Councilor Jimbo Maristela (File photo)

City Councilor Peter “Jimbo” Maristela has criticized the city government for its alleged failure to put to use some P141M in unused environmental fees collected from tourists visiting Puerto Princesa City.

In a privilege speech Monday, Maristela cited a report by the City Treasurer’s Office (CTO) showing that the city collected around P166 million in environmental fees as of September 2019 and spent P406,268 on Vis Solis and P25 million on Puerto Princesa City Water Reclamation and Learning Center or the wastewater treatment facility.

Maristela said the two projects are the only ones that were funded so far.

“Ibig sabihin kung dalawang proyekto pa lamang na ito ang pinondohan ng mula sa environmental fee collection ay mayroon pang nasa P141 million na natitirang pondo, unappropriated pa. Ibig sabihin ay wala pa tayong masasabing konkretong proyekto sa ating mga turista kung saan ito napupunta dahil napakalaki ng funding na ito na hindi nagagamit,” Maristela said.

He also said that the construction of the wastewater treatment facility has not yet started even if the P25 million has already been appropriated.

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“Bukod pa dito, ang wastewater treatment facility na pinondohan ng P25 million mula dito (environmental fee) ay tila hindi pa rin nasisimulan,” he said.

He said that the city government should think about funding projects that would be beneficial to both locals and tourists, especially in frequented tourist sites.

Maristela said the projects could be the establishment of good drainage systems, as well as their rehabilitation, to prevent flooding.

These could be in the underground river in Sitio Sabang, Barangay Cabayugan, or Honda Bay in Brgy. Sta. Lourdes.

The environmental fee fund may also be used for waste segregation, Maristela said.

“Ano po ba ang dahilan at hindi pa nagagamit ang malaking bahagi ng pondo mula sa environmental fee? Problema natin ang drainage system, maraming mga lugar sa lungsod ang lumulubog sa baha kapag malakas ang ulan. Hindi po ba natin pwede magamit ang pondo na ito? Maganda rin sana na makapaglagay tayo ng proyekto mula dito upang maipakita natin sa ating mga bisita ang pinaggagamitan ng kanilang binabayad,” he said.

Maristela said he heard that the remaining fund will be used by the City ENRO for the new sanitary landfill.

“Nais natin malaman ang mga proyekto na planong gawin mula sa fees collected. Ayon sa aking napag-alaman ay plano ng City ENRO na gamitin ang pondo nito sa pagtatayo ng isang panibagong sanitary landfill dahil puno na ang ating landfill sa Sta. Lourdes,” he said.

Under City Ordinance No. 861, the environmental fee is intended for conservation and protection of the environment through infrastructure projects and related programs to be determined by City ENRO.

It also stated that 80 percent of the total collected fees are intended for the environmental infrastructures and programs while the remaining 20 percent will be for the Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE).

Officers of City ENRO, city budget, city treasurer, city planning office and city administrator are requested to appear before the City Council’s question hour in the next regular session.

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is the chief of correspondents of Palawan News. She covers defense, politics, tourism, health, and sports stories. She loves to travel and explore different foods.