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Is time running out?


MANILA, Philippines - Are the numbers really becoming more alarming by the minute, by the hour, by the day? Are the deadlines truly looming larger than ever?

Experts predict that the country’s remaining virgin forests will be wiped out in 2025 — 25 years ahead of the worldwide deadline of 2050. Also in 2025, the country is said to face a shortage of clean, drinking water. By 2030, fossil fuels, which power homes, cities and industries, will see a decline. By 2050, a collapse of marine resources — a main source of livelihood and food to eat — is feared to happen.

There are experts saying that time is ticking away fast, and that the scare of environmental deadlines and failing to beat them are very real. This is what Oras Na, the latest and biggest environmental project of GMA News and Public Affairs, brings to the fore. Hosted by Richard Gutierrez, Oras Na takes viewers to places where there is tangible evidence that suggests that time may indeed be running out for resources that have been taking care for our most basic needs — from water, energy, food to shelter.

According to program manager Anj Atienza, “People are always rushing after things, but there are more important deadlines for humanity. Through Oras Na, we hope people will make the time and effort to think and care about these things.”

The Oras Na team sets up time lapse cameras to illustrate the demand for seafood at the Navotas fish port

The making of Oras Na started as early as June as the crew had to immerse in crucial locations from Luzon to Mindanao. The docu also employed time lapse cameras in showing present-day and futuristic scenarios, as well as capture how “consumption and depletion of natural resources” happen by the minute and by the hour. One footage shows how a forest area — the width and length of four basketball courts — can be cleared in one day just so to address people’s needs in terms of housing and settlement.

Another issue, which has long been pounded on by such experts as the World Bank’s Philippine Water Monitor, is the threat of a freshwater crisis. Oras Na focuses on a community in Bohol manually digging a well and breaking ground for water for five long days. All that hard work is juxtaposed against the 50 million liters of water wasted every day in Metro Manila households alone.

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Among the in-depth studies and sources cited in Oras Na, a report made by Canada’s Dalhousie University said that by 2050, there will be a global collapse in fisheries as caused by pollution, over-harvesting and destructive fishing. It’s still decades away from that deadline, but there are areas in the country that are seemingly experiencing the signs.

Richard shared his experience wherein he joined a fisherman, headed out to the seas at dawn and lingered there for three hours amid big waves, only to get three small pieces of fish.

“The fisherman said that 10 years ago, in one hour, he could catch a kilo of fish. But nowadays, he catches in an hour only one, two, or even nothing at all. So that tells you something,” said Richard.

Despite the seriousness of the topic, Oras Na also presents something encouraging so as to hopefully, move viewers into positive action.

A barangay in Tubigon, Bohol struggling to break ground for freshwater

“The subject is very heavy so we had to balance it out with something uplifting,” said Richard.

For one, he and the Oras Na crew traveled to the internationally-awarded Bugang River in Antique, also touted as the country’s cleanest inland water.

Atienza said that the “standards of its cleanliness are even better than potable water,” adding that the Bugang River is an example that preservation is not impossible in this day and age.

 Oras Na is the fourth environmental docu, after Signos, Wildlife For Sale and the award-winning Planet Philippines, that Richard has done with GMA News and Public Affairs.

On how this partnership with Richard came about, Atienza said, “Actually, a lot of people don’t know that Richard has advocacies. We were not the ones who initiated his environmental interest, he was already into it. He has committed to do one environmental docu a year. When we first worked with him, he was with Greenpeace. We trained him (in hosting a news program). He’s very hands-on; in fact, he’s already sharing his ideas on what we will be doing next.”

Atienza believes that their eco-docus are somehow creating an impact on viewers. “Our past docus enjoyed high ratings with Planet Philippines being the highest-rated. I also know our docus are being used as educational tools in universities and schools.”

Critics may carp about celebrity causes as some PR stunt, but for Richard, it is important for celebrities to openly support a cause. “I believe it is important because as an artist, I think we have a different audience from those in the news. I think there’s a broader audience that can be tapped and be given the chance to listen and watch documentaries of this kind, and on that aspect, that is our contribution.”

 Oras Na airs tonight on Sunday Night Box Office after Protégé.

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