Monday, March 30, 2009

RP shines in dim Earth Hour

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:35:00 03/30/2009

Filed Under: Climate Change, Global Warming, Environmental Issues, Energy Savings

MANILA, Philippines—Tessy Pettyjohn had all the lights in her house in Calamba City in Laguna province turned off on Saturday night, leaving only the fridge on, in celebration of Earth Hour.

“I believe in this. I am a green person, recycling most stuff and never wasting—saving energy most of the time. Earth gets my support,” she said.

Earth Hour was a global effort that encouraged people from all over the world to turn off their lights on March 28, from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., to raise awareness about the effects of climate change and global warming.

Pettyjohn said it was her first time to participate in the global campaign to protect the environment, as last year “was not well known and had less publicity.”

While her home remained dark for an hour, she said resorts around her area had kept their lights on.

A basketball game at the municipal hall in Nagcarlan, Laguna, was stopped in observance of Earth Hour.

Astounding success

Residents in other cities and towns across the Philippines also took part in the global campaign.

More than 15 million Filipinos were estimated to have joined Earth Hour and a total of 647 cities and towns participated, making the Philippines No. 1 among all the countries that joined the global event, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Philippine representative said Sunday.

“Earth Hour Philippines is an astounding success,” said Yeb Sano, WWF Philippines campaign manager.

Sano said the country’s ranking was based on the initial reports of WWF offices the world over. Greece was second, with 484 participating towns and cities.

Only a million Filipinos were estimated to have joined last year’s Earth Hour. The 10-fold jump in the number of participants this year was attributed by Sano to the Filipinos’ increasing awareness of climate change and its effects.

Only fan, laptop

Donna Orilla, from San Pedro, Laguna, only had the electric fan and her laptop on while all the lights and other appliances at home were turned off.

In Imus, Cavite, former Vice Gov. Jonvic Remulla said almost 30 percent of households had switched off their lights.

In Sta. Rosa City in Laguna, SM Mall switched off the lights of its front façade and logo, and half the lights inside the building.

Pamela Baun, SM public relations officer, said that all SM malls nationwide took part in Earth Hour although each had its own program.

UPLB campus

On the campus of University of the Philippines Los Baños, a total blackout was observed. Chancellor Luis Rey Velasco said “it’s our (UPLB’s) own way of contributing to the solution against global warming.”

Since last week, according to Velasco, there had been efforts to persuade the university’s constituents to unplug appliances and turn off the lights when not needed.

“This (communication campaign) is not for the Earth Hour alone. We want to instill here behavioral change,” he said.

Minutes before Earth Hour, there was a 15-minute program near the campus entrance to explain the benefits of joining the activity.

A 10-second countdown was also held before the clock struck 8:30 p.m. Around 80 students, professors and community residents lit candles as a symbol of their support for Earth Hour.

All the street lamps in Los Baños were turned off, but most establishments did not participate in the activity.

Unaware of significance

In Lucena City in Quezon province, though some parts remained dark for an hour, most of those who joined Earth Hour were not aware of its significance.

“I put off the light just to join because that was the call. But I didn’t know what the reasons were behind that,” said Fe Fernandez, housewife and resident of Barangay (village) Cotta.

However, Fernandez and her neighbors enthusiastically joined the energy-saving activity as they chatted while waiting for the time to turn their lights on. “At least, we were able to save a few pesos on electricity,” a neighbor said.

In Davao del Sur, the provincial police office in Digos City switched off its lights for an hour on Saturday night.

But Elena Enero, 24, of Bansalan town in Davao del Sur, said she did not take part in Earth Hour because she had to watch “Maalaala Mo Kaya” on television.

Another resident, Rey Duran, 28, said he did not turn the electricity off because he wanted to see the televised lotto draw.

Candles, gas lamps

In Davao City, large candles and gas lamps lined up the walkways of the Matina Town Square, a popular compound of bars and restaurants, as the management observed an hour of blackout.

An exhibit that featured local photographers was also mounted. The photos focused on environmental protection.

A cultural group performed before a crowd of students, artists, environmental activists and nongovernment organization workers.

“A little of this, I hope, can do something good to save the world from environmental destruction,” said a student as she signed the “commitment board” mounted for the event.

Marco Polo Hotel also decided to turn half of the number of its lights off.

Flash flood victims

In Cagayan de Oro City, the last time Esther Pajo turned off all the lights in her house was two months ago when floodwater rose very quickly and inundated the house.

Pajo and her family had not gone back to the seaside home in Bonbon village, choosing instead to rent a smaller place far from the sea.

On Saturday, she turned off the house light once again, this time to send a message across.

“The flash flood we experienced was very traumatic. I hope it will never happen again. That’s why I’m doing this, to save Mother Earth, and stop global warming that’s causing all these tragedies,” Pajo said.

In Barangay Consolacion, also in Cagayan de Oro, village leaders exhorted the neighborhood to switch off their lights, and, while only a few houses actually did, the act raised curious questions from ordinary folk.

Fr. Jose Ramon Villarin, president of the Xavier University Ateneo de Cagayan, said the city residents had learned their lesson to take care of their environment the hard way.

“The flash floods we experienced last January taught us a lesson on the importance of environmental preservation. This is only one hour but it will symbolize our resolve to save Mother Earth,” he said.


In a program at Plaza Divisoria, Xavier students led the symbolic switching off of lights at exactly 8:30 and, in the darkness, sang, danced and recited poetry.

Cagayan de Oro Electric Power and Light Co. (Cepalco) actively supported Earth Hour. It has been operating one of the biggest solar plants in Asia where it gets 1 megawatt of power that is fed directly into the grid.

In Tacloban City, residents turned Earth Hour into a big walk-in-the-boulevard party and rock concert. At least a thousand people paraded with candles at the city’s darkened 3-kilometer boulevard.

Establishments and houses also joined the worldwide campaign.

The city of more than 217,000 was practically plunged into darkness as homes, establishments and public buildings switched off their lights.

Both the provincial capitol and City Hall buildings and the main office building of the Leyte II Electric Cooperative were in complete darkness for an hour.

Jonathan Calvario, president of the Junior Chamber International-Tacloban, which organized the walk in the boulevard, said he was glad that a majority of the people knew about the campaign.

Members of several fraternities, newly recruited policemen, bikers and other residents joined the parade over 5 kilometers.

The campaign ended with a rock concert on the boulevard participated in by local bands.

In Bacolod City, lights at the Negros Occidental Capitol, the Lagoon Park and all provincial government buildings were turned off for an hour.

The same happened to City Hall, New Government Center, the Bacolod plaza and other city government buildings. Reports from Maricar Cinco, Karen Lapitan and Delfin T. Mallari, Inquirer Southern Luzon; Joey A. Gabieta and Carla Gomez, Inquirer Visayas; Jeffrey M. Tupas, Orlando B. Dinoy and Ma. Cecilia L. Rodriguez, Inquirer Mindanao; and Nikko Dizon in Manila

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