WELCOME to Matabungkay, Batangas announces the sign as you enter the barangay via the Zobel Highway.
The first disturbing views are of the numerous plastic bags of garbage strewn down both sides of the road.
Upon my first visit here in 1998 this was an idyllic, small piece of paradise inspiring me to commit to it as the place I would retire.
For many years this remained so and I purchased a condominium.
Tourists and residents alike could walk safely along the beach or neighborhood roads without fear for their safety.
Then 5 or 6 years ago it all began to change.
Nobody feels safe walking anywhere any more. Tourists are accosted by gangs of youngsters on the beach demanding money.
Squatters (land thieves-not informal settlers) began appearing in droves. Groups of men stand and sit idly along the roads at all hours of the day and night.
An entire community of them lives on the land owned by the Dept. of Education (which is rumored to have been transferred to the holdings of a former politician).
The beaches are now spoiled as people relieve themselves in the water and there is trash everywhere.
Dogs roam in packs threatening people on foot, on bicycles and motorbikes at all times of the day and night.
Karaoke is heard 24 hours a day during vacation periods despite local ordinances against the practice. As one hotel guest asked “how can you allow people to come here for the weekend and hijacking your village”? He and many like him have not been back.
Vehicles of all description now ply the roads without registration and likely without insurance. I don`t mean just a few vehicles but the vast majority.
Indeed the local barangay vehicles appear to lack registration stickers.
Children as young as ten years of age are seen operating motorbikes. The age for a non-professional drivers license is 17.
By far the biggest assault on the law abiding are the noises produced by the motorcycles operators whom have seen fit to alter or totally remove their mufflers. At all hours of the day and indeed the middle of the night we are constantly assailed by these sounds.
Philippine Republic Act 4136 clearly states what is and is not acceptable for the operation of a motor vehicle in this country.
All roads in and into Matabungkay, Luyahan and Ligtasin and all vehicles operated here clearly fall under this act.
The barangay officials do nothing to enforce the vehicle laws here; indeed it has been stated to me by more than one official that these laws only apply on the highway and not in the municipality. WRONG!
Starting last fall a new and terrifying series of events began. Residents were being robbed at gunpoint in their homes. And not just a few instances.
As a result of this an informal residents association met with the Mayor of Lian and and the local PNP chief.
All of our above concerns were voiced and we were assured that measures were underway to correct all of these problems.
The armed robberies have since abated. A more visible police presence is likely the reason as patrols are regular and ongoing.
But the enforcement of PRA 4136 is non-existant. Likewise with the Karaoke, the dog problems and the squatters.
The mayor stated that he would like to see more investment in the area to bring the Matabungkay Beach area up to a standard that would entice tourism.
Good luck with that, until lawlessness is obliterated here tourists will stay away in droves.
Welcome to Matabungkay says the sign.
FOR SOME OF THE MATABUNGKAY,
LIGTASIN AND LUYAHAN RESIDENTS.