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CTALK - Cito Beltran - The Philippine Star

After a long search, I have finally tapped into several online communities of solar power equipment providers and judging from what’s available, there is a reasonable amount of companies willing to provide goods and services nationwide.

The bad news is that even the most basic equipment or system costs a lot of money, mostly beyond the reach of farmers, producers and households. A simple stand-alone 300- to 500-watt spotlight costs about P2,500, water pumps are in the range of P30,000 to P75,000, depending on if you want an above ground pump or a submersible pump, solar collecting panels go from P3,000 to P5,500 and systems are anywhere from P75,000, P100,000 to half a million pesos.

Unfortunately for many in need, they also need to dig or drill for water and that also costs a lot of money, somewhere in the range of P75,000 to P300,000, depending on whether the drillers have a social conscience or if you have a site full of rocks, etc.

In my previous columns, I often raised the issue of government not subsidizing residential or agricultural solar power set-ups and not even making the sacrifice of foregoing the duties and taxes on the various parts and equipment involved. What I failed to consider were the other taxes we take for granted.

When I asked an installer to send me a quote for a set-up that could alternately power a deep well pump then switch over to power a 2-hp power pump needed to filter a large pump, he made a guestimate of P190,000.

I asked him to skip the bells and whistles and give me the lowest cost possible. That’s when he asked me if I needed receipts, etc. because the Value Added Tax alone was 12 percent of total cost, not including all the other taxes.

As our Lord Jesus Christ told the Pharisees, “Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and give unto God what is God’s.” But in all honesty who would not be tempted to disregard a receipt in exchange for a whopping 12 percent added discount? Given how farmers, producers and households in the provinces are already struggling to find and utilize water, how can President Bongbong Marcos and his entire government collect taxes on solutions the government cannot and has failed to provide?

Water and electricity are essential needs and we have so many government agencies under the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Energy that are tasked to address the challenges of drought and unaffordable electricity rates, but all they do is spend taxpayers’ money and achieve nothing.

If Filipino farmers, producers and households are forced by circumstance to go DIY or Do-It-Yourself, what are our legislators and political leaders doing to help? I am not suggesting that Senate President Miguel Zubiri and Speaker Martin Romualdez lead the procession for out-of-pocket of donations.

I am not even asking them to legislate subsidies for water and solar power development. From what I have seen online and in communities, almost all those seeking and wanting to drill for water, install solar power in farms and homes see it as an investment and a better solution than waiting for better times and lower electricity rates.

They are not asking for handouts; they are looking for information and solutions. At the very least, Zubiri, Romualdez and all legislators should legislate automatic tax exemptions for materials, equipment and services related to water drilling and solar power systems.

Government does not have to give subsidies and lost revenues from VAT etc. are essentially imaginary if the sale can’t be closed because potential customers can’t afford the added 12 percent to 20 percent on top of the equipment and services. The switch to solar from grid turns into savings that will be used in other areas of farming, production and household goods for better quality of life, something politicians can make claims to in future elections.

Aside from the automatic tax exemptions for these two specific undertakings, our representatives and senators can also pass one consolidated law requiring banks and financial institutions to provide financing and loans to cover the alternative water and power system for farmers, producers and households.

It is insane that commercial banks are now providing easy loans and terms for groceries, travel and even cars that probably won’t last more than six years and can’t move much because of our “state of calamity” on EDSA and Metro Manila.

Even government banks provide funds and loans to pay for “equipment,” mostly upscale vans, high-end shuttle buses, executive cars for government and military officials, but I have not heard of a single bank, government or private, that has a dedicated loan package for individuals and communities in need of alternative water and electricity sources.

As an example of our twisted priorities, I have even been offered an installment or deferred payment plan for stem cell therapy! I could be wrong, and I hope I am, but has anybody heard of a “loan for solar power equipment and installation” or a “loan for deep well drilling for water?”

Whatever is available out there are not loans or funding available from banks but from a third party or in-house, which means that the terms and interests are surely higher than what banks and financial institutions can offer.

We must avoid the trap that exists in the motorcycle sales and loans system where interest rates are so high that people simply use the bikes for six months then bail and look for another dealer company to buy and borrow from. The dealers don’t mind because they simply resell used equipment, at the same high interest, to another desperate or ignorant consumer!

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