Wednesday, May 29, 2019














.Michael A. Bengwayan, Ph.D. . started this petition to PRESIDENT, Philippines President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and 2 others
Dear President,
Recently 49 big pine trees, some aging 70 to 80 years old, were cut by MOLDEX CORPORATION along Marcos highway, Baguio city.
Four pine trees provide oxygen for one person as much as 45 lbs of oxygen a year. One pine tree absorbs as much as 40 t0 45 lbs of dangerous CO2 annually and cleanse the air of smog. One mature pine tree absorbs as much as 150 liters of water which it releases to recharge groundwater, Pine trees prevent landslides and erosion, regulate urban island heat phenomenon and lessen wind speed by 15 percent.

26,000 Signatures Urge Duterte To Save Philippine Pine Tree –

26,000 Signatures Urge Duterte To Save Philippine Pine Tree – OpEd
May 27, 2019 Dr. Michael A. Bengwayan 0 Comments
By Dr. Michael A. Bengwayan

Some 25,707 signatures in a petition is urging Philippine Pres. Rodrigo Duterte to save the Philippine pine tree (Pinus insularis) in the city of Baguio, dubbed as the “city of pines”.
The petition, penned by this writer bwho is also head of the environmental group Cordillera Ecological Center, raises the alarm on the wanton and unjustified killing of pine trees to accommodate hotels and business establishments. The city is the country’s summer capital, visited by millions of tourists yearly because of its cool climate brought about by the pine trees.
“Four pine trees provide oxygen for one person as much as 45 lbs of oxygen a year. One pine tree absorbs as much as 40 t0 45 lbs of dangerous CO2 annually and cleanse the air of smog. One mature pine tree absorbs as much as 150 liters of water which it releases to recharge groundwater, Pine trees prevent landslides and erosion, regulate urban island heat phenomenon and lessen wind speed by 15 percent,” the petition stressed.
Pine trees are heritage trees of the country, without pine trees there will be no city mof pines, “ it added.
Pinus insularis, ever proud and conquering, is symbol of the Cordillera peoples. Whether blanketed in lush cloaks of vibrant green or stripped naked with only their bare trunks remaining, they reveal their beauty throughout the warmest, wettest or rainiest seasons. Their knowledge of time, history and events is timeless and though science, technology and capitalism seem to have combined to end their reign, they continue to remain.
On the surface, what most people see is the economic side of pine trees—lumber for housing, furniture and buildings. Very few are aware of the ecological, social, medical and cultural contributions of pine trees.

What Do the Pine Trees Do?

As food, pine trees seem unimportant to humans except for birds, insects and a few animals. While some pine tree species’ have seeds big enough to eat, Pinus kesiya’s seeds are, although edible, too small to really satisfy human hunger. Only the Lebanese pine, Korean and Pinon pine have seeds big enough to be harvested for food.

But the trees are more important for something else. There are four direct and uncontested facts that the pine trees do for the Philippine environment. First, the trees help directly contribute to oxygen supply to the environment for humans to breathe, directly affecting local and regional air quality by altering the urban atmospheric environment.

Humans breathe only oxygen which comprises 21 percent of our atmosphere. But oxygen in many parts of the world is being depleted due to pollution wherein dangerous methane, sulphur and nitrous oxides and CO2 and smog are increasing in the air. Trees supply about 70 percent of our oxygen supply.
Second, they provide water, absorbing as much as 150 liters per mature tree each year which they release slowly to recharge brooks, springs, rivers and ponds. Three of the nation’s biggest mega-dams, San Roque, Ambuklao and Binga generating a combined 1,200 megawatts of hydroelectric power—get their water from pine forests of Benguet and Mountain Province.

Third, the pine trees prevent soil erosion and landslides in the region, serving as the main soil cover thereby protecting soil loss. The Cordillera region losses some 100,000 tons of topsoil every year, without the pine trees soil loss would be worse affecting adversely agriculture, settlements, properties and lives.

Fourth, pine trees lower temperature. When Baguio had more pine trees, the city was cooler; it deserved to be called the “City of Pines”. Today, the city is not only warm, congested and dirty but also dubbed by World Bank as having one of the cities in the world with the “dirtiest air” as thousands of trees were allowed by the city government to be cut to give way to commercial and residential buildings, roads, tourism and hotels.(On the surface, what most people see is the economic side of pine trees—lumber for housing, furniture and buildings. Very few are aware of the ecological, social, medical and cultural contributions of pine trees.

Oxygen Supply and CO2 Absorption

One mature pine tree, ten years and above, releases 45 lbs of oxygen a year. At least four trees can supply the oxygen requirement of one human each year.
As pine trees release oxygen, they absorb CO2, a dangerous greenhouse gas. Each mature pine tree absorbs 45 lbs of CO2, following physics’ Boyle’s law of “what element is lost is equally replaced by another element”.

The oxygen released by the millions of pine trees affect air by reducing temperature, remove smog and air pollutants, CO2, methane, sulphur and nitrous oxides thereby regulating microclimatic effects like cooling.

Pine Trees Lower Temperature

Clumps of pine trees and all trees for that matter reduce mid-day temperature from a minimum of 0.2 degrees C to 1.3 degrees C some 1.5 meters to 2.4 meters above ground.
Below individual and small fragments of pine trees over grass, mid-day air temperatures can be reduced to as low as 0.7C to 1.3C degrees cooler than in any open area.

When pine trees respire, they emit oxygen which do not only reduce air temperature, but also absorb radiation and store heat. They also reduce relative humidity, turbulence, and surface albedo of concrete. These changes in local meteorology alter pollution concentrations in urban areas.

Removal of Air Pollutants

Even though pine trees leaves are needle-type, they function as normally as a broadleaf. The needles through their stomata, remove deadly gaseous air pollution primarily by uptake.
Once inside the leaf, gases diffuse into intercellular spaces and may be absorbed by water films to form acids or react with inner-leaf surfaces. The trees also remove pollution by intercepting airborne particles. Most particles like CO2 are absorbed into the tree, and eventually stored in the soil by the roots.

Some particles that are intercepted are retained on the plant surface. These are resuspended to the atmosphere, washed off by rain, or dropped to the ground with leaf and twig falls. Consequently, vegetation is only a temporary retention site for many atmospheric particles.

Reducing Urban Island Phenomenon and Temperature on Buildings
Urban Island phenomenon is the heat transferred from cities via highway and roads to outlying communities. Pine tree reduce this, as well as lessen building energy use by lowering temperatures and shading buildings during the summer, and blocking winds during rainy season. When building energy use is lowered, pollutant emissions from power plants are also lowered.

The cumulative and interactive effects of trees on meteorology, pollution removal, and power plant emissions determine the overall impact of trees on air pollution.

Energy and Medical Relevance

Pine trees are the most popular among all conifers in the world, the most widespread, most varied and most valuable trees of their order. The biggest family of conifers goes by their name, the Pinaceae.

Pine trees are called pine trees basically because it contains the rare and highly expensive Alpha e-pinene chemical content that the tree treasures. E-pinene contains an important hydro-carbon alkane, the chemical used for lighting and cooking in high altitudes and also ingredient for pharmaceuticals and chemical necessities.

The chemical is contained in the resin of the pine tree which explains why pine wood is highly flammable. The indigenous Cordillera tribes make use of resin-rich pine wood as flint or for starting fires called locally “saleng”.

Pine Trees and the Joy of Christmas

There was a time when pine trees were favorite trees cut for Christmas trees. Today, cutting a pine tree is a crime. But pine trees still exude mixed joy on Christmas especially to children. Thousands travel every Christmas to Baguio City and other places in the Cordillera region just to see pine trees.

To any young child who sees a small young pine tree, if anything, he/she is fascinated with joy to reach out and touch the vigorous plant– fantastically rich in its detail, with its thick and sappy shoots bristling, bright new needles, embossed with male and female parts of splendidly original and suggestive design– inviting kids to dapple them.

The trees’ genus Pinus is the pine proper, limited to 100 or so species all over the world, with certain clear and obvious characteristics, of which the easiest to see and remember is the relatively long evergreen needles.

The pine needles and cones are the ones that easily lure people on Christmas time. Pinus kesiya has three needles for each fascicle. The yearly growth of each shoot of a pine needle takes the form of a ‘candle’, which is a defiance of gravity.
The needles are boiled as tea and drank to cure upper respiratory tract ailments. Medical experts recommend to asthma victims to walk under pine trees in the morning because the trees release terpenes which help cleanse the lungs.

Thanking the Pine Trees

To give thanks to the pine trees for their ecological, social, cultural, economic and aesthetic benefits, the environmental group Cordillera Ecological Center conducts yearly the Pine Tree Festival. Already on its fourth year, educational, cultural, music and arts activities by representatives from Baguio city, Benguet, Mountain Province, Abra, Kalinga and Apayao. It attracts thousands of tourists.Most importantly, it advocates and leads numerous tree planting activities.

Next time you find yourself walking underneath pine stands, woods or forests, look up. Not many people embrace this view high above our limited ground floor. An awakening and soul-changing world is gifted by a simple tilt of the head as you see the sky through a beautifully complicated and tangled web of pine trees.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Sunflowers, Bees Collateral Victims in Effort for Clean Safe Food

Sunflowers, Bees Collateral Victims in Effort for Clean Safe Food
By Dr. Michael A. Bengwayan

Baguio City, Philippines---Fifty Christmas seasons ago, much of this city and the Cordillera provinces' woodlands, valleys, glens and landscapes were beautifully carpeted with golden wild sunflowers (Tithonia diversifolia) Wild bees abounded, pollinating wild and domesticated flowers, ensuring genetic evolution.

Today, the sunflowers are sparse, the fields ugly, pockmarked by human touch as thousands of the plants are cut and killed intentionally two months before every Christmas season. Considered by apiculturists as the best sources of nectar for wild and domesticated bees alike in this part of the country, the plants are being killed resulting to the loss of billions of bees, the world's best pollinators.

A quote often ascribed to Albert Einstein but without no known proof says, "If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live" highlighting how vital bees are to the survival of of plant and animal species on the planet, including humans.

Use of Sunflowers as Fertilizer, an Indigenous Know-how
The wild sunflowers, native to Mexico, are being cut in the Cordillera region to be used either as green manure or composting material for the production of organically-grown vegetables.

Unwittingly, farmers intending to satisfy consumers' growing demand for organically-grown safe and nutritious vegetables cut thousands of the plants from September to November and compost these as organic fertilizer. This allows them to make a killing in the market when they harvest their crops near Christmas and New Year, the seasons when vegetables are in their peak demand.

Locally called “marapait”, the wild sunflowers use as rich fertilizer can be traced to the indigenous knowledge of the natives of Mountain Province. For hundreds of years, they have used the plant as basal fertilizer, incorporating these in rice paddies together with pig manure and composted rice straw. Many farms in Mountain Province grow sunflower hedges as sole source of nitrogen fertilizer. Sunflower biomass decomposes rapidly after application to the soil.

The use is not without scientific basis. Then Philippine Department of Agriculture have found that sunflower leaves have high nitrogen content (2.9 percent oven dry weight) and that a ton of fresh sunflower can yield as much as 60 kg of nitrogen fertilizer. Nitrogen is the most basic fertilizer element needed by crops.

The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (UNFAO) and the International Center for Research in Agroforestry (ICRAF) say wild sunflower leaf biomass is high in nutrients, averaging about 3.5% nitrogen, 0.37% potassium and 4.1% phosphorus on a dry matter basis. This means the high nitrogen content is good for green plants.

Wild sunflower is a robust herbaceous and bushy perennial that grows up to 3 to 4 meters tall. Branches are stout, with hollow stems. The plant produces large flower heads with bright yellow to golden petals.

How Are Bees Affected Adversely?

The manner and process how honey is made is one of God's wonders science can't duplicate.
Worker bees, after hibernating on the rainy and stormy months of June to September, start foraging for nectar and pollen on October. It is also on these months that sunflowers bloom with overflowing nectar. Nectar is the sugary liquid found in flowers. Worker bees using their long, tube-shaped tongues sip the nectar from the flowers and store this in their crop. While sloshing inside the bees' crop, the nectar mixes with enzymes that transform its chemical composition making it more suitable for long-term storage.

Apiculturist Nelson Palispis who trains farmers in this province explained in one of his trainings, “When a workerbee returns to the hive, it passes the nectar to another bee by regurgitating the liquid into the other bee's mouth. This regurgitation process is repeated until the partially digested nectar is finally deposited into a honeycomb”.

It does not end there. “Once in the comb, the nectar, still a viscous liquid, is fanned by the bees using their wings to speed up the process of evaporating any water. When most of the water has evaporated from the honeycomb, the bees seal the comb with a secretion of liquid from their abdomen, which eventually hardens into beeswax. Away from air and water, the honey is stored indefinitely, providing bees with the perfect food source for cold and rainy months, “Nelson elaborated.

Unfortunately, just as the bees time their nectar foraging from September to December, these are also the months when hundreds of farmers engaged in organic vegetable growing, cut thousands of sunflower plants to death, harvesting these be composted as fertilizer. As a consequence, the bees are deprived of plants rich in nectar. The bees are forced to forage on other plants mostly vegetables sprayed with deadly insecticides resulting to the death of millions of bees.

New Zealand-based apiculturist and former chief beekeeper of Saint Louis University's Beekeeping program here Jose Bandiwan lamented “Benguet is the country's worst user of dangerous pesticides, this uncontrolled chemical abuse is killing everything—bees, birds, beneficial insects, the soil, water—it is practically a biocide.”

“With the wild sunflowers, bees have a chance on foraging on non-poisoned sources of nectar, but when you kill the sunflowers the bees are forced to forage on vegetable flowers laced with chemicals, killing thousands of bees everyday,” he deplored.

Worldwide, the Malaysia-based Pesticide Action Network(PAN) says billions of bees are being wiped out due to pesticides yearly, and honey tests reveal worldwide contamination by bee-killing pesticides. It warns of ecological Armageddon if the dramatic fall of inset numbers don't abate.
Nelson is one of the fortunate beekeepers in the province, his bee colonies are situated in the village of Anchukey more than 1,500 masl opposite Mount Pulag, far from farms and surrounded by thousands of sunflower plants.

A Need for A Mutualistic Understanding
Jose believes it is senseless depriving bees of priceless sunflower nectar and people from appreciating the beauty of sunflowers. He likewise avers beekeepers and organic vegetable growers to benefit alike from sunflowers and bees. “Apiculturists and organic vegetable growers must agree on a timetable that allows bees to forage nectar before the sunflower plants are harvested to be composted, most likely the months of September and October. Organic vegetable growers can cut the sunflower plants after those months,” he proposed.

“Organic vegetable growers can also harvest plants that have finished blooming. On one hand, farmers and beekeepers must not merely depend on the resources without sweat, they must plant more sunflowers,” he added.

The idea led the government of New Zealand to support a Project Marapait in Benguet aimed at increasing bees for pollination at the same time intensifying planting of sunflowers. The project, implemented by the Cordillera Ecological Center has put a shot in the arm to beekeeping in the province.

Today, the sunflower plants may be less than before, the bees foraging may be fewer but Nelson says there is light ahead of the tunnel. “Nature has a way of healing we hardly understand if we don’t do our part. Planting those that give life is not nature’s sole responsibility, we must do our share, “he quipped.


Tuesday, January 15, 2019



Children (and adults, too) need to learn the principles of ecology (how life works in community), and they need to see the connections between human beings and the rest of Nature. The urgent timeframe of global climate change means that any learning that doesn't contribute to these understandings could be considered part of the problem. Indeed, the environmental crisis can be attributed in part to the inability of human beings to come up with sustainable ways of living together.
Here are some ways to "ecologicalize" teaching:
  • Education programs sometimes include icebreakers, warm-up activities, initiative tasks, cooperative games, or physical adventure elements. Helping people work together better will always be a good thing, and creating a sense of community is essential for being eco-friendly. But how can we integrate environmental learning into these activities without drastically changing program elements and while still contributing to group dynamics and character building? It's not easy, but it's simple: We just need to stretch what we do to include mention of and learning about the rest of our natural "place" and community.
  • Ecologicalizing education means looking for principles of ecology and connections with the rest of Nature in as many of our learning activities as possible.
  • Follow up to any learning task that demands group work or cooperation can lead to discussion of the behaviour of fish in schools or birds in flocks. How did participants communicate to each other? Why? How do the strategies they came up with to meet their challenge compare with fish or birds dealing with a challenge such as a predator?
  • A group activity that demands cooperation can lead to participants discussing the similarities between humans and other social animals. For example, you can help your students learn how wolf behaviour can act as a metaphor for effective group functioning, character development and leadership.
  • That so many roles need filling to keep a classroom working well exemplifies the connectedness of the living web — what happens to the "web" within the physical and emotional space of the classroom if one participant falls down on the job? And how does this compare with losing one species or degrading one aspect of an ecosystem? Let's talk about these things with students.
  • If your education programming already includes lots of hands-on Nature connecting, you can highlight and reinforce ecological understandings by pointing out or asking for evidence of Nature's gifts or ecosystem services in action. This could be an ambulatory activity (one you do while walking between classes or travelling to different venues), or an ongoing project throughout the year.
  • Nature abides by rules. Games work well and reflect Nature if they combine rules with cooperation and some "friendly competition" (in the sense that every individual is doing his or her best). Beware of overstressing competition — the goal, it seems, of our culture. Ecology relies on mutualism (living things relying on each other), and life is all about synergistic symbiosis. In Nature, "the fittest" is the one who fits into its ecosystem best. This is a lesson our students desperately need to learn.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

How We Stopped A Landslide from Further Destroying a Forest.

How We Stopped A Landslide from Further Destroying a Forest.
Soil erosion and landslide prevention is one of the things we do besides tree-planting. We're pretty good at it. Here, my team Cordillera Ecological Center and A Tree A Day (ATAD) worked hard at Longlong Forest to prevent a landslide from happening using bio-engIneering techniques..