Filipinos join switch-off for natureBy Amy R. Remo, Inquirer Bureaus, Nathaniel R. Melican
Philippine Daily Inquirer
For more than an hour, the Eastern Police District (EPD) headquarters in Pasig City switched off most of their lights on Saturday night.
As early as 5 p.m. that day, duty officers turned off all nonessential lights at the station, Inspector Guillermo Felix said.
“We have been doing this since the Earth Hour campaign started a few years back. As early as 5 p.m. and until 9 p.m., we switch off lights in solidarity with the campaign,” he told the Inquirer.
Earth Hour, started in 2007, is a global advocacy to raise awareness on climate change and the need to protect the environment by limiting power consumption and carbon emission.
Every last Saturday of March, advocates voluntarily switch off nonessential lights and electric appliances for an hour.
The EPD personnel were joined by households, local government units and business establishments across the country in observing Earth Hour. A musical fashion show was held in Cebu City and Chinese lanterns were lit in Davao City.
Smaller cut in power use
But the 362-megawatt (MW) reduction in electricity use for the one-hour switch off this year was lower than last year’s 429 MW, an indication that many people were not aware of Earth Hour, perhaps because of inadequate information campaign.
The Philippines joined 6,525 cities, towns and municipalities in some 150 countries and territories in making the environmental statement.
Andy Ridley, Earth Hour cofounder and executive director, graced the switch-off ceremony at Ayala Triangle in Makati City. Two switch-off ceremonies were held simultaneously in Cebu and Davao.
“For the first time in history we have the power to connect behind a common purpose and the ability to create a network without national borders, based on the most influential voices and the smallest voices. The growth in social media, the world’s news media outlets and the digital revolution has allowed that to happen,” Ridley said.
For safety reasons
With most of the lights turned off, the three-story EPD headquarters looked ghastly. Only the front desk, the detention cells and the ends of the corridors remained lit, for safety and security reasons.
“If you want to use the restrooms, you have to turn the lights on and don’t forget to turn it off after use,” Felix said.
Aside from the lights being switched off, the place was eerily quiet, with only 15 men on duty. Other security personnel were at the annex in Barangay (village) Oranbo, also in Pasig.
Felix said energy conservation went beyond Earth Hour for the EPD, as police personnel switch off lights and other electric fixtures when not in use.
Despite the heightened security alert for the Holy Week, it was a relatively calm and peaceful evening for the 15 officers on duty at the EPD headquarters.
Three of the duty officers were with Felix at the front desk, and they whiled away the time by sharing memorable experiences they had as members of the police force.
By 9:30 p.m., the end of Earth Hour, the stories were still coming. The lights were still out and the policemen appeared to have become accustomed to the dark.
In the City of San Fernando in Pampanga, some people did not just turn off lights for an hour but also vowed to save the 576 trees that the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) plans to cut to widen the Manila North Road in the capital.
“Lights can be switched off but trees live only one life,” was the message that more than 100 members of the Save the Trees Coalition (STC) and Kapampangan Manalakaran Inc. (KaMai) displayed at St. Scholastica’s Academy.
STC and KaMai are taking legal actions to stop the DPWH’s plan to cut the trees.
Reading KaMai’s statement, lawyer Ma. Amelia Tiglao-Cayanan said: “An hour of nonutilization of energy is commendable. But switching off the lights is not enough. We should not miss the bigger act of saving our environment and people’s lives—the protection of helpless trees.”
Against earth balling
In Baguio City, a campaign to save trees around a shopping mall overshadowed an Earth Hour event, which was staged at a portion of downtown Session Road.
A city-sponsored concert performed simultaneously with a fashion show mounted by environmentalists to draw support against the earth balling of 182 trees to make way for the expansion of the mall.
The models walked up Session Road wearing clothes made of newspapers, plastic, ukay-ukay (used clothes), and tree bark and leaves.
Households, business establishments and offices in the Visayas also switched off their lights and other electric appliances.
As a result, electricity use in the Visayas power grid dropped by 57 MW between 8:25 p.m. and 8:45 p.m., according to Antonio Labios, director of the Department of Energy (DOE)-Visayas Field Office.
This year’s reduction in power consumption in the Visayas, however, was smaller than the 87-MW drop in last year’s Earth Hour.
In Iloilo City, the DOE, provincial and city governments, other government agencies and the Responsible Ilonggos for Sustainable Energy led the switching off at SM City mall in Mandurriao District.
Many households and other business establishments also switched off their lights.
Tourists and residents on Boracay Island joined the event. Lights were dimmed along the island’s world-famous beach.
In Cebu, Earth Hour was marked with a musical fashion show, a walkathon and lantern making, among other activities, to drum up concern for the environment.
Erramon Aboitiz, Aboitiz Equity Ventures president, led the walkathon from Fuente Osmeña to Plaza Independencia in Cebu City, at about 5:30 p.m.
Persimmon Plus, a community developed by Aboitizland Inc., hosted Switch Off, which featured a musical fashion show that showcased the designs of Bernardo Flores.
The Mactan Economic Zone 2, another Aboitizland industrial development, also participated in Earth Hour.
Ayala Center Cebu had aimed to save 3,887 kilowatts, equivalent to a reduction of 1,344 kilograms in carbon dioxide emission.
The Cebu Park District held Earth Hour at the Terraces of Ayala Center Cebu. Before the switch off, Bio Challenge, an open-for-all kids’ obstacle run and lantern making, were held within the Cebu Business Park.
Ayala Center Cebu said it would launch an environment-friendly campaign called Green Fridays that would encourage shoppers to use recyclable bags every Friday.
At SM City Cebu, guests and customers were treated to a program that featured drum playing by Lupon Anduyo and a musical presentation by the Close to Nature Choir.
In Davao City, rain spoiled the Earth Hour celebration in Magsaysay Park, before and after the release of lighted Chinese lanterns.
Gasping with awe and delight at the sight of the lanterns rising to the sky, the crowd was dismayed a few minutes later, when rain suddenly started to fall.
The rain sent the lanterns, with their flames flickering and dying, back to earth.
The Aboitiz Group of Companies, which is putting up a 300-MW coal-fired power plant in the city, was among the sponsors of the event.
Hundreds of people were already lighting big paper lanterns at the park’s skating rink at 8 p.m. when the rain started. It was gone just as quickly but started again some 30 minutes later.
‘Rain, rain, go away’
Bo Puentespina, chair of the environment committee of the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry, asked everyone in the dark park to chant, “Rain, rain, go away, come again another day.”
When the rain became a drizzle, Puentespina signaled the crowd to release the lighted lanterns. But as if to show her wrath, Mother Earth sent the lanterns back.
Mindanao, which is suffering from brownouts, saved 91 MW during Earth Hour, said Evelyn Reyes, director of the Department of Energy’s Energy Utilization Management Bureau. With reports from Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon, and Desiree Caluza, Inquirer Northern Luzon; Nestor P. Burgos Jr and Charisse Ursal, Inquirer Visayas; and Germelina Lacorte, Ayan Mellejor and Karlos Manlupig, Inquirer Mindanao