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Chocolate Hills entrance fees not deferred

TAGBILARAN CITY, Bohol, March 7 (PIA) -- There is no deferment on the collection of fees for the Chocolate Hills Natural Monument (CHNM).

However, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan joint Committees on Tourism and Environment Protection, in a special meeting to tackle the deferment issue, asked the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) which collects the fees, to conduct more information campaign on the collection and its nature as a one-time access to all CHNM covered sites for three days. 

The collection of the CHNM entrance fees is in accordance to the provisions of the National Integrated Protected Areas Systems (NIPAS) Act, which mandates the establishment of an Integrated Protected Area Fund (IPAF) as sustaining fund for the management, protection, administration, and development of the protected area.

The joint meeting of the SP committees was set to tackle on the deferment on the collection of fees at the CHNM, a protected area under the NIPAS Law.

It was attended by board members and their legislative staff as well as the Bohol Tourism Office and the DENR.

Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) official Marcial Ugay explained that the collection of entrance fees in the Chocolate Hills is in accordance with DENR Department Administrative Order No. 24, Series of 2016 and 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.

The law mandates DENR to collect the fees, following a sharing scheme with the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) of the site getting 75% of the total collection as share, which it deposits under the Protected Area-Retained Income Account (PA-RIA) and the remaining 25% deposited as a special account in the National Treasury’s general fund.

This is also based on Republic Act No. 11038 or the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System (E-NIPAS) Act of 2018 which provides for the establishment of an IPAF from the collection of entrance fees in protected areas for the sustainable management, protection, administration and development of the protected areas concerned.

Currently, the CHNM collects a protected area entrance fee of P30 per adult Filipino citizen, P15 per student, and P100 for visiting foreigners.

Persons with disability, senior citizens, and children below 7 years old are exempted from paying the entrance fees.

During the same meeting, it was discussed that the Revised Rates of Fees for Entrance and Use of Facilities and Resources in Protected Areas should have started in 2016 but the collection of the protected area entrance fee for the CHNM only started in December 2022, upon the recommendation of their respective PAMBs.

Another provision of the E-NIPAS Act, the PAMB had to be created to oversee the management of the area.

This body is composed the DENR Regional Executive Director as chairperson, the Governor, district representative of the district where the CHNM sits, mayors of the towns covered by the protection, barangay chairpersons of all barangays with territorial jurisdiction over the CHNM, Regional Directors of the Department of Agriculture, National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Philippine National Police (PNP), Department of National Defense (DND), and the Department of Tourism (DOT), three representatives from accredited NGOs or people's organizations (POs) with a track record of accomplishments in the field of protected area management, the academe with a record of accomplishments in or related to protected area management; and representative from the private sector, preferably a resident of the CHNM, who is distinguished in a profession or field of interest relevant to the protected area management.

According to Lorna Fernandez of the City Environment and Natural Resources Office in Tagbilaran City, the protection of the CHNM covers the towns of Clarin, Sagbayan, Catigbian, Carmen, Bilar, Batuan, and 65 barangays.

As to the deferment of the collection, DENR said they had informed stakeholders of the collection and met with the tour operators and owners of tourist attractions within the Chocolate Hills Natural Monument regarding the collection of the protected area entrance fees.

The receipt of fees in all tourist attractions within the CHNM remains valid for three days, and visitors are only required to pay one entrance fee at one time and can be used to get to other sites within the protected area. (RAHC/PIA7 Bohol)

Accessing the Chocolate Hills Natural Monument entails environmental impact, and the law says there has to be a fund which can be used for the protection, administration, management and conservation of the protected area, thus the PAMB determined the entrance fees. (PIA Bohol)

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Rey Anthony Chiu

Regional Editor

Region 7

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