MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/31 August) – The Protected Area Management Board of Mt. Kitanglad Range Natural Park wanted the enactment of a law that would set appropriate amounts of fees for the use of the park’s natural resources, Protected Area Superintendent Felix Mirasol today said.
Mirasol cited that there is no provision in the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act relating to a more scientific basis of collecting environmental use fees from corporate and private users of resources coming from protected areas like Mt. Kitanglad Range.
As a result, he said, limited funds are coursed back to the upland communities in the park that contribute to its protection.
He said it is so hard to collect a commensurate fee from companies like agricultural plantations that have been using resources like water flowing from the park.
He said a banana plantation pays only P100, 000 per year or roughly P275 per day for unlimited use of water from a river flowing from Mt. Kitanglad.
About 10 poultry firms pay only P5,000 each per year for the use of water from the same river. The amount is equivalent to P416 per month or P13.70 per day.
Residential water consumers in Malaybalay pay a minimum of P120 per month to the local water district for the use of 10 cubic liters or less. A family of six would pay an average of between P300 and P400 monthly.
Mirasol said the problem at the moment is that fees are based only on “willingness to pay” and “excess of profit”.
He said even with those two methods the fees collected are still limited.
“There must be a scientific method to measure the fees to collect so that it is commensurate to the resources used,” he added.
Mirasol lamented the PAMB could not possibly bring to court the matter of collecting more from the water users without a legal basis to stand on.
He said a more reasonable step would be to impose a fee equivalent to the cost the company has to pay if they get the resources somewhere else. “But the companies resist this because they feel they are already heavily taxed.”
He said that aside from limited collections due to a faulty collection scheme, another problem is the fund download system.
The funds collected from the users are deposited in a government trust fund called the Integrated Protected Area Fund (IPAF), a mechanism set by the NIPAS Act. If the PAMB wants to use its 75-percent share of the funds – 25 percent goes to the National Treasury – for the needs of the upland communities, its request for fund download would go through a meticulous process, Mirasol explained.
Since 1997, the PAMB has collected about P2 million for environment use fees mostly from corporations.
But the board has not downloaded any amount yet, Mirasol said.
“It is not easy to download from IPAF,” he stressed. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)