del Monte City are within the danger zone.

BNPP danger zone 17/43

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BNPP hypothetical 50-mile (80.5 km) radius evacuation zone: Pampanga

Japanese authorities declared a 20-km evacuation zone around the Fukushima nuclear plant. But the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued on March 16, 2011, a warning to U.S. citizens living in Japan to evacuate to safer areas if they were living within 50 miles (80.5 km) of the radioactive plant.

These series of maps show which parts of Central Luzon, Metro Manila and Souithern Tagalog will be affected if a similar 80.5-km radius evacuation zone had to be declared due to a hypothetical nuclear disaster at the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (14.6291667N, 120.3136111E). The whole of Bataan will have to be evacuated.

In Pampanga, all towns will have to be evacuated, except a few barangays on its northeastern border with Nueva Ecija.

 

BNPP danger zone 10/43

 

 

 

BNPP  danger zone 11/43

 

 

 

BNPP danger zone 12/43

 

 

 

 

BNPP danger zone 13/43

 

 

 

 

BNPP danger zone 14/43

 

 

 

 

BNPP danger zone 15/43BNPP danger zone 16/43

 

The southern part of the map above includes the northern Bulacan barangays of Banca-banca, Pulong Bayabas, and Panlumalok, all within the danger zone.

 


BNPP hypothetical 50-mile (80.5 km) radius evacuation zone: Tarlac

Japanese authorities declared a 20-km evacuation zone around the Fukushima nuclear plant. But the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued on March 16, 2011, a warning to U.S. citizens living in Japan to evacuate to safer areas if they were living within 50 miles (80.5 km) of the radioactive plant.

These series of maps show which parts of Central Luzon, Metro Manila and Souithern Tagalog will be affected if a similar 80.5-km radius evacuation zone had to be declared due to a hypothetical nuclear disaster at the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (14.6291667N, 120.3136111E). The whole of Bataan will have to be evacuated.

In Tarlac, Bamban and parts of Capas (Sta. Juliana, O’Donell will be inside the danger zone (bluish tint), while all other towns will be outside the danger zone.

BNPP danger zone 4/43

 

Barangays Sta. Juliana, O’Donnell, Marugbu, and Cutcut of Capas are inside the danger zone.

 

bnpp danger zone 5/43

 

 

 

BNPP danger zone 6/43

 

 

 

 

 

BNPP danger zone 7/43

 

 

 

 

 

BNPP danger zone 8/43

 

 

 

 

 

BNPP hypothetical 50-mile (80.5 km) radius evacuation zone: Zambales

While Japanese authorities declared a 20-km evacuation zone around the Fukushima nuclear plant, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued on March 16, 2011, a warning to U.S. citizens living in Japan to evacuate to safer areas if they were living within 50 miles (80.5 km) of the radioactive plant.

The following series of maps show which parts of Central Luzon, Metro Manila and Souithern Tagalog will be affected if a similar 80.5-km radius evacuation zone had to be declared due to a hypothetical nuclear disaster at the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (14.6291667N, 120.3136111E). The whole of Bataan will of course have to be evacuated.

In Zambales, all southern towns up to Botolan will be inside the danger zone (bluish tint). The capital Iba and all towns to its north will be outside the danger zone.

Zambales danger zone

The map below covers southeast of the map above.

Zambales danger zone

Zambales danger zone

The map below shows east of the map above and may include parts of Pampanga.

Zambales danger zone 3/3

Chemical farming: inorganic or non-organic?

Why chemical farming should be called “non-organic” instead of “inorganic”

by Roberto Verzola

In farming, the use of agrochemicals which are harmful to human health, soil life, and the environment is often carelessly called inorganic farming.

Inorganic farming is a confusing term that the agrochemical industry uses to obfuscate issues against chemical farming. The more accurate term to describe chemical farming is non-organic farming.

In chemistry, organic simply means “contains carbon”. The study of chemistry is generally divided into two fields: organic chemistry, which studies substances that contain carbon, and inorganic chemistry, which studies substances that do not contain carbon.

The agrochemical industry clings to this distinction between organic and inorganic chemistry. Thus, they can say with a straight face that their agrochemicals, regardless of toxicity, are also “organic” as long as these contain carbon, and concede the term “inorganic” only to those agrochemicals without carbon.

The term “organic” in farming has a very different meaning from “organic” in chemistry. As defined by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), it is:

“a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects.”

As the generally-accepted definition of organic farming in most parts of the world, this IFOAM definition is backed up by a long list of specific methods and practices which organic farmers and producers must observe, and which are subject to third-party inspection to ensure the quality of organic products.

Thus, when organic farming advocates debate with the agrochemical industry and their representatives in the academe and the government about “organic”, they are talking of completely different concepts, and it is easy for the media and the public to get confused.

The simplest way to clarify the real issue is to use two different terms when describing the opposite of organic. In chemistry, the opposite term is inorganic, for compounds that do not contain carbon. In farming, the opposite term is non-organic, for production systems that do not sustain the health of soils, ecosystems and people and are instead harmful to them.

It is to the interest of the agrochemical industry to confuse the issue and prevent the spread of organic farming. Thus, its representatives in the academe and the government can be expected to keep using the term inorganic only for chemical compounds that do not contain carbon, and to describe their carbon-containing agrochemicals as “organic”, which may be true in the chemistry sense but is completely untrue in the farming sense.

So the next time you encounter agrochemical defenders in a debate, make sure you use the term “non-organic” to describe chemical-based farming systems, and to leave the term “inorganic” for chemistry and the agrochemical industry. (March 26, 2011)

The Philippines: An Ecological Perspective

THE PHILIPPINES: AN ECOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE

 

I. The Birth of Luzviminda

by Roberto Verzola (rverzola@gn.apc.org), Convenor, Philippine Greens

Fifty million years ago, the archipelago of more than 7,000 islands that now calls itself the Philippines did not exist yet.



Instead, there was Mindoro and Palawan, just off the Asian landmass and south of what is now Taiwan, Zamboanga somewhere just north of the equator, and the island group of Samar, Leyte and Surigao, around the area of what are now Timor and Papua Islands. But the Earth’s geological plates move ever so slowly, and the various landmasses they support move along with them. In the process, as one gigantic plate moves against another, some sea floors are pushed upwards, until they break through the surface of the sea and become new islands.

From 50 million years ago to the present, plate tectonics created and assembled the archipelago that we will call Luzviminda. Mindoro and Palawan will creep due south. The Samar-Leyte-Surigao island group will move thousands of kilometers in a great arc – first westward, then gradually northward. Zamboanga will do a random walk, eventually colliding with another great landmass that will emerge from the sea.

After five million years, 45 million years ago, north-east of Zamboanga, a huge land mass rose from the sea. This landmass would eventually comprise the part of Luzon that extends from Quezon to Ilocos. This Luzon would be oriented in the east-west, rather than today’s north-south direction. At around this time, a mini-archipelago of tiny islands would also emerge southwest of Zamboanga. These little island would eventually become Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-tawi.

After another five million years, 40 million years ago, another group of islands would emerge from the sea, south of the equator and west of the Samar-Leyte-Surigao group. These newly born islands are Panay, Negros, Cebu, Bohol and parts of northeastern Mindanao. They would joint the Samar-Leyte-Surigao group moving through the great arc westwards first, and then northwards, towards their rendezvous with the rest of Luzviminda.

Over the next 28 million years, these island groups would perform a great dance, as the Earth’s plates gradually inched in various directions egged on by the plastic flow of molten rocks deep in the bowels of the planet. Luzon would move counter-clockwise around Zamboanga, nearly a quarter of a circle, even while they both travel north, towards Taiwan. Mindoro-Palawan would complete its southward journey. Samar-Leyte-Surigao, would travel farther northwards.

At the end of these 28 million years, 12 million years ago, Zamboanga’s northern portion today would be almost touching the shores of Batangas, the closest it would ever approach Luzon. Zamboanga would then reverse itself and move southwards, along a path that would lead to a collision with another great landmass – Mindanao. After another five million years, seven million years ago, Mindoro would still find itself due west of Pangasinan, and Zamboanga due west of Panay.

The pace now quickens, and the Luzvimindan archipelago is gradually taking shape. After two million years, five million years ago, the last of the great Luzvimindan landmasses emerges from the sea due south of Negros. This is the landmass that would eventually become Central Mindanao.

Thus, Luzviminda is assembled into more than 7,000 islands, born out of the sea and populated by living forms that uniquely evolved in isolation from the mainland masses of the Earth.

II. Philippine Ecological Situation, Some Indicators

Let me start with the following list of indicators that gives us some idea of the ecological situation in the Philippines:

GENERAL

  • Population: 91.983 million (2009; 76.504 million in 2000); 1.93%/yr (2010 est.; 1.96% 2009; 1.99% 2008 ~1.8 million) per year; ~100 million by 2012 (Note: Wikipedia says 97.977 million est. as of July 2010)
  • Total land area: 30 million ha; 300,000 sq. km. (density: 3.07 persons/ha; 3,260sqm/person)

ATMOSPHERE

  • CO2 level: 390 ppm (the point of no return, according to many, is 350 ppm)

AIR

  • Total suspended particulates level in M.Manila: 193% mean, 304% max. (circa 2002)
  • CO2 emissions: 0.8 metric tons/capita (2007, World Development Indicators, WB)

WATER

  • Rivers:: 12.5% dead out of 88 surveyed; 17% “grossly polluted” out of 69 surveyed (1990)
  • Municipal waters : 85% overfished
  • Heavy metals in Manila Bay: copper, 50%; mercury, 100%; zinc, 200%
  • Coral reefs: only 5% in excellent condition (new threat: global warming)
  • Increase in fishery production: 0.72%

LAND

  • % of solid wastes recycled in Metro Manila: 6%
  • Rate of land conversion: 3,659 ha/year
  • Food security: agric, 46.4% (13.9M ha); rice, 10.7%
  • Fertilizer consumption: 75.6 kg/ha (1980); 119.3 kg/ha (1996); 135 kg/ha (2005)

FORESTS

  • Foreign mining applications: 27.5% (8.25 million ha)
  • Remaining old growth forest: 2.7% (800,000 ha)
  • Declining forest cover: 1948, 50%; 1987, 24%; 1989; 21%; 1999, 18.6% (5.6 million ha); 2010, <10%; -2.4%/yr (1990-2000); -1.5%/yr (2000-2005); -32.3% (1990-2005)

HABITAT

  • Endemism: birds, 33-44%; mammals, 64%; reptiles, 63-68%; amphibians, 53-78%; swallowtail butterflies, 43%; flowering plants, 44%; 13,500 plant species; 170,000 animal species
  • Endangered species: more than 400 (2010); worldwide: the Sixth Great Extinction

This list is, of course, just a jumble of data. It may give us a general impression of the bad state of the environment, but it is not so helpful in highlighting which among them are symptomatic and which ones are causative.

 

III. Making Sense of the Data: A Framework of Analysis

I would like to share a framework which the Philippine Greens use for analyzing the ecological situation which can give us a qualitative feel for the country’s ecological status and trends. Such a framework will also help each locality see where it stands compared to the rest of the country.

Three major categories of environmental problems

It will be useful to distinguish among three major categories of environmental problems in the country:

  • problems associated with the simple extraction of natural resources from land or water, often occurring in a rural/traditional setting (nature abuse: mining; logging; conversion of forests into farms; conversion of food farms into export plantations; overfishing) Result: loss of rural livelihoods, destruction of ecosystems, the Sixth Great Extinction
  • problems associated with the entry of newer production technologies and their side effects, often occurring in a more urban/modern setting (toxic industrialism: disposable, non-degradable, toxic raw materials; chemical farming and genetic engineering; intensive energy extraction through dams, coal, oil, and agrofuels; energy-intensive construction materials) Result: toxic proliferation in air, water and soil; cancers and other diseases
  • problems associated mainly with activities outside the country, over which we have very little control and power to solve ourselves because we must rely on international negotiations (ozone depletion; greenhouse gases and climate change; sea level rise; cross-border toxic flows) Result: relative powerlessness among ordinary citizens and local communities.

Between the first two general types, we can expect a continuum of problems, representing localities in various stages of urbanization. As globalization continues its relentless intrusion into the countryside, we can expect Philippine ecological problems to complicate, as problems of the second type superimpose themselves and interact with problems of the first type, and as some problems of the third type assume greater importance.

There has been great debates about that is/are the root cause(s) of these environmental problems. While these debates can be acrimonious and confusing, they are necessary. Doctors who prescribe medicine or a medical procedure for a headache must first carefully determine the cause of the headache – whether it is brain tumor or poor eyes – lest their prescription do more harm than good.

IV. Looking for Root Causes

It is very instructive to look at the experience of the United States, where ecologist Barry Commoner (The Closing Circle, 1971; Making Peace with the Planet, 1975) studied the rapid increase of environmental pollution in the post-war U.S. and compared the contribution of three major causative factors:

  • – Increasing population, which required more resources to meet the needs of more people;
  • – Increasing affluence, expressed in terms of the rate of consumption per capita, which required even more resources to meet the increasing needs and wants of each individual; and
  • – Increasingly harmful technologies, which increased the types and amounts of pollutants and other damage associated with each unit of commodity produced.

The total environmental impact (I) could therefore be roughly computed as follows: I = P*A*T, where I is the environmental impact in terms of total pollution, P is the total population, A is the affluence factor or per-capita goods consumption, and T is the technology factor or amount of pollution per unit good. In all probability, the exact relationship is exceedingly more complex, because population, affluence and the current state of technologies are not independent variables but instead interact with each other in various complex ways.

Which of these factors contributed the most environmental damage was long debated in U.S. environmental circles. Authors like Paul Ehrlich (The Population Bomb, 1968) emphasized the population factor and therefore came up with a different set of solutions. Commoner conclusively settled the issue through statistical studies of hundreds of pollutants over the years 1946 to 1970, in which he compared their rates of increase with the rates of increase in population and in GNP. Thanks to the detailed economic and environmental statistics compiled by the U.S. government and industry, Commoner was able to quantify the approximate individual contribution of each of the three factors in the overall degradation of the environment.

He found out that increasing post-war affluence contributed 5%, population growth 15%, and newer, more destructive technologies a full 80% of the degradation.

Below are some of the rates of increase Commoner compiled for the period 1946-1970, which led him to the above conclusion:

Polluting product     % increase

Returnable softdrink bottle 53,000
Synthetic fibers 5,980
Mercury for chlorine production 3,930
Mercury for paint production 3,120
Aircon compressors 2,850
Plastics 1,960
Fertilizer nitrogen 1,050
Electric housewares 1,040
Synthetic organic chemicals 950
Aluminum 680
Chlorine gas 600
Electricity 530
Pesticides 390
Wood pulp 313
Truck freight 222
Consumer electronics 217
Motor fuel 190
Cement 150
(GNP) 126
Food 45
Textile, clothes 42
Household utilities 42
Steel, copper and other metals 42
(Population) 42
Raildroad freight 17
Lumber -1
Cotton -7
Returnable beer bottle -36
Wool -42
Soap -76
Animal horsepower -87

These numbers showed that post-war pollution increased dramatically in the U.S. way beyond what could be explained by the increase in population and affluence. The largest culprit was the continual substitution of existing technologies (the bottom items showing negative growth) with more powerful and therefore usually more destructive ones (the top items).

No one has similarly collected the statistics for the Philippine case. We can start by assuming that the environmental problems of highly-urbanized areas can be similarly attributed to the same three factors in roughly similar proportions: a higher population (~15%), higher consumption per capita (~5%) and more harmful technologies (~80%). We are justified in starting with this assumption because many of the technologies that are now coming into the Philippines are precisely those which caused the rapid post-war rise of environmental pollutants in the U.S. that Commoner studied in such detail. Furthermore, the current growth of our urban centers echoes the rapid post-war growth of U.S. urban centers.

Although rural birth rates tend to be somewhat higher rate than urban birth rates, this is counterbalanced by the migration of people from rural to urban areas. In situations where the outmigration outpaces the population increase, rural areas might even be experiencing a decrease in population. Certainly, urban areas tend to act as magnets for rural folk in search of jobs as well as the urban lifestyle.

Just the same, the continuing human encroachment of forest lands and other wildlife habitat indicate that rural population growth continues to exert its own pressure against these habitats. In this case, population growth is a problem less in the Malthusian sense of one species outstripping its food supply but more in the anthropocentric sense of the human species appropriating for its exclusive use the living space which serve as habitat of other species.

Thus, in the Philippine case, the debate remains unsettled. Those of us who want to help “curing” the environmental malaise that afflicts our country must participate in this debate.

On a personal note, I have continued to pursue this matter of looking at root causes that I actually went back to graduate school last 2008, at age 56 when others are already counting their years before retirement. Because I thought economics had a lot to do with our environmental problems, I took a masters in economics. Hopefully, after I conclude my studies, I will have more to contribute to the debate.

 

V. Choosing a Positive Advocacy

In the meantime, also by personal choice, I have focused on certain areas of positive advocacy where I thought I could make a difference.

I would like to share with you my work among farmers, promoting through training and self-education a new method of growing rice, called the System of Rice Intensification (SRI). To sum it up, this method is a winner! 1) It reduces farmers’ costs, which is the most important thing because they have have to borrow money to raise their own food. 2) It increases rice yields, which is also important because it gives them more flexibility in shifting some of their plots to vegetables and other higher-value crops. 3) It even weans them away from agrochemicals, which is good for their own health as well as their families, and also for the health of consumers and of the environment. All these are within reach of ordinary rice farmers, if they are willing to change some of their age-old practices. Small changes, big results.

This is what the network I coordinate, SRI-Pilipinas, is promoting among farmers. We have been conducting SRI trainings for farmers since 2006, a group at a time. In fact, a farmer at a time. Nationwide.

We have two ways of doing so.

We send trainers anywhere in the Philippines to conduct one-day trainings for farmer groups who are willing to try the method in a few hundred square meters of their farm. We have now reduced our costs to around P6,000 per training. Half for the trainer’s fee, and half for the trainer’s expenses (food, transport, training materials, and so on). From 2006 to 2008, we were able to conduct trainings in 49 provinces, which gave us more trainers. In our current round, we have scheduled or finished one-day trainings in 45 municipalities/cities, 5 short of our target of 50.

The other way is education farmer by farmer. We send out free SRI primers by mail to those who request them (usually by texting their name and mailing address to us). To those willing to pay for the cost of a DVD, we send a training video on SRI. Some of our trainers learned SRI simply by reading our primer, or watching the SRI video. With this approach, at a cost of P20 per farmer, they can learn to reduce their costs, improve their yields, and wean themselves away from toxic chemicals.

With this advocacy, we are winning over converts, a few farmers at a time. With small changes, we are changing lives. We are changing mindsets.

Farmers who learn SRI acquire new respect for the rice plant, when they discover that much potential lay untapped within it. Others had thought the plant had reached its limits and must therefore now be modified through high-tech breeding and genetic engineering for it to continue feeding us.

SRI farmers learn that agrochemicals in fact kill soil life, on which plants depend for their sustenance. They begin to appreciate the health that a naturally-grown plant displays, because they partake of that health. And they begin to look differently at all the other plants around them.

From small acts, a new path is taken. A new environmental consciousness takes root. A new seed promises a different future. Through our own small acts, each of us helps build that future.

(Feb. 22, 2011)

 

An 80-km BNPP evacuation radius will include all of Bataan and Pampanga, most of Zambales, Bulacan, Metro Manila and Cavite, and parts of Tarlac and Batangas

PRESS STATEMENT (March 18, 2011)

An 80-km BNPP evacuation radius includes all of Bataan and Pampanga, most of Zambales, Bulacan, M.Manila and Cavite, and parts of Tarlac and Batangas

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued on March 16, 2011 the following warning to U.S. citizens in Japan: “Under the guidelines for public safety that would be used in the United States under similar circumstances, the NRC believes it is appropriate for U.S. residents within 50 miles of the Fukushima reactors to evacuate.” (full text at http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/news/2011/11-050.pdf). The 50-mile evacuation radius is equivalent to 80.5 kilometers.

The U.S. warning suggests that the Japanese authorities, who only ordered evacuation of people within 20 km of the nuclear disaster, have been downplaying the risks associated with the ongoing nuclear meltdown. Indeed, most governments and the nuclear industry have a long history of downplaying risks, keeping secret the real extent of damage to human life and health, and outright lies about the dangers as well as costs of nuclear plants.

The Fukushima meltdown highlights another problem with nuclear energy: in times of natural disasters, when regular as well as emergency sources of power tend to fail, nuclear plants compete for the attention of emergency services because they absolutely need significant amounts of power and cooling water to prevent runaway overheating and a subsequent meltdown. When the Japanese government’s attention and resources need to be fully focused on attending to the victims of the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that hit their country, attention and resources are instead diverted to coping with the danger of nuclear meltdown, which threatens consequences that are as dire if not worse than the natural disasters themselves.

If the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant in Morong, Bataan (14°37’45”N, 120°18’49”E) were operated, and in a worst-case scenario, a meltdown similar to that which triggered the U.S. NRC evacuation warning occurred, the 80.5-kilometer radius to be evacuated will affect more than 20 million Filipinos (see map below):

  • practically all of Bataan and Pampanga;
  • the Zambales towns/cities of Olongapo, Subic, Castillejos, San Antonio, San Narciso, San Felipe, San Marcelino, Cabangan and Botolan;
  • Bamban, Tarlac;
  • the Bulacan towns/cities of Meycauayan, Bocaue, Bulacan, Sta. Maria, Hagonoy, Paombong, Guiguinto, Malolos, Plaridel, Calumpit, Pulilan and Baliuag;
  • the metropolitan cities of Valenzuela, Navotas, Malabon, Caloocan, Manila, San Juan, Makati, Pasay, and Las Pinas; parts of Quezon City, Pasig, Mandaluyong, Taguig, Paranaque, Muntinlupa;
  • the Cavite towns/cities of Bacoor, General Trias, Tanza, Dasmarinas, Trece Martires, Magallanes, Naic, Ternate, and Maragondon; and
  • Nasugbu, Lian and parts of Tuy in Batangas.

Ateneo University in Quezon City (81.9 km) and the University Avenue in U.P. Diliman (80.8 km) are just outside the zone. But the Quezon City Hall itself (79.2 km), most of EDSA and the business areas alongside it, as well as the whole Araneta Center in Cubao (79.9 km) all fall within the danger zone. While a BNPP meltdown is a hypothetical case, we now know it can indeed happen, as it is now happening in Japan. The extent of the 80.5-km danger zone gives us an idea of the horrendous disruption in people’s lives and livelihoods that such a meltdown can cause.

President Noynoy Aquino has repeatedly said that the BNPP will not be reopened. This should put to rest any worries that Filipinos may be threatened by a similar disaster that the Japanese are now going through.

However, on March 16, the same day the U.S. NRC sent out its 80.5-km evacuation warning, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Secretary Mario Montejo told the media that he was for the reopening of the BNPP, in open defiance of the clearly-stated policy statements of the President.

Unless the President publicly disciplines his errant DOST secretary, his administration will be seen to be engaged in double-talk, on one hand assuring the public that the BNPP will not be reopened, but on the other hand mobilizing the bureaucracy and public funds towards reopening the nuclear plant.

What is it really, Mr. President?

ROBERTO VERZOLA
Convenor, Philippine Greens
For confirmation and details, please call: 0929-856-1930


Minutes of the final (June 8) hearing on election fraud of the House Committee on Suffrage now available

Please get the minutes on this site.

Minutes of June 3 hearing of the House Committee on Suffrage now available

Please get the minutes on this site.

Minutes of the Locsin Committee Hearing on Election Fraud held on June 2

The minutes of the hearing on election fraud held by the Committee on Suffrage (chaired by Cong. Teddy Locsin Jr.) are now available here.

House Committee on Suffrage Minutes of Hearings on Electoral Fraud for May 26, 28 sessions now available

Please get them here.