Friday, July 31, 2015

Bringing Back Biotechnology to the Village and Household

Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature - School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB AM, 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday
Home-made mineral water - ordinary drinking water treated with malunggay seeds.

Make your own vinegar from fruits - and lumpia and okoy that go with it

Abe V Rotor

1. Make your own “mineral water” with malunggay seeds.

Why spend for mineral water when you can make one right in your home? With all the empty plastic bottles around, you can prepare safe drinking water just by adding crushed seed of malunggay (Moringa oleifera).

This is what you can do. Fill up a liter size bottle (family size softdrink) with water coming from the tap, or if you are in the province, a deep well or spring. Add two malunggay seeds crushed by hand. Allow the setup to settle for two to three hours or until the sediments have settled down. Slowly transfer the filtrate to another bottle for immediate or future use.

Scientists found out that malunggay seeds directly kill bacteria and coagulate suspended particles, slowing down Brownian Movement (constant movement of particulates in liquid medium, colliding with one another and against the walls of the container). Malunggay also impart a refreshing taste to the drinking water. Try it.

2. Pasteurization, the old folks’ way

Farmers immerse and clean the seeds of many field and garden crops in warm water (around 60 degrees Celsius) before planting them. On closer examination, this traditional practice kills harmful bacteria (e.g. Pseudomonas solanacerum) and fungi (e.g. Pythium debaryanum) following the principle of pasteurization, the same as in pasteurizing milk, a discovery made more than two hundred ago by the great French microbiologist, Louis Pasteur, for whom the term was coined.

It is in a small town, San Pablo, at the boundary of Isabela and Cagayan, where fresh milk of carabao is sold early in the morning along the highway. You can actually see the milking of carabao in the field. I used to buy one or two bottles, pint or liter size. The milk is kept in a bucket of warm water (around 50 to 70 degrees Celsius) while it is being sold. In this way the milk does not only reach the customer warm, but actually preserve and make the milk safe through pasteurization. It is pasteurization the old folks’ way!

The application of local pasteurization goes a long way if we analyze the many practices on the farm and home, such as washing of fruits and vegetables in warm water, blanching in the preparation of salad, steaming bottles, and the like.

One application is in rehydrating gamet (Porphyra), a red alga, a delicacy of the Ilocanos. It is similar to the Japanese nori. Wash the dried gamet, then add hot water to a desired amount you wish to have as soup. Observe how it expands into its original colloid state. In the process, the temperature quickly settles down to pasteurization level. Add fresh tomato, onion and a dash of salt and it is ready to serve.

3. Alginate from Sargassum can increase the shelf life of fruits

If you happen to be walking along the beach those dry brown seaweeds washed ashore could bring in a lot of profit, not only as source of algin and alginic acid which are extracted for food conditioner and for industrial use. The researchers, Tumambing K, Santok G, Seares A and V Verzola all from UST, found out that by extracting the alginate substance by ordinary means, the extract is effective in delaying the spoilage of fruits such as mango, papaya and banana. The extract is diluted 5 to 10 percent with water before the ripe or ripening fruits are immersed, then allowed to dry. The alginate compound leaves a coating on the fruit that delays ripening from two to four days, at the same time protects it from microorganisms that cause rotting and spoilage.

4. Home made coconut virgin oil – old folks tell us how to make one.

The price of this “miracle cure” has soared and there is now a proliferation of commercial brands of virgin coconut oil in the market, with many of them unreliable so that people are asking if they can make their own supply.

Why not? Old folks show us the way. I met a kindly old lady, Mrs. Gloria Reyes of Candelaria (Quezon) who makes virgin coconut oil for her family’s use. She explained to me the process step by step.

• Get twenty (20) husked, healthy, and mature nuts. They should not show any sign of spoilage or germination. Shake each nut and listen to the distinct sound of its water splashing. If you can hear it, discard the particular nut.

• Split each nut with a bolo, gathering the water in the process. Discard any nut at the slightest sign of defect, such as those with cracked shell and oily water, discolored meat, presence of a developing endosperm (para). Rely on a keen sense of smell.

• With the use of an electric-driven grating machine, grate the only the white part of the meat. Do not include the dark outer layer of the meat.

• Squeeze the grated meat using muslin cloth or linen to separate the milk (gata) from the meal (sapal). Gather the milk in wide-mouth bottles (liter or gallon size).

• Cover the jars with dry linen and keep them undisturbed for 3 to 5 hours in a dry, dark and cool corner.

• Carefully remove the floating froth, then harvest the layer of oil and place it in a new glass jar. Discard the water at the bottom. It may be used as feed ingredient for chicken and animals.

• Repeat the operation three to four times, until the oil obtained is crystal clear. Now this is the final product – home made virgin coconut oil.

Virgin coconut oil is a product of cold process of oil extraction, as compared with the traditional method of using heat. In the latter coconut milk is brought to boiling, evaporating the water content in the process, and obtaining a crusty by-product called latik. The products of both processes have many uses, from ointment and lubrication to cooking and food additive. There is one difference though, virgin coconut oil is richer with vitamins and enzymes - which are otherwise minimized or lost in the traditional method.

5. Homemade salted eggs, anyone?

Making salted eggs is a very old technology, and most likely originated in China.
Here is an easy-to-follow procedure, the old folks’ way.

• Mix 12 cups of clay and 4 cups of salt, adding water gradually until they are well blended.

• Apply a layer of this mixture at the bottom of a palayok or banga.

• Coat each egg with the mixture.

• Arrange the coated eggs in layers, giving a space of 3 to 5 cm in between them.

• Add the extra mixture of clay and salt on top, cover the container with banana leaves, and keep the setup in a safe and cool place.

• Try one egg after 15 days by cooking below boiling point for 15 minutes. If not salty enough, extend storing period.

• Color the eggs if desired.

Salted eggs plus fresh ripe tomato and onions makes a wholesome viand. It goes well with any meal.

6. Refined salt and how it is made the old way.

Nagtupakan and San Sebastian are two villages (barangay) of San Vicente (Ilocos Sur) famous in making refined salt – salt as fine and white as refined sugar, you can mistake the two. This is how the native folks do it with a very old technology.

First the salt field is “irrigated” during the day by high tide coming directly from the sea, but instead of being drained in the succeeding low tide, the floodgate is closed trapping the seawater which leaves a crust of salt on the salt field. This is repeated to enrich the harvest.

The salt crust is “cultivated” by hand or with bullock using a light harrow to scrape the topsoil which contains the salt crust called ati’. The gathered ati’ is piled on the field or stored in a nearby shack for future use, thus allowing salt making even during the rainy season.

This is the process proper of extracting the salt from the crust. The crust is placed in a trough made of long wooden planks which looks like an oversize coffin. The bottom is lined with a layer of rice hay and a layer of sand on top of it. This serves as filter. Seawater is poured into the trough containing the crust to dissolve the salt. The solution is filtered leaving behind the silt and clay. The filtrate which is a high concentrated salt solution is collected at one end of the trough. This is called inna, from which was derived the terms ag-inna, referring to the process.

The inna or filtrate is “cooked” in the open in large iron kettle under low fire. More filtrate is added as it evaporates to increase the yield. The salt is turned regularly to prevent the formation of crust at the bottom and to hasten cooking. Just like in the final stage in cooking rice, the in salt yield is allowed to dry completely.

The salt product is placed in a large bamboo basket for tempering, allowing the salt to become mellow (like wine). During this stage the salt attains its true fine texture, whiteness, and dryness.

Salt making with this indigenous technology is now a dying industry. Ironically it is in the endangered stage of a craft that earns its place in the list of tourists’ attractions. There are reasons why the industry is dying and these are as follows.

• High cost of production

• Dwindling supply of firewood

• The younger generation would rather go other jobs, or pursue careers

• Product competition – commercial salt, local and imported, has flooded the market.

• Advanced technology such as solar desalination of seawater has replaced traditional processes.

• Water pollution has rendered many salt fields unsuitable for this industry.

• Comparative profitability of other industries like prawn farming, seaweed farming and fish cage culture have replaced the industry.

If you happen to go up north, visit the indigenous salt making villages, seven km west of Vigan, and find out for yourself which is salt and which is sugar just by looking at these two similar products in all their fineness and whiteness.

7. Make patis and bagoong at home

Before these indigenous products became commercialized, rural households had been making their own supply following this simple procedure.

• Wash fish or alamang in clean water.

• For every three cups of fish (e.g. anchovies or munamon), add one cup of salt and mix well.

• Place fish and salt mixture in earthenware (banga or burnay) or glass container.

• Cover container tightly with muslim cloth and banana leaves to keep away flies and other insects.

• Let the setup stand for at least a month; better still after a year to develop its aroma and flavor.

Seasoned bagoong yields a clear golden layer of patis on top. If the patis layer is at the middle or bottom it means the bagoong is not yet mature, or it must have been diluted with water.

8. Mango jam for home and business, too.

When it is peak season for mango, a lot of this farm resource goes to waste. Don’t allow this to happen. Mango makes a perfect jam for snacks and dessert. Try this easy-to-follow procedure.
• Wash mangoes thoroughly in running water.

• Cut into halves, scoop out pulp and pass through a coarse sieve.

• Measure pulp and add sugar.

• For every two cups of mango pulp, add one cup of sugar.

• Cook in a heavy aluminum pan. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until thick enough to be spooned out.

• Pack in warm sterilized jars while hot and seal immediately.

It is a practice to make the inferior fruits into jam. Well, as long as they are well ripe, fresh and clean. A word of caution though - just a single overripe fruit mixed inadvertently is enough to spoil the wholesome taste of the jam. Also, use stainless knife and pan to prevent discoloration of the product.

This formula is applicable to other fruits like pineapple, papaya, chico, tiessa and the like.

9. Rice is the best substitute for wheat flour.

Of all alternative flour products that are potential substitutes for wheat flour, it is rice flour that is acclaimed to be the best for the following reasons:

• Rice has many indigenous uses from suman to bihon (local noodle), aside from its being a staple food of Filipinos and most Asians.

• In making leavened products, rice can be compared with wheat, with today’s leavening agents and techniques.

• Rice is more digestible than wheat. Gluten in wheat is hard to digest and can cause a degenerative disease which is common to Americans and Europeans.

• Rice is affordable and available everywhere, principally on the farm and in households.

Other alternative flour substitutes are those from native crops which are made into various preparations - corn starch (maja), ube (halaya), gabi (binagol), and tugui’ (ginatan), cassava (cassava cake and sago).

Lastly, the local rice industry is the mainstay of our agriculture. Patronizing it is the greatest incentive to production and it saves the country of precious dollar that would otherwise be spent on imported wheat.

10. Banana leaves make the best food wrapper – practical, multipurpose, aromatic and environment-friendly.

Imagine if there were no banana leaves to make these favorite delicacies: suman, tupig, bucayo, bibingka, patupat, puto, tinubong, biko-biko, and the like. We would be missing their characteristic flavor and aroma, and their indigenous trade mark. So with a lot of recipes like paksiw na isda, lechon, and rice cooked with banana leaves lining. Banana leaves have natural wax coating which aid in keeping the taste and aroma of food, while protecting it from harmful microbes.

In the elementary, we used banana leaves as floor polish. The wax coating makes wooden floors as shiny as any commercial floor wax sans the smell of turpentine. Banana leaves when wilted under fire exude a pleasant smell. When ironing clothes use banana leaves on the iron tray. It makes ironing cleaner and smoother, and it imparts a pleasant, clean smell to clothes and fabric.

This is how to prepare banana leaf wrapper.

• Select the wild seeded variety (botolan or balayang Ilk.) and the tall saba variety. Other varieties may also be used.

• Get the newly mature leaves. Leave half of the leaf to allow plant to recover. Regulate the harvesting of young leaves as this will affect the productivity of the plant.

• Wilt the gathered leaves by passing singeing the leaves over fire or live charcoal until they are limp and oily. Avoid smoky flame as this will discolor the leaves and impart a smoky smell (napanu-os).

• Wipe both sides of the leaves with clean soft cloth until they are glossy and clean.

• Cut wilted leaves with desired size, shape and design. Arrange to enhance presentation and native ambiance.

Water remains cool in earthen pot (calamba or caramba) even in hot weather.

Notice that the earthen pot “perspires” because it is porous. Like sweat it keeps the body cool. Cooling is the after effect of evaporation. Fanning increases the rate of evaporation, so with cooling. Algae tend to grow on the moist surface. This adds to the cooling effect, but not until the pores are covered by the algae. In which case it is advisable to clean the earthen pot or jar to keep the pores open and give that clean reddish brick luster.

x x x

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Quaint Talipapa

Dr Abe V Rotor

 Living with Nature - School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB AM, 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday
Tahong and talaba (green mussel and oyster)
Sugpo (shrimp) and crabs
Shellfish and lobster
Pusit (squid)
Arusip (Caulerpa)
Talangka (mud crab)

It's people's market, a spontaneous institution;
Everywhere, anywhere it rises in communion
With all walks of life converging into a ganglion,
Serving felt needs, the yardstick of satisfaction;
Name it: seaweeds, hito, giant grouper, tahong,
Variety for all culinary, or just a meal's portion;
Buffer against force majeure and economic recession;
By any measure, sans dollar-peso conversion,
Life goes on and on, so with the whole nation.~

Monday, July 27, 2015

Fragments of Spirituality

Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature - School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB AM, 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday
 Fragments of Spirituality, glass painting (36" x 48") by the author, 2002 
Its rays broken, the sun no longer bright,
      foresaken this house of worship,
where the world around is a green pasture,
      sans the shepherd and his sheep.~

Images of Fear

Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature - School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB AM, 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday

Images of Fear, in acrylic by the author, 2015 

What is fear but images in the mind,
      archetype come alive on stage;
fight or flight at the crucial moment,  
      spares no one of any age. 

Real or imagined the mind to freeze,
     throbs the heart, muscles tout;
courage to the rescue from deep inside,
     else the lesser ones fall out.   

Express fear in art, indeed catharsis,
     the genie after all is friendly;
the horizon is but an opportunity,
     it's masterpiece and trophy. ~   


Farmer Rip Van Winkle

Dr Abe V Rotor

Living with Nature - School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB AM, 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday
Florida Blanca, Pampanga 2010

That was a long time ago when carabaos roamed the field,
I dreamed I sat on a tractor, or a machine that would fly;
The years passed by, and never had I thought to yield
To a more beautiful dream, but alas! a castle in the sky.

The clouds came to wake me up, their faces of many forms;
The birds flew with the habagat and returned in amihan
The mandala grew, the sky calm or brewed into storms;
Hush, hush, little man.. I heard a voice until it was gone.

Silence reigns supreme for reasons known and unknown,
Time heals everything no matter how long it may take -
Such advice I took in youth while seated on a high throne;
I was Rip Van Winkle, and there is no greater mistake.~

Friday, July 24, 2015

Child's Play

Dr Abe V Rotor
 Living with Nature - School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB AM, 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday

The world as we see through a hole
opens as free and wide,
 As the world sees us through an eye,
the innocence of a child. 

Fishpond and Saltbed

Dr Abe V Rotor 
Living with Nature - School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB AM, 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday
It is Gulliver's world
or the Madurodam;
but no, it is a minuscule
of man's lofty dream
to create his own
world from this world,
with the god in him,
defying God Himself,
commanding the land,
water and wind
across the breadth
beyond his grasp
of any measure of debt,
except his own death.~

Fishpond and saltbed. Matabungkay, Batangas, 
Photos by AV Rotor

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Vegetable Fern (Pako') - Athyrium esculentum

For a change, try fern vegetable. It's good for the family;  It is rich in minerals and high in food value.
Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature - School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB AM, 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday

Pako' abounds in the wild - fields, forests and on river banks. It is often found growing on the backyard and idle lots.  Because many people have learned to eat pako', it is now widely sold in public markets just like any vegetable. 

Gather the young leaves or fronds which are eaten either raw or cooked.  They may be used as salad with various dressings, as leafy vegetable, or as ingredient of stews.

At home we prefer Ilocos Vinegar for dressing, with chopped onions, and a dash of salt.  Try fresh tomato instead of vinegar. 

When cooking bulanglang or diningding, include pako' singly ir in combination with other vegetables like spinach and eggplant.  Don't forget sweet potato (kamote) in  cubes as thickening (buridibud).     

Pako’ salad with tomato and onion dressing; pako ready for cooking stew.

Mineral Content and Food Value of fresh Athyrium esculentum (percent)
 MaraƱon J (Philippine Journal of Science), and Hermano AJ (Bureau of Science Popular Bulletin), Useful Plants of the Philiipines Volume 1, William H Brown

Moisture 89-90;
Ash 1.14 - 1.32
Phosphorus 0.26
Calcium 0.03
Iron 0.006
Protein 3.11
Fats 0.28
Cabohydrates 3.86
Crude Fiber 1.23

How do you recognize the plant in the field? Here is a guide.  Refer to the illustration to familiarize yourself.  Pako' is in ther list of wild food plants, and "hunger" or emergency food plant in times of scarcity. It is a survivor's alternative food.  

Athyrium esculentum has twce- or thrice-pinnate frond which are 50 to 80 cm long and about half as wide.  The pinnules are pointed, coarsely serrate, and about 2 to 5 cm long. The plant is abundantly distributed in the Philippines growing on gravelly bars and banks of streams.  It is also found growing widely from India to Polynesia. 

Pako' (Athyrium esculentum) growing habit

Another fern is edible. This is Ceratopteris thalictroides, a stout fern with leaves that are divideed into numerous narrow sgments..  It is aquatic and it actually grows on mud. It is also found all over the Philippines and in all tropical countries.  
  Ceratopteris thalictroides, an aquatic fern.  

Other edible fern species mainly in temperate regions: (Wikipedia)

The fiddleheads (unopened fronds) of certain ferns are eaten as a cooked leaf vegetable. The most popular of these are:

  • Western sword fern, Polystichum munitum, "king of northwest ferns."
  • Bracken, Pteridium aquilinum, found worldwide
  • Ostrich fern, Matteuccia struthiopteris, found in northern regions worldwide, and the central/eastern part of North America
  • Lady fern, Athyrium filix-femina, throughout most of the temperate northern hemisphere.
  • Cinnamon fern or buckhorn fern, Osmunda cinnamomea, found in the eastern parts of North America, although not so palatable as ostrich fern.
  • Royal fern, Osmunda regalis, found worldwide
  • Midin, or Stenochlaena palustris, found in Sarawak, where it is prized as a local delicacy
  • Zenmai or flowering fern, Osmunda japonica, found in East Asia

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Ode to Creation

 Dr Abe V Rotor  
 Living with Nature - School on Blog 
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB AM, 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday
After a Heavy Rain in acrylic, AVR 2009
---------------------------------------------------------------------- 1. Waterfall
Flow from the hills, follow the herons fly
Laugh with the brook, and feed my soul;
Fill the lake to mirror the land and sky
Before you burst, oh, waterfall!

2. Dragonfly
Over the fields across the river,
In hordes like armies you hover,
Swooping midges on the plain
Flushed out by coming rain;
Instinct I have yet to learn
Or simply refuse to discern.

3. Agoho trees
All around you grace the park,
Trimmed to fit a master’s art,
Dressed and shaped and tame;
Unlike in the wild, or some unknown part,
Where you don't crave for fame.

4. Cumulus Cloud
You grow into a Genie before you fall;
And I, a teacher, knowing it all;
Years and schooling makes me full,
But do I really know my goal?

5. Warbler
Perched on a branch you sing your song,
Crispy and clear as the light of dawn,
But trees are no longer enough -
Wouldn’t I wake up with a happy heart,
To plant a tree or two for your art?

6. Rain
Rain, rain, rain,
Pelting the faces of children
Washing their dirt and pain
In cadence and sweet refrain;
Let the rain fall, my brethren!


7. Cactus
You are a creature destined
To live best in the wild,
Where everything is so little,
Others barely thrive.

8. Red Fungus
You rise at the edge of decay,
To herald birth at life’s last bend;
Death, be not proud, you seem to say,
You’re but a process, not an end.~

Garbage from Canada to the Philippines

"Trash is a clandestine tool of warfare."
Dr Abe V Rotor 
Living with Nature - School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid (People's School-on-Air) with Ms Melly C Tenorio 
738 DZRB AM Band, 8 to 9 evening class Monday to Friday

Lesson for the Week 

Guide Questions:
1. Trash is the breeding place of vermin, from bacteria to insects to rodents. Name at least 10 kinds under each and list down their harmful effects.

2. Not all trash end up into stable and safe materials. Classify the components of trash according to degradability, and those that do persist in their original make and condition. 
3. Name at least five toxic metals found in trash, other than the notorious lead (Pb) and Mercury (Hg) that have been found to cause serious illnesses. How do these toxic metals find their way to the food chain and food web? How about toxic metalloids or  non-metals like arsenic and antimony? How do they get into the trash and recycled in our homes?  

4. Categorize radiation in trash (a) hospitals (b) industry (c) nuclear plant (d) nuclear armaments manufacture and tests. How does radiation affect organisms? Ecosystems? How is ionizing radiation harmful to everyday life health and environment? 

5. Are dumpsites potential farms? Woodlands? Parks?  Cite models we can adopt for our dumpsites in Payatas, Smoky Mountain, and elsewhere in the country. 

6. How are gases arising from landfills minimized to safeguard health, especially among infants and children, pregnant mothers notwithstanding? Why does it take years - if not generations - for a landfill to be really safe as a settlement?

7. "Exporting" trash is a recent means of mass dissemination of organisms, principally harmful ones that thrive in decomposing matter and filthy conditions, thus undermining quarantine, lab test, and management and legal control. How do you explain the proliferation of pests and diseases in the new terrirory in which they are introduced?

Can Nature readily provide a check-and-balance mechanism to control these vagabond organisms from becoming pests, and from causing epidemics?

Among the conditions that favor mutation of organisms are found in unsanitary and confined environments.  Explain the phenomenon in the light of Darwinian evolution that gives rise to superior offspring, as well as the possibilities of speciation.  

8. Dioxin is the most poisonous substance ever produced by man.  It is emitted in burning plastics. Research on the extreme danger of dioxin introduced in water reservoirs, ground water and spring, rivers and lakes, and its movement into the food chain and ecosystem. 
Two editorial cartoons of Philippine Daily Inquirer denouncing Canada
9. Cite historical records wherein wastes were used to inflict damage to life and property to enemies in war and peacetime. Example: Bubonic plague victims were catapulted over walls of cities and forts of enemies, carcasses of livestock killed by inderpest and other contaigious diseases. .  

10. Comment of this research findings, and relate then to topic on trash   
 Various types of biological warfare (BW) have been practiced repeatedly throughout history. This has included the use of biological agents (microbes and plants) as well as the biotoxins, including venoms, derived from them.
Before the 20th century, the use of biological agents took three major forms:

  • Deliberate contamination of food and water with poisonous or contagious material
  • Use of microbes, biological toxins, animals, or plants (living or dead) in a weapon system
  • Use of biologically inoculated fabrics and persons
In the 20th century, sophisticated bacteriological and virological techniques allowed the production of significant stockpiles of weaponized bio-agents:

  • Bacterial agents: Anthrax, Brucella, Tularemia, etc.
  • Viral agents: Smallpox, Viral hemorrhagic fevers, etc.
  • Toxins: Botulinum, Ricin, etc.  
Source: Internet

 Controversial Canadian garbage heads to Philippine landfill
Hauling of the 1,375 tons of waste is set to finish soon, according to the Philippines' Bureau of Customs and the landfill operator
BURDEN. The Philippine government continues to shoulder the costs of keeping 50 container vans of garbage from Canada in its ports. Photo from

The Philippine government continues to shoulder the costs of keeping 50 container vans of garbage from Canada in its ports. Photo from

MANILA, Philippines – Tons of imported Canadian rubbish has been sent to a northern Philippines landfill, ending a two-year standoff with activists who called for the waste to be returned to Canada, officials said Tuesday, July 14.

The 55 containers full of household rubbish were seized at Manila's port in mid-2013 on grounds that the waste was being passed off as plastic scrap material for recycling.

The country's Customs Bureau initially labelled the rubbish "contraband", but the Canadian embassy said the Philippine government later agreed to "dispose of the shipment in an environmentally sound manner in accordance with its laws and regulations." (READ: Canada wants its illegal garbage 'processed' in PH)

"The government of Canada worked closely with the government of the Philippines with regard to the shipment," the Canadian embassy in Manila said in a statement.

Trucks began hauling the estimated 1,375 tons of waste to a landfill about a 3-hour drive north of Manila in late June. Disposal teams are set to finish transporting the rest of the waste soon, the Customs Bureau and landfill operator said.

Activists remain angry that the garbage is being sent to a landfill in the Philippines, instead of being returned to Canada.

"It's sad that local communities will be the ones to suffer from this foreign waste dumping in our land," Angelica Carballo, communications manager for the Manila-based environmental watchdog group Ban Toxics, told AFP.

"It's sad that our government appears to be conniving with Canada."

While local officials claim the Philippine government has certified that the material was not toxic or hazardous, Carballo insists that the rubbish contains "electronic waste" that the landfill is not allowed to process.

The fiasco has become a major rallying point

for local environmentalists, who have held protests at the Canadian embassy demanding that Ottawa take the rubbish back. –

Canada wants its illegal garbage 'processed' in PH

Fifty container vans of garbage from Canada have been sitting on Manila's ports – costing PH millions in storage fees and posing health risks to citizens – yet Ottawa says it can't demand its citizen to recall them
Pia Ranada
Published 2:35 PM, October 13, 2014
Updated 10:11 PM, October 24, 2014

The Philippine government continues to shoulder the costs of keeping 50 container vans of garbage from Canada in its ports.
MANILA, Philippines – Because the Canadian government can't return the garbage that was illegally shipped out of its country, it is requesting the Philippines to process it here instead.

Canadian Ambassador Neil Reeder told the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) during an April 24 meeting that his government "would like to explore with the Philippines options for processing the rest of the shipment – in accordance with Philippine law – in the Philippines."

The diplomat is referring to 50 container vans from Canada that have been arriving in batches at the Manila Port since June 2013. Philippine government officials have opened 18 container vans, revealing their contents of mixed garbage, including non-recyclable plastics, waste paper, household waste, and used adult diapers.

The discovery led the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to file a case against Philippine-based importer Chronic Plastics for smuggling in the garbage, which were misdeclared as "plastic scraps" intended for recycling.

Ambassador Reeder made the suggestion during a meeting with DFA officials, based on an August 12 record of the case or "aide memoire" obtained by Rappler.

DENR Secretary Ramon Paje confirmed to Rappler on October 9 that the treatment of the illegal waste in the Philippines was one of the options being explored by an interagency committee formed specifically to deal with the matter.

The interagency committee is composed of the DENR, DFA, and the BOC.

If the option is pursued, all treatment costs should be shouldered by the Canadian government, he added.

The container vans have been in the Philippines for more than 460 days and have cost the Philippine government around P66 million (US$1.5 million) in storage costs, estimates health advocacy group Ang Nars.

The garbage was exported to the Philippines by Chronic Incorporated, a company based in Ontario, Canada.

'No authority'

Since March, the DFA has sent letters to the Canadian embassy, requesting for assistance in immediately returning the illegal garbage back to Canada.

Based on the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes, which both the Philippines and Canada have ratified, the country from which the waste originated is responsible for returning the waste to its port of origin "within 30 days from the time the State of export has been informed about the illegal traffic."

The convention also states that the obligation for such waste to be managed in an environmentally sound manner "may not under any circumstances be transferred to the States of import or transit."

But in June 9, three months after the DFA letter, Reeder told the DFA that the Canadian government "has no domestic or international authority to compel the shipper to return the shipment to Canada."

He also said the owner of exporter Chronic Incorporated, Jim Makris, "has not been successful to date in finding a third country to which the shipment could be sent."

Reeder explained that while Canadian law imposes penalties on violations of import and export laws, it does not provide a mechanism to compel the return of illegal shipments to the port of origin.

The BOC questions the position of the Canadian Embassy, saying that World Trade Organization commitments hold the Canadian government responsible for ensuring its shipments to other countries are safe and comply with international agreements.

The interagency committee is yet to decide whether or not to take Reeder's suggestion.

'Troubling precedent'

But Paje emphasized that while the idea is being considered, his department sees re-export as the only option.

If the waste is treated in the Philippines, the case may set a "troubling precedent" marking the Philippines as a "dumping ground" for foreign garbage, according to the DENR's position as recorded in the aide memoire.

Aside from violating international agreements, both the Philippine-based importer and Canada-based exported violated local laws, specifically Republic Act 6969, said DENR Environment Management Bureau Director Juan Cuna (Toxic Substance and Hazardous Wastes and Nuclear Wastes Control Act of 1990).

Meanwhile, the 50 container vans continue to be a burden to the Philippine government.

The Department of Health (DOH) recommends the disinfection of the container vans because of the health risks they pose to port workers and communities in the port area.

The interagency committee pegs the cost of transferring them to a treatment site at P400,000 ($8,900) or P8,000 ($179) per container van. The disinfection process will cost P900,000 ($20,100) or P18,000 ($402) per container van.

Though the container vans are in the legal custody of the BOC, the agency says it does not have the money to pay for these costs.

Pressure the exporter

Despite violations of the Basel Convention, the interagency committee has chosen to approach the case as a "commercial transaction between a Philippine importer and a Canadian exporter," said DFA spokesperson Charles Jose.

Dealing with the case as a violation of the Basel Convention, which would require coordination with the convention's secretariat, would be the last resort, decided the committee.

The DENR said that with enough pressure, the illegally shipped garbage could be dealt with properly without resorting to the Basel Convention.

For instance, in 2001, the Japanese government bore the cost of the removal of container vans full of domestic and hospital waste due to heavy pressure from the media and letters from DFA and the DENR. The Japanese government also filed charges against the Japanese exporter.

Reeder made a similar suggestion for the Philippine and Canadian governments to "pressure" Chronic Incorporated to remove the containers by threatening to ban the company from doing business with the Philippines and other countries.

Meanwhile, health and environmental advocates continue to call on the Philippine government to ratify the Basel Ban Amendment, a proposed provision to the convention that completely prohibits developed countries from transporting garbage to poorer countries.

Currently, the convention allows the transport of waste so long as the developing country gives its written consent.

More than 23,800 people have signed an online petition demanding the Canadian embassy Manila to re-export the container vans of garbage back to Canada.

Two lawmakers, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago and Representative Leah Paquiz, have filed for inquires in aid of legislation to probe into the garbage from Canada. –

The Making of a Plastic Continent 
The main Plastic Vortex as big as the state of texas - and growing - lies north of Hawaii off the coast of Canada and the US. "Islands" of plastics coalese into the vortex. Dutch scientists propose to convert the floating debris into a livable environment.  Satellite photo below shows ocean currents and gyres responsible in creating the vortex.   Canada is directly affected as indicated in the North Pacific Gyre. 
 Another gyre in the North Atlantic is poised to form another Plastic Vortex along the east coast of the US and Canada. If this happens we might expect a graver consequence as plastic merges with seaweeds that comprise the huge Sargasso Sea. (See lowermost photos, from the Internet) 

NOTE: There are two other gyre in the south hemisphere potential spawning ground of floating debris.

Relate these events with the following: 
1. Pope Francis Laudato Si (Praise Be), a call to save the Earth
2. Canada exporting trash to the Philippines
3. Earth Summits - review and prospects
4. Culture of Consumerism
5. Waste management models 
6. Personal concern and action
7. Global Leadership challenge
8. Autotoxicity - myth of fact?

 Pope Francis' encyclical, Laudato Si, appeals to everyone to exercise responsibility and accountability in presrving the environment.