GOVERNANCE is something like walking on a tightrope. And I do not mean the often abused “damned if you do, damned if you do not” cliche, to justify ramming down of policies and actions by our leaders. Without due diligence, the best policies end up like white elephants and inutile public works which abounds here in our city. Or even court cases which can stymie the efforts of any well-meaning public servant. Nor do I subscribe to the idea that citizens are to be like sheep once elections are over. For though the voice of the people is to be respected once the counting has ended, wisdom is not a crown conferred on the winner and does not go together with the proclamation. The sad experience of the “Babag" when the mayor took office for the first time, was such a tragic comedy of errors. Everything was decided along partisan lines and always to the disadvantage of the mayor. And so perhaps learning from the lessons of the first elections, capturing the seats of the City Council became the priority. And now we see that there are more “Kaabags” rather than the “Babags.” We even saw the flight of those who used to be “Babags” to “Kaabags.” A St. Paul experience perhaps?
But political debates to me is more productive on the question of “how.” Maybe for some situations, the question of “if it ain’t broke, why fix it” may hold true, but I prefer to settle the challenge of the Nacaya and Quiaoit proposal to the “HOW.” It is without a doubt that our watersheds need rehabilitation. And I say that the destruction brought about by the mishandling of Sendong would still have happened, even if our watersheds were intact. But it does not mean that we simplify the urgency, just because we do not want a repeat of the Sendong experience. The response of the people living in harm’s way and the efficiency of the Disaster Preparedness Team have shown that we can avoid casualties.
We wonder what the total land area of these watersheds is and the amount of money needed to rehabilitate them? And I suppose our COWD Board Member and concurrently Executive Director of the CDO River Basin Project has a timetable on how many trees, years, seedlings, nurseries, personnel and equipment needed to restore such an area with the collaborative effort by our Honorable Councilor Ian Nacaya’s tax proposal of 25 centavos for residential and 50 centavos for commercial and industrial, per cubic meter consumed monthly. News reports say that a daily take of twelve thousand pesos or a monthly tax collection of six hundred thousand pesos is to be collected by COWD for the City. To which another social media commentator remarked “Can COWD act as a collecting agent for the City?” That is something which our legal experts has to answer. Those barricades when a TRO is prayed for is such a terrible thing. Maka kabag.
I also wonder if there has been a success story where another LGU has taxed its constituents to restore their watersheds. I wonder how Ms Gina Lopez did it with La Mesa Dam. Who paid for its’ rehabilitation and how is it doing now. Puerto Princesa City achieved a negative carbon emission for such was the vision of then Mayor Hagedorn even before he took office. The Mayor led the people to the hills and mountains to plant trees every City Fiesta instead having a carnival dance parade and landscaping of the tiled Gaston Park to sell plants, flowers and fruits for a month. What are we not seeing here? Or maybe the rivers where our water for the east side consumers are supplied with are now so silted that the recourse is to source the water from the irrigation canals of the National Irrigation Administration? I also wonder about that. But was not that issue also in the news before, where farmers questioned why water for irrigation is being utilized to supply our faucets.
What is the real big picture here? There is a saying that we often forget about the forest when we focus much on the trees. But how can we have a sustainable forest unless we can protect our trees. Is it not true that the “devil is in the details?” Let us not forget that living in an environment of denuded forests deprives much of our brain with oxygen. And those trees were cut for money, filling our pockets but depriving our thought process. What plans does the proposal have to make sure that the tax to be imposed will not result to those residing in our watersheds cutting them again for their livelihood? And please do not tell us “education and empowerment”. It will still boil down to money. Unless those watersheds are planted to crops which will generate a much higher income than cutting them for firewood or hardwood floors and doors for our newly built homes in the city, it will still be the same story. The difference will still be the same. (This maybe continued)