As part of the efforts to reverse rapid biodiversity loss in the country, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) have signed a joint circular that would pave way for the establishment of a trust fund for protected areas.
In a statement, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said that the trust fund will allow them to retain a substantial portion of revenues generated by protected areas (PA) to finance development activities.
“This is certainly a new milestone in the country’s protected area management. At the same time, it is a big boost to our efforts of promoting ecotourism in the country as it allows us to reinvest some 75 percent of all revenues generated by a protected area to activities deemed necessary to protect and rehabilitate the PAs,” Paje said.
The DENR and DBM signed the joint memorandum circular or the implementing guidelines of Republic Act (RA) 10629 which provides for the retention and use of 75 percent of the Integrated Protected Area Fund (IPAF) by the Protected Area Management Boards (PAMB).
IPAF is a trust fund established under RA 7586, or the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act, as amended by RA 10629.
It is comprised of all earnings generated from operating a PA. This includes taxes from the permitted sale and export of flora and fauna and other resources from protected areas, proceeds from lease of multiple-use areas, contributions from industries and facilities directly benefitting from the protected areas, and such other fees and other incomes derived from the operation of the protected area like entrance fees and from ecotourism activities.
Under the joint DENR-DBM circular, PAMBs will now remit only 25 percent of the IPAF to the National Treasury. It will be placed in a Special Account in the General Fund, along with revenues remitted by the PAs prior to the effectivity of the guidelines.
Revenues from other sources shall be deposited with the National Treasury as trust receipts in an account separate from revenues generated from operational activities.
Paje said the retained amount, which will be called the IPAF Retention Income Account, would help PAMBs improve their financing flows.
“The joint circular allows PAMB to immediately utilize their share of the IPAF without having to go through the National Treasury,” Paje explained.
The joint memorandum circular provides steps and procedures in the collection and deposit, disbursement, accounting and auditing, and reporting mechanisms to ensure the systematic, transparent and accountable management of the retained earnings by the respective PA office.
The retained earnings can only be used to fund implementation activities specified under a Protected Area Management Plan and should be approved by the PAMB. The fund, however, excludes personnel service expenditures.
With the circular, Paje said the PAs will have the incentive to increase their user fees, and develop and strengthen innovative financing mechanisms since they can now use available resources whenever needed.
This development, he said, will hopefully encourage other donors to contribute to PA development, subject to the approval of the PAMB and in accordance with the approved PA management plan.
The joint circular was a product of collaborative efforts among the DENR, DBM, United Nations Development Programme-Global Environment Facility New Conservation Areas in the Philippines Project (NewCAPP), and the United States Agency for International Development/DENR Biodiversity and Watersheds Improved for Stronger Economy and Ecosystem Resilience (B+WISER) Program.
There are a total of 240 PAs— ranging from large natural parks, to landscapes, to wildlife and marine life sanctuaries— recognized under the NIPAS, covering 5.45 million hectares or more than 18 percent of the country’s total land area.
PAs are established for conservation and management of the “last remaining representatives” of Philippine habitats and ecosystems.