Fees seen as first step towards encouraging payments for ecosystem services, generating income for conservation efforts
In its first meeting of the year, the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) of Mt. Mantalingahan Protected Landscape (MMPL) approved a resolution imposing conservation fees for recreational activities in the protected area, including hiking, mountaineering, and birdwatching.
Under the PAMB Resolution 2012-04, a conservation fee of PHP100 for locals and PHP200 for foreigners shall be imposed for “less than five days of camping, hiking, trekking, mountaineering, birdwatching, wildlife viewing, cultural/educational tour and other similar activities.” Activities that take more than five days will require a special permit from the MMPL Executive Committee. Students can avail themselves of 50% discount, while fees for residents of MMPL municipalities, PAMB members and formally recognized partners are waived.
Conservation fees are one of the usual ways by which a protected area can generate revenues to support management or protection expenses. Prior to the issuance of Resolution 2012-04, visitors to MMPL were not charged any fees.
“It is estimated that even if only 10% of the average annual tourist arrivals in Palawan visit MMPL, the minimum projected annual revenue is at least PHP1.8 million, which can be used to support protected area management efforts,” said Jeanne Tabangay, Palawan Program Manager of Conservation International, one of the non-government organizations that sit on the protected area management board.
MMPL is a mountain range in southern Palawan covering five municipalities (Quezon, Rizal, Sofronio Española, Brooke’s Point and Bataraza). Mt. Mantalingahan is its highest peak at 2,085 meters above sea level. It is about a four-hour drive from Puerto Princesa City.
Currently, the bulk of tourists going to Palawan flock to the more popular destinations in the northern part of the province such as the Puerto Princesa Underground River, Honda Bay, El Nido and Coron. However, MMPL officials hope that the southern part of the province will also rise in popularity as a tourist destination, especially among those with more adventurous inclinations.
“Mount Mantalingahan should be made a required hiking destination for all adventurous Filipinos serious about the sport of mountaineering,” said Alman Dave Quiboquibo of AMCI Mountaineering Club, Inc., who had already gone through the challenging experience of climbing Mt. Mantalingahan twice.
“Mount Mantalingahan is a unique challenge which only a very few choose to take on,” noted pro nature advocate and wildlife photographer Ivan Sarenas. “If you do, make sure to hire local guides who can share their intimate wisdom of the mountain and its attributes. It is also the best place to see the Palawan striped babbler, a bird endemic only to Palawan highlands,” he added.
“The unique features and biological importance of Mantalingahan range offers potential ecotourism and opportunities. Promoting MMPL for meaningful and worthwhile ecotourism experience should be able to stimulate not only economic gains but further efforts to protect MMPL’s environment and culture,” said Dir. Edgardo Galeon, Region IV MIMAROPA Regional Technical Director for Protected Areas of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
MMPL is a relatively new protected area, having been proclaimed as a protected landscape only in 2009 and with its 70-member PAMB being convened only in 2010. With a total area of 120,457 hectares, it is the largest terrestrial protected area in Palawan province.
The management board’s latest and fourth meeting also led to the approval of several resolutions on other matters that are important to running the protected area, such as the approval of the PAMB operations manual and guidelines on policy-making, evaluation of project proposals and preparation, and approval of the annual work and financial plan.
“It is extremely encouraging to hear about the progress of the PAMB and the establishment of visitation fees for MMPL,” noted Christopher Stone, Managing Director of CI’s Global Conservation Fund. “These revenues, combined with the annual funding provided by the five municipalities, are really addressing sustainable financing for MMPL in a tangible way.”
CI’s Global Conservation Fund has been supporting MMPL efforts for the past eight years and has committed US $1 million grant towards the establishment of an endowment fund for the protected area.
“Being a new protected area, I am happy to see MMPL emerge in a right way, with the facilitation of active partners like Conservation International and the cooperation of the local government units and the various sectors comprising the PAMB,” according to Director Galeon.
MMPL visitors can pay and get permits from three offices: the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) in Puerto Princesa City, the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) in Brookes’ Point, and the CENRO in Quezon. As an interim measure pending the establishment of the MMPL endowment fund, the fees will go to a special account to be managed through the municipal government of Quezon. The conservation fee scheme will be further evaluated in the next six months following the approval of the resolution in February 2012.