State of crucial resources?
CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - July 19, 2019 - 12:00am

When the President gives his SONA or State of the Nation Address on Monday, July 22, will he make mention of the scarce state of vital resources that have become major headaches for the country? To this date the water supply for the entire Metro Manila is at critical level and it is one elephant in the room that Malacañang seems to be blind to, or could be intentionally ignoring. It’s possible that they find no point in talking about a problem that only God and “mother nature” can solve, but it remains as a critical concern nonetheless. Then there is the problem of power supply and the serious lack of power generation plants that on the other hand can be solved through human intervention if the government or the President gave it more attention. 

As far as the water crisis is concerned, I have long said that the only way Filipinos will learn to conserve water is if they run out of it, or when the government finally stops using water prices as a tool for political popularity. Every administration has avoided or deferred on the issue of raising the price of water because they deem it too politically sensitive. Even now, with Angat and La Mesa dams running dry, the government is quick to pass the buck and the blame to the concessionaires for not having invested enough. Yet, nothing has been said about the wasteful habits of Filipinos when it comes to water. The government has barely stated the fact that people should stop wasting water. The argument that Filipinos can’t afford a price hike simply does not hold. Even in the so-called depressed areas people buy higher priced bottled water or filtered water by the liter. Perhaps, when the dams finally stop meeting the needs, maybe then we will all learn the lesson that water is a limited resource that is more valuable than gasoline, diesel or electricity that should not be wasted on politics.

Speaking of electricity, I find it ridiculous that the government that constantly reminds us that there is a power crisis and provide us with colorful panic alerts, is also the government that prevents the full and unhampered development of solar power facilities in a tropical country such as ours. While so many countries and governments have essentially removed tariffs and are actually giving grants or incentives for people to incorporate solar power into their daily supply, the Philippine government on the other hand maintains various forms and levels of tariffs or taxes on imported solar power equipment, parts or systems. Call me crazy but the government should simply have an open door policy regarding the importation and construction of solar power systems whether for industrial, commercial, public or private applications. We cannot and should not be hostage to the whims or caprice of Middle East nations or every political conflict in their region that causes fuel prices to rocket sky high. 

There is no logic to operating power plants based on highly polluting fuels and above all why prevent Filipinos from using “free” electricity so they can spend the money saved on equally important things or invest the cash on business. Solar power has already been tried and tested in the Philippines for public lighting, powering equipment in remote locations, used for irrigation and aeration of rice paddies and fishponds. In the western world they actually have laws that require builders and homeowners to incorporate solar power systems in homes and residential design and construction. If our electricity or power resource is limited, if the economy is outgrowing the supply, then it makes sense for alternative resources to be developed and encouraged by the government and not to profit from it through taxes and tariffs.  

Aside from our limited resources of water and electricity, there is another “resource” that to date has been labeled as a luxury instead of a vital need and that would be internet connectivity. If everybody took time to study the far-reaching effects of poor internet connectivity, we would all wake up to the realization that the state or quality of internet service in the Philippines is one reason why Philippine businesses, education and government services is so undeveloped and is a major obstacle to our economic and political boom. All types of businesses, industries and government sector need internet connectivity in order to be efficient, far-reaching and profitable. Anyone who wants to go beyond their current geographical boundary or limitation can break through via the internet. In today’s reality, Filipinos are finding ways and means to adapt, given the substandard and unreliable internet systems available and in spite of that they are coping and somehow able to do business. Imagine what Philippine business would be like if we could just ramp up or vastly improve this necessary resource. 

The deplorable state of connectivity in the Philippines is also to blame if Filipino students lag behind in knowledge and abilities. Instead of all schools being internet based, the education system is still largely paper based, with children walking kilometers carrying backpacks heavy enough to be used for cross-fit training. Sadly, the Duterte Administration has gone through three Cabinet secretaries at the Department of Information Communication and Technology (DICT) but very little headway has been gained in terms of improved internet quality, speed or connectivity. At the moment, people are projecting the incoming third telco as the redeemer of the industry by attaching to it unreasonable expectations. Once again the government passes the buck and will surely also pass the blame if the third player fails to provide the much needed resource. 

What is the problem? Do we also have a lack of intelligence or is it merely a lack of political will to address the problem?

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E-mail: utalk2ctalk@gmail.com

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