Proposal: Tourists in Batangas pay P10 of ‘environment fees’


BATANGAS CITY—How far can your P10 reach?

As far as saving the environment’s treasures in Batangas, provincial board members Christopher de Leon and Mabelle Virtusio contend. That is why they’ve co-authored a proposed ordinance for Batangueños and for travelers, visitors and guests of the province’s hotels and resorts to pay that additional P10 coin for environmental protection.

It’s about time the province, Virtusio said, charges what it calls “environment fees” among visitors —like what tourist destinations Puerto Galera (P140) and Boracay (P100) do— and P10 is a “cheap amount” to help launch provincial environmental protection projects.

“The number of tourists visiting the province is increasing. But at the same time… the environment is being sacrificed because of the bigger amount of wastes visitors generate,” Virtusio said.

Look at Batangueño bantay dagat (sea warden) members, de Leon said during a recent hearing of the provincial board’s committee on environment. They only receive P500 allowances every three months from municipal governments. With limited budget for gasoline, “how can they go after illegal fishers and poachers?”

The Provincial Environment Conservation Fee Ordinance, if enacted by the provincial board, will mandate the P10 environmental fee from residents, tourists, travelers and guests who enter the resorts or hotels in Batangas, as well as the ship passengers who arrive from ports outside of the province.

The said fee shall be good only for a person’s entire stay on a specific area in Batangas. The proposed ordinance, which de Leon and Virtusio filed, provides that municipal treasurers are assigned to collect the said fees and remit these to the provincial treasurer who pools these into a provincial environmental protection trust fund.

Violators, the proposed ordinance writes, could face a fine of P500 for non-payment, P1,000 for non-issuance of tickets by the designated and authorized collectors, and P2,500 for unauthorized collection of conservation fee

But the collection of these fees is where the debate lies.

Provincial Treasurer Fortunata Lat questioned the proposed system of collection: municipal treasury offices are short of personnel, Lat said. Emilie Katigbak, provincial tourism officer, thinks collection should be assigned to somebody else and have the collector audited by the Commission on Audit.

Jun Dijan, chief of staff of Gov. Vilma Santos–Recto, expressed doubts on how resort owners will collect the fee, especially since resort owners “have been complaining” already of the province-imposed amusement tax, that can be up to 30 percent of gross receipts of admission fees.

Dijan said resort owners might also fix the actual amount collected in their receipts and “there’s no way that for the province to monitor” the collection of the environment fee. And violators, Dijan asks: “Who will charge the fines unto them?”

If this fee might shy away tourists, as Dijan claims, Virtusio said P10 ain’t enough “to discourage tourists” (the number of domestic visitors to Batangas reached 1.427 million in 2010, says the 2010 Survey of Domestic Visitors of the National Statistics Office).

Operations Manager Evelyn Hernandez of La Virginia Resort in Mataasnakahoy municipality lauded the proposed ordinance, but thinks that charging an environmental fee is “a double kill” for resort owners given their payment of amusement taxes, which is two percent in Batangas.

But “it’s not about the fee,” says Professor Erwin Buenviaje of Lyceum Philippines University-Batangas. “It’s about changing people’s mindsets to care for the environment.”