TAXATION will always be unpopular. No one wants to pay more. But this series of articles is not a question of the validity of payment for ecological services or PES for short. It is a question of who pays for it. A simple illustration of PES is that whoever takes care of an ecosystem service should be paid for it. The Nacaya-Quiaot proposal or should we say, the City Hall-COWD proposal is that we will pay, an additional amount of .25 centavos for residential and .50 centavos for commercial and industrial consumers, per cubic meter consumed, to be collected by COWD, which will now be paid to City Hall who will manage the fund of an estimated six hundred thousand pesos monthly or 7.2 million pesos annually. The fund will now be used to restore and preserve the denuded watersheds and guarantee the supply of water for years to come. Sounds cool. But it is not to my opinion.
The correct application of the PES would be, is that the COWD and whoever draws water for profit, and that includes all those engaged in the exploitation of our watersheds, including those who are directly or indirectly profiting from the extraction of materials and other products which affects the balance of our ecosystem be made to pay for the services of that ecosystem, and be paid to those who stand to benefit or lose because of such economic activities. Not us the consumers, who are already paying the COWD for the use of such water, which the agency produces and distributes. And the City Council best not allow this injustice.
In 2012, when I campaigned together with the Mayor, I noticed how the roads to and from Barangay Pagatpat were in such terrible condition. And what shocked me all the more is to learn that the main economic activity of Pagatpat was sand and gravel for construction, as evidenced by the number of trucks we saw. How can this be, I asked. The barangay which provides materials for our homes and buildings, and possibly for roads in other places, have such terrible roads. Of course, things must be different now. But just to illustrate the point that the idea of the PES is that whoever is in possession or in control of the watersheds of our city are the ones who should be paid. If a farmer is to be discouraged from slash-and-burn tilling in an identified watershed for example, he is to be compensated, by those who profit from the services of the ecosystem. If a plantation uses chemicals which will affect our water system, that entity may claim additional compensation if they will shift to a safer farm input. It is that simple.
Maybe it would be fine for City Hall to disburse the funds. Or even the barangays where these watersheds are located. But whatever happened to the money collected from every plastic bag used every time we went to the grocery for years anyway? The idea was sound, if only to discourage the use of plastic bags. But what is one peso. One peso seems to have no value at all nowadays that some beggars throw them away. But collectively, it must have run into millions. Were they ever turned over to City Hall by those businesses who collected them? If they were not, has City Hall instituted proper proceedings to collect them? And if they were collected, how was it spent? Do we have more trees now because of those plastics? I understand that the ordinance was stopped as we now have a total ban on the use of plastics by 2019. Yehey?
And how about those watersheds where we share boundaries with other LGUs. Will they also be enjoined? We always see trucks from who knows where it is from and who knows who cut them and for whom, that traverse the roads intersecting our city. And at the height of our legal battle at the Court of Appeals for the issuance of the Writ of Kalikasan to protect Iponan River, I wondered why the city had no right to stop the flow of illegally cut logs. National roads I was told, and therefore it is jurisdictional. Just like the PNP helpless in shutting down pirated disc trade, not only being sold in leased private properties but also in our public markets because it is the OMB which has the mandate.
Such is the state of governance. We are forced to look the other way. Smile though your heart is breaking as the song goes, for it will never be a wonderful world until we see that green green grass of home. Please stop this water tax and look for other ways as the voters mandated our LGU to do.