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Mantika ng Kahapon: An investigative report on the streetfood vendors of Burnham Park

March 12, 2012 12 comments

by Joana Danielle Sanidad, Micah Jemima Quirimit, Kezia Marris Guerrero

For Andrea (not her real name), a university student here in Baguio City, going to Burnham Park every afternoon is not a hobby but, a routine already. At 5:30pm, her favorite carts are already out on the streets selling her favorite past-time food—street foods.

Upon arriving, the vendor—Kuya Ryan (his real name)—would greet her with a smile. Andrea had been his customer since her freshman year. She would then pick up whatever she feels like eating for that afternoon.

Kulang pa nga sakin ‘to e, (Actually, this isn’t enough for me)” says Andrea, holding out a bowl full of fishball, kwek-kwek, and squidballs. “Mga tatlong round pa ng ganito, hehe, (About three more rounds of this)” she adds.

Andrea is just one of the many students, people, who find street foods delicious and won’t also mind if these are clean or not. These street food carts are located almost everywhere. At first glance, you wouldn’t really think that something wrong is going on in these carts, until you look closely enough to notice.

 
Closer look on this business

Street food vendors in Burnham Park, Baguio City do not have business permits and sanitary permits but are still allowed to be in operation and are not restrained by the local government, thus, giving them the chance to market their goods to the people around the city. There are certain laws implemented by the government which are made to ensure the safety of the public when it comes to the food that they are consuming.

According to Presidential Decree No. 856, Code on Sanitation, the health of the public is prioritized subject to protection and promotion. First section of the decree states matters regarding sanitary permits which business establishments, specifically food vendors and handlers are required to acquire.

Sanitary permits are necessary in ensuring the public that the food establishments, or any place where food and beverages are served, manufactured, processed, stored or sold, that they are patronizing are clean. Also, these sanitary permits must be posted in a noticeable or visible area in that certain food establishment. These are some of the laws under Section 14 (Sanitary Permits) of Presidential Decree No. 856.

Almost all of the street food vendors that are around Baguio do not have the necessary permits for operation. One would not find a sanitary permit posted on any of these street food vendors’ food carts.

There are two officers who are in charge of screening applicants for business and sanitary permits and of releasing those permits from Baguio City Hall. The first one is Cristio A. Lagyop, Permits & Licensing Officer of Baguio City Hall. Regarding the securing of permits of street food vendors, he said that there are no special permits issued to them and that; first, they must get an endorsement from Burnham Park since it is where they are located.

Another officer from Baguio City Hall, Mr. de Guzman, the Division of Health Head, was asked about the street food vendors and how their permits are released and processed. He said that permits are not released for the street food vendors because they have no permanent structures which are a requirement when you are asking for a sanitary permit. Vendors who have permanent structures or those who have distributors can apply for the necessary permits that they need in order to have their businesses legalized. He mentioned that these vendors should go to different agencies and establishments to be able to have all the requirements they need to apply for business permits.

For every law abided for the food handlers in the decree stated, there are also laws provided for the law enforcers in disciplining the food handlers/vendors. They shall be the ones to inspect and prevent the marketing of food which are already not consumable and edible for the consumers. They are also responsible for checking the unsanitary environment and tools used by the vendors. And most of all, they are responsible for enforcing the laws stated in the Presidential Decree No. 856, Code on Sanitation, these are according to Sec. 33 (Responsibility of the Local Health Authority).

Until now, these vendors are still out on the streets selling street foods to the people. They have been there for a couple of years and they have been operating even without the necessary permits that the law is requiring. Consumers’ health are put to danger because food inspections are not conducted and the environment these street food vendors are situated is not checked.

Time-Consuming or Money-Wasting

These street food vendors are not allowed to station themselves out on the public until 5:30pm. Reasons for this weren’t stated but, if they go around about before the given time they are arrested by the police. This was an agreement made between the vendors and the police.

Why do they settle with this kind of business when they can get permits and have their stations permanently positioned? According to Section 14 of Presidential Decree No. 856, there are fees that permit applicants are supposed to pay when having issuance, renewal and noting of certificates. The amount of the fee depends upon the capital that the business used for the operation. Ideally, one food cart gains P1000.00 a day from street foods which cost P5.00 – P25.00 per stick. The operators would still subtract the money they would use for gas and lard from that P1000.00. P200.00 would go to the person who was in charge of that cart that day. This could be one of the reasons why they would rather settle with having no permits and have a certain time when they can start selling street foods than get permits, pay taxes and get lesser profit.

Street Food

Street food vendors are referred to as the people who sell fishballs, squidballs, kwek-kwek, and one day olds who are located in most places where people would most likely go. These vendors use cooking oil repeatedly which is dangerous to the consumers’ health. University of the Philippines Baguio Clinic Physician Leila Jara said that anything that is heated up can produce chemical reactions. When cooking oil is repeatedly heated up for cooking street foods, chemical reactions take place which produce toxic chemicals which can be harmful to the health. In addition to Jara’s statement, a licensed doctor based in Japan, Dr. Akihito Kaga, MD., said that it is not healthy for people to consume foods cooked with overused cooking oil. Unhealthy fats and salts could be obtained from overused cooking oil. These unhealthy fats can cause high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and obesity while the unhealthy salts can cause kidney stones and bladder stones.

Photo 1. Street food: fish balls, chicken balls, kikiam, one day old

(http://my_sarisari_store.typepad.com/photos/uncategorized/2007/03/26/dsc_0495ccc.jpg)


 
De Guzman was also asked about his opinion on the sanitation of the foods being sold by the street food vendors. He said that the public is not sure on how they store and prepare these types of food, they might get typhoid fever, or the ingestion of food which is contaminated or which have salmonella virus. If the people really want to eat these types of food, he said that they should be the ones preparing and cooking these in their respective homes to ensure their safety and sanitation.

When asked about his opinion on overused cooking oil, he said that the cooking oil should only be repeated twice. He mentioned that when cooking oil is more than twice, the oil should now be used for other purposes like fuel for vehicles, and for advertising techniques.

To guarantee that the food handlers are free from any kind of disease that may harm their customers, health certificates are issued to them. Examinations are conducted to test whether these food handlers who are applying for sanitary permits are free from infectious diseases. These are according to Section 15 of the same Presidential Decree (Health Certificates).

Health certificates are only issued to the vendors or food chain/establishment employees who are complete in the sanitation requirements that are necessary. Street food vendors do not have this certificate mentioned because they are vendors with no permanent structure (ambulant vendors) and they do not have plans on making this as a permanent business.

Ambulant Vendors & Food Handling

These street food vendors use kitchen utensils to be able to cook the foods that they are selling while they are on the streets. The foods they are selling are raw ones. Some may be cooked but some customers ask them to reheat the food that they are buying. Ambulant food vendors are prohibited to sell food that requires the use of utensils according to Section 32 (Special Provisions), e. (Ambulant Food Vendors) of Presidential Decree No. 856. Also, the only kinds of food that they are allowed to sell are bottled food drinks, biscuits and confectioneries.

Clean working garments must be worn by food handlers, like prescribed caps and hairnets, especially female food handlers. Some of these street food vendors do not wear the working garments recommended by the law while they are out on the streets cooking their customers’ foods. They are also unable to wash their hands before they cook and one could see that their hands are really dirty.

According to Section 19 (Food Handlers) of Presidential Decree No. 856, health certificates are required for every food handlers before they get employed. Food handlers are also required to wear clean working garments, specifically caps or hairnets, especially for female employees, in addition to that they are required to observe their personal hygiene, and lastly, wash their hands with soap and water and dry them thoroughly.

 Ryan Ramos is a street vendor for 2 years now. He was under a supplier/handler for one year and has been handling his own for one year now. Ramos’ handler is named Danny Panimbatan. When asked whether his supplier had the necessary permits, he said that there was none. Ramos also said that when he was able to have his own cart of street foods, he wanted to apply for permits but the Baguio City Hall did not let him get his own.

Ramos, when asked about the cooking oil that he has been using, he mentioned that he does not exactly overuse it. What he does is that he adds new oil to what he has recently used. He buys 2 kilograms of lard then mixes it to the oil left from the last time he fried street foods.

The reason behind this could be the amount of money that he could save if he chooses to reuse the cooking oil. In here, the safety of the consumers is sacrificed just so these vendors could gain more profit.

Conclusion


Photo 2. Fish balls being soaked and cooked in overused cooking oil

(http://media.photobucket.com/image/street%20foods%20kwek%20kwek%20fishballs/AGP3/eclavumblogspot/kwek2.jpg)


Kwek-kwek, squidballs, fishballs and other street foods taste really good and they can fill one’s stomach at a very low price. These street foods can give people satisfaction but, as consumers, you should know the risks of eating such foods. These can sustain people’s energies for quite a while and they could save a lot from buying these foods instead of other foods but these could also cost people a lot of money once these people get sick due to the dangers of such kind of foods.

As for the vendors’ practice of overusing cooking oil, consumers’ health are put to risk without them directly knowing it. It might be because of the profit that they might lose or gain if they follow the correct ways and process of having a legal business. For a day, they will only get a small part of the money that they have earned for a day, still considering all the bills that they have to pay.

Irisan Dumpsite: The Inconsistencies of the Government’s Plans and Actions

March 12, 2012 21 comments

by Francis Blaise Acorda, Jon Viktor Cabuenas, Carly Ymer Lemence

Rebecca Martin is a working woman in Purok 17, Irisan, Baguio City. She works as a garbage picker in the new Irisan dumpsite and she has already been working for 15 years. As the old dumpsite is now closed, Rebecca now works in the staging area to continue her work. Unlike others who take trash for granted, she earns her living from trash.

Rebecca, together with other family members, goes to the dumpsite as early as 5 o’clock in the morning every day. With the use of long sticks, they search within the trash for plastics and other biodegradable materials. They segregate everything they can find – bottles, plastics, wrappers, etc. At the end of the day, at around 7 o’clock in the evening, they sell everything they get to the nearest junk shops. They earn around 100 Php per day.

Although the Irisan dumpsite was permanently closed since the trash slide last August 27, 2011, Rebecca and her co-workers still feel glad about having a staging area in Purok 17, Irisan. According to her, this is the only place where they can work and the only place where they can earn money for a living.

Rebecca and her family are not the only ones who live near the Irisan dumpsite but they lucky, having not been affected by the trash slide. According to her, she has friends whose houses were buried in trash but the government helped them and gave them housing in Pacdal, Baguio City.

As a consistent observer in the Irisan dumpsite and the new staging area, Rebecca is aware of the everyday cycle of the garbage in Baguio City.

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Rebecca Martin, wearing the blue cap, with her fellow garbage picker.

(Photo taken by Carly Ymer Lemence 03/05/12)

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The Garbage Pickers (Photo taken by Carly Ymer Lemence 03/05/12)

 The Irisan Dumpsite then and after the trashslide

The Irisan dumpsite has already been the area for Baguio City’s garbage since 1972. Prior to being a dumpsite, the area used to be owned by the Smith clan, an American family. It was then passed on to a local family from Baguio, the Caguioa family who finally decided to give the land to the city.

Before the implementation of the Republic Act 9003 in the year 2000, the segregation of the biodegradable and non-biodegradable wastes was not strictly implemented, leaving an assortment of both biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste materials in the dumpsite.

After the trash slide that affected families from the residential areas along Irisan and Asin Road, Baguio City, Irisan Barangay Captain Thomas Dumalti says that as far as he knows, the city government of Baguio is liable for 20,000.00 Php for every death incurred in the incident and another 20,000.00 Php for every household affected. As help, the barangay solicited funds and relief goods to the affected families.

Kagawad Philip Tanawe of Barangay Irisan said that the affected families, including those whose houses were buried by trash, were not given relocation homes by the government. Tanawe added that some families resettled to their relatives living along Baguio while others stayed as they had no other place to go. According to Ruben A. Cervantes, Public Services Officer IV of City Environment and Parks Management Office (CEPMO), they are not responsible for giving these families resettlement homes as these families are informal settlers.

Ceferino Nariz, an Irisan resident, said he and his family have been staying in the area since 1982. He said that they have no plans of leaving their home as it is where they earn their living. When it comes to issues and concerns, Nariz said that they do not have any problems, even if they live just beside the dumpsite. His only wish is for the garbage to be permanently removed for the government’s plans of rehabilitating the dumpsite to push through.

Is the dumpsite permanently closed?

The dumpsite was only permanently closed on January 28, 2012 after the Supreme Court released an order for the area to be permanently closed. Although there are rumors that the dumpsite is not really closed, the residents along the dumpsite, the garbage pickers, and Ruben Cervantes of CEPMO denied this. Cervantes added that the old dumpsite is where the recycling machines are located. Biodegradable materials collected from the city are brought there to be grinded and converted into fertilizers.

Today, part of the Irisan dumpsite is now covered by soil and according to Kagawad Tanawe, in time the whole site will be covered with soil, serving as the first step in rehabilitating the dumpsite.

As the dumpsite is now permanently closed, the city government eyes total restoration of the land. By the process of retrofiling, all the trash left in the site will be covered up by soil. Development started last January 28 and as of now, the topmost part of the area is now completely covered.

Since the site is not evenly levelled, parts of the area will be terraced as to avoid landslides. Regreening of the area will also be imposed as the site is set to be made into an eco-park.

Ruben Cervantes of CEPMO denied rumors that the money for the rehabilitation of the dumpsite was given to the victim of Sendong in Mindanao. He said that the financial donation said to have been giving to these victims, is from the contingency funds of the city.

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The Irisan Dumpsite. Half of its top part covered with soil. (Photo taken by Kagawad Philip Tanawe of Barangay Irisan)

Kagawad Tanawe said that the dumpsite has minimal possibility of erosion as it is no longer in a slope.

Implementation of R.A.9003 and the New Staging Area

Although the Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Waste Management Act was implemented as early as the year 2000 during the term of Mayor Braulio Yaranon, people in Baguio City did not practice this. The “No Segregation, No Collection Policy” was only implemented after the Irisan trash slide. Since then, garbage from different houses and barangays are to be segregated. If not, these are not to be collected

Republic Act 9003, otherwise known as the “Philippine Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000,” states that “it is the policy of the State to adopt a systematic, comprehensive and ecological solid waste management.” Residents are to segregate trash between biodegradable and non-biodegradable materials.

As the Irisan dumpsite is now permanently closed, the government opened a new staging area for the city’s garbage. This staging area is located in Purok 17 of Barangay Irisan.

Ruben Cervantes of CEPMO said that the city’s garbage is supposed to be dumped in the staging area for only 24 hours then transported to Tarlac but according to Kagawad Tanawe, the garbage stays in the staging area for about two to three days before being transported. Tanawe also doubts that the recycling machines are being used by the city government because according to him, the machine cannot process all the biodegradables in converting it into compost materials. According to Cervantes, these machines are still being used.

Irisan Barangay Captain Thomas Dumalti said that for the garbage to be transported to Tarlac, it must first be transferred to larger trucks as the smaller trucks are not practical, being unable to transport large volumes of trash. Dumalti also believes that there is another staging area in Barangay Sanitary Camp but Kagawad Tanawe has contradicting information as he said that the Sanitary Camp is already clean and it only served as a staging area way before the Irisan dumpsite. Cervantes confirmed that Sanitary Camp is no longer a staging area and it now serves as a residential area.

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(Photo taken by Carly Ymer Lemence 03/06/12) Staging Area in Irisan

Now that the city’s garbage is currently being dumped in the staging area, residents along the site have different opinions and views.

Feliza Uyam, a resident living near the staging area said that she sometimes works in the site. According to her, the staging area is open for everyone who wants to work there as a garbage picker, as there is no contract. She said that most of the people who work there need to earn money to buy food for their families.

Uyam said that both biodegradables and non-biodegradables are thrown in the staging area. Some of the biodegradables are brought to the closed Irisan dumpsite where the recycling machines are located, some given and found by the garbage pickers for them to sell, and the remaining biodegradables are collected by the large trucks to be brought to Tarlac.

With the staging area just a few steps away from her home, Feliza said that she is fine with the staging area being close to her home as it gives her and her neighbours a place to earn money to be able to help their families.

A store owner whose store is also a few steps from the staging area said that according to the government, the site will only be used as a staging area for six months but up until now, the staging area is still operating for even more than six months, allegedly, while some of the residents in the nearby area do not have any idea what the government will do with the area and how it is going to operate.

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Residential Area near the Staging Area (Photo taken by Carly Ymer Lemence 03/05/12)

Land used for the staging area: Owned by the BCNHS

The land used for the staging area in Irisan where the garbage is currently being held, was originally owned by the city government but the land was later given to Baguio City National High School. When the news broke that the city government was using the land of BCNHS as a staging area, Dr. Elma D. Donaal, BCNHS Principal IV, immediately called the attention of CEPMO. Donaal learned the news from media who asked her to comment regarding the matter. Although the land had already been given to BCNHS, the government did not inform Donaal about the plan of making the land as a staging area for the city’s trash. Although a bit taken aback on the matter, Donaal agreed to the plan of the government and thought that it was a way to help the city.

The staging area is the proposed site where BCNHS and the Philippine Science High School plan to construct buildings for the expansion of their schools. As funds are not yet available for BCNHS, they have leased less than 50% of the land to the Philippine Science High School which is set to construct their school building as soon as possible. As of now, Principal Donaal agreed with CEPMO for the city to temporarily use their land as a staging area. “I am not complaining because it’s for the good of the city,” she said.

Donaal explained that the city hall is not to be blamed because it is not only the government’s garbage but it is also the garbage of the citizens of Baguio.

The “No Segregation, No Collection Policy” is now being strictly implemented in the city. Every day, 15 garbage trucks collect the trash once a day in the residential areas and thrice a day in the central business district of Baguio.

Rehabilitation of the Dumpsite

If the rehabilitation of the Irisan dumpsite and the planned eco-park pushes through, Barangay captain Dumalti wishes that the government prioritize the residents along the area, giving them jobs, as the government has now plans to make them leave the area.

It’s Your Best Friend on a Platter

March 12, 2012 14 comments

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An Investigative Report on the Operation of Comiles Eatery II in Baguio City

By Christian Co, Ma. Arianne Fatima Gapac, and Hannah Kim

It was another chilly afternoon in Baguio City. Mang Louie (not his real name) was driving around Marcos Highway looking for passengers. Cold and hungry, he decided to enter Comiles Eatery II for his occasional “ulo ng aso,” the specialty of the house.

Upon entering the eatery, he saw Mayor Domogan seated at a table. This was not the first the time he had seen government officials in Comiles, as he had seen policemen and even judges on other days.

For Mang Louie, eating dog meat is a pleasurable habit as it makes him feel warm and energized. However, he eats dog meat dishes only from time to time to avoid high blood pressure.

“Malinis naman yan… basta niluluto. Siguraduhin mo lang na walang gudgod (scabbies),” said Mang Louie. He is not bothered by rumours of sanitary issues concerning rabies. “Kasi niluluto na rin nila kahit may gudgod.”

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Photo 1. Located below the ground level, Comiles stands among local eateries and sari-sari stores.

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Photo 2. Three streamers mark the entrance of the eatery.

“Basta Baguio, aso agad yan,” he said.

Mang Louie is one of the many customers who patronize Comiles and its dog meat dishes. Located at the underground level of an unpainted, cemented building, the eatery seems inconspicuous except for its large banners with the name COMILES EATERY II displayed outside. Able to accommodate around 50 people, the eatery is mostly visited by men. The employees, mostly female, would not serve dog meat unless asked for. There is no menu displayed, and the counter usually contains pork, chicken, and vegetable dishes.

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Photo 3. The counter usually displays pork, chicken, and vegetable dishes.

Comiles under scrutiny

In spite of its popularity among Baguio locals, Comiles Eatery has been put under investigation by the Philippine National Police (PNP), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), ans Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) such as the Animal Kingdom Foundation (AKF) under the International Wildlife Coalition Trust (IWCT).

Together with the PNP, Charles Wartenberg, President of the AKF, carried out a raid in Comiles in January 2010 wherein five people were arrested and 8.4 kilos of dog meat were confiscated. In Wartenberg’s published online report entitled “Licence to Kill,” the defendants acknowledged that they were selling dog meat but strongly contended that they should not punished. The defendants argued that “the law is based on one whole dog,” and that they served only parts of a dog. They also claimed that any virus of a rabid dog can be eliminated in the cooking process. They finally reasoned that the practice of eating dog meat is “customary and socially accepted.”

These reasons appear very questionable and irrational. For the defendants to say that they must not be punished for serving only parts of a dog is senseless. Dog meat is still dog meat even when they are in pieces. Does anyone expect a dog, a domesticated animal, to be served lechon-style on a large tray? There is no point of escaping the law with the matter of proportions or sizes, for stealing bread is the same as stealing cash.

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Photo 4. The spare parts of man’s best friend on a platter served in Comiles eatery.

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Photo 5. Chicken served on the right, dog meat dish on the left.

As for the defendants’ claim that viruses found in rabid dogs can be eliminated due to the cooking process, Wartenberg asserts that this is scientifically incorrect. He points out to the death of four-year old Ressia Mae Edoria who died after eating contaminated dog meat in Negros Occidental on December 13, 2005, which he calls “an avoidable death.” Wartenberg holds the death certificate which states that Edoria died due to rabies as a result of ingesting cooked dog meat. However, just like Mang Louie, many people are confident that the preparation and cooking process can get rid of the diseases the animal carries. They must have not heard that dogs, along with cats and bats, are the main carriers of rabies. Also, they probably are not aware of the gravity of the effects and the heavy possibility of dog meat being contaminated or diseased with not only rabies, but, as Wartenberg said, with E.coli, salmonella, hook worms, etc.

It is undeniable that the defendants and many dog meat eaters are convinced that culture justifies the practice of selling and eating dog meat. Just as Mang Louie said, Baguio City has become recognized as the center of dog meat trade. However, the city is not exempt under the law, particularly in Section 6 of the Animal Welfare Act (Republic Act No. 8485), which states that:

It shall be unlawful for any person to torture any animal, to neglect to provide adequate care, sustenance or shelter, or maltreat any animal or to subject any dog or horse to dogfights or horsefights, kill or cause or procure to be tortured or deprived of adequate care, sustenance or shelter, or maltreatment or use the same in research or experiments not expressly authorized by the Committee on Animal Welfare.

The killing of any animal other than cattle pigs, goats, sheep, poultry, rabbits, carabaos, horses, deer and crocodiles is likewise hereby declared unlawful except in the following instances:

(1)   When it is done as part of the religious rituals of an established religion or sect or a ritual required by tribal or ethnic custom of indigenous cultural communities; however, leaders shall keep records in cooperation with the Committee on Animal Welfare (underlined for emphasis).

Restaurant eating is not equated to any religious ritual as far as dog meat is concerned. The sale of dog meat especially in restaurants is usually classified as for commercial use or plain business. Unless a religious group or sect holds a ritual which includes killing dogs and eating the slain dogs’ meat inside Comiles, it is clear that dogs should not be butchered even for the sake of eating. And so far, dog meat eating in restaurants is more of a routine rather than a cultural or religious practice.

What about government officials and policemen eating dog meat? The Anti-Rabies Act (Republic Act No. 9482) states in Section 7 that local government units (LGUs), in their respective localities, shall “prohibit the trade of dogs for meat.” They are responsible for overseeing that such operations do not exist, and yet they are also recognized as the clients of the operation itself. It is because they hold on to the idea that culture surpasses the law.

These government officials do not see that their cultural reasons plainly impede the law. Come to think of it: Comiles is still in operation since the case was dismissed due to “lack of probable cause.” In his persistence, Wartenberg promised in his report that the case would be taken to High Court under a new Baguio lawyer. According to Ms. Ivy Buenaobra of the AKF, Wartenberg will be coming on March 8 to follow up cases such as this.

Favour and legality

Comiles continues to operate in Marcos Highway and in Camp 7. Why does the city government tolerate such business? As mentioned earlier, the system of ordering dog meat was discreet; the dishes were given only upon request. When asked about her boss and the supplier of dog meat, an employee refused to reveal their names. Mang Louie is one of the male-majority customers satisfied with their dog meat dishes— from the dog head to the “spare” parts.

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Photo 6. A close-up of the “spare” parts.

As Wartenberg stated in his report from the National Meat Inspection Board (NMIB), dog meat was not acceptable for human consumption. What do the local health experts from the Department of Health- Cordillera Administrative Region (DOH-CAR) have to say, considering that they may have cultural bias as they are based in the Cordilleras, a culture-bound region?

Mrs. Roselle Bani from the Information, Education, and Communication Center claims that there is no rabies in dog meat if already cooked. Rabies Awareness Coordinator Dr. Shelly Aral also says that dog meat consumption is “acceptable” due to IP culture. Surprisingly, she also takes up the AKF’s claim about “the (dog’s) virus being eliminated in the cooking process as scientifically incorrect” as “not true” by saying that the policies against dog meat focus only on the welfare of the dog. She stresses that rabies can be acquired through handling fresh dog meat, especially with open wounds, and not through ingestion.

The local health experts seem to favour the practice of dog meat eating. But does favour entitle legality? License Inspector II Peter Balinag of Baguio City Hall confirms that Comiles Eatery is licensed. Yes, Comiles is an establishment with a “license to engage in business.”

A “license to engage in business” is simply a business permit that requires the following:

  • mandatory requirements of Baguio City government: sanitary permit from Baguio Health Department (BHD,) barangay business clearance, sewer certificate from CEPMO, and fire clearance
  • national requirements: BIR clearance, SSS clearance, PhilHealth certificate, PAG-IBIG
  • other requirements appropriate for the business
  • requirements for the sanitary permit include health certificates from BHD and Health Services Office (HSO) and completion of the Food Handlers Orientation (schedule: Mondays 1-5pm, Wednesdays and Fridays 8-12am)

It seems that the sanitary permit is the only relevant requirement for the case of Comiles Eatery, being a restaurant that serves exotic meat. The Food Handlers Orientation is the only prerequisite to a health certificate for the documentation of the sanitary permit. It looks as if it is an inadequate process, since attending a seminar does not guarantee safety and proper food handling skills.

How is dog meat handled specifically? Are there certain procedures for checking whether a package of dog meat is viable for consumption? No. Mrs. Regina Lapitan of the Baguio Health Department’s Division of Sanitation insists that the Food Handlers Orientation does not discuss dog meat specifically, as it is not their duty to classify meat.

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Photo 7. A male customer enjoying the specialty of the eatery.

Dogs are not food animals

“Nobody is in-charge of inspecting restaurants serving dog meat because dog meat does not fall under the city government’s classification of consumable meat,” says Dr. Mary Jane Cabradilla of the City Veterinarian’s Office. No wonder the BHD is not duly concerned whether the meat certain restaurants handle are of dogs. The City Vet’s Office is one agency that does not favour the sale of dog meat such as that of Comiles.

In contrast to the statements of Dr. Aral and Mrs. Bani, Dr. Cabradilla claims it is possible to acquire diseases, not only rabies, from eating unhealthy dogs.

Interestingly, Dr. Cabradilla calls the Animal Welfare Act as a weak law because it only focuses on live dogs (eg. transportation). She sees Comiles as “safe” from being confronted because the driver or the owner of the vehicle carrying the dogs is the one who gets sued, not the one being supplied. In a raid conducted by the NBI and the Political Animal Lobby (PAL) with Mel Alipio on several restaurants, Comiles Eatery denied that they served any dog meat dish. Dr. Cabradilla was taken back when she heard that Comiles still serves dog meat. She assumed that the employees were warned beforehand about the raid.

The city government officials are aware of the laws; however, the faulty implementation of the policies on dog meat lies in the inadequacy of the laws. The suppliers of dog meat will continue to trade as long as Comiles Eatery continues to operate and to be tolerated by government officials and health experts due to the laws. These laws, especially the Animal Welfare Act, do not specifically target or cover dog meat. The only kind of meat that can be inspected are the consumable meat, or “food animals,”  which are cattle pigs, goats, sheep, poultry, rabbits, carabaos, horses, deer and crocodiles as stated by the Animal Welfare Act.

There should be amendments of the law that would include inspections in restaurants that serve meat that do not come from food animals. By then, even those who sell dog parts and just not the “whole dog” must be punished since the parts do not belong to a food animal.

Inspections conducted in the restaurants seem to be only on the sanitation of the area, and not on the dishes sold. How will the people be assured that the dog meat is safe from diseases, aside from rabies, with these kinds of inspections? What if the dog meat served in Comiles Eatery has “gudgod” like what Mang Louie said? And why does the welfare of the dog end in its death and not when it’s in parts? The least that can be done for now is to have the food handling checked, since by now not everyone can be convinced that the dog is not a food animal. Until Mang Louie and people like the mayor start to be disgusted seeing man’s best friend served on a platter, dogs will forever and ironically be chased. #

The Greenwash Effect: The hypocrisy behind earthballing of full-grown trees.

March 12, 2012 2 comments

by Czarina Gracia Carriaga and Justin Rev Ino Tamang   

“Baguio is Baguio not because of what we have built but because of what we have left untouched,” said Karlo Altomonte of Project Save 182, a movement against the planned expansion of SM City Baguio which will endanger 182 trees within the mall’s premises.

Gray and black colors have changed the once green scenery. Rosalio Goze, a retired forester and a Baguio City resident, said that a lot has changed in Baguio City.

Aside from the sudden population growth, where Goze added that the city has reached its carrying capacity, one noticeable change in Baguio is its fewer pine trees. It is ironic since Baguio City is really known for its pine trees; lowlanders even often connote pine trees to Baguio City.

Now, there are more buildings and concrete sceneries than pine needles, pine cones, and pine tree scents. The climate has also changed; jackets and coats are usually left inside cabinets because of the noticeable increase in the city’s temperature.

So many environmental issues have surfaced — the air pollution, the problem about proper waste disposal and the Baguio sanitary landfill. Some blame the sudden changes to the developers and corporations that have built structures and invested in the city.

The latest environmental issue that the city is facing now is the planned earthballing of 182 trees in Luneta Hill, where the Sy-owned mall stands. This issue has stirred not only different environmental groups, but also the Baguio community. The truth is it had been an old issue, only that today it involves a giant developer/corporation.

The big deal right now

Project Save 182 is a manifestation of Cordillera Ecological Center head Dr. Michael Bengwayan’s petition to stop the uprooting and balling of 43 Alnus japonica trees, 97 pine trees, and 42 saplings to pave the way for SM City Baguio’s redevelopment. The redevelopment is set to create another building in Luneta Hill. According to SM, the expansion is certified by the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).

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Sentenced to death. Alnus japonica tree, one of the types of trees to be earthballed.

PHOTO COURTESY OF: http://www.pfaf.org

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Equivalent to Baguio.  The trees that have distinguished Baguio from other cities are in danger.

PHOTO COURTESY OF: http://www.rgbstock.com

Bengwayan said in his petition that the mall’s plan is totally unacceptable and callously insensitive to the importance of trees to the environment and ecology. The same petition stated that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has not fully understood the contribution of the trees because they granted SM’s request.

To their defense, SM said that the trees will be balled. Some of the trees will be transferred within the premises of SM while the remaining trees will be handed over to the DENR compound in Pacdal. SM also promised to replace each tree that will be cut beyond what is stated in the law. Instead of 20 saplings per tree, SM said that they will replace each tree with 50 saplings.

Bengwayan opposed SM’s statement and dubbed it in an interview as “greenwashing” and “social engineering.” His main question was where would they be planting all the saplings they have promised if the land area of Baguio is just 129 square kilometers, most of which are residential? He believes that it’s just a scheme to cover up for something worse to come.

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The Greenwasher. SM City Baguio’s model for its planned extension.

PHOTO COURTESY OF: http://smsupermalls.com/smsupermalls/smbg/

Information about the expansion spread like wildfire in social media and has triggered a mass street protest in which around 5,000 people from all parts of Baguio City’s demographic rainbow joined. As of March 6, 2012, the petition has had over 7,300 signatures and over 15,350 recommendations.

The mass protest has resulted in a series of public hearings about the issue. Until now, public hearings at the Baguio City Hall are still ongoing regarding the issue about SM’s redevelopment. It is funny and ironic though that during one public hearing, there were boxes of bottled water from none other than SM Supermalls just outside the session hall.

History might repeat itself

During the ’90s, around 500 grown pine trees were earthballed in Camp John Hay. News has it, however, that less than 20% of the trees survived and some show signs of deterioration until now.

Recently, in an interview, Dr. Bengwayan confirmed that only 17% of the trees survived. He said that he has staff members working there who check on the status of the trees. He also confirmed that many among these 17% show signs of deterioration while some have already died.

People who oppose the proposed expansion and redevelopment of SM City Baguio express fear that history might repeat itself, that the earthballing of the 182 trees might just be another Camp John Hay earthballing story. Bengwayan dubbed the planned redevelopment a “massacre” of trees that represent the culture and heritage of Baguio, the City of Pines.

It’s not all about the environment

In the public hearing last February 27, 2012 regarding the SM issue, Project Save 182 treasurer Marie Balangue spoke about the health risks that the loss of another forest patch in Baguio may incur, especially one that is in the central business district. She said that only 9% of the forest patches remain in the City of Pines, while 40% is needed to maintain clean air for the people in the area to stay healthy.

Balangue mentioned the microstress and microtrauma that lack of oxygen brings forth. Both pose a great risk for pregnant women as it increases the possibility that the newborn child has autism. Aside from the health risks that the loss of another forest cover may bring, Balangue also noted that “heritage counts.”

Many of the speakers in the public hearing defended that pine trees are part of Baguio City’s heritage; and as residents of Baguio, it is a must to protect these.

One of the speakers, Dion Fernandez, believes in what he calls “responsible capitalism.” For him, he believes that there is a third way — one that would benefit everyone without compromising too much. He points out that the trees can be used by SM to earn money and at the same time, preserve the heritage that is truly Baguio.

Mike Arvisu of the Kafagwayan, a movement that aims to preserve, rehabilitate, and develop Baguio’s cultural sites and public lands, said that Baguio people should “preserve what remains” of the forests in Baguio. He also questioned the legitimacy of SM’s claims such as the “experts” that would supervise the earthballing and their credentials, as well as the process through which they got the permit to ball that number of trees.

Arvisu said that the carbon dioxide absorption and the oxygen production levels that 182 trees provide are beyond what the green building with the sky garden could offer. He also said that the water reservoir planned in the expansion will hold just a fraction of what the entire Luneta Hill ground already absorbs.

The Kafagwayan member continued that SM is showing only what is above ground, but there are no details on what happens underground. He said that SM will be digging 3-6 stories underground. That said, where would all the soil go?

Veteran media man and environment advocate Ramon Dacawi said during the hearing that while from a legal perspective, SM has all the rights to go on with the project, there is no substitute to the natural. He points out that no “green” building with a sky garden could replace what 182 trees can give.

So, what about earthballing?

Earthballing, according to Rosalio Goze, is the method of transplanting trees.  In the Ecosystems Research and Development Service (ERDS) Research Digest, earthballing is defined as the process in which seedlings or saplings are lifted with earth around the root system. Before the balling is performed, there are five things that should be considered:

1.  Condition of the tree

2.  Condition of the soil

– From where will the tree be earthballed? To where will it be transplanted?

3.  The weather when it will be earthballed.

– It is ideal to do the earthballing process during the rainy season.

4.  Diameter of the tree.

– Research by the ERDS show that trees with trunk diameters that are below 20
cm have a higher survival rate when earthballed than trees with diameters of 20 cm above. Larger trees have a lower survival rate, and there could even be a chance that no tree will survive.

5. The care process after the earthball.

– There must be an assurance that the company or the group that requested for the
earthballing of the trees will take care of the trees and attend to the trees well. The tree,
especially its roots, are stressed because its roots have been moved. The trees need to be properly taken care of to ensure survival.

Oh wait, you need a permit to do that.

Earthballing cannot be done right away. According to Walter Aguirre, acting division chief of Forests and Watersheds Management Division (FWMD) of the City Environment and Parks Management Office (CEPMO), in the government, earthballing is treated the same way as tree cutting. That said, it requires a permit from the city government and the DENR before someone can legally earthball a tree and the process in getting the permit is just the same.

In CEPMO, there are charts showing how to get a permit to earthball or cut a tree. It’s a two-part process. The first part deals with CEPMO. One must submit a letter of request to the city mayor’s office along with some other required documents (photograph/s of the affected tree/s, certification from the barangay captain, and photocopies of documents regarding land ownership).

If approved, the CEPMO will begin inspection and evaluation of the land area then a report will be submitted for approval by the mayor. There are respective fees for the process of getting the permit so the last stop of the first part is the city treasurer’s office.

So now, it is time for step two: the DENR branch of the region. It is similar to the CEPMO procedure. The difference is that the chief of the Forest Management Service (FMS) will be the one assigned to approve the request. After that, a forest ranger will inspect and evaluate the area, another report will be done, then it will be approved by the FMS chief. After paying respective fees at the bill collector, a certificate of verification will be released. The certificate or permit is limited to the tree specified in the request. Violations beyond the agreement within the permit are subject to sanctions of the law.

The charts indicate that the entire process of getting the permit should take a total of 14 working hours.

CEPMO or the city government and DENR also differ when it comes to the payment of the earthballing process. CEPMO requires P300.00 for every cubic meter or any fraction thereof affected by the earthballing. Aside from this, a performance bond of P250.00 per tree to be cut. For DENR, a one-time payment of P100.00 for the permit fee must be done. Like the city government, they also charge for every cubic meter affected by the proposed earthballing. For the DENR, it is P715.00 per cubic meter affected plus a bond deposit of P250.00 for every tree to be cut.

According to DENR-CAR CENRO bill collector Virginia David, forestry charges and permit fees go to the National Treasury of the Philippines while bond deposits go the trust fund of the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) of the Cordilleras. David cleared that bond deposits may be withdrawn and returned to the applicant of the earthballing.

‘It defies all the scientific rationality.’

According to Dr. Bengwayan, earthballing of full-grown trees defies all scientific rationality. He reasoned out three main points: (1) the trees that are being cut in Baguio are very sensitive, (2) the country does not have the proper technology yet, and (3) the trees that they target to ball have grown in the wild and not in specialized nurseries.

Dr. Bengwayan went very scientific with the interview for his first point. He said that the roots of the trees that SM plans to ball are very sensitive because they are all taproots. Taproots have roots that grow vertically downward, unlike other trees that spread their roots horizontally.

Case in point, it is very difficult to transplant such trees because the roots will most likely be damaged. To successfully transplant taproot trees, the entire taproot (which could have grown very deep) must be uprooted as well. If the roots are cut, the entire transportation system of nutrients for the tree will be disabled.

Once this happens, the cambium of the tree or the area inside the bark which stores all the saps and nutrients for the tree will dry up. Once the cambium dries up, the tree dies.

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Behind the ‘barks.’ A diagram of the inside part of a pine tree. Includes the xylem and phloem that brings water and food  to the whole body of the tree. Both will not function if the roots are cut or damaged.

PHOTO COURTESY OF: http://www.pc.gc.ca

Bengwayan’s second point is about the equipment to be used in the earthballing process. In the Philippines, backhoes are used to uproot and transfer trees to other places. Bengwayan said that backhoes are not supposed to be used in such a delicate process. He even dubbed backhoes as “masters of disasters.” He also noted that a mud solution must be made when balling to simulate the soil from which the tree was balled to avoid transplant shock with the sudden change of the quality of the soil to which the tree was earthballed.

He connected the lack of proper equipment to his third point: the status of the tree that they plan to ball.

Bengwayan said that yes, modern countries perform earthballing, but that is because these countries have specialized nurseries for trees that will be balled. In these nurseries, interlink fences are set up in pits from where the trees will be balled. Then each pit will be filled with compost and soil before saplings are planted. After five years, a bulldozer will pull the interlink fence which will also include the soil, the tree, and all the roots of tree. Bengwayan said that this process does not harm the tree or its roots, thus, the tree survives. This is contrary to what is done in the Philippines where trees in their natural places are balled. He said that since these trees grew in the wild, these trees must not be earthballed.

 

If that’s the case, why is it allowed on full-grown trees?

Nobody has really answered this question yet. People from the DENR merely answered with their obscure smiles and smirks when asked why earthballing is allowed on full-grown trees even if it contradicts their own research that earthballing is only possible on young trees.

Goze even questioned why they still need to earthball the trees. They could just cut them since both processes will result in the death of the trees.

Paul Apilis of the DENR-CAR CENRO, however, hinted that it is because of the Executive Order 23 that President Benigno Aquino III signed. In E.O. 23, no tree shall be cut. But while cutting is prohibited in the order, earthballing is not.

When asked about his opinion on Karlo Altomonte’s statement at the public hearing that is “you (corporation and/or government) are doing this to earn more money,” Bengwayan answered with “there might be truth in it.”

He said that corporations are “now trying to own lands in developing countries” and they are also “slowly controlling the government.”

Dr. Bengwayan remains firm in his opposition of earthballing of full-grown trees because he said that it defies everything he has learned from other countries. He also said that, “You cannot recreate science even though you are a good engineer or scientist. We can create something but not something natural that is created by God.”