By Noel Cabobos
The anomalous collection of P30 for the use of pontoon on the island is not in any way sanctioned by the Boracay Task Force after all.
This became apparent after the Boracay Inter-Agency Rehabilitation Management Group (BIARMG) has directed Acting Mayor Frolibar Bautista “to stop the collection of pontoon user fees until the approval of BIATF principals.”
BIARMG is the implementing arm of the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force (BIATF) headed by DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu. BIATF, through the President’s Executive Order No. 53, was tasked to formulate and implement the action plan for Boracay’s rehabilitation to reverse the degradation of this island paradise.
In the letter released today (January 10) from the office of the Task Force, BIARMG General Manager Natividad Bernardino cited various complaints and opposition from different stockholders regarding the fee and stated that, “please be reminded that during the November 26, 2019 meeting of the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force alternates, you were advised that your proposal on collecting user fees for the pontoon operations (has to) be subjected first to the approval of the BIATF Principals.”
The collection of the P30 user fee started on December 21, 2019 on the strength of Executive Order No. 51, series of 2019, signed on December 5, 2019 by Bautista purportedly to regulate the operations of water activities on the island.
The Executive Order mandated all water sports and sea sports operators– Island Hopping, Helmet Diving, Banana Boat Riding, Scuba Diving, Parasailing, Flyfishing, Jetskiing, Sunset Cruise, and other related water and sea sports activities–to utilize the centralized pontoon.
The EO has been the object of massive oppositions from sports enthusiasts and stakeholders since December last year.
The Boracay Water Sports Association, Inc., for its part, passed a Board Resolution on January 5, 2019 asking Acting Mayor Frolibar Bautista to stop the implementation of the said order.
“We would like to remind our Honorable Elected Officials that although they have authority and powers in issuing and/or enacting executive orders and ordinances, such authority and powers must still be exercised according to our laws,” wrote Russel Cruz, president of the Boracay Water Sports Association.
The group decried the order for them by Acting Mayor Bautista to collect the fees together with the other associations in behalf of the local government which they said is contrary to law.
After issuing the EO, Acting Mayor Bautista directed the Boracay Island Hopping Adventure Multi-purpose Cooperative, Boracay Association of Sport and Scuba Diving (BASS), Boracay Watersports Association, and Helmet Diving Association to collect the P30 fee in behalf of the local government of Malay. He did not issue them corresponding receipts.
In a research conducted by the Boracay Informer, it was learned that the Sangguniang Bayan of Malay has allowed Bautista to execute the collection of the said fee despite the lack of an appropriate Ordinance to its effect. Acting Mayor Bautista cannot be immediately reached for comment.