Lapu-Lapu faces challenge collecting fee

Lapu-Lapu City Hall SunStar File
Lapu-Lapu City Hall SunStar File

A LAPU-LAPU City official has admitted that they face a challenge in enforcing City Ordinance 16-132-2023, which imposes an environmental fee of P100, given the city’s extensive coastline and limited manpower.

The Lapu-Lapu City Government on Wednesday, May 1, 2024, started collecting the amount from local and international tourists who engaged in island hopping and other water sports and recreational activities, such as scuba diving, free diving, banana boat riding, jet skiing, sea-walking, parasailing, kayaking, as well as other similar activities, except swimming and snorkeling conducted near the shorelines of resorts and public beaches.

“We have a lot of realizations today, and we will again look at our implementation... Anyway, if they will go to Cordova, for example, as their entry point, dili ma-record ang ilang pumpboat (their pumpboats won’t be recorded), and if anything will happen, dili dayon sila ma-rescue (they won’t immediately be rescued),” Annabeth Cuizon said in a text message to SunStar Cebu on Wednesday.

She confirmed reports that several island-hopping boat operators were seen departing from and docking at the port in the neighboring town of Cordova.

She clarified that the ordinance does not prohibit operators or tourists from departing from ports outside the city to avoid paying the environmental fee or to avoid getting penalized.

However, if their destinations include any sites, islets or islands that fall under the jurisdiction of the City Government, the operators must ensure that the tourists pay P100 each.

“Pwede ra gyud sila sa Cordova or maski asa sila manukad para mo likay sa (They can depart from Cordova or any other place to avoid paying) P100. But once mosulod na sila sa (they enter) Lapu-Lapu boundaries, mapaninglan gihapon sila (we’ll still collect from them),” Cuizon said.

She said the City Government deployed personnel from Bantay Dagat, Water Search and Rescue, City Environment and Natural Resources, and the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office to conduct random inspections of island-hopping boats and similar activities to ensure compliance.

Under the ordinance, operators who allow individuals who haven’t paid the environmental fee to board their boats will face a written warning on the first offense, while they face a fine of P3,500 plus a written warning on the probable revocation of the business permit on the second offense. Operators face a fine of P5,000, and revocation of the business permit on the third offense.

Lapu-Lapu City residents are exempted from paying the environmental fee upon presentation of a valid ID with an address in the city, as well as children 12 years old and below.

Senior citizens and persons with disabilities can enjoy a 20 percent discount.

Meeting

In a consultative meeting on Wednesday morning with the operators of scuba diving shops in Barangay Marigondon, Lapu-Lapu City, City Environment and Natural Resources Office officer-in-charge Emeterio Bonghanoy said the enforcement of the ordinance centered on the compliance of operators.

He said there are four identified collection sites, namely the port of Angasil, Maribago, Punta Engaño (Hilton) and Marigondon.

Operators of scuba diving shops asked him if their clients had to physically visit collection sites every time they pay the environmental fee.

Bonghanoy told them that arrangements could be made with the City Treasurer’s Office, such as making advance payments with the receipts delivered directly to the shops.

However, the method’s efficiency was questioned, and to address it, Bonghanoy said there are plans to integrate the payment into online platforms, such as e-wallets and quick-response or QR codes.

Bonghanoy explained that those who swim, dive or snorkel right in front of the shorelines of their shops up to five meters deep of water are exempted from paying the fee.

But if their activities already include traveling to other sites, they must pay the environmental fee, he said. The environmental fee is valid for one day, regardless of the activity.

However, Bonghanoy said the fee does not cover the environmental or sanctuary fee of Olango Island, which is imposed by virtue of a barangay ordinance.

He said transit passengers from the Lapu-Lapu mainland to Olango Island don’t have to pay the environmental fee.

Bonghanoy said all funds collected will be deposited in a trust fund.

Seventy percent of the trust fund will be used to finance programs and projects of the City Government to protect the environment.

He said the City will be transparent in the collection and spending of the funds generated.

He added that stakeholders such as the divers can also recommend projects with environmental impact.

Among the initial projects that will be funded by the measure are the improvement of waste management and disposal from island-hopping boats, as well as the rehabilitation of seawaters and corals, among others. / EHP

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