Best of our wild blogs: 20 Oct 16

Singapore Raptor Report – Early Autumn Migration, July-September 2016
Singapore Bird Group

Green Drinks Documentary Screening: Planetary
Green Drinks Singapore

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55 years of haze: How plane bound for KL overflew to Singapore when it was all hazy on Oct 19, 1961

Audrey Tan, Straits Times AsiaOne 20 Oct 16;

SINGAPORE - Good weather may have kept the haze away from Singapore for now, but it is unlikely that the seasonal plague is gone for good.

Plumes of smoke haze have clouded Singapore's skies almost every year from as far back as the 1960s, with the first haze episode reported on Oct 19, 1961.

We look back at 55 years of haze history:

1. When it all started

Singapore's first encounter with haze was on Oct 19, 1961.

The haze that day was so bad that an aircraft flying from London missed its destination, Kuala Lumpur, and overflew to Singapore. The Straits Times also reported then that several readers had called in to ask if the haze had anything to do with a nuclear fallout.

2. Introducing the PSI

In 1991, Singapore's Environment Ministry introduced the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI), which indicates the concentration of suspended particles, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and ozone in the air.

As a recap, health advisories issued by the authorities are based only on the 24-hour PSI, which measures the average concentration levels of component pollutants over the past 24 hours. This is because scientific and epidemiological studies on the health effects of particulate matter have been based on 24-hour exposure, and not shorter-term measurements.

There are five air quality descriptors: Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, Very Unhealthy and Hazardous.

For more info on the types of activities that should be carried out during these periods, go to

3. El Nino and haze

The year 1997 was an El Nino year, during which Indonesia experienced drier than usual conditions which made the peatland and forests there more flammable.

Fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan smothered the whole region in the worst haze at that time. The fires razed about 5 million ha of virgin forest and agricultural land in South Kalimantan and Sumatra, an area nearly 80 times the size of Singapore.

Considered one of the worst haze episodes to hit Singapore, it resulted in over $500 million in disruptions and lost revenue, according to environmental group World Wide Fund For Nature.

But that was not the worst haze crisis Singapore has encountered.

The most serious episode was in 2015, which was also an El Nino year.

4. The day when three-hour PSI hit 401

On June 21, 2013, the three-hour PSI climbed to 401, causing panic among some Singaporeans. Long queues formed at pharmacies and shops selling the N95 mask. But the authorities stopped short of issuing stop-work orders and asking schools to close as the 24-hour PSI did not reach hazardous levels.

But amid the hazy skies, there was a silver lining.

The 2013 haze crisis prompted regional governments to take action. ASEAN countries adopted a haze monitoring system and agreed to share satellite data to help better locate fire hot spots and determine if they are on land owned by plantation companies. Indonesia also ratified the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution.

5. Going after the culprits

The Transboundary Haze Pollution Act, passed in Parliament in August 2014, targets those responsible for causing or condoning fires if burning results in unhealthy levels of haze here.

Those guilty can be fined up to $100,000 a day, capped at $2 million, for causing unhealthy haze - defined as a 24-hour PSI value of 101 or greater for 24 hours or more.

The 2015 haze crisis saw the Singapore Government wielding its powers under the Act for the first time. The National Environment Agency (NEA) sent six Indonesia-based firms notices under the Act asking them to explain steps they are taking to put out and prevent fires on their land.

NEA also served Singapore-listed firm Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) a legal notice to supply information on its subsidiaries in Singapore and Indonesia, and the measures taken by its suppliers in Indonesia to put out fires in their concessions.

6. Be grateful for clean air: Jusuf Kalla

In March 2015, Indonesian Vice-President Jusuf Kalla rapped neighbouring countries for complaining about the haze, and asked them instead to be grateful for the clean air they enjoy for the rest of the year.

"For 11 months, they enjoyed nice air from Indonesia and they never thanked us... They have suffered because of the haze for one month and they get upset," he was quoted as saying in the Jakarta Globe.

It was a flashback to 2013, when Mr Agung Laksono, a minister in the previous government, hit out at murmurs from Singapore, which was then shrouded by the haze.

"Singapore shouldn't be like children, in such a tizzy," he said. Some days later, his colleague Jero Wacik warned Malaysia and Singapore not to "tell stories to the world".

7. Understanding PM2.5

Tiny pollutant particles 30 times smaller than the diameter of a strand of human hair are what makes haze dangerous, as they are small enough to enter the bloodstream and be carried to other organs. These particles are known as PM2.5.

NEA has been publishing one-hour PM2.5 concentration readings since 2014, but it announced in June 2016 that it will provide breakdowns of what constitutes normal to very high levels of one-hour PM2.5 concentrations.

This is to help the public make sense of the readings and plan their immediate activities.

For instance, the range of 0 to 55 micrograms per cubic metre (mcg/m3) is described as "normal", while anything above 250 mcg/m3 will be described as "very high".

8. Green awakening

If the 2013 haze moved governments to act, the crisis in 2015 did the same for consumers. There was a green awakening among consumers and businesses, which sought to be more responsible with their purchases and practices.

Consumers said they would boycott products from haze-linked firms, while firms distanced themselves from suppliers such as APP over supposed links to the haze. Supermarkets yanked APP products off their shelves after the Singapore Environment Council suspended the use of its Green Label on APP products.

Non-government groups, including volunteer group People's Movement To Stop Haze (PM.Haze) and WWF, launched campaigns such as We Breathe What We Buy to educate the public about how everyday choices - from buying cheese to toothpaste and lipsticks - could drive the palm oil industry where few employ sustainable or legal land clearing practices.

For more information, go to

On Oct 13, NTUC FairPrice chief executive Seah Kian Peng announced in a Straits Times forum letter that the supermarket now carries cooking oil from Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certified sources.

Sources: WWF, ST Archive

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Singapore’s data mirrors UN’s on Cambodia’s sand export numbers

Alex Willemyns and Mech Dara Phnom Penh Post 19 Oct 16;

Singaporean customs data on sand imports from Cambodia show near identical figures to those recorded by the UN, which last month were dismissed by a top official amid a reporting discrepancy in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

The UN data showed $752 million in imports of sand from Cambodia since 2007, despite Cambodia reporting only about $5 million in exports to Singapore.

Mines and Energy Ministry spokesman Dith Tina said on September 27 that the UN data, which recorded 72.7 million tonnes of Cambodian sand entering Singapore from 2007 to 2015 but only 2.8 million tonnes leaving Cambodia, were not based on “concrete proof”.

However, customs data obtained from Singapore’s Trade Ministry yesterday for half that period – 2011 to 2015 – are for each year the same as the UN Commodity Trade Statistics Database figure, and show Cambodia exported $405 million of sand to Singapore.

Where the UN data showed $91.29 million of sand from Cambodia to Singapore in 2011, the customs data – converted from Singaporean to US dollars at that year’s average exchange rate – show a near identical $91.32 million of arrivals of Cambodian sand.

The government recorded only $707,843 of total sand exports to Singapore that year, according to figures from the Commerce Ministry.

For 2012, the UN’s data show $69.27 million leaving Cambodia for Singapore, whereas Singapore’s customs data show $69.33 million. Cambodia recorded only $457,647 of sand exports to Singapore that year.

The figures match for every subsequent year, with the most sand sold in 2014. In that year, UN data record $127.76 million of sand leaving Cambodia for Singapore, and the Singaporean data show $127.81 million. Cambodia recorded only $70,883 of sand exports that year.

Unlike the UN’s data, which note both the volume of exported sand and also the value, the Singaporean customs data note only the value.

Prime Minister Hun Sen in 2009 banned the export of dredged river and marine sand from Cambodia – except for where the sand was obstructing waterways – but the status of that ban has since been unclear, with many large-scale dredging operations continuing unabated.

Tina, the Mines and Energy Ministry spokesman, who last month also called use of the UN data “unprofessional” and told a local media outlet the disparity could be due to different valuation methods on each end, declined to comment on the customs data yesterday.

“Why do you keep on asking the ministry to accept the figure declared by . . . we don’t know which institution? Why don’t you ask the owner to comment on their figure?” Tina wrote in an email, denying that the differences may suggest something illegal occurred.

“How did you get to this logic? It’s more constructive if you can provide concrete proof showing illegal activity and the perpetrators,” he said.

Tina said six firms had licences to export sand. He did not respond to questions about the status of the 2009 ban.

Singapore’s embassy in Phnom Penh also did not respond to a request for comment. However, an embassy official said earlier this year that the export of sand from Cambodia was a commercial matter and did not involve the Singaporean government.

Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson, the founder of the NGO Mother Nature who was deported in February 2015, said in an email he believed the hundreds of millions of dollars of sand exports were being hidden to protect companies like CPP Senator Ly Yong Phat’s LYP Group from rebuke.

Neither Yong Phat nor representatives of the LYP Group could be reached for comment yesterday.

“Those high up in the government who are organizing and abetting this crime, together with partnering cartels such as the LYP Group, want to ensure that their criminal activities are not widely uncovered, primarily so that they can continue smuggling sand,” Gonzalez-Davidson said.

“The government should immediately place a moratorium on all further sand extraction activities along coastal estuaries of Cambodia. Then relevant government authorities should take a trip to fishing communities affected by the mining and go from house to house apologizing for these last nine years of thievery.

“After, they should publicly apologize to the entire nation for this total scam, and then start returning the hundreds of millions of dollars that have been pillaged from the nation,” the activist added.

Gov’t: Illegal Sand Dredging Over
VEN RATHAVONG Khmer Times 18 Oct 16;

An official from the Mines and Energy Ministry said yesterday that illegal sand dredging along the Mekong and Bassac rivers had been stopped entirely since 2015, despite a report from the ministry last month which said fines issued by the government for unauthorized sand dredging had increased 154 percent over the past year.

Ung Dipola, the deputy director-general of the general department of mineral resources, took reporters and about 100 university students on a tour of sand dredging operations along the Mekong River yesterday.

During the event, he said the ministry had completely stopped the “anarchic sand dredging” – a reference to a statement sent to the National Assembly late last year by senior opposition party official Son Chhay, when he called into question the Kingdom’s oversight of the sand dredging industry.

Mr. Dipola said the ministry had granted 20 licenses to more than 10 companies with sand dredging operations along the Mekong River in Kampong Cham, Kandal and Prey Veng provinces. But in May, he said the ministry decided to circumvent an auction process for licenses and had unilaterally given out 84 licenses since the end of 2015.

“Until now, the illegal and anarchic sand dredging has been completely eliminated,” he said, claiming sand dredging companies were fully obeying the technical regulations set in place for those that reapplied for licenses to dredge this year.

Despite claiming that illegal sand dredging had ended entirely, he said the ministry was now fining companies caught dredging sand illegally. Every company, he said, is inspected and followed by ministry ships using GPS systems to make sure they are not dredging in reserved lots.

The ministry attempted to crack down on illegal sand dredging last year, banning the practice entirely and forcing all companies to reapply to the ministry for licenses last May. But many environmental groups say sand dredging companies never stopped and may have even increased their intake of sand during the ministry’s crackdown.

The business is lucrative, both for the companies selling the sand to an ever-growing Phnom Penh full of construction sites and for the government, which made $7.7 million last year through licensing fees, royalties and fines.

UN statistics on imports and exports showed a large chunk of revenue – $750 million – missing from the Kingdom’s books. Mines Ministry spokesman Dith Tina dismissed the figures and the report, saying the export numbers for many countries did not add up on both ends, and that the issue had more to do with how the UN collects its information than any malfeasance on the part of the Cambodian government.

The ministry has also been criticized for allowing companies to continue dredging sand despite overwhelming scientific evidence that the practice causes riverbanks to crumble, potentially costing local residents due to a loss of land or property.

According to a report from the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, millions of tons of sand have been dredged and exported to Singapore from Koh Kong’s estuaries since 2009.

“Cambodia became of interest to Singapore following Indonesia’s ban on sand exportation in 2007. In fact, due to its environmental impacts, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam have all limited or banned exports of sand to Singapore,” they wrote.

But Mr. Dipola said the collapse of any riverbanks was either due to water erosion – which environmentalists say is exacerbated by sand dredging – and illegal sand dredging, which did not involve social and environmental impact surveys before starting work.

“Before we grant licenses, we have to study it, hold a public forum,” he said, adding that licenses are not granted if they “affect the community or environment.”

He also claimed that sand dredging could help prevent riverbank collapses if the government was allowed to study the area first.

Yet a study by the California Department of Conservation on river sand dredging in the United States and New Zealand found that the destruction of riverbeds often preempted the collapse of banks and water erosion by making riverbanks higher and higher as more sand was taken out.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has also spoken on the link between the two, telling a crowd last March: “You [the Ministry of Mines and Energy] will be responsible for the places where sand dredging is allowed and [where it] causes the collapse of people’s homes.”

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New Zika cluster at Veerasamy Road; total reported cases in Singapore at 415

Today Online 20 Oct 16;

SINGAPORE — A new Zika cluster has been identified at Veerasamy Road in the Little India district, a day after the announced closure of the first and largest cluster at the Aljunied Crescent / Sims Drive area.

As of Wednesday (Oct 19), two cases were reported at Blk 633, Veerasamy Road with both showing symptoms in the last two weeks, according to figures on the National Environment Agency (NEA) website.

This brings the total number of active Zika clusters in Singapore to three. The two others are located at Ubi Avenue 1 and Jalan Chengkak/Jalan Raya.

The total number of reported Zika cases is now at 415.

New Zika cluster identified at Veerasamy Road in Little India
Channel NewsAsia 19 Oct 16;

SINGAPORE: A new Zika cluster has been identified at Veerasamy Road in the Little India district, according to data on the National Environment Agency's (NEA) website on Wednesday (Oct 19).

As of Wednesday, two cases have been reported at Block 633, Veerasamy Road, with both showing symptoms in the last two weeks, the NEA said.

There are two other active clusters in the country, at Ubi Avenue 1 – with four cases reported – and Jalan Chengkak/Jalan Raya, with three cases reported so far. They were declared clusters on Oct 13 and Oct 17 respectively.

The identification of the new cluster comes a day after the first and biggest local Zika cluster – in the Aljunied Crescent/Sims Drive area – was declared closed.

In its media release on Tuesday, NEA noted that sporadic cases continue to be reported in Singapore, indicating the presence of the Zika virus within the community. It added that it was keeping the Aljunied Crescent/Sims Drive area under close surveillance, and will continue to do so until Oct 31, three weeks after the date the cluster was closed.

Two new Zika cases were reported on Wednesday as of 3pm, bringing the total number of locally transmitted cases in Singapore to 415.

- CNA/mz

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Banned amulets with animal parts on sale online

Sellers on local online marketplaces offer illegal amulets made from animal parts
The New Paper 19 Oct 16;

These small trinkets carry big hopes for those who seek them.

They promise wealth, protection, business success and even sexual attraction to those who acquire these Thai amulets or similar items with "magical" properties.

You will not see such amulets displayed in shops here because it is illegal to sell or buy them.

But go online and you will find these exotic charms, made from the parts of protected animals such as the tiger, leopard cat, crocodile and python, readily offered by sellers, The New Paper discovered.

Mr Ricardo Choo, a businessman who has been trading in amulets for over a decade, told TNP that the illegal trade went underground after a crackdown by the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) several years ago.

Said Mr Choo: "Of course, you can still buy them, because these shops know their regulars and will show them what's not on display."


When TNP checked with 10 amulet shops in the Golden Mile and Chinatown areas, all of them said they did not deal in contraband amulets.

They said it was against the law to trade in such amulets, which are also known as animal Takruts.

On the flip side, online amulet peddlers brazenly display photographs of their wares and their contact details

TNP saw close to 50 online posts for items containing protected animal parts on Facebook and online marketplaces Carousell and Gumtree.

This is despite Carousell having a policy against the promotion of items involving protected wildlife.

Nine sellers in Carousell were ready to meet a reporter who posed as an interested buyer.

The banned amulets are also sold, auctioned or rented out in members-only online groups.

Mr Choo, who published a book titled The Spirit & Voodoo World of Thailand in 2011, said: "During my travels to Thailand, I was told that people buying these non-mainstream (amulets) are basically from Malaysia, Taiwan and Singapore.

"When something is banned, there's always a market for it."

The amulets or items that are said to contain magical powers can cost between $60 and $4,500.

While most of them originate from Thailand, others also come from Indonesia or Cambodia.

They are often referred to as "barang", Malay slang for "spiritual thing".

Typically, the amulets, which the sellers claim have been blessed by famous Thai monks, feature sacred scriptures wrapped in tiger or snake skin and are encased in plastic tubes smaller than an adult's palm.

Parts from cats and tigers are used in the amulets as they are believed to give the owners a sixth sense or make them feared.

Others sell animal parts strictly for business. Among the prohibited parts sold are tiger claws, teeth and skin, and elephant molars, tusks and tail hairs.

One online seller, who gave his name as John, insisted that the tiger claw and skin he advertised on Carousell were genuine.

He offered to sell a piece of tiger skin the size of a small book for $150.

The chief abbot of a Thai Buddhist temple in Singapore told TNP that people should not confuse culture with religion.

Phrakhru Udom of Wat Uttamayanmuni in Choa Chu Kang said: "Buddhism has nothing to do with these things (amulets and charms). They are all cultural beliefs."

He said amulets were traditionally made in the past to remind people of their Buddhist masters' teachings.

Hence, they were designed in the image of the Buddha, temples or religious figures.

The abbot said, tongue-in-cheek: "If these things work as claimed, then you don't need security, you don't need to work. With an amulet, you can become rich."

When something is banned, there's always a market for it.

- Mr Ricardo Choo, a businessman who has been trading in amulets for over a decade

AVA: Permit needed for amulets with animal parts

An AVA spokesman told The New Paper in an e-mail reply that it had received applications for Cites (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) permits to import elephant-hair bracelets and crocodile teeth as lucky charms and amulets.

In 1986, Singapore became a signatory to Cites, an international agreement ensuring trade does not threaten wildlife species with extinction.

The spokesman added: "We have zero tolerance on the use of Singapore as a conduit to trade in endangered species and their parts.

"Any illegally acquired or imported products that contain or purport to contain endangered species detected will be seized.".

Unfortunately, the trade in tiger parts continues, said Dr Chris R. Shepherd, regional director for South-east Asia at Traffic, a non-governmental organisation that monitors wildlife trade.

Dr Shepherd told TNP in an e-mail that wild tiger populations have been badly affected by poaching and illegal trade.

He said: "Online trade exacerbates illegal trade and provides a serious challenge to enforcement agencies. Also worrying is the fact that in these online forums, many of the underlying beliefs that drive the trade are left unchallenged."

But offenders have been caught in Singapore.

Since 2010, AVA has handled about 56 cases of illegally imported wildlife used in amulets originating from Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Africa


That year, 358 pieces of amulets allegedly made of tiger teeth, claws and skin were seized in 39 cases, with the offenders fined between $300 and $3,000.

Last year, there were six cases in which 37 pieces of amulets consisting of monkey bones, leopard and tiger claws, and seal skin were seized. The offenders were fined between $500 and $5,000.

Under the Endangered Species Act, trading of Cites-listed specimens without a permit is an offence which carries a fine of up to $50,000 per specimen, or a jail term of up to two years, or both.

The same penalties apply if anyone is caught advertising or selling illegal wildlife or their parts on the Internet.

Thai spiritual master smuggles animal charms into Singapore with soft toys
Thai spiritual master tells NGO he has powerful charms made from human foetuses, skulls and tiger cubs
The New Paper 20 Oct 16;

He proudly poses with his handiwork on Facebook.

Using the name Arjan Pheimrung Wanchanna, he displays for sale items such as snake and animal skin amulets, little monkey skulls, crocodile heads and other charms.

This man is one of the many Thai Arjans, or spiritual masters, who visit Singapore regularly to perform blessings and spiritual tattooing.

However, his use of animal parts in amulets has put him in the crosshairs of counter-trafficking organisation, Global Eye.

Arjan Pheimrung Wanchanna is among many Thai spiritual masters who visit Singapore regularly to perform blessings and spiritual tattooing.

What was even more shocking was Arjan Pheim's offer of more powerful charms.

In an exclusive interview, Global Eye operatives told The New Paper that Arjan Pheim had claimed that he could smuggle human foetuses, dead tiger cubs and adult skull fragments into Singapore.

Posing as interested buyers, the operatives met the Thai in a hotel room at Joo Chiat Road in March this year.

They secretly recorded the meeting, during which Arjan Pheim said in Thai: "I can guarantee. I have shipped (contraband wildlife and human parts) to Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan and China."

He also showed them pictures of his illegal merchandise on his mobile phone (which has been reproduced in a TNP video clip).

He also had images of a wet-looking tiger cub in a translucent pail and what looked to be a complete leopard skin.

More disturbing were pictures of a dried human-like foetus with the eyes and tiny fingers clearly visible. He later showed other samples of "ready-to-sell" foetuses wrapped in gold leaf.

The trafficking of wildlife and the smuggling of human parts are illegal in Singapore.


Global Eye chief executive officer Fiachra Kearney told TNP that traders such as Arjan Pheim not only destroy animal species, but "also destroy our dignity as human beings".

Mr Kearney said: "The Arjans kill and mutilate beautiful animals in the name of spiritual benefit, and how the drying of human beings benefits our collective spiritual well-being is something I can never understand.

"I imagine many Singaporeans would be deeply disturbed to know that these Arjans are entering their country and selling these items."

TNP learnt of Arjan Pheim's visits to Singapore late last year. Our investigations revealed that some Singaporeans and local amulet shops had promoted his illicit merchandise on their Facebook and Carousell pages.

A recent photo from Arjan Pheimrung Wanchanna's WeChat account showing dead tiger cubs to be made into charms.
We also found posts offering to sell dried female genitalia, or what is known as Yoni, and oil purportedly made from a female corpse.

TNP alerted the Singapore authorities, as well as Global Eye when other visiting Arjans were also found to be touting similar banned charms.

Arjan Pheim even told the undercover operatives that his products are illegal in both Thailand and Singapore.

Describing how he would smuggle a dead tiger cub into Singapore, he said: "You pack it with toys. It's all right. Lukok size is small. Not big size."

Claiming to have two dead tiger cubs, also known as tiger lukok, Arjan Pheim said that each would cost 70,000 baht (S$2,700).

The operatives left the meeting with samples of animal skin amulets.

In Thailand, the use of human foetuses for occult purposes is not uncommon, a senior police officer in Chiang Mai told TNP during a telephone interview in June.

Major-General Pacha Rattanapan said he once investigated a case of four dead foetuses found near a temple in 2015 following the arrest of a man.


He said that the foetuses were usually acquired from abortion clinics, adding: "After a woman has an abortion, the remainder (foetus) is then thrown away, and there are people who will purchase them to make Kuman Thongs (child spirits)."

He said the trading of foetuses is "illegal under Thai laws" because it is similar to concealing a corpse and not declaring a death.

The chief abbot of a Thai temple in Singapore said the Arjans' activities are not related to Buddhism.

Said Phrakhru Udom of Uttamayanmuni Buddhist Temple in Choa Chu Kang: "Arjans are not part of the Buddhist Sangha (community). Nowadays, there are a lot of cari makan (Malay for profiteering) Arjans."

Mr Ricardo Choo, who authored The Spirit & Voodoo World of Thailand in 2011, said Arjans come to Singapore because there is a lucrative market.

He told TNP: "The cost price (of a human foetus) is $2,000. Some people are willing to pay $4,000 to $5,000 in Singapore."

TNP understands that during his time in Singapore, Arjan Pheim was preparing four dead tiger cubs to be sold as "good luck charms".

He did not respond to TNP's request for an interview.

Smuggling in human parts is against the law

It is illegal to smuggle human parts into Singapore.

Shipping restrictions exist for human remains, including ashes, which have been classified as prohibited items for import into Singapore, said the Singapore Post website.

A permit is required from the National Environment Agency to transfer human remains from overseas to Singapore for cremation or burial.

But Arjan Pheimrung Wanchanna's purpose for bringing human parts here is not for burial - they are to be used as powerful charms.

He admitted to previously smuggling amulets made from protected wildlife and human parts like foetuses and skull bones into the region, including Singapore.

Doing so is illegal, lawyer S. Balamurugan told The New Paper.

He said: "There is a dearth of cases relating specifically to the smuggling and sale of human body parts, but this has been addressed in the Human Biomedical Research Act 2015, which prohibits the commercial trading of human tissue under Section 32.

"Nevertheless, the buying or selling of human organs or human blood is currently prohibited under section 14 of the Human Organ Transplant Act (Hota)."

Anyone found guilty of breaching Hota can be fined up to $100,000 or jailed up to 10 years, or both.

The snake and supposed "tiger" skin amulets, which Arjan Pheim gave to the two undercover operatives from Global Eye, were surrendered to the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum at the National University of Singapore.

Tests showed that the skin samples were from a leopard cat and a reticulated python. Both are protected species.

Anyone found possessing, selling or advertising endangered species which have been imported without a permit faces a fine of up to $50,000 per specimen (with a maximum of $500,000) and/or a jail sentence of up to two years.

The same penalties apply if netizens are caught advertising or selling illegal wildlife - whether real or fake - on the Internet.

What Arjan Pheim said about his amulets

Arjan ("spiritual master") Pheimrung Wanchanna made these claims while speaking in Thai to Global Eye operatives in a hotel room in Joo Chiat Road

Tiger gives you more authority or leadership. Small or big (amulet), it's the same.

I can guarantee. I have shipped (contraband wildlife and human parts) to Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan and China.

On how long it takes to 
process and deliver a tiger lukok, 
or encased tiger cub:

From the time I get the tiger, seven days later, I (ship) it out.

Referring to the amulets he had brought in from Chiang Mai, Thailand:

This one (snake and tiger amulet) is also illegal here.

Other Arjans also sell (tiger cub lukok). Other Arjans also do.

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Malaysia: 14 NGOs Form Gerak To Fight For Environmental Issues

Bernama 19 Oct 16;

KUANTAN, Oct 19 (Bernama)-- Fourteen non- governmental organisations (NGOs) have formed a joint body as a platform to champion and raise issues related to the environment in the country.

President of the Association for the Protection of Natural Heritage of Malaysia (Peka), Puan Sri Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil said the body called the Malaysian People's Environmental Movement (Gerak), was also joined by environmental activists including lawyer Siti Kasim.

"Recently, we held a seminar titled 'Sustainability of Natural Resources: Causes and Problems, Partnership and Solutions' for three days in Raub, Pahang. The 50 participants were from various groups such as environmental NGOs, as well as academicians and Orang Asli.

"After the seminar, we felt there was a need to form a joint body to unite all NGOs so that we can raise issues related to the environment and seek firmer solutions together," she told Bernama, here, today.

She said the body would be registered with the Registrar of Societies (ROS) soon and it was expected that more environmental NGOs would join it from time to time.

Among the NGOs that have already registered to join Gerak were Peka, People's Movement to Stop Bauxite Pollution (Geram), Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) Pahang branch, Association of Fireflies (Kecap), Malaysia Environmental Activists Association (Kuasa) and Pahang Orang Asli Village Network.

Meanwhile, Prof Dr Mohamed Maketab who was appointed as Gerak chairman, said the establishment of a joint body was aimed at helping to solve and voice concerns over environmental issues to the government such as mining issues, illegal and uncontrolled logging, and the destruction of rivers.

"Gerak is not established to oppose the government or any party, but we are against any act of destroying the environment because it will affect our future generations.

"In fact, we are willing to cooperate with any state government to resolve any issues related to the environment and to provide academic reports on the effects of the destruction. The time has come for the federal government and the state government to view the issue more seriously.

"Hopefully, we will not come to a day when the country's rivers have dried up and our forests have become bald, and only then we want to take action when it is too late," he said.


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Malaysia: Errant factories polluting rivers to be placed on registry

ADRIAN LAI New Straits Times 19 Oct 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: Errant factories operating along the country’s riverbanks will be placed on a registry before strict action is taken against them, said Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar.

He said that following the recent contamination of Sungai Semantan and Sungai Semenyih by an illegal factory, stricter measures need to be taken to ensure similar incidents did not happen in the future.

“I have called for a meeting with the Majlis Alam Sekitar Negara and during this meeting, I will list down factories operating at riverbanks that are polluting our rivers.

“With the council’s agreement, I have the power to direct these premises to be placed on a register.

Once that happens, we can take action against them and stop their operations,” he told reporters outside the Parliament lobby here today.

Wan Junaidi said he had previously instructed the state governments to relocate the errant factories, but admitted that “drastic action” needed to be taken to prevent further contaminations.

“The Department of Environment has the power to take action against these factories and premises,” he said, adding that the meeting will take place on Oct 24.

Three factories operating along Sungai Semantan in Pahang had been identified as being the possible source of the pollution that had forced the closure of the Semenyih water treatment plant earlier this month.

The Natural Resources and Environment Ministry had identified the factories, and Wan Junaidi had said the odour could have come from various chemicals.

Following the finding, the Department of Environment was instructed to investigate and identify the specific factories causing the pollution.

All three factories were operating on riverine reserved land, including at water catchment areas.

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Malaysia High tide phenomenon: Govt to build 'stronger' seawalls to protect coastal areas

ADRIAN LAI New Straits Times 19 Oct 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: The Natural Resources and Environment Ministry has announced plans to build “stronger” sea walls to protect the country’s coastal areas against flooding caused by the high tide phenomenon.

Its minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the ministry is looking to apply for a RM416 million allocation from the government to build embankments strong enough to withstand the strong tides.

“Accompanied by strong winds and heavy rains, water from the sea have broken through our existing embankments and flooded residential areas and farmlands,” he told reporters outside the Parliament lobby.

Wan Junaidi said he has instructed the Department of Irrigation and Drainage to look into the weaknesses of the sandbag seawalls installed, as well as to provide plans for more reliable alternatives.

“For the short term, we have RM3 million to spend on this new endeavour but for the long term, the total cost for this project is estimated to reach RM416 million.

“We are asking the government to give us this allocation and we hope to see it included it in next year’s Budget,” he said, adding that the situation at several spots along the costal area was critical.

It was reported yesterday that the high tide phenomenon had hit four areas in Port Dickson — Pantai Teluk Kemang; Pantai Bagan Pinang, Pantai Saujana, Batu 4 and Pantai Tanjung Biru.

In Selangor, 497 people from the coastal areas still remain at five separate relief centres after their homes were inundated with flood waters.

In Kedah, 94 people from 27 families were forced to leave their homes after their villages in Kota Kuala Muda in Sungai Petani were badly hit by high tides.

Almost 500 flood evacuees recorded in Selangor today
C. PREMANANTHINI New Straits Times 18 Oct 16;

KLANG: The number of flood evacuees in Selangor stood at 497 people out of 119 families this evening.

The Dewan Serbaguna Dato Ahmad Razali, Kapar housed 167 people from 43 families. The five active evacuation centres in operation are the Dewan Serbaguna Kampung Tok Muda, Dewan Serbaguna Dato Ahmad Razali (in Klang).

In Sabak Bernam, the active evacuation centres are the Dewan Sungai Air Tawar, and Dewan Parit Baru, Dewan Seri Sekinchan. The Selangor Fire and Rescue Department said no casualties were reported so far.

Earlier this, the river bund at Sungai Keramat in Kampung Sri Keramat, Batu 5 broke due to the high tide.

Selangor state disaster management coordinator (for Sementa) Mohd Azmi Mat Sangir said the high tide began at 3am and the five-metre bund later broke. The water level reached a height of 5.7 metres today.

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Indonesia Ratifies Paris Agreement on Climate Change

Jakarta Globe 19 Oct 16;

Jakarta. The House of Representatives approved the draft law ratifying the Paris Agreement, after receiving a seal of approval from House Deputy Speaker, Agus Hermanto, on Wednesday (19/10).

Signed by 197 United Nations member states during the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, the agreement was adopted on Dec. 12 last year and aims to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change.

As reported by state-run news agency Antar, Chairman of the House Commission VII, Gus Irawan, previously stated that all factions agreed with the government and hopes that all stakeholders will protect the environment and adapt to the impact of a changing climate.

Indonesia joins 81 other parties who have ratified the agreement – a giant step forward as one of the world’s largest carbon emitters, producing 760 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2012, according to World Research Institute.

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change stated that the agreement will be effective on Nov. 4, after 55 signatories, or those contributing to 55 percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions have ratified the pact.

Adopting Paris deal, RI to tap low-carbon energy
Hans Nicholas Jong The Jakarta Post 19 Oct 16;

Signaling its commitment to contribute to the global effort of combating climate change, Indonesia is set to ratify the Paris Agreement, which will guide a national plan to meet its targets in carbon cuts.

The government said the ratification, which is set to be passed into law by the House of Representatives on Wednesday, will make measures taken to reach emission goals easier to measure, especially the development of low-emission power plants.

Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar said Indonesia will benefit from the agreement’s strong emphasis on principles of cooperation.

The country’s national and regional environmental policies will be affected by the ratification.

“Land use policy, especially forest and peatland allocation policy, has to be prudent with sustainability principles,” she said.

To date, the Paris Agreement, which has resulted in a global commitment to reduce emissions, has been ratified by 81 nations representing 60 percent of global emissions.

The Paris Agreement will enter into force on Nov. 4, 30 days after the threshold for entry into force was achieved by at least 55 countries.

Indonesia has already committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions 29 percent below business-as-usual projections by 2030 or 41 percent if it receives international aid.

The government has long voiced its desire to benefit from the flow of international climate finance, especially in the Green Climate Finance (GCF), which is a multilateral financing mechanism for climate change within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

By ratifying the agreement, Siti said the country is expecting improved efforts through international funding, which will be used to develop low-emission energy, which requires large investments to initiate.

Energy consumption in Indonesia has been predicted to raise exponentially due to population growth and dependence on fossil fuels and will be a major carbon emission contributor right beside deforestation, with energy overtaking deforestation as the largest carbon emission contributor as early as 2020.

The country is estimated to have about 28 gigawatts in geothermal potential and 75 gigawatts in hydropower potential to general electricity. The estimated total potential of renewable energy is estimated to reach more than 300,000 megawatts. Indonesia still relies on fossil fuel to meet its electricity demand.

In 2015, 55.9 percent of electricity generation was fueled by coal, 25.7 percent by gas and 8.5 percent by diesel fuel. Renewable energy, like hydropower and geothermal energy only make up the remaining 9.9 percent of electricity generation, according to state-owned electricity company PLN data.

The government is planning to shift from dirty fossil fuel to clean renewable energy by targeting to increase electrification from renewable energy to 25 percent.

However, the government’s commitment to renewable energy has been questioned as it recently lowered the percentage of electricity targeted to be generated by renewable energy by 2025 to 19.6 percent from the initial goal of 25 percent.

The government has also decided to put the brakes on efforts to push the use of renewable energy in electricity procurement as it plans hefty cuts to state spending in the energy sector, with the biggest share to be taken from new and renewable energy.

At the same time, the government plans to add some 117 coal-fired power plants (PLTUs) to meet its ambitious target of installing 35,000 MW of electricity by 2019.

“We can see that the expansion of coal power plants is massive, with 60 percent of the 35,000 MW coming from coal. If we’re talking about our future carbon emissions, we can only imagine how much carbon comes from our coaldependency,” Greenpeace Indonesia head of climates Hindun Mulaika said.

Paris Agreement to test Jakarta’s commitment on carbon emissions
Daniel Murdiyarso Jakarta Post 19 OCt 16;

The ratification of the Paris Agreement by the EU, representing 28 countries, on Oct. 4 marked the surpassing of the 55 percent global emissions threshold for the agreement to enter into force. Having been ratified by 75 countries that account for 58.9 percent of global emissions, the agreement will enter into force on Nov. 4 (30 days after EU submission), just a few days before the 22nd session of the Conference of Parties ( COP22 ) starts on Nov. 7 in Marrakech, Morocco.

Although Indonesia is not one of the parties that make the Paris Agreement enter into force, the House of Representatives’ Commission VII approved its ratification bill on Monday. The House has set Oct. 19 as date for ratifying the agreement.

Like in other cases of international treaty ratification, the House only adopts one article stating that Indonesia ratifies the treaty. The process took longer than expected because the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) document was attached to it. Lawmakers needed to be convinced that the intention to reduce national emissions by 29 percent from the business-as-usual level in 2030 will not harm economic development.

Now, Indonesian delegates are full of confidence as they head to Marrakech. There are at least four reasons for Indonesia to get excited and work harder.

First, ratification will allow Indonesia to sit in the first Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement, known as CMA1. Indonesia can take part in shaping the new treaty that will be implemented in 2020. It is important to set the new tone of the common but differentiated responsibility and respective capacity (CBDR-RC) principle.

Second, Indonesia can start interacting in the funding mechanism under the Paris Agreement, including the Green Climate Fund. It is well known that Indonesia’s bulk work in the NDC is land use. Early action may be pursued to realize the implementation of the long-awaited REDD+ mechanism under the Paris Agreement.

Third, being an archipelagic country that is vulnerable to sea level rise, it is also timely to explore adaptation mechanisms under the Paris Agreement, such as joint mitigation and adaptation and legally binding loss and damage.

Fourth, Indonesia is to expand coal-fired power generation, which will be the biggest emission factor after land use. Technology transfer under the Paris Agreement has to be tapped and integrated into the domestic development agenda.

The main goal of the Paris Agreement is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping the global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The Paris Agreement pursues efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees. That does not mean that the agreement only deals with climate change mitigation. The Paris Agreement also aims at strengthening the ability of countries to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

After two decades of climate negotiations, Paris finally managed to put mitigation and adaptation measures on equal footing. The notion of integrating climate change adaptation and mitigation in the Paris Agreement is very strong. To meet these ambitious goals, a new technology framework and an enhanced capacity building framework will be put in place, supporting action by developing countries and the most vulnerable countries in line with their national objectives. Starting in 2020 the Green Climate Fund will be mobilized to raise US$100 billion per annum.

Globally, under the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change high scenario parties have pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 36 billion tons of CO2 equivalent by 2030. The pledge was initiated at COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009, known as the Copenhagen Accord, within which countries were encouraged to state their emission reduction target, base year and date of achievement.

After five years of waiting, COP20 in Lima came out with the so-called Intended Nationally Determined Contribution to guide parties to submit their pledge prior to COP21 in Paris, which then transformed into NDC to be submitted prior to Marrakech’s COP22 this year.

Domestically, Indonesia will have to nurture the submitted pledge. Ratification places responsibility on the entire society. It is the role of the government to address any identified weaknesses and mobilize strength, including by enhancing the capacity to combat land-based emissions, which are by far the largest burden as far as emission reduction is concerned.

The writer is a professor at the Department of Geophysics and Meteorology at the Bogor Agriculture University (IPB), principal scientist at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), member of the Indonesian Academy of Sciences (AIPI) and former national focal point to the UNFCCC.

RI agrees to quit using hazardous coolants
Hans Nicholas Jong The Jakarta Post 19 Oct 16;

As the consequence of a global agreement to end the use of powerful planet-warming substances in air-conditioners and refrigerators, Indonesia has committed to phasing out the chemicals, a tough choice for a tropical country soaked in sunshine year-round.

After earlier hesitance, Indonesia finally made the commitment to join nearly 200 other nations to support the movement during a conference in Kigali, Rwanda, last Saturday.

The government has laid out a plan to stop acquiring new products containing hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) by 2024. By 2050, Indonesia expects to totally phase out HFCs.

More than 100 developing countries, including China, the world’s top carbon emitter, will also start taking action by 2024, when HFC consumption levels are expected to peak.

“We’re asking for 2025 but according to global calculations, we have to start in 2024,” said Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar.

In a previous global meeting on the phasing out of HFCs held in Vienna, Austria, in July, the ministry expressed its concern over the plan, especially the implication on industries that use HFCs for production.

“The availability of alternatives to HFCs needs to be considered,” the ministry said at the time.

It also expressed concerns about the availability of technology that had been tested in the local market.

Despite the initial concerns and reluctance, Siti said the government had now wholeheartedly embraced the commitment and would immediately start preparing for the phasing out of HFCs. HFCs are described as the world’s fastest-growing climate pollutant with 1,000 times the heat-trapping potency of carbon dioxide.

“They’re one of the main drivers of climate change as HFCs have much bigger global warming potential than CO2,” Greenpeace Indonesia climate change leader Hindun Mulaika told The Jakarta Post.

By phasing out HFCs, the world could avoid the equivalent of 100 billion tons of CO2, which translates into preventing about 0.5 degrees Celsius of global warming by 2050, according to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

While they are less plentiful than carbon dioxide, HFCs currently emit as much pollution as 300 coal-fired power plants each year.

That amount could rise significantly over the coming decades as air-conditioners and fridges reach hundreds of millions of new people.

In Indonesia alone, the number of domestic fridges is expected to reach 54 million units by 2020.

The use of HFCs in Indonesia has grown significantly over the past two decades as the chemicals are an alternative to ozone depleting substances banned under the Montreal Protocol — chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs).

The consumption of HFCs is currently unregulated in Indonesia so there are no restrictions, quotas or other rules for the chemicals, which are all imported. There is no HFC production in the country.

Indonesia mainly imports HFCs from China (73 percent), Europe (13 percent) and India (11 percent).

The total potential direct emissions of HFCs in the country could reach 24,683 kilotons of CO2 in 2020. This is expected to increase sharply to 1,688,448 kilotons of CO2 by 2050.

As consumption is predicted to rise exponentially, Hindun urged the government not to wait until 2024 to start phasing out HFCs.

“Why wait for 2024? There are natural refrigerants that have been developed and thus there’s no need to use chemicals [like HFCs] anymore,” she said.

Natural refrigerants are naturally occurring, non-synthetic coolants in fridges and air conditioners, including hydrocarbons (propane, butane and cyclopentane), CO2, ammonia, water and air.

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Super typhoon smashes northern Philippines

Channel NewsAsia 20 Oct 16;

MANILA: One of the most powerful typhoons to ever hit the Philippines destroyed houses, tore roofs off schools and ripped giant trees out of the ground on Thursday (Oct 19), but there were no immediate reports of deaths.

Super Typhoon Haima hit the northern province of Cagayan late on Wednesday night with winds almost on a par with catastrophic Haiyan, which was then the strongest storm to strike the disaster-prone Southeast Asian archipelago and claimed more than 7,350 lives in 2013.

Haima roared across mountain and farming communities of the northern regions of the main island of Luzon overnight, and by morning a picture was emerging of widescale destruction.

"Rice and corn plants as far as the eye can see are flattened," Villamor Visaya, a university teacher in Ilagan, one of the main northern cities with a population of 130,000 people, told AFP by telephone.

"Many houses were destroyed. I saw one school building crushed under a large tree... it was as if our house was being pulled from its foundations.

Haima hit coastal towns facing the Pacific Ocean with sustained winds of 225 kilometres (140 miles) an hour, and wind gusts of up to 315 kilometres.

It weakened overnight as it rammed into giant mountain ranges and by 9:00 am (0100 GMT) on Thursday was leaving the western edge of Luzon, heading towards southern China.

Jefferson Soriano, mayor of Tuguegarao, the capital of Cagayan where Haima made landfall, reported badly damaged schools and gymnasiums where people had sought shelter.

"They are calling for help because the roofs have been torn off. The problem is, our rescuers here are unable to go out and help," Soriana told DZMM radio before dawn while the storm was still raging.

President Rodrigo Duterte said on Wednesday night all possible preparations had been made for Haima, with tens of thousands of people evacuated, but he still struck an ominous tone.

"We only pray we be spared the destruction such as the previous times, which brought agony and suffering," Duterte said in Beijing, where he was on a state visit.

"But we are ready. Everything has been deployed."

About 10 million people across the northern parts of Luzon were at risk, the government's disaster risk management agency said on Wednesday.

The Philippine islands are often the first major landmass to be hit by storms that generate over the Pacific Ocean. The Southeast Asian archipelago endures about 20 major storms each year, many of them deadly.

The most powerful and deadliest was Haiyan, which destroyed entire towns in heavily populated areas of the central Philippines.

The capital of Manila is about 350 kilometres south of where Haima struck land.

However the city, with about 12 million people, was not affected, hit only by moderate winds overnight and little rain.

Haima was the second typhoon to hit the northern Philippines in a week, after Sarika struck on Sunday claiming at least one life and leaving three people missing.


Millions on alert as super typhoon hits Philippines
Channel NewsAsia 20 Oct 16;

MANILA: Millions of people in the Philippines were on high alert on Wednesday (Oct 19) as one of the strongest typhoons ever hit the disaster-battered country with authorities warning of giant storm surges and destructive winds.

Super Typhoon Haima hit the northern province of Cagayan at about 11.00pm on Wednesday, bringing strong winds and heavy rains almost on a par with catastrophic Super Typhoon Haiyan which claimed more than 7,350 lives in 2013.

"We only pray we be spared the destruction such as the previous times, which brought agony and suffering," President Rodrigo Duterte said in Beijing, where he is currently on a four-day visit. "But we are ready. Everything has been deployed."

Haima has a weather band of 800 kilometres putting more than 10 million people across the northern parts of the Philippines' main island of Luzon within its reach, according to the government's disaster risk management agency.

The storm struck the Philippines with sustained winds of 225 kilometres an hour and gusts of 315 kilometres an hour, state weather forecaster Gener Quitlong said.

It is expected to move westward on through the mountainous northern end of the main Philippine island of Luzon and will exit the landmass by Thursday, he told AFP. It is then expected to track towards southern China.

Civil Defence chief Ricardo Jalad said all areas in the storm's path had undergone pre-emptive evacuation although he could not give an estimate on how many had fled.

"We are expecting that there will be damages to light structures," as well as danger from possible floods and landslides, Jalad told radio station DZMM.

Authorities warned coastal communities to expect storm surges of five metres or higher.

"It's already started. The wind is strong, the waves are big," said Julie Hermano, manager of a small resort in Santa Ana, a coastal town of about 30,000 people that is in the typhoon's direct path.

"Some residents have been panic-buying food in markets because we were told it's going to be a super typhoon. We've already tied down our water tank and prepared our (power) generator set."


The Philippine islands are often the first major landmass to be hit by storms that generate over the Pacific Ocean. The Southeast Asian archipelago endures about 20 major storms each year, many of them deadly.

The most powerful and deadliest was Haiyan, which destroyed entire towns in heavily-populated areas of the central Philippines.

"We are possibly dealing with a typhoon that is even stronger than Typhoon Yolanda (as Haiyan was known in the Philippines) in 2013. We must therefore brace ourselves for the possible effects of a typhoon of this magnitude," government executive secretary Salvador Medialdea said in a statement.

"We call on all government agencies to be on highest level of preparedness and to take all necessary precautions."

In the northern regions expected to be worst hit, tens of thousands of people sought refuge in schools and other makeshift evacuation centres as authorities raised the highest "signal five" typhoon alert.

Flights to the north were also suspended and schools were closed.

Power to some areas was cut off late on Wednesday as strong winds heralding Haima's landfall brought down electricity lines.

The Philippine capital of Manila is about 350 kilometres south of where Haima struck land.

Authorities said the city, with about 12 million people, was not expected to be badly affected although it would experience some rain.

Haima is the second typhoon to hit the northern Philippines in a week, after Sarika struck on Sunday claiming at least one life and leaving three people missing.

- AFP/de

Typhoon kills 12, destroys rice fields in Philippines, takes aim at Hong Kong
Channel NewsAsia 21 Oct 16;

BENGUET, Philippines/HONG KONG: Typhoon Haima, the strongest storm to hit the Philippines in three years, killed at least 12 people and inundated vast tracts of rice and corn fields, officials in Manila said on Friday, before it took aim at Hong Kong.

Philippine authorities said they were assessing the extent of damage to infrastructure and crops, but confirmed that thousands of hectares of farmland were destroyed in northern provinces.

Eight of the victims were from the Cordillera region, said Ricardo Jalad, chief of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, citing reports the agency received from provincial officials.

In Cagayan alone, where the super typhoon made landfall late on Wednesday with destructive 225 kph (140 mph) winds and heavy rain, between 50,000-60,000 hectares of rice fields were flattened and flooded, said the provincial governor Manuel Mamba.

"It was like we were hit by another Yolanda," he told a radio station, referring to the 2013 super typhoon known internationally as Haiyan which killed at least 6,000 people and destroyed billions of pesos worth of property.

Hong Kong shut all but essential services in the global financial hub as the storm approached.

"According to the present forecast track, Haima will be closest to Hong Kong around noon, skirting about 100 km (62 miles) to the east of the territory," said the observatory on its website.

"This means that winds with mean speeds of 63 kmh (40 mph) or more are expected from the northwest quarter."

Flights and train services have been cancelled in and out of the city.

(Reporting by Erik de Castro in Manila and Greg Torode and Farah Master in Hong Kong; Editing by Nick Macfie)

- Agencies/rw

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World's mammals being eaten into extinction, report warns

First global assessment finds 301 species are primarily at risk from human hunting for the bushmeat trade
Damian Carrington The Guardian 19 Oct 16;

Hundreds of mammal species - from chimpanzees to hippos to bats - are being eaten into extinction by people, according to the first global assessment of the impact of human hunting.

Bushmeat has long been a traditional source of food for many rural people, but as roads have been driven into remote areas, large-scale commercial hunting is leaving forests and other habitats devoid of wildlife.

The scientists behind the new analysis warned that, without action, the wiping out of these species could lead to the collapse of the food security of hundreds of millions of people reliant on bushmeat for survival.

The work comes against the backdrop of the natural world undergoing the greatest mass extinction since a giant meteorite strike wiped out the dinosaurs 65m years ago, with species vanishing far more rapidly than the long term rate, driven by the destruction and invasion of wild areas by humans and their livestock and hunting.

The researchers, whose study is published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, used the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) red list to identify the endangered land mammals that are primarily at risk from hunting for food. They found 301 such species, representing 7% of all the land mammals assessed by IUCN and about a quarter of all endangered mammals. Other mammals are threatened by habitat loss or hunting for other reasons, such as elephants which are poached for their ivory.

The 301 species include 168 primates, such as the lowland gorilla and mandrill, 73 hoofed animals, such as the wild yak and bactrian camel, 27 bats, such as the golden-capped fruit bat and the black-bearded flying fox, and 12 carnivores, such as the clouded leopard and several bear species.

There are also 26 marsupials threatened by meat hunting, including the grizzled tree kangaroo, and 21 rodent species, such as the Sulawesi giant squirrel and the alpine woolly rat. All eight species of pangolins - scaly anteaters - are threatened and these species won top-level protection at the recent summit of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species.

“There are a plenty of bad things affecting wildlife around the world and habitat loss and degradation are clearly at the forefront, but among the other things is the seemingly colossal impact of bushmeat hunting,” said Prof David Macdonald, at the University of Oxford and part of the international team that produced the research. “You might rejoice at having some habitat remaining, say a pristine forest, but if is hunted out to become an empty larder, it is a pyrrhic victory.”

He said: “The number of hunters involved has gone up, and the penetration of road networks into the remotest places is such that there is no refuge left. So it becomes commercially possible to make a trade out of something that was once just a rabbit for the pot. In places like Cameroon, where I have worked, you see flotillas of taxis early in the morning going out to very remote areas and being loaded up with the [bushmeat] catch and taken back to towns.”

The scale of the global bushmeat trade is difficult to measure but, in 2011, the Center for International Forestry Research estimated 6m tonnes of animals were taken each year. Another estimate indicates 89,000 tonnes of meat, worth $200m, is taken every year from the Brazilian Amazon. The meat is also smuggled abroad, with 260 tonnes of wild meat per year estimated to be hidden in personal baggage at just one European airport, Paris Charles de Gaulle.

Bushmeat is often caught using long lines of snares, which trap animals indiscriminately. Macdonald, who works with the lions in Hwange park in Zimbabwe where Cecil the lion lived, has seen lions killed by snares set for game species.

The extinction of the threatened mammals would also irrevocably upset the balance of many ecosystems. For example, they include predators that keep rodents in check, species vital for dispersing seeds and others such as bats that pollinate flowers.

“With this [hunting] trend, the loss of mammal populations thus affects the livelihoods and food security for hundreds of millions of rural people across the globe,” the scientists warned.

Macdonald said: “You have got to distinguish between those people who have no choice but to eat bushmeat, and what is to be done for them, and people now living in towns who have a nostalgic memory for the time when they lived on bushmeat, but no longer need to, so it is a luxury.”

The researchers said solving the problem of over-hunting will require greater legal protection for the species, empowering local communities to benefit from wildlife conservation, providing alternative foods and better education and family planning to curb population growth.

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Bycatch is the biggest killer of whales: Time for the world to tackle the threat

WWF 20 Oct 16;

With hundreds of thousands of whales and dolphins dying every year after being accidentally entangled in fishing gear, the world must take concrete steps during the International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting starting today in Slovenia to lessen the serious threat posed by bycatch.

While much of the attention will focus on Japan’s illegitimate ‘scientific’ whaling programme in the Southern Ocean, participants from over 80 countries will also have a host of other critical issues to discuss, including a proposal for the IWC to kick-start global efforts to reduce fisheries bycatch, which kills at least 300,000 whales, dolphins and porpoises – all known as cetaceans – every year.

Bycatch was a critical factor in the recent extinction of the Yangtze River dolphin in China, and is the greatest threat to endangered North Atlantic right whales and Arabian Sea humpback whales, as well as the critically endangered vaquita in Mexico, Maui and Hector’s dolphins in New Zealand, Baltic harbour porpoises, and many river dolphin species.

“As much as Japan cannot be allowed to continue its unlawful whaling operations, the IWC cannot continue to avoid tackling the biggest killer of the lot – bycatch,” said Aimee Leslie, WWF Cetacean Programme Leader. “Countless cetaceans can be saved every year if the IWC takes the lead and helps countries adopt effective measures to mitigate bycatch in both national and international waters.”

With Japan launching another controversial whaling expedition in the Antarctic in the 2015-16 summer season in contravention of a resolution of the last IWC meeting as well as the global moratorium on commercial whaling, this divisive issue will also be in the spotlight.

Along with condemning this clearly commercial whaling programme, IWC countries can also make it harder for any country to flout the rules in the future by strengthening the review process for special whaling permits and ensuring that no permits are granted in whale sanctuaries created by the IWC.

“Countries seeking a permit to kill whales in the name of science should not be part of the IWC review process,” said Leslie. “In the future, lethal research should only be conducted in response to a specific scientific need identified by the Commission that cannot be addressed through non-lethal methods – and never in an established whale sanctuary.”

Governments gathered in Slovenia will also have the chance to create a vast new protected area that would be off-limits to whaling – the South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary. This is the first IWC sanctuary proposal to include a management plan.

Over fifty species of cetaceans inhabit the area’s waters, including seven – blue, fin, sei, common minke, Antarctic minke, humpback and southern right whales – that are highly migratory. The proposed sanctuary would offer protection to these whale populations, which benefit coastal communities across the southern hemisphere through whale watching activities and non-lethal research.

In addition to these issues, the IWC meeting will also discuss the need to address whale strandings and the importance of whales for the marine ecosystem, as well as urgent measures to protect endangered small cetaceans, such as the removal of all active and ghost gillnets in the Upper Gulf of California to halt the vaquita’s slide towards extinction and the closure of net and trawl fisheries within the habitat of the equally endangered Maui’s dolphin.

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Eco-friendly cooking oil now available at FairPrice

It is first supermart chain to do so; 2 products certified to be from sustainable sources
Audrey Tan Straits Times 19 Oct 2016

Singapore's biggest supermarket chain now stocks two cooking oil products which are certified to be from sustainable sources.

FairPrice, which has 134 outlets here, has become the first supermarket chain here to carry environmentally-friendly cooking oil, said volunteer group People's Movement to Stop Haze (PM.Haze).

"This helps to put the fight against haze in the hands of the consumer," said PM.Haze executive director Zhang Wen.

The two products - FairPrice Premium Cooking Oil and FairPrice Vegetable Oil - have been certified by its supplier to be from certified sources under the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), said a FairPrice spokesman.

Oil palm has become a cause for concern as forests in Malaysia and Indonesia are cleared for these plantations. The forests are sometimes razed by fire, contributing to haze during the dry season.

Currently, RSPO-certified palm oil is "the closest to being haze-free", noted PM.Haze president Tan Yi Han.

NTUC FairPrice chief executive Seah Kian Peng earlier announced in a Straits Times forum letter published last week that the supermarket now carries cooking oil from RSPO-certified sources. He was responding to a letter from PM.Haze's Mr Tan, who called for major supermarket chains to carry RSPO-certified palm oil.

Mr Tan said: "FairPrice's move is important as it shows that carrying sustainable palm oil products can be done without significantly increasing prices."

Noting that today is the 55th year to the day that Singapore first experienced haze on Oct 19, 1961, Mr Tan said FairPrice's move was apt as it showed that Singaporeans can contribute to the fight against haze instead of suffering in silence.

An ST check yesterday showed that FairPrice Premium Cooking Oil retails at $4.95 for a 2-litre bottle, while the 2-litre FairPrice Vegetable Oil costs $4.80.

While the price of FairPrice Premium Cooking Oil has remained the same, the price for the Vegetable Oil has increased by less than 5 per cent compared with last year.

"Though the cost for these products has increased, FairPrice has absorbed most of the additional cost," said a spokesman, adding that the chain's in-house products are still 10 to 15 per cent cheaper than popular brands.

Supermarket chain Giant said it is also working with RSPO-certified suppliers and is looking into providing more certified products "while bearing in mind that we need to provide a range of affordable products that will meet the needs of our customers".

Personal assistant Tan Kah Heok, 53, said she will support eco-friendly cooking oil options, provided the price difference is not too big.

But she added: "Not many people know what sustainable palm oil is, and some may think the ingredients have been changed and could have adverse health effects, so I think there needs to be better outreach."

The World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF) is trying to address this.

Last year, it launched the We Breathe What We Buy campaign with other non-government groups to educate the public about how everyday choices - from cheese to toothpaste and lipsticks - are driving the palm oil industry, where few companies employ sustainable or legal land-clearing practices.

This year, it is asking businesses here to do their part.

Mr Kim Stengert, WWF Singapore's communications director, said: "Despite the small size of the local market, Singapore-based brands have a strong Asia or even international presence... For Asean to meet its commitment of being haze-free by 2020, businesses here should already have plans in place to eliminate unsustainable palm oil sourcing."

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Palm oil trade body calls out Singapore supermarket over sustainability claims Robin Hicks eco-business

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