Lights Out At 8:30-9:30 p.m.

Millions of Filipinos are expected to participate in Earth Hour, the event that encourages the simultaneous switching off of lights and other electrical appliances to raise global awareness on climate change, at 8:30-9:30 p.m. today in the Philippines.

Malacañang joined the call yesterday for the public to actively participate in the simultaneous ''lights off'' event initiated by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to be a global movement uniting people to protect the planet.

''Certainly, we encourage everyone to participate in Earth Hour, to be part of the global awareness on the use of energy and in our environment,'' Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said.

The Philippines will be participating in the Earth Hour by turning off the lights from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., with three simultaneous switch-off ceremonies to be held in the cities of Makati in Luzon, Cebu in Visayas, and Davao in Mindanao.

Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Jr. urged government agencies, including government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs) and local government units (LGUs), to participate in the Earth Hour, adding that government agencies should also organize their own Earth Hour.

''Everybody benefits from the vast resources that our planet gives us and so it is only appropriate that everybody takes responsibility and do our share, even in our own little ways, to help preserve Mother

Earth. And this Earth Hour event is one of the many significant opportunities for us to show our appreciation and care for our environment,'' Ochoa said.

''The government agencies and LGUs play an important role in the environmental conservation campaign since it has the resources to help expand the reach of the campaign and step up the battle against global

warming and other forms of environmental degradation to ensure that effective actions are being undertaken towards a sustainable future for the next generations,'' he added.

DILG Secretary Jesse M. Robredo already issued a directive to local chief executives, telling them to join the rest of the world in switching off lights and other electrical appliances during the designated Earth Hour.

''Let us show our commitment to protect and preserve the environment and be counted in this campaign to save Mother Earth,'' said Robredo.

Moreover, the DILG chief called on local executives to organize forums discussing the benefits of the activity and the threats of global warming.

He said others may come up with tree-planting activities to complement the Earth Hour initiative.

In Makati City, the ceremonial switch off program will start at 6 p.m. at Ayala Tower One on Ayala Avenue with the theme ''I Will, If You Will.''

At 8:29 p.m., Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin S. Binay will lead the countdown to the one hour switch-off with WWF- Philippines Ambassador Rovilson Fernandez as the program host.

''We are very much honored with the continuing trust shown by WWF in our city as its partner in this noble endeavor,'' Binay said as his city becomes the focal venue of the largest global call for action on climate change.

Joining the Makati switch-off are Earth Hour Founder Andy Ridley, WWF Vice Chairman and CEO Lorenzo Tan, Department of Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras, Makati Commercial Estate Association (MACEA) President David Balangue, city officials, private sectors and representatives from WWF.

Consultant Estela Lomat said that as the parade head marshals approach the intersection of Paseo de Roxas, westbound lanes of Ayala Avenue from Makati Avenue to Paseo de Roxas will be closed to traffic until the tail end gets inside the TOEP driveway.

Following are the alternate routes for motorists on March 31, Saturday: Vehicles along Ayala Avenue from EDSA going towards the direction of Gil Puyat Avenue shall turn right at Makati Avenue, left at Paseo de Roxas and right at Ayala Avenue to destination, while vehicles along Paseo de Roxas from Legaspi Village going towards the direction of Gil Puyat Avenue are advised to turn right at Ayala Avenue, left at Makati Avenue to destination.

The environmental consciousness campaign that encourages governments, communities and businesses to switch off their lights for an hour and adopt a low-carbon lifestyle to help address the threats of global warming was started in Australia in 2007.

By 2008, 35 countries including the Philippines began to join the event held every last Saturday of March.

In 2011, a total of 1,661 cities and municipalities all over the country participated in Earth Hour.

Key cities in Mindanao, a region currently faced with an energy crisis, are spicing up the country's 5th year of participation in the global event with various activities aimed at promoting conservation and clean energy sources.

Officials and residents in the key cities of Butuan, Cagayan de Oro, Iligan, Zamboanga, Davao, General Santos and Surigao are set to make history in Mindanao by staging various activities during the hour-long electricity shutdown in homes, business establishments and industrial plants.

In Southern Mindanao, Davao folks will send off 10,000 biodegradable lanterns to the sky in time for the switch-off.

A Davao Dance Craze together with black-light and fire dancing will also mark the hour-long celebration of human cooperation in the dark.

Other schools, both government and private will also participate in the parade and street party during the Earth Hour 2012.

Meanwhile, the 33-strong member of the Association of Mindanao Rural Electric Cooperatives (AMRECO) led by its president Sergio Dagooc said they will all shut-off their respective power lines during Earth Hour.

Meanwhile, Taguig City Mayor Lani Cayetano expressed full support behind the celebration even as she rallied her constituents to participate in the ''lights out'' activity.

Cayetano said that participating in the activity signifies one's support for environmental protection, as well as the campaign to solve or at least mitigate the ill effects of climate change to the environment.

She proudly pointed to the fact that the Philippines holds the record for the best participation among nations that joined last year's Earth Hour, when over 15 million Filipinos scattered in 1,076 municipalities and cities simultaneously turned off their lights at home.

Sen. Loren Legarda, Senate Climate Change Committee chairperson, urged Filipinos to participate in the celebration.

''Participating in the Earth Hour is one way to crystallize norms of conduct to ensure our positive impact on the environment. We, as a nation blessed with abundant natural resources yet threatened by the impacts of climate change, should lead the world in this process,'' she said.

And since the country is set to commemorate the Lenten season next week, Legarda said Filipinos should ''carbon-fast'' during Holy Week and look for innovative ways to reduce carbon emissions.

''Lent is a period of reflection and fasting. We must try to look for ways to reduce our individual carbon emissions,'' she said.

''The kind of food we eat, the mode of transportation we take, the generation and our use of energy, our waste management practices, our housing design and materials, and our water consumption, all contribute to carbon dioxide emission,'' she added. (With reports from Anna Liza T. Villas, Mike U. Crismundo, Czarina Nicole O. Ong, Francis T. Wakefield, Hannah L. Torregoza, and MB Research)

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