POSTSCRIPT / June 27, 2013 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Water is a free gift of Mother Nature

FREE GIFT: In this highly commercialized world, most people seem to have forgotten that water, like air, is a free gift of Nature.

We inhabitants of this Earth should not be made to pay for the water we drink — as we must not pay for the air we breathe. Both items are free gifts of God (or of Mother Nature, to those who do not believe in Him).

So why do we consumers pay for the water coming out of our faucets? The answer, I think, is that we are actually not paying for the water but for the service, and the consequent value-added of having the water processed and home-delivered to us.

Having natural water, as the main raw material, priced at zero should then make a big difference in computing costs.

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PAY FOR SERVICE: For billing purposes, it seems that the most practical way of measuring the processing and handling costs is to base them on the volume of the water delivered.

Pursuing the same reasoning, we do not — or should not — pay for the spring water sold in bottles and similar containers.

We pay instead for the work done in processing and delivering the water whose retail price is based on the size or capacity of the containers.

We do not really pay for the natural water itself but for the “water service” and the value added. For simplicity, the price is based on the volume delivered.

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OXYGEN, NOT AIR: We have mentioned the parallel case of air, another free gift of God. We should not be charged for breathing it via our respiratory system that was designed to do precisely that.

However, when a patient is supplied with oxygen at a hospital or a clinic, or with the use of a portable device, we see a slight variation in the story.

The patient pays this time for the oxygen — not for normal free air composed of oxygen and various other elements — that had been extracted or generated from whatever source.

As with bottled water, the price of the oxygen (dispensed from tanks or a centralized piped-in system) is padded by the cost of processing, handling and making it available to the patient.

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ZERO COST: We mention the fact of water being a free gift of Nature to put in proper perspective the discussion of the plan of water concessionaires servicing Metro Manila to raise the price of their water.

It is the duty of government to take up the cudgels for us citizens instead of siding with the big businessmen making water distribution a multibillion-peso monopoly.

To get its proper bearing in protecting consumers, the government must be reminded that water has been given to us for free.

Regulators should take the raw water out of the price computation. They should base charges only on the other factors of processing and distribution.

The cost of spring and rain water, the raw material from the wild, should be pegged at zero to bring down the retail price.

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GRIM SIGNS: The basic point being raised here also highlights the important fact that Man has an obligation to protect water sources, to safeguard their quantity and quality, as well as the rest of the ecosystem.

We have long taken for granted water, air and other gifts of a benevolent God. Not only do we waste water and air on the mistaken notion that they will never run out nor have their pristine condition spoiled.

We abuse the environment without regard for generations that follow after us.

That the Philippines has been blessed with abundant natural resources has blinded us to our responsibility as stewards of the Earth entrusted to our care.

Many of us assume that potable water and clean air will be in ample supply forever. But the grim signs are all around us: We are mistaken.

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BACK TO TRAFFIC: Let us now pick up our interrupted brainstorm on managing traffic in the national capital, our show window to the world.

We cannot build more roads in Metro Manila on the short-term (or until 2016 when President Noynoy Aquino steps down), but we can open up more road space and improve traffic flow this way:

• During weekday rush hours (6-9 a.m. and 4-7 p.m.), high-volume thoroughfares will be declared No Parking/No Standing/Tow-Away areas. All vehicles parked along these busy roads will be towed away quickly and without exception.

• With lanes properly marked, No Swerving rules will be enforced by motorcycle cops who will issue violation cards (pre-printed to save time and minimize disturbing traffic flow) after getting the erring driver’s license.

• No vulcanizing and auto repair shops will be allowed along thoroughfares, which will also be off-limits to tricycles.

• Junks or permanently disabled vehicles left on any street longer than 72 hours (three days) will be towed away at owner’s expense.

• Turning left or making U-turns will be allowed only from lanes specifically marked for the purpose. Vehicles outside these turning lanes will be forced to move straight on.

• Delivery trucks, trailers and vehicles exceeding a specified weight will be banned from EDSA and other circumferential roads from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays.

• Traffic lights at successive intersections on long stretches will be synchronized. Drivers of vehicles caught in the yellow boxes on a red light will be handed violation cards.

• All traffic officers must be licensed drivers for a better understanding of their job and the psychology of drivers. They must not leave their vehicles or motorcycles where they can obstruct traffic.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 27, 2013)

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