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P50 added to tourists’ fees

Batangas town justifies additional collection by pointing to volume of garbage left by visitors
By: - Correspondent / @maricarcincoINQ
/ 05:20 AM September 10, 2018

BUSY PORT A boat waits for tourists at the port of Mabini, Batangas, to ferry them to the island town of Tingloy, another Batangas tourist attraction. —CLIFFORD NUÑEZ

SAN PEDRO CITY — The municipal government of Mabini, Batangas, has started collecting a P50 fee from tourists in the town known for its diving spot, Anilao, a village in the town.

Mabini Mayor Noel Luistro said the P50 fee would finance the collection and management of garbage, especially those generated by the tourism industry not only in Anilao but also in the neighboring island town of Tingloy.

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Luistro said during summer and on weekends, the number of tourists descending on the town reaches 5,000.

“I could just imagine. That’s about 5,000 water bottles,” the mayor said.

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“They eat, and when the boats are delayed, just imagine how much food wrapper is left,” Luistro added.

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Mabini serves as jump-off point to Tingloy, some 45 minutes by boat, where the white beach of Masasa, made famous by exposure in social media, attracts thousands of tourists every year.

The entire town’s annual tourist arrival was estimated at 350,000 to 400,000.

Business owners in Mabini, however, were not happy about the new fee.

They said the local government was already charging P200 per diver. At least P50 of this goes to the municipality of Tingloy.

A statement, issued by Anilao Resort Owners Association, said the additional P50 environmental fee could lead to a decline in the number of tourists and divers going to Anilao.

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At least 75 resorts and dive shops operate in Mabini.

The group questioned why the fund would be used to build parks, waiting sheds or projects not meant for the environment.

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A copy of the resolution enacted on July 16 showed that of the P50 environmental fee per tourist, P10 would go to the municipal agriculture or tourism office and printing of environmental fee tickets. At least P7.50 will go to villages that host tourism establishments, and P2.50 would go to landowners.

At least P5 of the fee will go to the local treasury.

Twenty-five pesos would be allotted for environmental projects like waiting areas, rehab of resources and solid waste management.

Exempted from the environmental fee collection were residents of Mabini and Tingloy and children 6 years old and below.

Still without a landfill, Luistro said Mabini spends millions of pesos hauling its garbage to Bauan town.

Other projects

The mayor said some of the funds that would be collected through the environmental fee could be used on infrastructure like evacuation centers.

Romeo Trono, marine conservationist, said the local government’s intention in collecting environmental fees could have “good intention,” but the use of funds “has never been very clear.”

Trono, who used to head the resorts’ association until early this year, said the local government was already raising collecting P11 million to P14 million a year from divers’ fees alone.

The resort owners said the amount should be “more than enough” already.

“What is the purpose of collecting an additional P50 tourist fee?” they said.

Buoys

Trono, former country director of the international environmental groups World Wide Fund for Nature and Conservation International, helped craft Mabini’s Coastal Resource Management Code in 2015.

He said what needed more attention and funding were mooring buoys to keep boats anchored and prevent these from destroying corals.

Luistro said the local government would conduct more clean-up campaigns and, by 2019, would require each resort to have its own sewage system.

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TAGS: Anilao tourist fee, Mabini tourist fee, Noel Luistro, Tingloy
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