Tabije: Arresting the bad side of progress-A A +A
Sunday, July 15, 2012
THE other weekend I was in El Nido, Palawan to attend the NIA Board of Directors meeting where I sit as private sector representative by appointment of President Aquino III. It was my first time to visit the place and I can state categorically that it’s really a beautiful paradise. It somehow reminds me of Halong Bay in North Vietnam that was recently declared one of the 7 new wonders of the world, together with Palawan’s underground river.
What I found lamentable though is that while El Nido is not far behind Halong Bay in natural beauty, it is so far behind in terms of foreign tourists visiting it. Based on my visual observation, there are probably 50-100 times more tourists in Halong Bay than in El Nido. Really makes me wonder why our government has not been able to sell our world-class tourist destinations as good as (or even just nearly as good as) our neighboring countries.
Wishing and praying that the new DOT teams—national, regional and provincial--will make a much better job selling our country to the world's tourists than the previous administrations. It goes without saying of course, that all the other tourism stakeholders, government and private alike, have to assist in the efforts.
For our trip from Manila to El Nido, we took the chartered plane owned by Island Transvoyager, Inc. (ITI). ITI claims to be the first airline in the Philippines to have something like a carbon offset program. Their brochure says that each flight from Manila to El Nido produces 2,268 kilograms of CO2 (carbon dioxide), which contributes to global warming. In order to offset that, they say that they need to plant 6 trees per passenger. They therefore solicit voluntary contributions of P200 per passenger per trip for such purpose.
I like the idea and the initiative taken by ITI. But I want to suggest a more aggressive strategy. For one thing, I did not observe the ITI staff campaigning vigorously for the voluntary contribution. So I wonder if they ever get any significant amount for the stated purpose.
Why doesn't the government make it, instead, a compulsory contribution by all airline travelers? It can be included in the price of a plane ticket charged by the airlines, and for the airlines to turn over to the government such collected amounts for reforestation purposes.
Before some people start complaining of extra travel costs, let’s face it: anybody who pays P3,000 or more for a plane ticket surely has an extra P100-P200.00 to spare.
Why the need for the airline travelers to subsidize the cost of carbon reduction in the environment? Aren't they already paying taxes that partly go to environment-related programs of the government?
Let's analyze. The Philippine population is currently almost 100 million. I have no hard statistics but I’m guessing that less than 1% (1-million) of the population can afford air travel. And yet, the 99% or so of the people who can't afford to ride planes also suffer the consequences of environmental degradation, e.g. climate change-related weather disturbances, caused by the plane travel of those who are luckier to afford such travel.
Given that analysis, I think the air travelers should be willing to pay extra costs to minimize the negative effect of their travels on the total population. Fair is fair, right?
Some researchers have estimated in 2005 that aviation contributed 3% of carbon emissions globally. But the growth of air travel was also estimated at 7% annually; which meant that by 2020 airplanes are seen to become the biggest contributors to global warming—bigger than all the sources of carbon emissions combined. The bad side of progress.
Hoping the legislators of the Philippines and the world over will pick the above idea up and make it a law. If we can’t stop the growth of air travel, we should at least plant more trees worldwide to neutralize their carbon emissions. That will also have the effect of shooting two birds with one stone--ensuring the availability of sufficient water to a fast-growing world population.
Engr. Tabije is an International Consultant whose clients include the UN, WB, EC, ADB and JICA. Comments herein are purely his personal opinions. Email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on July 16, 2012.