Experts Discussed Manila Bay White Sand and Ecosystem Issues

The Geological Society of the Philippines (GSP), in collaboration with the School of Environmental Science and Management-University of the Philippines Los Baños (SESAM-UPLB) and the National Research Council of the Philippines (NRCP), gathered experts and authorities in a webinar to discuss the brewing arguments regarding the current developments In Manila Bay, last September 18, 2020. The symposium provided the platform for discussing Manila Bay in the context of environmental management through a whole of system approach. 

The white sand project in a section of the Manila Bay shoreline is a beach nourishment initiative, according to Atty. Jonas R. Leones, Undersecretary for Priority Programs, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). “This is to fast track our compliance to the Supreme Court Mandamus dated December 18, 2008, which directs 13 government agencies to clean up, rehabilitate and preserve Manila Bay, and restore and maintain its water to SB level”, said Usec. Leones. He enumerated the geo-engineering interventions to make sure that the white sand will not be easily washed out. Usec. Leones also cited resorts such the Shangri-La beach front in Cebu, which also used dolomite, as a model for the Manila Bay beach nourishment and he stressed that this aesthetic initiative does not require environment impact studies. 

Aside from the beach nourishment, Usec. Leones also discussed the three phases of the Manila Bay Rehabilitation Program which include clean-up/water quality improvement (phase 1); full rehabilitation and resettlement (phase 2); and protection and sustainment (phase 3). He also mentioned that the solar-powered Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) which was unveiled last July 30, 2020 along Roxas Boulevard is now operational. The STP is capable of treating 500,000 liters of wastewater per day.

Prior to the updates on Manila Bay rehabilitation program, former UPLB Chancellor Dr. Rex Victor O. Cruz gave an overview of the framework for the development of the Manila Bay Sustainable Development Master Plan. Dr. Cruz mentioned the importance of institutional set-up options. He detailed these options such as strengthening the existing Manila Bay structures; expanding Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) coverage and empower Manila Bay Task Force under LLDA; and creating a new agency or authority similar to the LLDA.

For his part, Dr. Karlo Queaño, Professor, Ateneo de Manila University, introduced the geological considerations in the coastal management of Manila Bay. Dr. Queaño pointed out that adaptation and mitigation strategies need to be reviewed carefully to strengthen flood resilience, protect or enhance the ecosystem; and improve future development planning to deter large community displacement and damage to infrastructures.

Dr. Jonathan R. Dungca, Professor, De La Salle University, presented several studies and previous incidence of earthquake-induced soil liquefactions in other countries such as in Japan. “A Magnitude 5 earthquake can already cause a liquefaction in Manila Bay, since saturated sand deposits are loose”, Dr. Dungca pointed out.

In her presentation entitled “Addressing the ‘Dolomite’  Communication Fiasco, Dr. Ma. Stella C. Tirol, Dean, College of Development Communication, UPLB, cited five communication issues that hounded the project. These are inappropriate timing of the project at the height of the pandemic; missing the big picture which created information gaps, thus making more people speculate; the unharmonized mouthpieces– the DENR and the Department of Health (DOH) at first contradicted each other about the safety of dolomites; then the credibility reversal, due to the retracted statement of DOH; and finally, the lack of transparency, which fueled the doubts among the public. 

Dr. Tirol also listed some good practices that any activities must initiate, such as preparing a communication plan; building good relationship with media; reporting positive results/stories/ build champions as advocates; social media training or communication capacity building; and listening to public opinions and complaints.

Department of Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato dela Peña also attended the webinar and he thanked SESAM-UPLB, GSP and NRCP for organizing this symposium, which was attended by more than 1000 participants from different sectors. This symposium was made possible by the efforts of the officers and members of the GSP and NRCP, led by Drs. Carla Dimalanta, Graciano Yumul, Edanjarlo Marquez and SESAM Dean Decibel F. Eslava.

SESAM, GSP and NRCP to Hold Manila Bay White Sand Symposium

Thank you for your patience as we try to accommodate as many participants as possible. We are heartened by the overwhelming response from the community. The registration for the Manila Bay Forum for September 18, 2:00 pm has resumed. Please register using this link: https://tiny.cc/wjsloz

Registration will be open until September 16, 12:00 nn. Thank you very much and we look forward to meeting you all on Friday!

SESAM Conducts Virtual Training and Validation Workshop with DENR to Address IAS in Protected Areas

As part of the project entitled “Environmental, Socio-cultural, and Economic Valuation of Piper aduncum in the Allah Valley Protected Landscape (AVPL) in Mindanao, Philippines”, the Ecosystem Services and Environmental Policy Laboratory of the School of Environmental Science and Management-University of the Philippines Los Baños (SESAM-UPLB), conducted a virtual training and validation workshop last 20 August 2020. This project, with funding support from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is led by Dr. Rico Ancog, Associate Professor 5 of SESAM-UPLB.

Twenty-six participants consisting of representatives from various DENR Bureaus and attached agencies attended the training. The day-long virtual event saw the presentation of policy recommendations and measures to combat the existing threats of invasive species in AVPL. During the morning session, Dr. Rico Ancog presented the initial findings of the baseline data gathering and introduced the excel-based valuation tool developed by the project team. 

To introduce the tool, key concepts related to the cost-benefit analysis applied to invasive species management in protected areas was discussed.  During the afternoon session, Dr. Rico Ancog and Ms. Stellah Aclan trained selected participants on the use of the excel-based valuation tool to quantify the impacts of Invasive Alien Species (IAS).

Dir. Angelito V. Fontanilla of the DENR Foreign Assisted and Special Project Services delivered the opening remarks. Dr. Fontanilla highlighted the significance of the project to produce sound policy recommendations not just on the context of IAS in protected areas but also in relation to biodiversity preservation. In addition, Dr. Fontanilla also emphasized the importance of the presented results as input to the ongoing projects related to the National Greening Program. 

Mr. Eddie Abugan, Chief of the Project Preparation Division of FASPS, also actively participated and raised some of his insights during the valuation/training workshop. Furthermore, he commented on the importance of the over-all appreciation on the process of cost-benefit analysis. Ms. Melinda Capistrano, Chief of the Planning and Programming Division, also commented that although the presentation and the training/workshop is highly technical, it is important for the regional offices to understand how economic valuation concepts can be applied to the ground. To do this, it is necessary to do series of hands on computations to guide regional offices through the learning process. 

Lastly, DENR Assistant Secretary Marcial Amaro Jr. commended the project team for giving an extensive walk through on the excel based valuation tool developed. He related that although the process is indeed overwhelming, it is important to grasp the overall process shown by the developed excel based tool to further craft effective policies related to the increasing impacts of invasive species.

In general, the virtual training/validation workshop provided awareness on the impacts of IAS in the Philippines by presenting findings in relation to the case of P. aduncum in AVPL. The virtual event also provided a learning venue for participants on applying Cost-Benefit analysis to assess the impacts of IAS on a protected area. Most of the participants commented on the importance of pursuing science-based research when implementing policy measures on the ground. Since the validation/training workshop for the excel-based valuation tool was originally designed as a face to face workshop, most participants highlighted the limitations of the virtual set-up. The training/workshop also provided the project team with relevant insights and information to further refine the excel-based valuation tool and deliver the results to the ground level using a more effective approach. Thus, the over-all appreciation of the participants on the tool developed and the inputs gained by the project team generally contributed relevant information to address the issue on the existing impacts of IAS in the Philippines by looking into the case of Piper aduncum in AVPL. (Stellah Aclan)

SESAM 2020 Graduates Honored via Virtual Testimonial Program

The School of Environmental Science and Management-University of the Philippines Los Baños (SESAM-UPLB) paid tribute to its thirty-three graduates from mid-year 2019 to school year 2019-2020 last August 14, 2020, via virtual testimonial ceremonies. Among the graduates, 25 finished the degree of Master of Science in Environmental Science, while seven graduated Doctor in Philosophy in Environmental Science and one finished a Doctor in Philosophy by Research in Environmental Science.

The class valedictorian for MS graduates this year is Mr. Jan Idel Emmanuel F. Castañeda, who is a recipient of the Academic Excellence Award with his grade weighted average (GWA) of 1.18. Mr. Castañeda was a Department of Science and Technology- Accelerated Science and Technology Human Resource Development Program scholar. 

Meanwhile, the class valedictorian of this year’s Ph.D. class is Dr. Jayson Q. Caranza, also received an Academic Excellence Award for his outstanding academic performance with a GWA of 1.11. Dr. Caranza was a Commission on Higher Education (CHED) K to 12 Scholar. 

Another recipient of the Academic Excellence Award is Dr. Neil C. Tanquilut, who has the highest distinction of attaining a grade of 1.0 in his dissertation. Dr. Tanquilut was also a CHED K to 12 scholar and the lone graduate of the Ph.D. by Research in Environmental Science this year.

This year’s testimonial program was graced by the former dean of SESAM, Dr. Ben S. Malayang III, Professor Emeritus. “Education is a moral obligation, you came to SESAM to acquire knowledge to make you a better person, one with elevated capabilities to wield power of science for human ends”,  said Dr. Malayang, who also advised the graduating class that now is the time to start giving out knowledge to make a difference to the world.

Meanwhile, UPLB Chancellor Fernando C. Sanchez, Jr. congratulated the graduating class of 2020, who manage to finish their studies while facing unprecedented challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought. “The work to find sustainable solutions to fight climate change, environmental management, the development of affordable and clean energy, food and nutrition security and safety does not and shouldn’t stop” Chancellor Sanchez stressed.

Dr. Decibel F. Eslava, Dean of SESAM, said she is honored that SESAM was the institution of choice of the graduates and they have invested enough until this day. For his part, Dr. Enrique P. Pacardo, Professor Emeritus told the graduating class that it is now time to serve the people and the society, as well as the institutions which they came from.

This program is the first virtual testimonial ceremonies conducted for a graduating due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The university also conducted its virtual commencement exercise for this year’s graduates the following day.