Duterte’s decision to close Boracay

Perhaps one can say that this piece is already water under the bridge since President Rodrigo Duterte has already approved the recommendation of the three government agencies, namely, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Tourism (DOT), and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to close the resort island of Boracay for six months.

The description by no less than the president of the famed place as “cesspool” indeed decidedly put a halt to the influx of tourist to the place.

“You go into the water, it’s smelly. Smells of what? Sh*t,” he had said.

Pretty strong and unfavorable words for the local government and stakeholders, but they all had it coming.

I am not writing this to discuss the inadequacies and ineptness of those governing and running their private entities while thinking only of the windfall of earnings they can make at the expense of the tourist who simply wants to experience fun in the Philippines, and the much talked about Boracay in particular, for this issue has received quite a beating already.

But it is perhaps proper and timely to mention here that the shortcomings, the myopic vision, and the vested interests of their own concerns took a toll on the environment, which is an important facet of tourism.

What I want to talk about, therefore, which certainly is not water under the bridge, is in the context of the urgency and necessity of the Boracay closure.

We must admit that the problems that caused embarrassment to Boracay, famous for its powdery white sand and shallow azure water, did not happen overnight, or to put it straightforward, during Duterte’s presidency.

It has been reported that Boracay’s degradation has been blamed on the failure of the local government to enforce ordinances on marine conservation, garbage and sanitation, and zoning and construction, among others.

Also, that at least 300 hotels, resorts and inns have been ignoring an ordinance that requires them to build their own sewage and wastewater treatment facilities. They have instead been dumping waste into canals meant only for rainwater and surface overflow.

Another upsetting revelation is that four of the nine wetlands on the island, meanwhile, are occupied by a shopping mall, a hotel and around 100 illegal settlers.

Talking about impunity by both the governing body and the governed!

While past administrations acted like the three proverbial monkeys exemplifying the proverbial principle of “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”, Duterte used his leadership and political will to make a difference in Boracay.

After all, it is the long range plan of sustaining the grandeur of Boracay for the country’s tourism industry that matters most.

 

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Genital-breathing turtle on the verge of extinction

I find the story of this species of turtle worth recording, while it is still around, for its unique appearance and peculiar ways. Its freakishness is what makes it worth saving.

Imagine, where else in the animal kingdom could one find a member that exhibits a very bizarre way of breathing using specialized glands in their cloacas—organs that are used for both excretion and mating and which allows it to stay submerged in water for up to 72 hours?

Indeed, the Mary River turtle, as it is called, does not only have a weird way of breathing, but it is also described as having a piercing gold eyes, ‘green hair’ and fleshy barbs on its neck and a tail that can grow to exceptional lengths – that is up to 70 percent longer than the length of its shell.

The gentle turtle’s scientific name is Elusor macrurus and the ‘hairs’ on its head are vertical strands of algae, which makes it look like a swimming patch of grass, the result of staying submerged in water for long hours.

Measuring up to 40cm, the turtle is said to take a long time to mature sexually, rarely mating before the age of 25.

They prefer to dwell in well-oxygenated, flowing sections of streams, known as riffles, though they are sometimes found in deeper pools.

It is because of its gentle/docile nature that the Mary River turtle was kept as a pet in Australia in the 1960s and 70s.

During that period, it was estimated that around 15,000 Mary River turtle eggs were sold to pet shops every year, and the unchecked raiding of the animal’s nests played a large part in driving the turtle towards extinction.

According to the Australian Zoo, Mary River turtles are also threatened by habitat degradation, which includes “problems such as a deterioration of water quality through riverside vegetation being cleared, water pollution through siltation, agricultural chemical contamination and water flow disruptions through the construction of weirs for irrigation and predation.”

As its name suggest, the Mary River turtle lives only in the flowing streams of the Mary River in Queensland, Australia.

Unfortunately the turtle is also at number 29 on the new official list of the most endangered reptiles in the world.

 

Gorillas dying in captivity

In the same manner that my attention always gets pulled towards the zoo enclosures where large primates are found, like the gorillas, chimpanzees and orangutans, I also get bothered and saddened reading about these intelligent, human-like animals suffering and dying in captivity.

It is bad enough that these herbivorous apes have been displaced from their natural habitat of dense forests where they spend most of their daytime feeding on vegetation, but it gets even worst when man insidiously change their diet.

Long running studies have been made to find solution to a crisis facing captive apes the world over that gets transferred to an artificial environment only to die later.

In 1911, Madame Ningo, the first gorilla in North America, arrived at the Bronx Zoo, where she was fed hot, meat-centric meals from a nearby restaurant. Being an herbivore, Madame Ningo refused to eat and was dead within two weeks.

In 2006, three seemingly healthy male gorillas in American zoos died from heart disease—a condition almost nonexistent in wild gorillas. Scientists have since determined that 70% or so of adult male gorillas in North America have heart disease, and it’s the leading killer of captive male gorillas worldwide.

Significant proof to this is when a 30-year-old and 400-pound gorilla named Mokolo unknowingly got an ultrasound heart exam when he voluntarily shambled up to a stainless-steel fence, squatted on his stout legs, and pressed his belly to the mesh.

Like many captive male gorillas, Mokolo suffers from heart disease—specifically, fibrosing cardiomyopathy, a condition that turns red, healthy heart muscle into bands of white scar tissue too rigid to pump blood. Other great apes, such as orangutans and chimpanzees, suffer at similar rates.

For more than a decade, zookeepers, veterinarians, epidemiologists and others have struggled to figure out why heart disease is so prevalent among captive apes, and how to prevent the animals from developing it. Now they may be closing in on answer—one that lies not in the 20-ounce time bombs housed in gorillas’ chests, but in the microscopic bacteria that flourish in their guts.

“The gut dictates everything,” a biological anthropologist says. Even with advances in feeding, scientists believe gorillas are still getting too much sugar and grain—and too little fiber—and it’s changing the microbes in their guts. It’s possible that, as in humans, gut microbes play a role in the health of systems throughout the body.

Perhaps what this means is that unlike in the forest where the flora being foraged is what gives the gorillas more of the good bacteria in their guts, in captivity most of the food given them generates more bad bacteria that makes it generally unhealthy for the body.

Golf’s 18-hole course applies to life

 

Golf is a familiar sport to Filipinos, too.

A standard golf course has 18 holes, numbered 1 through 18. The first nine holes are referred to as the “front nine,” and the last nine holes – holes 10 through 18 – are called the “back nine” or the final nine holes.

It is in this context that I am sharing with you the story of ‘The Back Nine of Life’ posted by Norm McEvoy at this website: http://theeducator.ca/philosophy/the-back-nine-of-life/.

The reason why I am sharing this is because golf’s 18-hole course applies to all people’s life sooner and later.

I find it even more significant when you have siblings (there are 8 of us remaining, with 2 passing away earlier in life) who are all playing now the best way we could in our own respective ways and enduring the back nine of our lives.

Like our parents before us whom we remembered leaving behind when they were in their last nine holes because it was already our turn to play the front nine of our lives outside the confines of our home and town, we find ourselves now in their predicament as our own children are away playing in their respective first nine holes with the intensity to succeed the 18-hole course of life.

The following story explains what I mean.

The Back Nine of Life (author unknown)

I FIRST STARTED READING THIS EMAIL & WAS READING IT FAST TILL I REACHED THE THIRD SENTENCE.
I STOPPED AND STARTED OVER,  READING SLOWER AND THINKING ABOUT EVERY WORD.
THIS EMAIL IS VERY THOUGHT PROVOKING. MAKES YOU STOP AND THINK. READ SLOWLY!”             AND THEN IT IS WINTER!”

You know … time has a way of moving quickly and catching you unaware of the passing years. It seems just yesterday that I was young, just married and embarking on my new life with my mate. Yet in a way, it seems like eons ago, and I wonder where all the years went. I know that I lived them all. I have glimpses of how it was back then and of all my hopes and dreams.
But, here it is… the back nine of my life and it catches me by surprise…
How did I get here so fast? Where did the years go and where did my youth go? I remember well seeing older people through the years and thinking that those older people were years away from me and that I was only on the first hole and the back nine was so far off that I could not fathom it or imagine fully what it would be like. But, here it is!!…my friends are retired and getting grey…they move slower and I actually see and recognize an older person now.
Some are in better and some worse shape than I…but, I see the great change…
Not like the ones that I remember who were young and vibrant…but, like me, their age is beginning to show and we are now those older folks that we used to see and never thought we’d become. Each day now, I find that just getting out and going for a walk is a real target for the day! And taking a nap is not a treat anymore… it’s mandatory! Cause if I don’t on my own free will… I’ll just fall asleep where I sit!
And so…now I enter into this new season of my life all the aches and pains and the loss of strength and ability to go and do things that I wish I had done but never did!! But, at least I know, that though I’m on the back nine, and I’m not sure how long it will last…this I know, that when it’s over on this earth…a new adventure will begin!
Yes, I have regrets. There are things I wish I hadn’t done, things I should have done, but indeed, there are many things I’m happy to have done. It’s all in a lifetime. So, if you’re not on the back nine yet…let me remind you, that it will be here faster than you think. So, whatever you would like to accomplish in your life please do it quickly!
Don’t put things off too long!! Life goes by quickly.

So, do what you can today, as you can never be sure whether you’re on the back nine or not! You have no promise that you will see all the seasons of your life…so, live for today and say all the things that you want your loved ones to remember…and hope that they appreciate and love you for all the things that you have done for them in all the years past!!
“Life” is a gift to you. The way you live your life is your gift to those who come after.     Make it a fantastic one.
LIVE IT WELL! DO SOMETHING JUST FOR FUN! BE HAPPY !
“It is health that is real wealth and not the pieces of gold and silver.

 

 

 

 

New species of orangutan discovered

 

An adult male Tapanuli orangutan in the Batang Toru Forest (Photo from National Geographic).

Far from being the Fosseys and Goodalls of this world, both leading primatologists, the discovery of a new species of orangutan, however, brings excitement to ordinary people, like me, who loves and gets immensely entertained by this kind-looking, playful and intelligent variety among the primates, who generally are considered one of humankind’s closest relatives.

Orangutans long were considered a single species, but were recognized as having two species in 1996, one in Sumatra (Pongo abelii) and one in Borneo ((Pongo pygmaeus).

(Photo by National Geographic)

The new species, called Pongo tapanuliensis, is found in the isolated Batang Toru forest in Sumatra, Indonesia. And it’s estimated that there are fewer than 800 of these shaggy reddish tree dwellers left, making it very vulnerable to extinction. It makes the new species also the rarest great ape on Earth. Note that the Sumatran (estimated 14,000) and Bornean (estimated 55,000) have both been declared as critically endangered.

Although the Tapanuli orangutans were thought to belong to the species Pongo abelii, also known as the Sumatran orangutan, scientists discovered that the new species is more closely related to its cousins in Borneo than to its fellow Sumatran apes.

But according to scientists there had been a few hints in their observation that the so-called Tapanuli orangutans were different. Previous research showed that this population of orangutans behaved differently than other orangutans and had some genetic differences. But it wasn’t clear whether those differences were enough to name a new species, thus, it continued to be identified as belonging to the Sumatran orangutan.

The tell tale signs of significant difference later came when researchers got access to the skeleton of an orangutan found in the Tapanuli region. The orangutan, named Raya, had died after being harassed and injured by people, according to National Geographic. A comparison between Raya’s skull and teeth and those of 33 other adult male orangutans revealed that there were enough differences to grant a new species designation.

Orangutan means “person of the forest” in the Indonesian and Malay languages, and it is the world’s biggest arboreal mammal. Orangutans are adapted to living in trees, with their arms longer than their legs. They live more solitary lives than other great apes, sleeping and eating fruit in the forest canopy and swinging from branch to branch.

“It’s pretty exciting to be able to describe a new great ape species in this day and age,” said University of Zurich evolutionary geneticist Michael Krützen, adding that most great apes species are listed as endangered or critically endangered.

“We must do everything possible to protect the habitats in which these magnificent animals occur, not only because of them, but also because of all the other animal and plant species that we can protect at the same time.”

Matthew Nowak, of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program, echoed the same sentiment, saying, that “In addition to threats like hunting by humans, significant areas of the Tapanuli orangutan’s range are seriously threatened by habitat conversion for small-scale agriculture, mining exploration and exploitation, a large-scale hydroelectric scheme, geothermal development and agricultural plantations.”

Talking about collateral damage!

Making Earth great again

Don’t be a sucker.

It is not really about making America great again for it is now, has always been and will always be.

But for America to continue being great and for the rest of the world community, including the third world countries, to experience peace and contentment, there is a need for humanity to respect and be thankful for what Earth has been to the population.

What I am just saying is that let us all take care of mother Earth and believe that our collective inattention to her for her continued usefulness is what is causing havoc everywhere in an unimaginable manner, shape and form.

There is a truism, saying, “We don’t inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”

We should all be embarrassed and conscience-stricken for the legacy we are leaving behind which could only be attributed to man’s folly.

But it is never too late.

We can still atone for our mistakes and strive hard to make Earth more friendly and great again.

To convince you that, indeed, Earth is our only home today, tomorrow and in ages to come, allow me to share this video with you.

Bill Maher uses colorful language, but he is funny and telling the truth.

Gina Lopez over Leni Robredo anytime

DENR Sec. Gina Lopez (l) and Vice Pres. Leni Robredo

I had been critical of Vice President Leni Robredo not only because she has fallen so short of my expectations (yes, Virginia, I voted for her), but more so because she allows herself and her position to be used as the voice of the opposition.

Recent events about her which drew criticism from many only show how vulnerable she is to being manipulated by her cohorts in the Liberal Party (LP) who have vested interests of their own.

You can read more of my opinion about Robredo at these links:

https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/2017/04/12/robredos-satisfaction-rating-suffers/

https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/2017/03/19/obredo-un-message-slanders-the-philippines/

On the other hand, I have nothing but great respect for Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Gina Lopez who remains unfazed despite being bypassed by the Commission on Appointments and continues to make a bold and uncompromising stand, saying, she is not keen on finding a “middle ground” with mining companies if it involves “damaging watersheds and agriculture.”

I have also written about Lopez which you can read at these links:

https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/tag/denr-secretary-gina-lopez/

https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/2017/03/14/sec-gina-lopez-and-the-mining-industry/

There is simply no comparison between Gina and Leni in terms of ideas, commitment, determination, leadership and resolve.

But for more stark difference between the Gina and Leni, allow me to share with you this article which I find so interesting and revealing that after reading it one can fairly say that the Duterte and Gina ilk is what is needed to run this country and not the Leni Robredos and her yellow-colored ilk.

Be a Gina in a nation full of Lenis

By SASS ROGANDO SASOT on April 20, 2017

THE Opposition, as well as the Filipino intellectuals and naïve millennials sympathetic to them, often adjudge Duterte supporters as a nihilistic cult. Hopefully, they won’t be stuck in that thought. May they have the foresight to put this passionate mass into great use.

They should begin by foregoing their criticisms of Duterte that are mere remnants and permutations of their propaganda against him during the 2016 elections. That’s why Duterte supporters surge like a wild wave against them whenever they do that. The incessant fault-finding feels like election season all over again. They are tired of that mudfest. They want to move forward.

Also, perish the thought of grabbing power from Duterte in any way, whether via coup d’état, nth version of Edsa, or ICC-enabled regime change. You will not succeed with a victory you could enjoy. You are only wasting Duterte, a rare concinnity of courage, compassion, savvy, and iron will.

Be an Opposition with a compelling vision rather than a loudmouth spewing political platitudes. In other words: Be a Gina Lopez in a nation full of Leni Robredo. Though Lopez isn’t part of the Opposition, she’s worthy of emulation by those who want to translate their love for our country into action. Her passion comes with a vision and a plan.

Remember the story of how she got the job as environment secretary? Armed with a thoughtfully crafted presentation, Lopez flew to Davao City, queued up to meet Duterte in the wee hours, and when she finally met him, she persuaded him to stem the tide of ecological destruction wrought by irresponsible mining. Sure, she can be too zealous for her own good and to the detriment of her cause; but it’s also the same verve prompting us to pay serious attention to how we manage our nation’s ecological assets. The same stance which impelled Duterte to give her the power to realize her vision and to back her up even if it would mean losing billions from the mining industry.

Meanwhile, Robredo kept swamping our country with stale political slogans, like the “war on poverty.” Every war requires a strategy to achieve a purpose worthy of great resources mobilized in its service. And of equal importance is an able general that leads his soldiers to victory. Robredo has no riveting strategy, just a litany of emotional appeals punctuated by a smile. She’s definitely not an adept general that could lead her troops to win any war at all.

When she resigned as housing czarina in December 2016, Robredo demonstrated that she’s the kind of general who abandons the battlefield whenever her ego gets slighted by a setback. If the housing needs of Filipinos were a great concern to her, she should have mustered the diva in her, continued working, and proved to Filipinos that she was indispensable in doing the job. While Lopez persists even in the face of great resistance, Robredo gave up and became damsel in distress. She made herself disposable.

Robredo is what has become of the Opposition — unnecessary. And that’s dangerous.

No democracy thrives without an Opposition. Besides being the government’s check-and-balance, the Opposition provides the creative tension necessary to generate innovative policies. In that sense, the Opposition is an indispensable other that stimulate the administration to actualize its highest potential. But the Opposition to the Duterte administration has become mostly an obstructive and destructive force. Instead of being a source of creative tension, they have become a national nuisance one can live without.

That shouldn’t be the case. The Opposition should cease being a Leni Robredo, and start being a Gina Lopez. Time to have a gripping vision with a plan. Present it with ardor. The passionate mass of Duterte supporters might not accept what you say, but gaining acceptance isn’t the goal. The goal is to provide the creative tension this administration needs to keep itself on track in its quest to give every Filipino a more comfortable life.