The Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) last Sunday chided Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu for lifting the suspension of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Special-Use Agreement in Protected Areas (Sapa).
Pamalakaya National Chairman Fernando Hicap said lifting the suspension of the Sapa is anti-environment as it will open the floodgates for the destruction of the country’s pristine protected areas.
Hicap was reacting to the DENR chief’s recent announcement that the DENR is now ready to accept applications for Sapa with the lifting of its indefinite suspension that started in 2011.
Sapa is a tenurial instrument issued to enable productive use of a protected area (PA) as defined under Republic Act 7586 or the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 1992, while maintaining its status as a PA.
Cimatu recently issued a memorandum to all DENR regional offices informing them that the agency resumes enforcement of Department Administrative Order (DAO) 2007-17 or the rules and regulations governing the issuance of the tenurial instrument for PAs.
Another guideline, an addendum to DAO 2007-17 as contained in DAO 2018-05, was recently signed by Cimatu, which provides for the standard computation of development fees imposed on Sapa recipients.
The new guideline enhances the income potential of PAs from merely P300 million to P500 billion a year, based on a 2013 study commissioned by the DENR-Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB).
Properly used, this fund can boost the protection and conservation of the country’s Protected Areas.
Among the objectives of Sapa include putting a premium to ecosystem services provided by PAs, such as water supply, which is becoming a limited resource; and generating revenues that can be utilized for improved management and operations of the PAs, thereby reducing the required national subsidy.
DAO 2007-17 provides “access and economic opportunities to indigenous peoples, tenured migrant communities, and other PA stakeholders to contribute to the reduction of poverty.”
It also seeks to optimize the special uses of PAs consistent with the principles of sustainable development and biodiversity conservation in cooperation with the stakeholders, as well as to guide the development of the appropriate zones for PAs.
“Sapa also serves as a regulatory tool for increased resource use beyond carrying capacity and increasing local economic opportunities, such as increased local employment from ecotourism establishments,” Cimatu said.
In 2011 the issuance of Sapas has been indefinitely suspended by the DENR due to the absence of a standard rate of development fee imposed on Sapa applicants.
DAO 2018-05, with the addendum on the rules and regulations for the special uses in PAs, provides a standard for computation for the development fee.
BMB Director Crisanta Marlene Rodriguez said that under the addendum, development fees will now be imposed based on the fixed percentage of the zonal value of the land and improvements thereon.
According to her, the fees will be equivalent to 5 percent of the most recent zonal value of the commercial zone in the nearest municipality where the project is located multiplied by the area to be developed plus one percent of the value of improvement as a premium to the PA.
The annual Sapa fee, she said, shall be paid upon the issuance of the permit, and annually thereafter within 30 days from the date of issuance. “Failure to pay within the prescribed period shall be subject to surcharges of 8.33 percent monthly for the late payment or 100 percent for one year,” she said.
Aside from the Sapa fee, the DENR will also be collecting an administrative fee worth P5,000 from the proponent for every Sapa application filed, to cover the cost of examining, assessing, and processing the requirements submitted and will then be deposited to the Integrated Protected Area Fund.
But Pamalakaya fear that since Sapa allows PAs such as nature reserves, natural parks, natural monuments, wildlife sanctuary, protected landscapes and seascapes to be used for agroforestry, ecotourism, communication and power facilities, irrigation canals, aquaculture, and for weather and other scientific monitoring facilities, many areas that used to be protected are now at risk of experiencing destructive development.
The lifting of the suspension of Sapa lays open anew supposedly preserved areas such as forest and marine zones to corporate activities that pose environmental disaster, Hicap said in a statement.
“With the resumption of issuance of SAPA, protected areas will be more vulnerable to various forms of corporate plunder embedded with environmental destruction. It will further the conversion of preserved marine areas into mere ecotourism zones and private aquaculture farms,” he added.
“What Cimatu did was far from being a top environment chief for exposing delicate protected areas to unrestrained commercialization and privatization. He is now actually the number one destroyer of our environment, being an instrument of environmental plunderers to legally carry out large-scale projects at the expense of our environment and socioeconomic lives of grassroots stakeholders such as fisherfolk and farmers,” Hicap lamented.
As of 2013, there were 240 protected areas covering 4.07 million hectares of terrestrial areas and 1.38 million hectares of marine areas managed under the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS).
“We demand the DENR to cease and desist from exposing our natural resources both to local and foreign environmental predators and do its mandate to protect our environment for the long-term benefit of the Filipino people,” said Hicap.