Issue of April 15, 2018

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There is one more issue that the impending closure of Boracay has brought out, which also deserves to be discussed especially in tourism-oriented areas where green fees are being collected and how efficient and transparent these fees are disbursed to ensure sustainable tourism.

As the Department of the Interior and Local Government is preparing the filing of administrative charges against local government officials in Aklan, one issue that was revealed was how concerned offices spent the green fees collected from every tourist who visits the world-famous island.

The DILG has yet to finalize its report but given the recent television interview of DILG ASec. Epimaco Densing III, it appeared that officials entrusted with the custody and dispensation of fees collected has a lot of explaining to do.

Here in the Cordillera, several towns have ordinances authorizing the collection of green or environmental fees.

We bring up the issue on the proper (or improper) use of green/environmental fees given the fact even before the issue on Boracay, several quarters have questioned how the local government of Tuba, Benguet then was using fees collected from the entry of tourists and other guests visiting Mt. Sto. Tomas, which was catapulted into an instant destination when it became the location for a local television series.

For decades now, green fees are likewise collected from individuals scaling Mount Pulag, the highest peak in Luzon, but little is being done to protect the reservation with the use of the green fees, as commercial farms and other destructive human activities such as illegal logging continue to pose serious threats to the forest, which is the primary source of tributaries of major rivers in Luzon.

In fact, we had explained previously that the continued expansion of commercial farms coupled with tree cutting and slash-and-burn activities have done more harm to Mount Pulag in decades than the recent fire.

We hope that proper accounting and auditing procedures are being followed to ensure that monies meant to protect and sustain the environment are used for its intended purpose. In the same manner, tourists and other guests have to be informed that payment of green or environmental fees does not give them the right to vandalize or dispose their wastes anytime and anywhere.

We would like to think that here in this mountain region, Cordillerans strictly adhere to time-honored principles in conserving, preserving and protecting our fragile environment.

The filing of environmental cases in 2016 against a group of motorcycle riders who destroyed portions of a mountain in Bokod, Benguet and recently, campers who recklessly disposed a butane cylinder that resulted in the burning of a portion of Mt. Pulag are testaments that compared to other tourist areas, destinations in the region are protected by the locals.

For the most frequented destinations in the region, it is not too late.

We hope we learn from the Boracay issue and so concerned officials, host communities, and even tourists must put their acts together in the formulation of guidelines that, even without a provision of green fees, will help conserve the beauty of nature that we hope the future generation will also get to see and experience.



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