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Public funds cannot be used to cut trees

/ 01:16 AM September 24, 2014

In case Rep. Mark Cojuangco and other national and local government officials don’t know it, the current General Appropriations Act prohibits the use of public funds to cut trees, demolish heritage houses and buildings, and construct homes in hazardous areas identified in government hazard maps.

Sen. Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate committee on environment, had the prohibition put there to protect the environment and our heritage. She will also have the same prohibition in the 2015 budget.

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What a relief, as trees and heritage houses are being decimated fast. Whenever roads are to be widened, trees on the roadsides are in danger. Senator Legarda’s action may save many of them.

She also requests those who know where there are firefly colonies to please inform her as she wants to show them to children and even some adults who have never seen such a sight in their whole life. Development is depriving fireflies of their habitat.

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There were plenty of fireflies in the park in our village but I have not seen any lately. Sometimes, I see two or three flitting in our garden, but there is nothing more beautiful than a whole colony of them lighting up a bush or a tree like a Christmas tree.

Try this: On a moonless night, turn off all the lights in your home. If you are lucky, maybe you will see some flitting in your garden.

And why not have the University of the Philippines or some other school hire an entomologist to breed fireflies and have them fly in a darkened minipark, in the same way butterflies are bred and let loose in enclosed gardens?

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Still on the environment, there are reports that the Supreme Court is about to issue its decision on the case surrounding the controversial Bt talong, a pesticide-free eggplant variety developed through modern agriculture biotechnology.

The eggplant is susceptible to a pest that burrows into its soft pulp. Its skin may look smooth and shiny, but when you cut it you may find worms inside. Sometimes, a whole crop is lost due to pests.

To fight back, farmers spray their plants with pesticide. However, the pests become immune to the chemical, so the farmers are forced to keep increasing the dose. Hence, the cost of producing the eggplant becomes higher and higher and the farmer’s income becomes progressively less.

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Through modern agriculture biotechnology, Filipino scientists of the University of the Philippines-Los Baños have been able to breed a variety of eggplant that is resistant to pests, the Bt talong. With this variety, farmers won’t have to use pesticide. This will not only reduce the farmers’ production cost, but also prevent consumers from eating eggplant laced with chemicals.

However Greenpeace, a foreign environmental group, has been able to secure an order from the Court of Appeals to stop field trials on Bt talong.

A large group of science agriculture researchers called the Biotechnology Coalition of the Philippines (BCP), filed a petition in the Supreme Court to intervene in the case and have the CA’s restraining order lifted. They want to prove that the Bt talong is safe to eat and not harmful to the environment.

The high court has granted the BCP petition and rejected the stiff opposition mounted by Greenpeace. The BCP will now be able to present its findings to the high court.

This row between Greenpeace and the UPLB scientists has been going on for more than a decade now.

Greenpeace is a well-funded pressure group based in Amsterdam. It has consistently opposed the work of our scientists, particularly in introducing biotechnology-developed crop varieties to our farmers.

There are two groups that have petitioned the high court on the matter. One is the BCP; the other is a group of farmers who want their voices heard.

Greenpeace attacked the BCP petition but, surprisingly, did not oppose the farmers’ petition. One can presume that the high court will also grant their petition.

Why Greenpeace does not want our farmers to discover and tap the benefits of chemical-free crop varieties continues to baffle many and creates serious doubts on the real motive of the powerful European activist group. Is Greenpeace secretly working for pesticide manufacturers? They would lose business when farmers begin planting crop varieties resistant to pests and therefore would need no pesticides.

Greenpeace appears to have poured most of its propaganda resources into the Philippines in a desperate bid to stop our scientists from introducing biotech crop varieties to our farmers. It has lost the initial round, with the success of the biotech corn variety in the country.

When propaganda failed, Greenpeace supporters destroyed our field trial farms. When that also failed, it used the courts to stop the work of our scientists. Hopefully, the Supreme Court’s decision would stop Greenpeace instead.

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TAGS: agriculture biotechnology, Biotechnology Coalition of the Philippines, Bt Talong, environment, general appropriations act, Greenpeace, Mark Cojuangco, pesticide-free eggplant, Sen. Loren Legarda, Senate committee on environment, Supreme Court, University of the Philippines
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