By Ric Obedencio | 07:08 PM February 22, 2023
The perennial dispute over the entrance fees of the protected areas in Bohol surfaced anew.
Provincial Board Member Greg Jala cried “unfair” in the imposition and collection of entrance fees in protected areas, like the Chocolate Hills, by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Jala issued his howl since the DENR is collecting said fees, while at the same time, some local government units (LGUs) are also into collecting similar fees from visitors. This makes burdensome on the part of the visitors because of double collection. And there are a number of protected areas in Bohol, he said.
What if every person is being collected for entrance fee in man-made forest in Bilar-Loboc portion, or those from other places take bath in Loay’s coastal areas, Jala lamented.
This made Bohol more expensive that could impact the users or tourists visiting the protected areas, the neophyte Loboc lawmaker told media interview.
Jala’s reaction was an offshoot of BM Atty. Jamie Villamor’s environment committee report as regards to the said entrance fee imposition and collection.
Report of Villamor, who chairs the environment committee of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP), has recommended that DENR is urged “to strengthen the conduct of their information campaign on the collection of the Protected Area Entrance Fees within the Chocolate Hills Natural Monument with emphasis that the entrance fee collected shall be one time only per visitor, the tourist attractions and areas covered and its 3-day validity.”
Villamor’s report was mainly based on the BM Nathaniel O. Binlod’s manifestation in his earlier privilege speech for the “freezing” of the said entrance fee collection on protected areas, specifically at the Chocolate Hills Natural Monument and for study/review of the same.
Jala said that there must be a thorough review of the entrance fee in protected areas and the DENR must justify its imposition.
DENR imposed and collected the said entrance fees pursuant to its Department Administrative Order No. 24, Series of 2016 or the Revised Rates of Fees for Entrance and Use of Facilities and Resources in Protected Areas, Amending Department Administrative Order No. 47 Series of 1993.
And Republic Act No. 11038 or the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System (E-NIPAS) Act of 2018 provides for the establishment of an Integrated Protected Area Fund (IPAF) which is derived from the collection of entrance fees in protected areas, to be used for the sustainable management, protection, administration and development of the said protected areas.
Rates of the entrance fee are the following: Local, P30.00/head; student, P15.00; person with disabilities/senior citizen and kids below 7 years old, free; and foreigner, P100/head.
The effectivity of the Revised Rates of Fees for entrance and use of facilities and resources in protected areas was in 2016, the collection of such fee within the “Chocolate Hills Natural Monument only started in December 2022 upon the recommendation of their respective Protected Area Management Board (PAMB),” the committee report said.
The said report showed that profit sharing scheme for the said entrance fees is divided into a scheme: the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) of the locality where the protected area is located shall 75%) of the total collection which shall be deposited in the Protected Area-Retained Income Account (PA-RIA); and the 25% shall be deposited as a special account in the General Fund in the National Treasury.
DENR has already met tour operators and owners of tourist attractions within the Chocolate Hills Natural Monument regarding the collection of the protected area entrance fees while signages for the collection of entrance fees in all tourist attractions within the Chocolate Hills Natural Monument area were already in place.
DENR clarified that visitors are only required to pay the protected area entrance fee one time and the same shall be valid for three (3) days.
Visitors only need to present the official receipt for their payment of the entrance fee when going from one tourist attraction to another provided that the tourist attraction is within the Chocolate Hills Natural Monument area.
Aside from the world-famous Chocolate Hills Natural Monument, other declared protected area under the NIPAS Act or RA No. 11038, include Rajah Sikatuna Protected Landscape.
Bohol mangrove protected areas are the following: (1) Alburquerque-Loay-Loboc Mangrove Swamp Forest Reserve; (2) Panglao Island Protected Landscape; (3) Talibon Group of Islands Wilderness Area; (4) Cabilao-Sandigan Island Mangrove Swamp Forest Reserve; (5) Pangangan Island Mangrove Swamp Forest Reserve; (6) Tubigon Group of Islands Wilderness Area; (7) Clarin Group of Islands Wilderness Area; (8) Ubay-Mabini Swamp Forest Reserve/ Wilderness Area; (9) Inabanga-Buenavista Mangrove Swamp/ Wilderness Area; (10) Candijay-Anda-Mabini Swamp Forest Reserve/ Wilderness Area; (11) Getafe Mangrove Swamp Forest/ Wilderness Area; and (12) Carlos P. Garcia Mangrove Swamp Forest Reserve/ Wilderness Area. (rvo)