The province’s top environment official on Friday said that locals are exempted from paying fees at the man-made forest in Loboc and Bilar after the supposed imposition of an entrance fee collection at the top tourist site was bombarded with criticisms from various sectors over the past week.
Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer (PENRO) Charlie Fabre, in a meeting with local officials and stakeholders in the tourism industry at a restaurant in Tagbilaran City, said that Boholanos should not pay for entry to what “they own.”
“Inyo maning resources ngano pabayron man mo na inyo mani so ang kolektahan lang, ang intention sa opisina, sa inyong board is ang mga turista na gusto mag adventure, sightseeing ug mo sulod g’yud sa atong protected areas,” he said, adding that the exemption will be observed in all of the province’s 15 other protected areas.
Fabre claimed that it was part of the initial plan that locals would be exempted from the fee collection.
However, leaflets with information on the entrance fees for the man-made forest and the rest of the Loboc Watershed Forest Reserve (LWFR) which were distributed last week did not indicate any exemption.
Fabre in previous interviews with the media including live ones over station dyRD also did not mention that locals are exempted from paying the fee.
According to Fabre, there was a lapse in the agency’s information dissemination regarding the fee collection.
“Ako nagkulang siguro sa kadako sa akong responsibility. Ang information nahatag lang namo sa among APASO (Assistant Protected Area Superintendent Officer)…nagkulang ang information na wala man diay apil ang mga mulopyo sa Bohol,” he said.
It was also clarified that those who will stop roadside and take pictures need not pay. Only those who will enter the forest to take a trek or engage in filming will be charged.
Meanwhile, the fee collection at the LWFR which includes the man-made forest that straddles the towns of Bilar and Loboc, remained suspended pending a meeting of the LWFR’s Protected Area Management Board (PAMB).
“Nakuha namo ang sentimento sa atong katawhan diri sa Bohol and then all the feedback, comments, suggestion among ipresent balik sa among PAMB and then the PAMB tan-awon nila kung unsa ilang mabuhat and then kung naa silay amendment or decision pa-aprobahan nato sa DENR,” he said.
It was the LWFR’s PAMB that imposed the fee collection through a resolution passed in June last year in accordance with the DENR’s Administrative Order (DAO) 2016-24 which was issued during the term of the late former Environment Secretary Gina Lopez.
The province’s top environment official also noted that they would still have to thresh out several other details on the fee collection including what measures to impose to distinguish the locals from visitors.
He admitted that this would pose as a major hurdle as it would be difficult to identify residents and non-locals particularly other Filipinos.
Fabre earlier clarified that all of the country’s protected areas including the 16 located in Bohol are covered by the DAO which mandates a fee of P30 for adults, P15 for students and senior citizens and P100 for foreigners who enter a protected area.
It was also previously highlighted that passersby and users of the national road which cuts through the man-made forest are not required to pay fees. (A. Doydora)