Bukidnon eyes collecting 'environmental maintenance fee' from firms

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/ 3 Nov) – The provincial government of Bukidnon is set to collect an “environmental maintenance fee” from big companies who want to operate in the province, Gov. Alex Calingasan said.

The governor made the statement Wednesday in his weekly program dubbed “Bukidnon Today” over radio station DXDB.

Calingasan said it is part of his Bukidnon Regreening Program, a reforestation initiative designed to achieve 49-percent forest cover in the province. He said as of date, Bukidnon only has at least 23 percent forest cover.

Calingasan said requiring big companies to pay the environmental maintenance fee is only just for the province to be able to take care of the environment as opposed to the destruction caused by some of the big companies.

He said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has a list of companies operating in the province that hold environmental compliance certificates (ECCs).

Calingasan said the province’s multi-partite monitoring team for the ECCs have a list of the requirements from companies for them to protect the environment.

He said the provincial government is looking at using the ECC mechanism to implement the collection of the environmental maintenance fee.

He admitted having learned about it from a seminar the provincial government officials attened recently with the Australian Aid for International Development.

Board member Alfeo Baguio, environment and natural resources committee chair of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan,  however, said the proposed legislation is still “under study” at the provincial board.

He noted that they are most likely to pass it so make big companies can share the cost of protecting the envirnment.

“They pay only real property taxes here. Income taxes are even paid in Metro Manila. They do not even share the cost of maintaining the environment in the province,” Baguio told MindaNews Wednesday.

Baguio added that proceeds from penalties for violating the conditions stipulated in the ECCs do not even go to the coffers of the provincial government.

He added that they will look at the proposed legislaion as a priority.

The governor has initiated two tree planting activities in the last two months. He has vowed to generate multi-stakeholder cooperation to not only to  “plant” but also to “grow” trees all over the province. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)