The Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) of the Loboc Watershed Forest Reserve (LWFR) decided to first establish restrooms with “international standards” and a parking area at the man-made forest which straddles the towns of Loboc and Bilar before it starts to collect an entrance fee from visitors at the renowned tourist destination.
According to Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) Charlie Fabre, the PAMB has a P1.8-million budget for the facilities’ construction which it earned through users’ fee collected since 2016.
The PAMB collected the fee from businesses operating within the LWFR such as the Loboc Hydroelectric Power Plant of the Sta. Clara Power Corporation, one of the largest establishments in the protected area.
Meanwhile, the PENRO has coordinated with the Department of Public Works and Highways in identifying the ideal location for the parking lot along the two-kilometer stretch of the manmade forest.
“Diha pud tong taga highways [DPWH] ingon siya na dili pwede ng magparking diha. In fact, pinaka dugay na nang two to three minutes, dapat mo hawa nana sila diha kay highway mana,” Fabre said.
Earlier, the PAMB ordered the suspension of the impending entrance fee collection at the manmade forest and the entire LWFR after it drew flak from various sectors including local elected officials.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources, after the furor against the fee collection erupted, clarified last month that locals will be exempted from paying fees at the man-made forest.
However, Fabre in an interview on Monday said they will still continue to discuss the issue with tourism stakeholders while planning and construction of the restrooms and parking lot are ongoing.
He said that they are considering to collect one entrance fee for all the 16 protected areas of the province. In this case, visitors may visit all protected areas for a single payment in a certain period.
“One collection for entrance, para bisag asa siya kausa ra siya mo bayad. Kay karon, kung atong sundon kada protected area mo bayad sila,” Fabre said.
The DENR is expected to lift the suspension of the fee collection at the LWFR once facilities at the manmade forest are built.
The environment official noted that they are not after revenues in implementing the fee collection, but the resources needed to maintain the LWFR and other protected areas in the province. (Allen Doydora)