FRESH from vacation and a 2-week respite from filling up this space, I'm back. I think this is the first time that the Christmas and New Year break, the only time when this paper has no issue, fell on a Friday. So I had ample time looking at various sources for environmental issues that will be highlighted this 2010.

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Here's what I gathered so far:

Precious water: According to an advisory from PAG-ASA (posted in their website http://kidlat.pagasa.dost.gov.ph/cab/ensoadvi.htm), El Niño continues to strengthen and is expected to persist at least into early 2010. It is likely to reach its peak in February this year. So save water. Inspite of this advisory however, there was a downpour last Wednesday night in Mabalacat. Probably a reminder of how blessed we are in the Philippines.

It's worst in other countries. According to a recent news report posted in the Environmental News Network (http://www.enn.com/lifestyle/article/40895), the Arab world is in a water crisis. There are people in over 17 Arab countries living well below the water poverty line of 500 cubic meters annually. Arab leaders recognized climate change in the Middle East as an issue that will further impact their poorly-available water resources, noting that 75% of the surface water in the Arab world originates from outside its borders.

More environmental laws: More people are becoming aware of climate change. Last year a Climate Change Law was passed. More people are pressing for plastic ban. Concerned citizens here in our province launched "walang plastikan" movement last year. Our Supreme Court has directed government agencies to clean-up Manila Bay. So expect more green laws this year.

Globally, 2010 will also be a big year for legislation. According to Earth 911, some upcoming laws are Recycling Mandate for Business and Apartments in California, BPA Ban in Children Products in Minnesota, Mandatory Battery Recycling in the United Kingdom, EPA Lead Paint Safety Requirements in the United States, State Green Construction Building Act in New York and Plastic Bag Recycling Legislation in Delaware.

More Green Buildings: Just like fireworks that went up the sky on New Year's Eve, the price of cement skyrocketed. I was surprised to find out from my staff that she bought cement at P240 per bag, way up from the usual P 190. In the news, I learned that some retailers are selling as high as P270. With the increase in the price of construction materials, rise in energy cost, environmentally conscious consumers and tightening legislation, expect more green buildings this year.

Our group, the Philippine Green Building Council, is currently working on a green building rating system called BERDE (Building for Ecologically Responsive Design Excellence). This system shall come up with a tool that shall measure a green building project's sustainability credentials. Meanwhile, a European Union -funded project for green resorts was started late last year in the South.

In the international scene, the U.S. green building market is set to grow 146 percent by 2013, according to an ENN report. The Taipei 101 in Taiwan, the tallest building in the world before it was dislodged by a newly built building in Dubai, plans to be the tallest Green Building in the world.

My condolences to the family of the late Board Member Pinong Laus and to the family of the late Apung Aning Cruz.