Saturday, August 30, 2014


by Antonio C. Antonio
August 20, 2014

Desertification is a major cause for alarm and is considered a significant global ecological and environmental problem.  History has witnessed the demise of societies and cultures in the periphery of the 3 desert epicentres; namely, (1) The Mediterranean; (2) The Mesopotamian Valley; and, (3) The north-western plateau of China.

Although there are several definitions of the term “desertification” the most widely accepted one is: “The process of fertile land transforming into desert typically as a result of deforestation, drought or improper/inappropriate agriculture.”  (Princeton Dictionary)  Desertification is a form of soil and land degradation wherein dry land areas become increasingly arid and loses water, flora and fauna.  Climate change caused by anthropogenic (meaning: manmade) activities is the main cause of desertification.

The area affected by desertification is estimated at 12 million square kilometers representing 15% of the earth’s dryland.  Drylands occupy approximately 40% of the earth’s total land area.  Knowing that Mother Earth is mostly water --- 361 million square kilometers of water vis-à-vis 149 million square kilometers of land --- it is easy to assume that losing land (as opposed to losing water) is a more imminent possibility.  Aside from desertification, land is also lost through rising water levels caused by global warming/shrinking polar caps.

What causes desertification?  Land conversion from forest to agriculture will most likely experience desertification especially when agricultural activities are not managed properly.  Vegetation plays a vital role in determining the quality of soil.  Desertification hastens when vegetation is removed and, with the soil exposed and unprotected, fertile soil is blown away with the wind or washed away by floods.  Soil without vegetative cover is most likely to bake in the sun and lose its nutritional elements.  Another cause of desertification is over-grazing.  The ratio of grazing land to (say) one cow is 1 to 1 hectare of pasture land.  Livestock overpopulation will not allow the pasture land to recover.

Deserts are formed by natural processes over a long period of time.  Depending on the human activity interventions, deserts either shrink or expand.  The main stabilizing factor that stunts the growth of deserts is reforestation or the introduction of well-managed agriculture.  There are techniques and programs to reverse desertification which are anchored on agricultural production.  However, these mitigation measures are costly and farmers are not too keen on adopting them.  More often, the cost of adopting sustainable agricultural practices in arid and dry lands is more than the benefits.  Funding support remains to be the central issue in man’s fights against desertification. But something needs to be done since approximately 1 billion people live under the threat of desertification.

Just my little thoughts…

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Friday, August 29, 2014

Barry Commoner

by Antonio C. Antonio
August 22, 2014

Barry Commoner was an American born into a Jewish family in Brooklyn, New York, USA on May 28, 1917.  His parents were Russian migrants.  He was a Biologist educated in Columbia University and Harvard University.  Married and divorced Gloria Gordon with whom he had 2 children; then married Lisa Feiner.  Commoner just recently died on September 30, 2012 in Manhattan, New York.  He served as a lieutenant in the US Navy during World War II.

In 1953, Barry Commoner became a Newcomb Cleveland Prize awardee for the many works and studies he made in the field of biology and environmental sciences.  In 1970, he received the “International Humanist Award” after authoring several books about the negative effects to the ecology of atmospheric nuclear testing.  Aside from writing, another interest of Commoner was publications as he served as editor of the Science Illustrated magazine.  He also published a newsletter called “Nuclear Information” which later became the “Environment” magazine.  Commoner was a professor for 34 years of plant physiology at the Washington University and founded the Center for the Biology of Natural Systems --- an entity dedicated to the study of the science of the total environment. 

Barry Commoner’s public life began to unravel when he presented his strong opposition to nuclear weapons testing.  Later, he ran for president of the United States in the 1980 presidential elections under the Citizen’s Party but lost.  His political life pales in comparison to his life as a biologist, educator, writer and environmentalist.  Commoner is credited and most remembered for postulating the Four Laws of Ecology:
  1. Everything is connected to everything else.
  2. Everything must go somewhere.
  3. Nature knows best.
  4. There is no such thing as a free lunch.

These Laws of Ecology highlighted the following facts: (a) That there is one ecosphere for all living organisms and what affects one, affects all; (b) That there is no “waste” in nature and there is no “away” to which things can be thrown; (c) That mankind has fashioned technology to improve upon nature, but such change in a natural system is likely to be detrimental to that system; and, (d) That exploitation of nature will inevitably involve the conversion of resources from useful to useless forms.

At present, these Laws of Ecology by Barry Commoner remain largely relevant and still has profound influence in the thought processes of people… especially pro-environment students, practitioners and advocates-activists.  These laws are still held as noble tenets to ecological and environmental protection.  Thanks to a commoner with an uncommonly great mind in Barry Commoner.

Just my little thoughts…

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Goodbye Facebook and Twitter

by Antonio C. Antonio
August 28, 2014

“Environmental communication, as a practice, includes a broad spectrum of interactions ranging from interpersonal communications to specific forums to social and mainstream media.  As environmental communications is a practice and a multidisciplinary field of study that has effects and influence in the daily lives of people, the conduct of businesses, government functions and most, if not all, aspects of human existence in relation to his environment, its importance cannot be treated as mundane.  Environmental communication highlights the need to realize that understanding HEI (human-environment interaction) is not the product of science alone but a product of participatory interaction among people in academic discussions, public policy fora and debates, social and mainstream media information and feedback, and even ordinary daily conversations.  The most cost effective and cost efficient mode of environmental communication is through social media.” (Antonio, 2014)

The Philippines has been dubbed as “the social media capital of the world”… perhaps, because of the fact that the Filipinos are the most friendly and sociable people on earth.  We have broken down racial barriers and managed to spread our goodwill and friendship to the other parts of the world using social media.  Social media is also used in communicating advocacies… especially a pro-environment advocacy which is struggling to find a universal niche.  But as things are going, sooner or later (but hopefully not), social media may also be costly or non-existent.  If this happens, pro-environment advocates will be hard-pressed on their environmental communication effort.

The Bureau of Internal Revenue has already served a request to the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to block several ISPs (Internet Service Providers) and several international websites for failure to remit proper taxes from operating within the Philippine internet domain… to include social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.  Allegedly, these business entities failed to submit tax declarations from their operations in the country.  BIR Commissioner Kim Henares estimates about PhP 350 million have been transacted through Facebook and Twitter (alone) since 2009 when they became popular in the Philippines and started offering their websites as advertising venues.

The top 10 ISPs in the Philippines are (1) Smart Broadband, Inc., (2) Globe Telecom, (3) Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company, (4) Sun Cellular, (5) Bayan Telecommunications, Inc., (6) Meridian Telekoms, Inc., (7) Sky Cable, (8) Eastern Telecom Philippines, Inc., (9) Bell Telecommunication Philippines, Inc., and (10) Wi-tribe Telecom, Inc.  And the total number of subscribers for Internet services in the Philippines is estimated at 5.3 million (as of 2012).

The questions that are foremost in the minds of Filipino netizens will most likely be: (1) “Will Facebook, Twitter and other international websites cooperate, submit tax declarations and pay the corresponding taxes to the Philippine government?; (2) Will the ISPs step forward and own up to these tax deficiencies?; and, (3) Will 5.3 million Filipinos say: “Goodbye, Facebook and Twitter”?

Just my little thoughts…

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Terrestrial Hydrology

by Antonio C. Antonio
February 11, 2014

The image included in this article will give us an idea on the important functions involved in Terrestrial Hydrology which are as follows:

1.     The forest canopy intercepts rainfall, protects soil and provides shade;
2.     The forest canopy promotes transpiration, nutrient storage and trapping of air pollutants;
3.     The forest floor functions as a filter for sediment and other chemicals;
4.     The forest floor promotes infiltration and water and nutrient storage; and,
5.     Ground soil functions as a filter to remove biological nutrients and pollutants.

QUESTION:  If our watershed management objective is to produce as much water as possible, do you think reducing the number of trees and replacing them with small trees and bushes will help?  Why or why not?


My answer to this question is based largely on the experiences of the forest management company I worked for. 

Part of sustainable forest management is a program called “Timber Stand Improvement” or TSI.  In the company I used to work for, I would often grill our technical staff (our foresters) on the benefits and cost justification of this program.  I always argue that “we should not fix anything that is not broken” as I (from a layman’s viewpoint) didn’t see anything wrong with the forest within our area of operation.  It was in one of these meetings with the foresters that one of them mentioned that “TSI will improve terrestrial hydrology”… a term strange to me then as it was the first time I heard of it.  They went on to say that TSI will increase the water-bearing capacity of the ground which will guarantee continuous growth of trees even during the dry season.  

TSI, I should also mention, does not necessarily mean felling or harvesting of trees.  It only entails clearing of unwanted branches (the canopy) through pruning and brushing of the forest floor… but, none-the-less, an expense item which was my only concern (from the purely business management standpoint) considering the wide area where TSI would have to be implemented.  But, then, who am I to argue on the merits of the forester’s professional opinion… when my job was to make sure that the necessary funds are made available for the TSI program.

Using the borrowed knowledge I have, I should say that replacing trees with smaller ones and bushes will not support a watershed management plan to possibly produce as much water.  The TSI program specifically calls for canopy clearing and forest floor clearing as well.  Replacing trees with smaller ones is not also part of the deal.  I will just have to trust our foresters on this one (their contention that this will increase the water-bearing capacity of the forest) as I cannot intelligently justify my argument for now.  In the meantime, I really should indulge in more research and study of terrestrial hydrology.

Just my little thoughts…


·         Hydrology (
·         Transpiration (
·         Evaporation (

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Trade Liberalization

by Antonio C. Antonio
July 31, 2014

QUESTION:  What would be the impact of liberalized trade patterns on the Philippine forestry and upland sector?

The Philippines is a member of a multi-lateral trade association called ASEAN or Association of South East Asian Nations.  The ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (AFTA) is an agreement among ASEAN-member nations signed in January 28, 1992 which supports the region’s manufacturing sector.  The following were original countries who signed up in the AFTA; Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.  Vietnam joined in 1995, Myanmar and Laos joined in 1997 while Cambodia joined in 1999. At present, all ten ASEAN-member countries have signed the AFTA.

The primary objectives of AFTA focus on: (a) Increasing ASEAN’s competitive advantage and edge as a production area in the world market by eliminating or minimizing tariffs and non-tariff barriers; and, (b) Attracting more foreign direct investments to ASEAN.

To increase the competitive advantage of ASEAN, a Common Effective Preferential Tariff scheme was adopted by its members.  This scheme gives ASEAN nations free and affordable access to products and services offered in the region.  The ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) will be upon us soon (2015) and it seems inevitable that ASEAN integration will come to pass.  And there really is reason for us to be apprehensive about this.  It should be noted that most, if not all, regional grouping of countries are more often dominated by the stronger economies.  The weaker states are normally benefitted only by the crumbs from the table of the more economically advanced countries.

ASEAN is made up of 10 countries.  If we ranked them, the first five should be (1) Singapore, (2) Brunei, (3) Thailand, (4) Malaysia and (5) Indonesia while the bottom half should be (6) Vietnam, (7) Cambodia, (8) Philippines, (9) Laos and (10) Myanmar.  From this rough positioning, it is easy to determine that Singapore, Brunei and Thailand will be the dominant members with Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Cambodia still exercising some degree of influence while the bottom three --- Philippines, Laos and Myanmar --- are the bit players… in Tagalog: “Susunod-sunod lang sa agos.”

It’s always nice and ideal to be part of a regional group… but it would be a lot better if we come in from a position of strength and dominance?  Of course, the official line will always be that such grouping is necessary for the stronger members to help the weaker members.  But that is, unfortunately, a myth.  Take Singapore for example… it is the smallest member state to ASEAN, lacking in natural resources compared to other member states, just a trading post in Southeast Asia, but the most progressive and financially stable in the region.  It is hard to believe that Singapore, together with the other “first five” members, will not exploit the organization to their advantage.

The Philippines ranks second to the last in terms of remaining forest cover with barely 25% left at present.  Where does this leave us now that we are at the bottom of the list in forest cover left in the ASEAN community.  It should be noted that even if Singapore is last on the list, this country’s core competence is international trade and would not at all be bothered by its lack of natural resources.  But the case of the Philippines is different.  Like most underdeveloped economies, our only bargaining chip is our natural resources.  But what do we bargain with if we don’t have it (forest resources) anymore.  How do we now compete from a position of strength?

Another contemptuous issue is the balanced utilization of natural resources.  Environmental concerns in the international community of nations have risen to higher levels in the past three decades.  Global Warming and Climate Change are now the priority concerns of everyone.  And everyone would like to hold on to the natural resources available in their respective countries in reserve while importing natural resources from others.  The more dominant and economically advanced countries are feeding on the inability of weaker economies to compete in the world market.  On the other hand, underdeveloped and developing countries have nothing to offer but their natural resources in a bid to industrialize and improve their financial positions.  The effects of this trading condition will only felt in the long term… when the poor economies find themselves poorer with the depletion of their natural resources.  The most often abused natural resources are forest and mineral resources.  Although forest resources are renewable, mineral resources, however, are not.

There is very limited number of economic activities in the upland.  The industries involved in the upland are mostly limited to agriculture, forestry and mining.  Agriculture takes a back seat too compared to mining and forestry.  Most disturbed by mining and forestry activities are the indigenous communities.  The ancestral rights of indigenous people are often violated in the name of national development.  Although there is always a promise of a better life through employment opportunities, this is more mythical than real.  Indigenous peoples, holding on to their old customs and traditions are often uneducated and unskilled to land better-paying jobs in these industries.  All there is for them to have are roughneck type of work which often do not pay much.

When trade of forest products is liberalized, the upland communities are just peripheral beneficiaries… or often not benefited at all.  Only the big business interests in the wood industry (together with downstream businesses) are the primary beneficiaries.  This is also the case in upland communities where mining is the main business activity.  Philippine upland communities will have no significant positive economic advantage with trade liberalization.

Just my little thoughts…

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Monday, August 25, 2014


by Antonio C. Antonio
August 25, 2014

What is so unique about the Filipino that sets him apart from the rest?  Like most of the peoples of the world, the Filipino also has weaknesses… but, since everybody has weaknesses anyway, allow me to just focus on the Filipino strengths.  I am sure there are more you could add after reading this article…

Family Orientation:  Most societies limit their family ties to 3 filial generations (therefore, grandparents, parents and siblings).  The Filipino has a widely extended family but in spite of this, expresses deep love and concern for this huge family circle.  Respect and honor is always given to elders as generosity is offered to a kin in need. Only in the Philippines will you hear of people talking about string of relationships… 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or even 5th-degree cousins.

Deeply Religious:  The Filipino is deeply religious.  It is his understanding of the concept of good and evil that makes him adopt a high ethical standard as well.  Whatever religion and spirituality he possesses, the Filipino is always true to his faith.  Even tragic events are viewed in a highly religions manner… therefore: everything is God’s Will.  This is a coping mechanism which makes the acceptance of tragic events and moving on easier.

Hard Work and Industry:  The only reason why the Filipino could not succeed in his own country are the social-political-economic barriers which keeps him poor and challenged.  But in a society where there is equal opportunity, his success is a “given”.  Filipinos here and (especially) abroad even take 1 or 2 more jobs to maximize his time.  The Filipinos is never lazy… he just lacks the opportunity to show his ability and brilliance.

Adaptability and Creativity:  The Filipino has a proven capacity to adapt to life-changing events, and to his environment and surrounding.  The Filipino who migrates and merge with other societies have more often coped with his new environs (both social and physical).  He is normally unfazed by changes since he possesses a strong tolerance for ambiguity.  His willingness to sacrifice and learn makes integration to a new lifestyle or way of life faster.  The Filipino way of life, characterized by poor existence makes it easier for him to cope with new found luxury or does not mind temporary hardships.  His creativity and "remedio" mentality makes it easy for him to survive in a highly commercialized world where everything is throw-away and DIY (do-it-yourself).

Survivability:  Throw a Filipino in the desert, the frigid north or south poles, or alone in a deserted island and he will survive and adapt faster than most people of different race.  This is the survival ability and tolerance that decades of hardships has given him.  While others will become hopeless and petrified into inaction and, perhaps die where they sit, the Filipino will rise to the occasion and challenge and find ways and means to live longer with an endless chain of hope for salvation.

“Pakikipag-Kapwa Tao” or a deep sense of Fellowship with Others:  The Filipino always treat others with respect and dignity; with a deep sense of justice and fairness for others; and, with a natural tendency to empathize with others.  Nowhere in the world could the “bayanihan” spirit (the willingness to things collectively out of one’s kindness of heart) be found except in the Philippines.

Filipino Hospitality:  Ask any foreign tourist what he thinks about the Filipino people and he will most certainly say that he is very impressed by the hospitality he has been shown.

“Pakiramdam” or Sensitivity:  The Filipino is always sensitive to the feeling of others.  More often, he would offer the best of what he can offer to others.  Oftentimes too, he would think less of himself and think more of others.

“Pagtitiwala” or Trust.  The Filipino is very trusting and very dependent on interpersonal relationship which gives him a sense of security and belonging.  Ask any Filipino and he will always describe himself as belonging to an organization, formal or non-formal.  His social and developed sense of camaraderie is rooted on these organizations which he trusts with his life.

Humor:  The Filipino has the ability to make jokes out of any conceivable event and almost anything under the sun.  Oftentimes, he will be seen laughing away at jokes at wakes and funeral processions.  Through life’s ups and downs, the Filipino can still manage to smile (or even laugh) at his own trials and tribulations.  This humorous view of life is a playful coping mechanism to the fortunes and misfortunes of life.  This also provides him with a capacity to survive and laugh through problems.  If there is one person who could readily laugh at himself and not feel guilty about it, it’s the Filipino.

Bravery and Daring:  The Filipino is a very daring breed.  Nowhere in the world will you find people who are willing to offer their mortal bodies as barricades to tanks as manifested in the EDSA Revolution.  In February 1986, the whole world watched and marvelled at the bravery and daring of the Filipino.  It showed that the negative attitude of “bahala na”, mixed with nationalistic fervor, can also be a positive trait of the Filipino.

Just my little thoughts…

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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Human-Environment Interaction

by Antonio C. Antonio
August 23, 2014

QUESTION:  What is your view on human-environment interaction?

ANSWER:  Human-Environment Interaction (HEI) can be defined as interactions between human social systems with the rest of the ecosystem.  It also includes how the ecosystem reacts to human social systems.  The leading exponent of HEI is Dr. A. Terry Rambo who did extensive research and studies on this subject and came up with theories and models of HEIs --- Environmental Determinism and Environmental Possibilism.  Environmental Determinism is a theory that states that human culture, institutions and activities are largely influenced by the environment.  And that the environment dictates how humans design their means, measures and modes of survival… therefore, influencing how human societies behave.  On the other hand, Environmental Possibilism is a theory that states that (as opposed to Environmental Determinism) the environment only presents possible conditions that explains why humans behave in a particular way and why these different behavioural patterns progress and develop or are lost in time.  This is how I view human-environment interaction.

Just my little thoughts…


·         “Environmental Possibilism and Determinism”
·         “Environmental Determinism”

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Saturday, August 23, 2014

Environmental Problems

by Antonio C. Antonio
August 23, 2014

QUESTION:  What do you think are the causes of our environmental problems?

ANSWER:  There are several reasons for our environmental problems.  But if I were to narrow these down to only three, I should say (1) human greed, (2) the inequitable distribution of benefits from our natural resources, and (3) the lack of education and awareness for environmental issues, matters and concerns.  These three causes should cover all aspects of human behaviour --- social, cultural, political and economic.  These, in my mind, are the most profound causes of our environmental problems.

Just my little thoughts…

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Friday, August 22, 2014


by Antonio C. Antonio
August 12, 2014

“Biomass” is a term that we surely will come across whenever there are discussions on the subjects of environment, natural resources and energy.  The dictionary definition of “biomass” is: “Biomass is a renewable energy source from living or recently living plant and animal materials which can be used as fuel.”  The following are additional information regarding biomass:

  1. Plants and animals are the basic source of biomass.
  2. Biomass is biological materials but is often referred to as plants or plant-based materials called lignocellulosic biomass.  Converting biomass to biofuel can be achieved by different methods broadly classified into: (a) biochemical; (b) chemical; and, (c) thermal.  Then biomass can be used through combustion to produce heat, energy and power.
  3. The largest biomass energy source is wood, timber and plant products.
  4. Animal matter and human waste which produces methane is also an important source of biomass energy.  Some communities collect, through a system of conveyance (normally pipes), from individual households to a central collection area often called a biogas digester.  This is used to produce heat which is converted biofuel to support household necessities such as cooking, heating, light, etc.
  5. Industrial biomass can be grown from numerous types of plants and a variety of tree species; normally characterized as fibrous.
  6. Palm and jatropha are the most potent producers of biofuel.
  7. Agricultural by-products, specifically straw from wheat, corn, sugarcane and palay, can also be burned to heat and electricity.  Rice hull can also be used which is a primary by-product of agriculture in the Philippines.
  8. Plant biomass can likewise be broken down from cellulose to glucose in a series of chemical processes and the resultant sugar can be used as biofuel.
  9. Biomass can be converted to ethanol, butanol, methane and biodiesel for energy and transportation fuel application.
  10. Solid waste landfills could also produce “landfill gas” (methane gas produced by rotting garbage) which can be trapped and collected for power generation purposes.

The traditional mindset that fossil fuel and minerals (specifically coal) are our only source of energy might not be at all accurate.  There is such a thing as biomass which could also be a source of energy.  The only (and a big) difference is in terms of renewability.  Traditional fuel sources (therefore, oil, coal, etc.) are non-renewable while biomass is renewable.  It is therefore imperative that further studies on the sustainable utilization of biomass be made since it represents a future option for mankind… together with the solar, hydro and wind energy source options.  When the oil wells ran dry and the last bucket of coal is extracted, we could always depend on biomass.

Just my little thoughts…

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Hypothetical Questions

by Antonio C. Antonio
August 20, 2014

What are “hypothetical questions”?  These are questions based on certain proven and assumed facts formulated to arrive at generalized results or answers that are applicable in generic situations where there is an absence of dependable data.

The following is a hypothetical (meaning: a proposed situation made on the basis of limited evidence as a starting point for further study, investigation and discussion) story.

“You belong to a graduating batch of college seniors.  The final examinations have been given to your batch earlier than the lower batches of undergraduates so your graduating class could have time to practice for the graduation rites.  In one of these practice sessions, a faculty aide approached you with a note from your science professor requesting you to see him; and you dutifully obey.  At your professor’s room, he informs you of the following: (a) That he has just finished computing your grades; (b) That you got the highest grade in your graduating class; (c) That based on the computed grades, one-third of your class will fail and, therefore, not graduate; (d) That the only way most of these failing students (your friends and peers) could pass and graduate is if he adjusted and added points to their grades; (e) That he could no longer add to your grade since you’ve already been given the highest one; and, (f) That, for humanitarian reasons, he will indeed adjust your classmates’ grades if you would not interpose any objection.”

If you were in this position, what would you tell your professor?  Would you stick to your ethical standards and say “I do not agree, this is wrong” and let some of your friends and classmates down?  Or say “I agree” and be a part of a sham (meaning: bogus; falsely present something as the truth; and, a thing that is not what it is purported to be)?  How will your story end?… these are just hypothetical questions.

Just my little thoughts…

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Production Efficiency

by Antonio C. Antonio
November 25, 2013

Production efficiency occurs when a good and/or a service is produced and/or provided at the lowest cost using cost efficient production methods and technology.  From the purely business standpoint, the primordial reason why people go into business is profits, which is the result of the application of sound management practices (or PODC [planning, organizing, directing and controlling]).  Although the application of sound management practices should be the standard, there are peculiar situations especially in the upland where out-of-the-box practices also work.

In the case of timber production which is a traditional upland business activity, sound management practices will still apply but with an additional purpose and objective which is goodwill.  Doing business in the upland for profits alone will get you nowhere without building goodwill among the upland dwellers.  We should not lose sight of the fact that upland dwellers are the poorest of the poor, are less educated, and are ruled by traditions and customs which may not conform well to modern business practices, have a defensive dislike or distrust for other people especially lowlanders, and have been exploited for so long.  These peculiarities make upland management and governance fairly different.  A workable and applicable CSR (corporate social responsibility) program should be an accompanying plan to the regular harvesting, reforestation and silvi-cultural plans.

Production efficiency also plays a critical role in the profitability of timber production.  Labor, fuel and equipment and road maintenance are the bigger items in the budget.  Equipment availability is also a crucial factor since the predominant weather in tropical rain forest areas (where most timber harvesting activities are found) is rainy.  In fact, like in the Caraga Region, there are only four dry months in a typical year where harvesting activities could be maximized.  Harvesting plans geared towards production efficiency should be made to conform to weather conditions.

The primary objective of production efficiency in the uplands is the maximizing the utilization of harvested forest and timber products.  Maximum utilization will certainly increase profitability which should translate to more benefits to a greater number of people particularly the key stakeholders… the upland dwellers themselves.  The presence of other aims and purposes will not be ideal; equitable distribution of wealth should be the main concern of production efficiency.

Just my little thoughts…

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Don Quixote de la Mancha

by Antonio C. Antonio
August 6, 2014

Literary critics argue that there are but a few novels in the class of “Huckleberry Finn” of Mark Twain and “The Three Musketeers” by Alexander Dumas.  Arguably, one such novel is Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra’s “El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha” (The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha).

“Don Quixote de la Mancha” is the fictional story of a man named Alonso Quixano who loved reading chivalry-related novels.  Totally influenced by the novels he read, he rode his horse, Rocinante, and together with a simple farmer named Sancho Panza, set out on a journey to save the world.  Wearing his armour and lance in hand, Don Quixote is best remembered for fighting windmills which he imagined were evil monsters.  Needless to say, their chivalrous exploits only brought Don Quixote and Sancho Panza tons of misfortunes and embarrassment to a point that they were even thought to be mentally impaired.

In the world of music, the novel Don Quixote de la Mancha inspired the making of the song “The Impossible Dream”.  Composed by Mitch Leigh with the lyrics written by Joe Darion, the song was easily the most popular song in the Broadway musical “Man of La Mancha.”  “The Impossible Dream” was also the theme song of the 1972 movie “Man of La Mancha”.  When Martial Law was declared in the Philippines in the same year (1972), “The Impossible Dream” became popular among the political opposition to the dictator, Ferdinand E. Marcos, including Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr.  Martial Law is likened to the Spanish Inquisition.  It will be noted that “The Impossible dream”, after the songs “Bayan Ko” and “Tie a Yellow Ribbon”, were the favourite songs commonly played during the EDSA Revolution in February 1986 and the many rallies that followed after the assassination of Ninoy Aquino on August 21, 1983 (leading up to the EDSA Revolution).

THE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM (Mitch Leigh / Joe Darion)
To dream the impossible dream
To fight the unbeatable foe
To bear the unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go
To right the unrightable wrong
To love pure and chaste from afar
To try when your arms are too weary
To reach the unreachable star
This is my quest
To follow that star
No matter how hopeless
No matter how far
To fight for the right
Without question or pause
To be willing to march into hell
For a heavenly cause
And I know if I’ll only be true
To this glorious quest
That my heart will lie peaceful and calm
When I’m laid to my rest
And the world will be better for this
That one man, scorned and covered with scars
Still strove with his last ounce of courage
To reach the unreachable star

“The Impossible Dream” may well be the song for the environmentalists in our midst.  Their quest, seemingly impossible, can be likened to the trials and tribulations of Don Quixote de la Mancha.

Just my little thoughts…

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Management Skills

by Antonio C. Antonio
November 25, 2013

More often, we have a tendency to brand and classify managers for the type of skills they have.  More often too, we classify managerial skills as “must have”, “may have”, or even “not necessarily have.”  Managerial skills come in different forms and degrees… technical, conceptual, human and design skills.  Most of us will agree that a manager/leader should possess all four skills even when this skill set may be of varying degrees…. And some will say all four should be on the same (high) degree.  But all will agree that a manager/leader must at least have all four.

There really is no perfect combination of managerial skills.  At the end of the day, what would really matter is results and performance.  In business, production seems to be the main objective… but production at the least possible cost (therefore, profitability) matters most.  In organizations, the accomplishment of the goals and objectives of the group, the reason for the organization’s meaningful existence, defines the brand of management a particular leader/manager has.

Here are some relevant questions and my answers on the subject of management skills:

1.  What management skill (technical, conceptual, human and design) do you think can be learned from the textbook or in the classroom and what can be learned only through experience?

All four skills could be learned from textbooks and the classroom… at least in the theoretical framework sense.  The actual validation of these theories is done in actual practice.  Because of its interactive nature, people skills can also be acquired in school because of group work and the dynamics that goes with it plus the fact that students interact in person almost daily.  Human/People skills should, however, be developed in actual work conditions especially when the concepts of management are clear in our minds.

 2.  What type of personality should a manager possess?  Can anybody be trained or able to learn to become an effective and efficient manager, or is a manager position suited only for a few with a certain personality?

People normally display two types of personality: Type A (aggressive, pro-active, inquisitive, result-oriented, have good communications skill, welcomes challenges, etc.) and Type B (passive, reactive, easy-going, dislikes responsibility, etc.).  Unfortunately, the general accepted norm is Type B and people while Type A personalities often find themselves in managerial and leadership positions.  Personality traits belonging to Type A are the characteristics akin to managers.  Conceptual skill is another ability needed in management which allows the manager to see the "whole picture" (Heinz, 1999 and Quinn, 2010) and not just the particular task at hand

 3.  From the four management skills above, which do you think is the most important and why?

Not to say that one is more important than the others but Conceptual Skills seems to be the important one considering its broad scope.  The ability to visualize the entire picture is exactly what a manager should have before he could involve himself in micro-management.

Upland organizational activities are no different from those in the lowlands.  It probably is more challenging in the uplands considering the lower level of educational attainment and learnedness that is prevalent among its inhabitants.  Socio-cultural traditions and barriers will also be largely considered together with excellent inter-personal skills to back-up management skills.

Just my little thoughts…

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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Joyce Kilmer

by Antonio C. Antonio
July 17, 2014

Several years ago, I attended a half-day seminar on plantation establishment.  Several speakers were lined up and the seminar attendees benefitted and learned a lot from the information they shared.  The second to the last speaker was a forester from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.  He was a technically qualified resource speaker who effectively shared his knowledge on the physiology of trees.  He ended his topic by flashing a PowerPoint slide of the poem “Trees” by Joyce Kilmer:

TREES (by Joyce Kilmer)
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Wanting to impress the hell out of everybody present at the seminar, the speaker began to dissect the poem line by line.  Indeed, he gave very impressive correlations to the poem’s significance to nature and the environment… it was (and still is) such a beautiful poem indeed.  But what caught my attention was the speaker’s repeated reference to Joyce Kilmer as a “she”.  He, without an iota of doubt, firmly believed that Joyce Kilmer was a woman. (Oh my God!)

Just to set the record straight, Joyce Kilmer is a man.  Born Alfred Joyce Kilmer in December 6, 1886 to an American family, he finished his studies at Columbia University.  Kilmer was a journalist, literary critic, lecturer, editor, author, writer, poet and soldier.  He married Aline Murray and the union was blessed with 5 children.  He died by a sniper’s bullet while on a military tour of duty in France during World War I in July 30, 1918.

Joyce Kilmer is best known for his poem “Trees” which he published in 1913.  This poem has been interpreted in many ways… and a literary piece that is still being interpreted by modern-day literary critics… including that particular speaker who referred to Joyce Kilmer as a female.  It really pays to conscientiously research before anything else.  What a disservice to a great man in Alfred Joyce Kilmer.

Just my little thoughts…

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Freedom of Speech

by Antonio C. Antonio
August 16, 2014

My friend, Ms. Esther Smith, suggested that I posted an article on one of the basic freedoms that is guaranteed to us as citizens of a democratic country.  Esther would like an article be posted on “Freedom of Speech” so we all can come up with an intelligent discussion of this matter.  In response to her request, I am re-posting part of an article I posted earlier this year which dealt on this subject.  (Reference:  “Critical Thinking: Tatak UP”  Last March 5, 2014, my daughter, Prof./Atty. Regatta Marie A. Antonio of the University of the Philippines in Manila posted this on her Facebook wall.  (Yga is a product of UP Manila, got her law degree at San Beda College and took her bar review at the Ateneo Law School.  Para hindi naman mag-selos yung ibang anak ko, I hasten to add that my other 3 daughters [Wani, Ping and Neki] are also products of UP while my youngest child [my only son, Monty] is currently taking architecture at De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde.) 

Here is Yga’s post:

“I've never attended rallies as a student, and now, as a professor, I've never encouraged my students to join rallies. But I have tremendous respect for those who march, or form pickets and fight for what they believe in. 

It is a Constitutionally-protected freedom to express ourselves, to voice out our opinions, and to be heard when we have something to say. It is important to know our rights, and to fight for them, even to the death. It is, however, equally important to know the limits of our rights. Our rights end where the rights of others begin. While it is true that we have a right to be heard, we cannot compel people to follow what we order them to do, because it is their right not to. When others are also in the exercise of their rights, we cannot, and should not resort to violent means to achieve what we want.

UP has always been known to be a breeding ground for activists who say what needs to be said, and to take action against injustice and oppressive means. Through Honor and Excellence. Never through violence. That is not what we are made of. That is NOT UP.

We do not intimidate through sheer number. When we gather together for a cause, our cause is what unites us; Our cause is what makes us strong. Our conviction makes us powerful.

Our "Tatak UP" is not seen in the clothes we wear. It is neither demonstrated in how loud we can shout or how hard we can push or shove people, nor in the number of chairs, tables or doors we destroy when we exercise our rights. Our "Tatak UP" is in the way we think. It is in the way we analyze issues with critical thinking and openness; in the way we view the world from a different, wider perspective. That is UP. That is what we are, or at least, what we strive to be.”

This was a beautifully written piece by Yga.  What do you think, my friends?  What can we all say about freedoms enshrined in our Constitution… to include freedom of assembly and freedom of speech?

Just my little thoughts…

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Message of the Tree

by Antonio C. Antonio
August 14, 2014

I saw this photo on the Facebook wall of my friend, Ms. Beth Celis.   (I am certain though that Beth wouldn’t mind me using her photo in this article.)  I took a long close look at it and the longer I stared, the more intrigued I became. 

Sometimes, some unusual pictures on the Internet are hard to trust.  Advances in technology have given us the ability to digitally change images.  Whether this photo was “photoshopped” or not is something I cannot say for certain.  Anyway, let’s just accept the picture for whatever it visually shows… besides, the tree could really have this shape or have been cropped by the photographer before actually taking shots of it.

In the photo is a singular tree shaped in the image of a man’s head in the middle of a pasture land.  In the background are a few cows grazing… and further in the background are a row of trees… and furthermore in the horizon is the faint image of higher grounds.  The central figure, however, in the picture is the tree.  What does it symbolize?

Different people looking at exactly the same picture will have different thoughts and emotions. Their reactions will vary and will largely be influenced by differences in culture, background, religion and emotional state when the image is being viewed.  I earnestly cannot venture into the perspectives and opinions of others but for me, as a loyal student of environment and natural resources management, I will view it with a pair of environmental eyes and think of it with an environmental mindset.  I will always view this picture as a singular tree that was once a part of a forest but now stands alone.  The forest is now gone for the land to support another life-giving role as a grazing area for the nutritional needs of other herbivores (such as cows). 

Going into the deeper meaning of the photo… Why is the tree in the image of a man?  Why is this tree standing all by its lonesome; away from the other trees in the background?  Is it because this symbolizes man and his relative isolation?  Is it because man has isolated himself by cutting down the forest around him?  Is it a happy or remorseful image of a man?  Does the tree long for the past and now wants to be part of a bigger community of trees?  What is the tree, in the likeness of a man, trying to tell us?  All these questions and, perhaps, a dozen more (in your mind right now) could represent the deeper meaning of the photo.  What really is the message of the tree?

Just my little thoughts…

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Critical Thinking

by Antonio C. Antonio
August 13, 2014

The photo of the statue in this article is of Socrates, the father of critical thinking.  But what is Critical Thinking?

To answer this question, please allow me to reprint the last two paragraphs of an article I wrote last March 5, 2014 (“Critical Thinking: Tatak UP” published on

“I’m glad Yga mentioned “critical thinking”… this is a vital component in the intellectual skillset of anyone who has the “Tatak UP.” “Critical” means crucial and gives the sense of discernment and judgement. Here are some views on critical thinking: “The skill and propensity to engage in an activity with reflective scepticism” (McPeck, 1981) and “Disciplined, self-directed thinking which exemplifies the perfection of thinking appropriate to a particular mode of domain of thinking” (Paul, 1989). 

Core critical thinking skills include (1) observation, (2) interpretation, (3) analysis, (4) inference, (5) evaluation, (6) explanation and (7) metacognition. Critical thinking employs not only logic but broad intellectual criteria such as (a) clarity, (b) credibility, (c) accuracy, (d) precision, (e) relevance, (f) depth, (g) breadth, (h) significance and (i) fairness. Critical thinking, therefore, is simply a disciplined way of thinking which is clear, rational, open-minded and informed by evidence. “Tatak UP” will even go beyond the mere motions of intelligently answering questions but question the question until the right and relevant question is presented. In my mind, ito ang “Tatak UP”… and I’m glad my daughter and I shoot in the same direction on this matter.”  (NOTE:  “Yga” is my daughter, Prof./Atty. Regatta Marie A. Antonio of the University of the Philippines in Manila.)

On the possibility that critical thinking can be taught in school, John Passmore wrote: “If being critical consisted simply in the application of a skill then it could in principle be taught by teachers who never engaged in it except as a game or defensive device, somewhat as a crack rifle shot who happened to be a pacifist might nevertheless be able to teach rifle-shooting to soldiers.  But in fact being critical can be taught only by men who can themselves freely partake in critical discussion.”

Lately, however, Dennis Hayes debunked critical thinking as something that could not be taught in schools:  “Many teachers say they strive to teach their students to be critical thinkers.  They even pride themselves on it; after all, who wants children to just take in knowledge passively?  But there is a problem with the widespread treatment of critical thinking as a skill to be taught.  The truth is that you can’t teach people to be critical unless you are critical yourself.  This involves more than asking young people to “look critically” at something, as if criticism was a mechanical task.  As a teacher, you have to have a critical spirit.  This does not mean moaning endlessly about education policies you dislike or telling students what they should think.  It means first and foremost that you are capable of engaging in deep conversation.  This means debate and discussion based on considerable knowledge – something that is almost entirely absent in the educational world.  It also has to take place in public, with parents and others who are not teachers, not just in the classroom or staffroom.”  (

With this information in the background, we could surmise that only the basics and fundamentals of critical thinking can be taught in school and that this particular skillset can only be advanced, honed and polished in the domain of public discourse and debate... with professionalism and high ethical standards to promote goodwill, understanding and better friendship.  And that critical thinking cannot be taught by someone who does not possess a “critical spirit” and does not normally engage in public debates and intellectual discussions.  This is another element, of a higher thought processing plane, of critical thinking.

Just my little thoughts…

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