Residents of Lian town in Batangas are protesting the local government’s collection of environment user’s fee in Barangay Matabungkay, which allegedly did not go through the process of public consultation.
Dennis Ilagan, who represents the residents in Barangay San Diego in Lian, said they have already asked Lian Mayor Isagani Bolompo for a copy of the public hearings and meetings conducted before the collection of the P25 environment user’s fee was implemented.
The local government has yet to comply with their requests. Mayor Bolompo could not be reached for comment at press time.
Ilagan said the residents have been asking the LGU to stop collecting the fee since 2016, as they said the fund does not go where it is intended to be, such as keeping areas clean and green. Instead, he said, the pollution in the area worsened.
Matabungkay is famed for its white-sand beach, which is just 120 kilometers from Manila. It was a favored destination by both locals and foreigners starting in the 1950s, until the beach’s quality suffered from misuse. The environmental fee was intended to pay for the barangay’s cleanup.
“We have objected to the collection of the environmental users fee because, we said, ‘You are ruining tourism for Lian.’ They [LGU officials] do not believe us, and in their desire to collect more fees, they have railroaded the system to pass [an ordinance for] it,” Ilagan said.
“The problem is, they are playing a ‘moro-moro’ (stage play) with the public hearings. They say they’ve held it, but the truth is they haven’t. We have talked to residents of Matabungkay who can attest they have not held a public hearing,” he added.
He said the local government earlier revealed that P500,000 from the environment user’s fee is missing,but the residents do not believe that it was stolen, as no investigation was conducted, and no charges have been filed.
“If indeed there’s something missing, why have charges not been filed? Someone should have sued by now,” Ilagan said.
Ilagan also questioned the land development and quarrying being conducted in Lian despite a cease-and-desist order issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
DENR Undersecretary Benny Antiporda has sent his staff to Lian to investigate the situation based on the complaints of the residents.