Thursday, May 30, 2013

Declining biodiversity alarms Bulakenyos

HAGONOY, Bulacan – Declining biodiversity in this coastal town has alarmed both officials and residents alike.

 Plant species that used to thrive along rivers and creeks and along the coast of Manila Bay, and a number of fish species that fishermen used to catch in rivers and in the open seas have disappeared.

Impact of such disappearance, they said, are now felt by households that are dependent on fish catch for livelihood and food.

Governor Wilhelmino Alvarado recounted that in his younger days, the riverbanks of the town were filled with different species of plants that were home to insects and a sanctuary for different fish species.

“Dati maraming mga kulasi, sasahan, diliwaryo, bakawan at palapat sa baybayin ng ilog at maging sa dagat,” said Alvarado who served as mayor of this town from 1986 to 1998.

He lamented that areas where plant species used to grow were replaced by concrete structures like houses.

Alvarado added that the quality of the river water has changed in the last 20 years.

This was affirmed by former Bulacan Board Member Patrocinio Laderas who, like Alvarado, was involved in fishpond operations before entering politics.

“Not only plant species are disappearing in a dizzying phase, we are also losing marine species to water pollution,” Laderas said.

As a former fishpond operator, he said that seasonal harvest in recent years has dropped by about 90 percent compared to harvest 20 years ago.

Laderas warned that unless local government units start to make a move today, there will be nothing left in the years to come.

This fear is shared by fishermen like Rodolfo Cabangis who for more than 30 years has braved the waters of Manila Bay.

Cabangis said that local fishermen’s earnings from catch today is not even enough to send their children to school because of the dearth of fish in said bay.

He said that 30 years ago, they fished only along the coastline of Manila Bay in Bulacan. 

Today, however, fishermen here now face the risks of going near or beyond Corregidor Island, where once his neighbors drowned when hit by huge waves.

“Kahit sa palengke wala ka nang mabibiling alugasin, pati yung mga sapsap, alimasag at dalagang bukid madalang na,” he said referring to fish caught in the open sea.

Cabangis also noted that fish sold every day in public markets here are largely sourced from fishponds, adding that pollution and over fishing has led to the present decline in fish catch which results to higher price of this food commodity. Dino Balabo

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Climate Change and its Effect in Agriculture

Biotechnology and Climate Change

The continuing increase in greenhouse gas emissions raises the temperature of the earth’s atmosphere. This results to melting of glaciers, unpredictable rainfall patterns, and extreme weather events. The accelerating pace of climate change, combined with global population and depletion of agricultural resources threatens food security globally.

The over-all impact of climate change as it affects agriculture was described by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2007), and cited by the US EPA (2011)1 to be as follows:

Increases in average temperature will result to: i)  increased crop productivity in high latitude temperate regions due to the lengthening of the growing season; ii)   reduced crop productivity in low latitude subtropical and tropical regions where summer heat is already limiting productivity; and iii) reduced productivity due to an increase in soil evaporation rates.
Change in amount of rainfall and patterns will affect soil erosion rates and soil moisture, which are important for crop yields. Precipitation will increase in high latitudes, and decrease in most subtropical low latitude regions – some by as much as about 20%, leading to long drought spells.
Rising atmospheric concentrations of CO2 will boost and enhance the growth of some crops but other aspects of climate change (e.g., higher temperatures and precipitation changes) may offset any beneficial boosting effect of higher CO2 levels.
Pollution levels of tropospheric ozone (or bad ozone that can damage living tissue and break down certain materials) may increase due to the rise in CO2 emissions. This may lead to higher temperatures that will offset the increased growth of crops resulting from higher levels of CO2. 
Changes in the frequency and severity of heat waves, drought, floods and hurricanes, remain a key uncertain factor that may potentially affect agriculture.
Climatic changes will affect agricultural systems and may lead to emergence of new pests and diseases.
In 2012, almost 40% of the world population of 6.7 billion, equivalent to 2.5 billion, rely on agriculture for their livelihood and will thus likely be the most severely affected. 2
To mitigate these effects, current agricultural approaches need to be modified and innovative adaption strategies need to be in place to efficiently produce more food in stressed conditions and with net reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Contribution of Biotech Crops in Mitigating Effects of Climate Change

Green biotechnology offers a solution to decrease green house gases and therefore mitigates climate change. Biotech crops for the last 16 years of commercialization have been contributing to the reduction of CO2 emissions. They allow farmers to use less and environmentally friendly energy and fertilizer, and practice soil carbon sequestration.

Herbicide tolerant biotech crops such as soybean and canola facilitate zero or no-till, which significantly reduces the loss of soil carbon (carbon sequestration) and CO2 emissions, reduce fuel use, and significantly reduce soil erosion.
Insect resistant biotech crops require fewer pesticide sprays which results in savings of tractor/fossil fuel and thus less CO2 emissions. For 2011, there was a reduction of 37 million kg of active ingredients, decreased rate of herbicide and insecticide sprays and ploughing reduced CO2 emission by 23.1  billion kg of CO2 or removing 10.2 million cars off the road.3
Biotech Crops Adapted to Climate Change

Crops can be modified faster through biotechnology than conventional crops, thus hastening implementation of strategies to meet rapid and severe climatic changes. Pest and disease resistant biotech crops have continuously developed as new pests and diseases emerge with changes in climate. Resistant varieties will also reduce pesticide application and hence CO2 emission.  Crops tolerant to various abiotech stresses have been developed in response to climatic changes.

Salinity Tolerant Crops
Biotech salt tolerant crops have been developed and some are in the final field trials before commercialization. In Australia, field trials of 1,161 lines of genetically modified  (GM) wheat and 1,179 lines of GM barley modified to contain one of 35 genes obtained from wheat, barley, maize, thale cress, moss or yeasts are in progress since 2010 and will run till 2015. Some of the genes are expected to enhance tolerance to a range of abiotic stresses including drought, cold, salt and low phosphorous. Sugarcane that contains transcription factor (OsDREB1A) is also under field trial from 2009 to 2015.4

More than a dozen of other genes influencing salt tolerance have been found in various plants. Some of these candidate genes may prove feasible in developing salt tolerance in sugarcane 4, rice5,6, barley 7, wheat 8, tomato9, and soybean10.

Drought Resistant Crops
Transgenic plants carrying genes for water-stress management have been developed.  Structural genes (key enzymes for osmolyte biosynthesis, such as proline, glycine/betaine, mannitol and trehalose, redox proteins and detoxifying enzymes, stress-induced LEA proteins) and regulatory genes, including dehydration–responsive, element-binding (DREB) factors, zinc finger proteins, and NAC transcription factor genes, are being used. Transgenic crops carrying different drought tolerant genes are being developed in rice, wheat, maize, sugarcane, tobacco, Arabidopsis, groundnut, tomato, potato and papaya.11, 12

An important initiative for Africa is the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) project of the Kenyan-based African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and Howard G. Buffet Foundations. Drought tolerant WEMA varieties developed through marker assisted breeding could be available to farmers within the next two or three years. Drought-tolerant and insect-protected varieties developed using both advanced breeding and transgenic approaches could be available to farmers in the later part of the decade.13 In 2012, a genetically modified drought tolerant maize MON 87460 that expresses cold shock protein B has been approved in the US for release in the market.14

Biotech Crops for Cold Tolerance
By using genetic and molecular approaches, a number of relevant genes have been identified and new information continually emerges. Among which are the genes controlling the CBF cold-responsive pathway and together with DREB1 genes, integrate several components of the cold acclimation response to tolerance low temperatures.15

Cold tolerant GM crops are being developed such as GM eucalypti, which is currently being field tested in the US by Arborgen LLC since 2010. Thale cress has been improved to contain the DaIRIP4 from Deschapsia antarctica, a hairgrass that thrives in frosts down to -30C, and sugarcane are being introgressed with genes from cold tolerant wild varieties.4

Biotech Crops for Heat Stress
Expression of heat shock proteins (HSPs) has been associated with recovery of plants under heat stress and sometimes, even during drought. HSPs bind and stabilize proteins that have become denatured during stress conditions, and provide protection to prevent protein aggregation. In GM chrysanthemum containing the DREBIA gene from Arabidopsis thaliana, the transgene and other heat responsive genes such as the HSP70 (heat shock proteins) were highly expressed when exposed to heat treatment. The transgenic plants maintained higher photosynthetic capacity and elevated levels of photosynthesis-related enzymes.16

Forward Looking

Improved crops resilient to extreme environments caused by climate change are expected   in a few years to a decade. Hence, food production during this era should be given another boost to sustain food supply for the doubling population. Biotech research to mitigate global warming should also be initiated to sustain the utilization of new products. Among these are: the induction of nodular structures on the roots of non-leguminous cereal crops to fix nitrogen. This will reduce farmers’ reliance on inorganic fertilizers. Another is the utilization of excess CO2 in the air by staple crop rice by converting its CO2 harnessing capability from C3 to C4 pathway. C4 plants like maize can efficiently assimilate and convert CO2 to carbon products during photosynthesis.


US EPA. 2011. Agriculture and Food Supply: Climate change, health and environmental effects.  April 14, 2011.

IFPRI. 2009. Climate change impact on agriculture and cost adaptation.

Brookes, G and P Barfoot. 2012. Global economic and environmental benefits of GM crops continue to rise.

Tammisola, J. 2010. Towards much more efficient biofuel crops – can sugarcane pave the way? GM Crops 1:4; 181-198.

Salt Tolerant GM Barley Trials in Australia, Successful.

Moghaieb RE, A Nakamura, H Saneoka and K Fujita. 2011. Evaluation of salt tolerance in ectoine-transgenic tomato plants (Lycopersicon esculentum) in terms of photosynthesis, osmotic adjustment, and carbon partitioning. GM Crops. 2(1):58-65.

Sanghera, GS, S H Wani, W Hussain, and N B Singh. 2011. Engineering cold stress tolerance in crop plants. Curr Genomics 12 (1): 30-43.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

CMWD moves to avert possible water shortage

MALOLOS CITY—The City of Malolos Water District (CMWD) is bracing itself to meet the increasing needs of its more than 230,000 population with its new board setting plans for service improvement and expansion.

The plans include the establishment of additional pumping stations and tree planting activities.

Engineer Bernie Buenaventura, a member of the CMWD board said that at present, the CMWD has over 45,000 in concessionaires, each consuming a minimum of 120 liters per day.

“Based on our current estimates, we are having weak water pressure in some areas especially during peak hours of the day,” he said noting that CMWD’s current pumping capability is not enough.

A licensed sanitary engineer, Buenaventura said that water demand is increasing everyday, while supply of ground water is slowly getting depleted.

This is due to aggressive developments of residential subdivisions in the city along with construction large malls, not to mention that fact that this city is the academic center of the province, he noted. An additional of at least 30,000 individuals will be added to the city population with the opening of classes in the second week of June.

Buenaventura said that open areas like rice lands were converted into residential subdivisions, with concrete roads. He said the concreting of open areas reduces natural replenishment of ground water.

Making the situation worse is that at least three pumping stations of the CMWD are not functional.

“We need not only to replace old pumping station, we must also improve water pumping capabilities,” he said.
As this developed, Buenaventura asked concessionaires to conserve water while they are hoping for the immediate implementation of the long delayed Bulacan Bulk Water Supply Project (Bulacan Bulk).

The said project is seen to address increasing water deficit in the city and depleting ground water supply.

Buenaventura also said that for a long time, the CMWD implemented no tree planting program that will help preserve ground water.

“I will propose tree planting program in the Board the soonest,” he said.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Fire and earthquake drills at SM Marilao

21 MAY 2013- A series of rescue operation was carried out by SM City Marilao’s Emergency Response Group as actual fire, earthquake and evacuation drill was staged during regular mall hours.

“We take this exercise seriously that is why we wanted it to be realistic as possible” on the statement made by Customer Relations Services Manager Jose Berong during the briefing done before the drill.

Weeks before the drill, shoppers, employees and tenants were advised of the simulation to ensure the welfare of each participant. Guaranteeing each and everyone’s safety, BFP along with Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council of Marilao and mall’s building administrators checked the first aid and safety equipment, fire exit doors, fire hydrants location and evacuation route as well as the evacuation area.  Seminars on earthquake as well as fire safety and prevention were likewise taken by the ERG as a refresher course prior to the drill.

The actual fire, earthquake and evacuation drill simulation targets to increase and strengthen mall’s Emergency Response Group (ERG) preparedness, evaluate response capabilities and improve coordination among the tasked units during emergency situations.

Challenging mock-up situations such as traumatized customers covered and injured by falling debris, tenant employees suffering from burn and head traumas as well as severely injured victim with fractures were put up to enhance the mall’s Emergency Response Group (ERG) skills in mobilization, communication and response, as well as the ability to account for all the people within the affected premises.

A mock-up fire scenario also transpired at the entrance of the mall to demonstrate the different types of fire stream while performing the actual simulation of suppressing the fire.

After the drill, Bulacan Provincial BFP, Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council of Marilao, Marilao BFP and Barangay Ibayo Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council lauded SM City Marilao for its preparedness and capability in handling disaster situations. This exercise is observed yearly by the mall to illustrate and practice the proper response before, during and after these hazards happen.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

PNP creates TF Roura to look into the killing of San Miguel village chair

MALOLOS CITY—Bulacan police created a task force to investigate the recent killing of a village chairman in San Miguel town early Sunday morning as they vowed to go after the suspects.

Senior Superintendent Joel Orduna, acting provincial police director of Bulacan created Task Force Roura late Sunday composed of elements from the Criminal Investigation Detection Team (CIDT) based in Malolos City.

The task force is tasked to conduct a thorough investigation in the killing of Ronnie Roura, the chair of Barangay Poblacion in San Miguel town, and headquarters manager of John Alvarez, a mayoral candidate in the said town.

Superintendent Marcus Rivero, chief of San Miguel police said Task Force Roura started investigation on Sunday.

“We will implement the law without fear or favor,” said Rivero in an interview yesterday.

Citing investigation reports, Rivero said that Roura was killed around 4:30 AM on Sunday by two unidentified armed men.

Roura’s wife Lotus Marie was able to escape but suffered bruises in the process, while Manny Manabat, driver of a tricycle used by the Rouras suffered gunshot wonds.

Reports also said that Ronnie Roura suffered multiple gunshot wounds in different part of the body and in the head.

Lotus Marie said that after the suspects shot her husband, they shot Manabat, then shot Ronnie again, this time in the head.

She said she knows the suspects and can easily identify them, but declined to disclose identities yet.

In a separate interview, mayoral candidate John Alvarez insisted that the killing is politically motivated.

He told PromdiNews in telephone interview that days before the incident, Roura received threatening call from another candidate in San Miguel town.

Alvarez expressed apprehension that the suspects who killed Ro0ura are the same suspects who tried to kill him in February 2012, when his two body guards namely Roelito Vidal and Josefino Alvarez were killed.

Alvarez cited similarities in the modus operandi in both killings wherein the suspects shot the victims in the head after shooting them in the body.

Records obtained by PromdiNews showed that SPO2 Angelito Veracruz Liwag, PO3 Antonino Timoteo and PO1 Alex Dayao of San Miguel Police station were charged with multiple murders and frustrated murder in the 2012 ambush on Alvarez.  Dino Balabo

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Diocese of Malolos takes hard line stand vs. candidates hostile on Church teachings

MALOLOS CITY—The Diocese of Malolos  took a hard line stand against anti-life and family candidates in the May 13 automated elections.

In a two page pastoral letter read in all parishes in Bulacan and in the City of Valenzuela, Bishop Jose Francisco Oliveros of the Diocese of Malolos advised parishioners saying “huwag iboto ang mga kandidatong laban sa buhay at pamilya.

Oliveros was referring to candidates who voted for the ratification of the Reproductive Health Law and those that are pushing for laws on divorce, same sex marriage, abortion and euthanasia or mercy killing.

The bishop also encourage parishioners in the province not to vote for candidates who pushed for the establishment landfills in Bulacan along with those who are facing charges of graft and corruption, and involved in illegal mining, illegal fishing, and illegal logging.

Oliveros also specifically called on the laity not to vote for candidates who belong to political dynasty and who have a mistress.

“Ito ang aking panawagan salahat ng mga layko ang kusa at malayang pagtugon sa gawaing ito,” the bishop said in his pastoral letter where in he added, “dapat tumulong ang mga laikong kalalakihan at kababaihan namay mataas na katungkulan sa ating lipunan sa paghubog ng budhinh panlipunan ng botante at dapat silang kumilos upang hayagang suportahan ang pagkakahalal sa mga katungkulang pampublikong mga pinunong may wagas na katapatan.”

In the same letter, Oliveros explained that his call is not partisan, instead, it was a recognition to candidates who are supporting the teachings of the Church.

He also reminded parishioners that in choosing the bext candidates in the May polls, Catholics must have knowledge of the candidates, must inquire and must exercise responsibility.

In inquiring about a certain candidate, Catholics were reminded to consider the four “Cs” which stands for  conscience, character, competence, compassion and commitment.

“Marapat lamang na ang botanteng katoliko ay mapag-isip, mapanuri,at mapagsaliksik sa uri ng pagkatao ng isang pulitiko,”Oliveros said.

With regards to the vaunted Catholic Vote, he described it as an spiritual power that that must evaluate the social, political and cultural landscape.

Ang botong katoliko ay pagtutol,hindi pagboto sa mga pulitiko na ang programa at panuntunan ay laban sa pananampalataya at moral ng Katoliko,” he said.

Meanwhile, political old hands here said that the pastoral letter will affect candidacies of Gov. Wilhelmino Alvarado and his wife Rep. Marivic Alvarado.

Aside from the perception that the Alvarados are building apolitical dynastry, Rep. Alvarado also voted in favor of the RH law.

Other candidates are expected to be affected by the pastoral letter is Bulakan town Mayor Patrick Meneses, scion of the political clan who ruled in the town for more than 50 years; and the reelection bid of Mayor Joan Alarilla of Meycauayan City who was charged withy plunder years ago; and Mayor Rolando Flores of the mountain town of Donya Remedios Trindad who was suspended last year for abuse of authority.

Political observers also believes that reelection bids of Mayor Orencio Gabriel who favored the construction of sanitary landfill in Obando town; and Mayor Feliciano Legazpi who is grooming his son as his running mate.  (Dino Balabo)