NOTE: THIS STORY WAS FIRST PUBLISHED IN THE BOHOL CHRONICLE’S SUNDAY PRINT EDITION.
Batuan town’s last-termer Mayor Atty. Antonino Jumawid cried foul that the local government units (LGUs), where the protected areas are located, received no shares from the environment/entrance fee collected by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
This surfaced during the meeting of the Protected Areas Management Board (PAMB) for the Chocolate Hills Natural Monument (CHNM), where, like Carmen and Sagbayan towns, Batuan belongs.
Mayor Jumawid who was present and his first attendance to the said meeting lamented that why collect the entrance fees in protected areas when LGUs, where the area is situated, do not receive a centavo from it.
He even suggested that the law, apparently referring to the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) or Republic Act. No. 11038 which governs the protected areas, should be amended to suit the needs of the LGUs concerned.
Mayor Jumawid also raised the issue of tree planting and cutting which somehow made the law inconsistent. He cited as an example the DENR allowed to cut trees growing around the Chocolate Hills in Carmen apparently to make the hills clearer. But in Batuan, the whole town is declared as a protected area, and cutting of trees seemed to be prohibited.
The law governing tree cutting is inconsistent and contrary to the local autonomy, Jumawid said, saying the law should be just and reasonable.
He also suggested that these laws, including the department order of DENR, must be amended. He said he already consulted congresswoman Alexie Tutor and the latter is supportive on this.
Why make people suffer when they’re already used to such activities in their private lands before the DENR or the NIPAS Act was passed, he said?
Amendments to the said laws is imperative for people to do farming and development in their privately owned lots since these lots are included in the sweeping declaration of the entire Batuan town as a protected area.
Gov. Aumentado is also in favor of the suggestion for an amendment to the laws.
DENR explained that the collection of such fees is mandated under its department order based on
the national environment law, such as the expanded NIPAS Act.
Five of Bohol’s 16 protected areas (PAs) are included in the said law, Provincial Environment Natural Resources Officer Ariel Rica told the meeting attended by Gov. Aris Aumentado and other provincial officials.
The five PAs include the Rajah Sikatuna in Bilar-Loboc; Talibon group of islands; Chocolate Hills Natural Monument; Panglao Island Seascape; and Loay-Albur Protected areas, Penro said.
Another concern besetting the protected areas is that there’s no clear system in the collection of entrance or user’s fees in the PAs. This was one of the observations that BM Atty. Jamie Villamor wanted to iron out. It was expected that she will propose a legislative measure as regards to this concern.
One such example is the collection of entrance fees at Duwangon Spring in barangay Zamora, Bilar town. The DENR collects P30/person at the entrance and the barangay, in a separate location, charges another fee of P10/person in getting into the spring.
Except for some towns that impose environment or entrance fee charges without the DENR getting a share from it, like the Chocolate Hills complex and the Anda town with P100.person and P30/person, respectively.
Private resorts, like the Captains Peak and the Sagbayan Peak, all in Sagbayan town or the Bud Agta in barangay Tamboan, Carmen town, charge their visitors their own respective entrance/user’s fees.
The DENR is already collecting such fees at the Virgin islet, off Poblacion, Panglao town; Rajah Sikatuna and Logarita spring, all located in Bilar town.