MANILA, Philippines ? It was lights out at exactly 8:30 Saturday night in Makati City, as well as in most parts of the Philippines, as the city switched off electricity power for one hour in solidarity with 2,397 cities and towns in 83 countries all over the world to observe Earth Hour, a global activity to raise awareness of climate change and global warming.
Yeb Sano of World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in the Philippines (WWF) said the Philippines had the most number of cities and towns participating in the event. Hours before the countdown, he told Inquirer that a total of 647 cities and municipalities around the country had pledged to sign up for Earth Hour.
Ranked a distant second was Greece, with 484 cities and towns, followed by Australia with 309, Canada with 273 and the United States with 270.
As Earth Hour?s Official Flagship City in the Philippines, Makati led the country in observing the event, with the designated Earth Hour ambassador, Mayor Jejomar Binay, representatives of WWF and other environmental groups leading the countdown to the ceremonial switch-off at Tower One on Ayala Avenue, the heart of the country?s financial district.
?The city?s observance of Earth Hour is another testament to Makati?s wholehearted commitment to the global crusade to save our environment,? Binay said before the switch-off.
?The sight of various stakeholders ? from the city?s ?barangay? [neighborhood districts], schools, civic-oriented and religious groups, the business community, led by the Ayala conglomerate, the diplomatic corps ? gathered here for a singular purpose, clearly shows how seriously committed we all are. What we will do might seem a simple act. But this act done simultaneously in households and establishments in cities all over the nation and the world, when taken altogether, can make a tangible impact on global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.?
As sirens from fire trucks and police cars wailed and church bells rang on cue, street lights in the city?s principal roads and electricity in all public buildings were turned off. Business establishments like restaurants and fun venues dimmed their lights to express their support.
Launched in Australia in 2007, Earth Hour is a global event involving the voluntary shut-off of electricity in homes, offices, public places and commercial establishments for one hour from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. in all time zones to express support for environmental issues.
?The local response was astonishing,? said WWF?s Sano. Provinces from Cagayan in the north to Sulu and Tawi-Tawi in the south expressed their intention to participate, making it the largest environment-themed event in the country, he said, adding that their target was to save 500 megawatts [of electricity], or the equivalent of shutting down 10 coal-fired power plants, for one hour.?
After Earth Hour, what next?
?When the lights are back, we should think about switching onto a more sustainable future,? Sano said.
?Earth Hour is really a symbolic act,? he said. ?We should be practicing energy conservation and environmental consciousness every day, and in any way we can. In our own simple way, each of us can contribute to being more conscious about our impact on the environment, and how much we could save on electricity and water.?
With the hoopla over, Sano said he hoped citizens would have ?a brand new relationship with the true entity that gives us true light, and that is Mother Nature.? Alcuin Papa
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