Malay execs face charges over Boracay ‘green’ fee

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ILOILO City – Graft and malversation charges relative to the environmental and administration fees collected from tourists entering Boracay Island from 2009 to 2017 were filed against several incumbent and former officials of Malay, Aklan.

Boracay is under the jurisdiction of the local government unit of Malay. During those years in question, each tourist must pay an environmental fee of P75.

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) observed a “consistent pattern of discrepancy” between the amount of fees collected and reported.

It filed the complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman on Oct. 30.

Environmental fee collection reports submitted by the municipal treasurer and municipal accountant from 2012 to 2017 had a discrepancy reaching P30,678,920.73, according to NBI.

For the same period, there was also a discrepancy in the collection reports of the municipal treasurer and municipal tourism office, noted the NBI. The discrepancy reached P84,860,570.

“Noticeably, the report from the municipal treasurer always declared a lower amount (shortage) as compared to the reports from the tourism office and accountant,” read a part of the 51-page complaint.

Named respondents were elected officials Mayor Ciceron Cawaling who was recently suspended by the Ombudsman, former mayor John Yap, former vice mayor Wilbec Gelito and 18 former and incumbent Sangguniang Bayan members of Malay, namely  now acting mayor Abram Sualog, Rowen Aguirre, Jonathan Cabrera, Esel Flores, Jupiter Gallanero, Leal Gelito, Natalie Paredes, Dante Pagsuguiron, Paterno Sacapaño Jr., Floribar Paredes, Danilo delos Santos, Julieta Aron, Gideon Siñel, Cristina Prado, Mateo Tayco, Roldan Casidsid, Niño Elpe de Sultan, and Charlie Villanueva.

Malay’s municipal treasurer Dediosa Dioso and 11 town collectors were also included in the case.

According to the NBI, it also found out that from 2009 to 2017, the municipal treasurer’s office failed to deposit the full amount of the collection on time.

It must be noted that while the P75 environmental fee is mandatory, there are exemptions. Residents of Boracay Island, children below 13 years old and government officials are not obliged to pay.

These exemptions could explain the discrepancies, according to Aguirre.

In March this year the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) created a 12-person team to investigate and file charges against local government officials and personnel and private individuals liable for the environmental problems of Boracay Island.

The move was in line with President Rodrigo Duterte’s instruction to the DILG and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to fix Boracay’s environmental woes.

On June 27, DILG undersecretary Epimaco Densing III filed administrative and criminal charges against 17 Aklan local officials including Cawaling before the Office of the Ombudsman.

He accused them of negligence in ensuring the sustainability of Boracay.

The respondents were Gov. Florencio Miraflores, Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer Valentin Talabero, Sangguniang Bayan members Natalie Cawaling-Paderes, Jupiter Gallenero, Floribar Bautista, Lloyd Maming, Dalidig Sumandad, Maylynn Aguirre-Graf, Danilo Delos Santos, and Dante Pagsuguiron, Licensing Officer III Jen Salsona, Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Officer Edgardo Sancho, and barangay officials Hector Casidsid, Chona Gabay and Lilibeth Sacapaño./PN

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