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Legal loopholes, politics exacerbate Taal’s woes

TALISAY and SAN NICOLAS, BATANGAS — More than a decade ago, Talisay resident Vicente Llona’s take-home pay after a day’s hard work at a construction site came to P110.

Today, the 43-year-old high school graduate earns five times as much. Since 2002, he has been growing tilapia in fish cages in Taal Lake, an occupation that now nets him as much as P100,000 every six months — and he doesn’t even have to break much sweat.

Declared protected area in distress

Illegal fish cage operations poison Taal Lake

TALISAY and MATAAS NA KAHOY, BATANGAS — Looking down from the wind-swept resorts and hotels of Tagaytay City, vacationers see Taal Lake as pristine and as inviting as before. Indeed, from a distance, the 24,356-hectare body of water that is part of one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions remains a sight to behold, with gentle breezes often rippling its surface.

Usually overshadowed by Laguna de Bay next door, Taal Lake is tapped for aquaculture, fishing, navigation, and tourism purposes; it is even the water resource of the posh Tagaytay Highlands resort.

There’s something about mercury

IT’S A shimmery, shiny substance that seems to have a mind of its own when held between one’s fingers. In the Philippines, it is commonly found in thermometers that are widely used in hospitals to check on patients’ temperatures or are sold over the counter for household use. Other medical devices, in fact, still use elemental or metallic mercury — even if this is a known toxic substance that can be absorbed by the skin and can easily penetrate biological membranes, including the blood-brain barrier. When inhaled, mercury vapors can cause neurological and behavioral disorders, and sometimes can lead to death. Even at low doses, these vapors can have harmful effects on the kidneys, and the digestive, respiratory, and immune systems.


Toxic city

FILMED over a five-hour period from the hills of Antipolo, you can see the gradual encroachment of smog choking Metro Manila in this time-lapse video.

Smog is a combination of smoke and fog. The smoke is caused by nitrogen dioxide and hydrocarbons emitted by motor vehicles. When this is warmed by the sun’s rays, a photochemical reaction occurs and smog forms.

A puff of a test

HIS TRUCK had been apprehended for smoke belching, so there was the driver, furiously pumping his vehicle’s pedal six times while it was parked inside the cavernous North Motor Vehicle Inspection Services (MVIS) building on East Avenue in Quezon City. Earlier, an MVIS technician had inserted a probe into the truck’s tailpipe. The probe was connected to an opacimeter, which measures the black soot from diesel vehicles, and now everyone was waiting for the device to deliver the verdict on the truck. After a few seconds, the opacimeter spat out a short strip of paper. The figures on it said the truck had registered an emission lower than the cut-off point of 2.5 k (light absorption coefficient), which means it had passed the test.

This developer burns money and cuts trees

OF ALL the companies cutting trees in the Quezon and Aurora provinces, Green Circle Properties and Resources Inc. (GCPRI) stands out. For one, GCPRI is not a wood-based company. For another, its president Romeo Roxas burns money literally.

Major players elude government’s anti-logging drive in Aurora

AT A wedding of a wealthy Filipino-Chinese family late last year, the bride and the groom became the privileged godchildren of a high government official who was one of their many sponsors. The event would have passed unnoticed, except that the padrino was Environment Secretary Michael Defensor and the family involved owned a company that had its tree-harvesting operations suspended by Defensor’s immediate predecessor at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Tourists and conservationists help preserve national park

TUBBATAHA REEFS NATIONAL MARINE PARK, Palawan — Since 1995, park rangers have relied on aging government equipment and meager funds to protect this remote atoll in the middle of the Sulu Sea from poachers and illegal fishers who have ravaged its resources.

But with the help of foreign grants and increasing tourism revenues, the country’s most favored scuba diving destination has reversed the trend. Park rangers are getting improved facilities and proper training, and Tubbataha’s marine resources have recovered significantly.

Local people key to thriving forests

PUERTO PRINCESA SUBTERRANEAN RIVER NATIONAL PARK — The future of the Philippines may well hang on places like this — a mountain with a majestic canopy of virgin forest and a coastline fringed with towering stands of mangrove trees.

As the country reels from yet another disaster linked to large-scale deforestation and politicians search for ways to appease public outrage about logging, the most workable and sustainable solutions — involving communities in the struggle to preserve the environment — are once again being ignored.

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