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ROUGH CUTS | Having a clean Panigan River

So the Barangay Council of Carmen in Baguio District, Davao City has endorsed a resolution to the City Council to pass an ordinance authorizing the former to collect fees from visitors and swimmers in that stretch of the Panigan River? The fresh water body has been declared by the government a protected area.

The resolution request says its purpose is for the collected amount to be used as augmentation to the barangay emergency fund that is intended to be used for the river’s preservation. The fees will be collected from vehicles that will be parked on designated areas along the river, fees from vendors and environmental fee.

According to news reports the resolution was triggered by the viral post in the social media showing the huge number of people picnicking and bathing on the Panigan River on its Carmen stretch during the recent holidays. They were captured on the camera improperly disposing of their garbage and other refuse right into the river.

The same news item a Verification and Inspection Report by the City Environment and Natural Resource Office (CENRO) dated January 9 says there were 2,000 people both tourists and local residents who have spent their time frolicking in that portion of the river. There were also several make-shift cottages used as vendors’ stalls or as shades for the bathers. The owners of the make-shift cottages were charging the occupants P150 for its use. Yet they have no permit for such business endeavor. The vendors too, do not have any permit, according to the report.

Incidentally, the stretch of the Panigan River in Carmen happens to be in the upstream of the recently operational Bulk Water Supply project of the Davao City Water District and the Apo Agua Infrastructura. The quality of the water that will get into the facility of the Bulk Water System is likely to be affected if garbage will just be thrown wantonly in the upstream.

In its report CENRO is strongly recommending that operations of cottages for rental be immediately stopped in order to protect the bulk water supply. Oh, we thought it is the environment in general?

Now the Carmen Barangay Council resolution is referred to the Council’s Committee on Environment and Natural Resources (CENRO) the chairman of which is Councilor Temojin Ocampo. From his statement on the issue it appears that the chair is cool on the idea of imposing such fees by the barangay. He says that while he sympathizes with the Barangay Council he does not agree that imposing fees will address the issue but that “stricter rules for entry in the area may.”

The former media man councilor believes that cleanliness remains the people’s responsibility further saying that “if you really care for the environment whether you pay or not, you really clean your trash.”
The question however, is how many of the people subscribe to such dictum and acknowledge the same as indeed cleanliness of surroundings not theirs as their responsibility? Is the present city government’s effort to inform, educate and communicate to the people enough to make them voluntarily and whole-heartedly accept such mandate despite the presence of some legislative measures appending such responsibility? We have our serious doubts.

Moreover, existing laws on environment protection are mere “paper tigers.” These are harsh in appearance or contents but the laws – local or national – lack the strength of jaws to allow these to bite the strongest. We mean that while the laws have the teeth to bite but these do not have what it takes to be enforced to the fullest.

Yes, these laws are not complemented with the appropriate manpower to enforce. These do not have the basic means to engage the community and its people in having the mandates effectively carried out.
We even doubt whether the laws on environment and ecological protection are properly communicated to the people who are asked to obey the same.

We can only wonder if the laws have deputized any of the barangay officials including barangay policemen to implement the same and carry out sanctions that are provided thereon.

So, how can the people impose on themselves the responsibility of the cleanliness of areas outside their own property – the Panigan river included?


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