The Economic Cost of Aliping’s destruction of Baguio’s watershed

The Value of our Forests


Baguio City, a town of half a million people that is perennially without water, so much so that in this city there are more than a dozen water delivery services which do brisk business, especially during the summer months. So it is almost unfathomable that one of the few remaining watersheds in the City was destroyed by it’s very own Congressman Nicasio Aliping, a memberof the Liberal Party, in order to construct his ‘eco-resort’ resulting in the deprivation of the basic human right of clean water to 4176 water connections or up to a quarter of the population of Baguio City and the Municipality of Tuba. All from the work of one man.

This brings me to the topic at hand, what is the value of our forest resources in the Philippines. By far we are currently under spending in terms of investment into forest protection as well as expansion. The current administration’s national greening program is in fact sorely lacking in terms of forests protected, as it focuses much of it’s efforts on planting and the counting of seedlings rather than the protection and setting aside of protected forest areas. Creating bigger forest reserves and protecting them is the only way for us to go forward with this critical resource and Baguio as a test case seems to have provided the perfect valuation tool to argue for bigger forest reserves and more intense protection and investment into our forest resources.

Too often Forests are under valued in our economic system. The timber or recreational value they provide cannot compete with the economies produced by factory agriculture, mining, or land conversion into subdivisions or resorts but due to the dastardly work of Congressman Nicasio Aliping of the Liberal Party this valuation may be due for change and we have a forest destroyer to thank for it. That value is water.

Forests are natural water towers that not only store water but also purify water without the added cost of chemical or mechanical purification methods; it can provide a more stable water supply extending into the dryer months as well as create a microclimate that will induce higher precipitation creating a continuous cycle of water creation. It is in effect a factory that produces water, and in our current overpopulated water hungry country every single remaining forest is a necessity to our economic growth and human survival.

Now comes the valuation, and why the case of Baguio’s Liberal Party Congressman’s Forest Destruction is so important. Nicasio Aliping, in the construction of his ‘eco-resort’ illegally bulldozed over 2.5kilometers or 2.5 hectares of Forest in 2013-14 in order to construct a road that would lead to his private resort. This construction destroyed 2 major springs that the Baguio Water District is currently using depriving the water district and a quarter of Baguio residents of 400 gallons of water per minute. Before the destruction of the springs the water district utilized the Amliang springs of Mt. Kabuyao and Sto Tomas from June to December or half of the year. This year these springs will not be used and quite possibly extending into the next 2 years pending their rehabilitation.

The case of Liberal Party Congressman Aliping destroying the forests has presented us with a direct market price method of valuating our forest resource, specifically the Mt. Sto Tomas and Mt. Kabuyao watershed of Baguio City and the Municipality of Tuba Benguet valued for the water that this forest produces and that the consumers utilize in the current local water market. This will also represent the total financial liability of Nicasio Aliping given the current cases lodged against him by the Baguio Water District.

To start with there a few givens we must take into consideration:

1. 400 gallons of water production per minute from the Amliang spring of Mt. Kabuyao and Sto. Tomas range. (Data from Baguio Water District)
2. Utilization of this spring for 6 months from June to December (Data from Baguio Water District)
3. The presumption that all or 99% of the water captured from the Amliang springs is sold to consumers in Baguio given that there is currently a shortfall of supply and that according to the Baguio Water District they can only supply the 4176 connections with water 3 times a week necessitating a full sale of the 400 gallons per minute or 1.5 cubic meters capacity. (Data from Baguio Water District)
4. External costs: 2.5 Million pesos per month increased electricity cost to the Baguio water district for operating their stage 1 pump to compensate for the loss of water from the Amliang springs. (Data from Baguio Water District)
5. Cost of exploration for new water sources (unknown)
6. Cost of rehabilitation of both springs and the watershed (unkown)
7. The current market price of 59.05 per cubic meter of water given the current residential market price of the Baguio water district. (Data from Baguio Water District)
8. The assumption that the benefit from before the destruction is an equal value to the loss in benefit after the destruction of the springs.
9. The assumption that there is no water surplus given that the water district even at peak capacity can only supply its customers 3 times a week.

Creating a simple analysis of direct market value of the forest ecosystem through the water lost from the destruction of the forests in the Mt. Kabuyao watershed as a function of Number of Cubic Meters x Time x Market Price = Direct Forest Value per given time period

1.51416 Cubic Meters Per minute from the Amliang Springs x 1440 minutes per day x 183 days from June to December x 59.05 Pesos per cubic meter = PhP23,561,625.72

This represents only the direct value of the forest as a watershed for 6 months translated to a yearly value the watershed of Mt. Kabuyao and Mt. Sto Tomas is worth PhP47,123,251.44 per year just from 2 springs or a daily value of PhP129,104.80 per day! And this is just the value of potable water.

Because the change in quantity of the product from the watershed was 100% to 0% we can easily compute even with this relatively simple analysis the total value of a given ecosystem. The value of 47 Million Pesos a year represents the most direct value of this relatively small patch of forest and shows the large impact that incursions such as the 2.5 hectare forest clearing by Nicasio Aliping has caused to the watershed, despite this being only a small percentage in terms of total land area. The inclusion of the 2.5 Million peso additional electrical charges incurred by the Baguio water district after the destruction of the springs will add 30 Million in economic costs per year and will also represent an added economic value to the forest area raising it’s total valuation to 77 million pesos per year. As we do not yet know the cost of exploration for new water sources as well as the cost of rehabilitation those valuables will have to be added later on and could easily breach the 100 million mark a year in potential value for the Mt. Sto Tomas and Kabuyao watershed area.

Given these numbers Nicasio Aliping is legally liable to approximately the same amount or more given the loss of income by the Baguio Water District, adding costs of increased pump operations and costs for exploration and rehabilitation. 77 MILLION PESOS for 700+ trees per year seems to be a fair exchange, and this for only 2.5 hectares of destruction. And I would like to point out that this is a running tab as long as the springs are not utilized the cost of his liability increases by approximately PhP129,104.80 per day.

The bigger issue here though is that despite the value of 77 Million pesos a year directly provided by this particular Forest reservation, barely 1% goes to its protection or enhancement. And this is true for almost every single forest reserve in the country, some of which like Ipo watershed, the Agno River Basin, and La Mesa watershed can incur values of ten times the value of the Mt. Sto Tomas watershed due to their larger service areas and production of energy.

We need a policy shift in which our forests, the most important water towers we have with less than 24% remaining in the country, should receive investments to increase their land area and improve their quality from the water that is harvested from them. The connection between the market and the forest is clear in this case and ironically we have a forest destroyer to thank for showing us the way.