The case of Bukidnon’s major uplands: How much for the environment?

( Third of five parts)

At the national level, implementation of the protected area system has suffered from a major deficiency: lack or absence of budget. Mt. Kitanglad and Mt. Kalatungan are concrete examples of protected areas in the country that have not received funding from the national government except salaries for their personnel. As of 2010, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources only has PhP2.8 million annually for the nine protected areas in Northern Mindanao or roughly PhP300,000 for each protected area.

Republic Act 8978, the law declaring Mt. Kitanglad a full-fledged protected area, does not contain a provision on regular allocation from the national government.

Such predicament has obliged Mt. Kitanglad to source out funds from the local government units since 2002. Before that, it subsisted on funds from the Conservation of Priority Protected Areas Project, a seven-year project funded by the Global Environment Facility.

From 2002 to 2009, contributions from the LGUs to Mt. Kitanglad reached P30.0978 million or a mean average of P3.7622 million per year. The biggest amounts came from Malaybalay City (P11.3914 million) and the provincial government (P10.91 million). The seven municipalities with jurisdiction over Mt. Kitanglad allotted between P.66 million (Baungon) and P1.35 million (Manolo Fortich) during the eight-year period. Lantapan and Impasugong gave P1.3 million each. Talakag gave P1.2244 million, Libona P1.05 million, and Sumilao P.95 million.

Mt. Kalatungan has been in a similar situation since its proclamation as a natural park in 2000. Had it not been for LGU support, both protected areas could have just been among the country’s “paper parks”, i.e. parks in name only.

LGU contributions to Mt. Kalatungan only started in 2006. From that year until 2009, the amounts totaled P3.613 million, with the bulk of it (P2 million) coming from the provincial government. According to the Protected Area Superintendent’s office, the amounts from the municipal and city governments were used for protection work (honorarium for Bantay Lasang volunteers) and for the annual holding of Aldaw ta Kalatungan. Funds from the provincial government were used for the mobilization of the PASu staff and also for protection work.

Talakag, which also contributes to Mt. Kitanglad, gave P.6 million or P.15 million per year. Pangantucan allotted P.114 million in 2006 but reduced the amount to P.084 million per year in the next three years for a total of P.366 million. Valencia City’s total contribution from 2006 to 2009 was P.331 million, only slightly bigger than Maramag’s P.316 million for the same period.

In the case of Kitanglad, Malaybalay and the provincial government may have allotted bigger amounts compared to those of the municipal governments combined. However, the picture may appear different if one considers these amounts vis-à-vis their respective Internal Revenue Allotments. Since cities and provinces receive bigger IRAs, Malaybalay and the provincial government are actually giving just a small percentage of their budgets for the conservation of Kitanglad. Moreover, still in terms of percentage, their overall budget for the environment could only be equivalent to or less than that of municipalities that are receiving small IRA.

The budget (2003-2009) allotted by Malaybalay City for the environment in general and Mt. Kitanglad in particular illustrates the point.

Malaybalay’s overall budget for the environment drastically decreased after 2002 in terms of percentage and actual amount. In 2002, it was P20.940 million or 5.73 of its IRA of 365,260,603 for that year. The amounts reduced to less than P6 million annually from 2003 to 2006 and always fell short of five percent of its IRA. The amounts went up again starting 2007 but these amounts and their corresponding percentages vis-à-vis the IRA are nowhere near the 2002 level. From 2002 to 2006, a big portion of the environment budget went to Kitanglad. But from 2007 to 2009, the amounts allotted for the park showed no marked increase and even decreased from P1.85 million in 2007 to P1.5 million in 2008.

In 2009, Malaybalay’s IRA reached P640.9 million but its overall budget for the environment was only P13.6 million with P1.95 going to Kitanglad.

Compare Malaybalay’s figures to those of Libona, a municipality that also has jurisdiction over Kitanglad. Libona’s IRA from 2002 to 2009 was just around 10 percent of Malaybalay’s during the same period.

Libona’s annual allocations for the environment appear to fluctuate, at times with huge variances. For instance, from P3.4 million in 2006, the highest across the 8-year period, it decreased to P1.7 million in 2007 despite the IRA’s having increased by close to P2 million. Another substantial decrease occurred in 2009, when the figure dropped a little over P1 million from the 2008 amount. Nonetheless, the mean average for the 8-year period was 3.554 percent vis-à-vis the IRA.

Malaybalay’s mean average was 2.5125 percent. Malaybalay was able to attain this average because it allocated a big amount in 2002. On the whole, however, its allocations for the environment have been irregular, although the allotments for Kitanglad have been fairly consistent and gradually increasing.

Libona’s allocation for Kitanglad never went beyond the P200,000 level, a trend which is also observable in the allotments of the other municipalities for the park. Still, the average amount of its annual environment budget for the period reached P1,702,564.19, roughly 20 percent of Malaybalay’s average of P8,642,022.12.

Compare also Malaybalay’s figures to those of Pangantucan.

Pangantucan’s budget for the environment shows a general increase except for 2006 and 2007 where the amounts decreased from their 2005 level. Remarkably, the allocations never went down below two percent of the IRA and even reached 3.23 percent in 2005 and 3.08 percent in 2009, quite a feat for a municipality that receives much less from the national coffers. For the 8-year period, Pangantucan’s environment budget netted a mean average of 2.511 percent, slightly higher than Malaybalay’s mean average of 2.415 percent.

Pangantucan’s overall environment budget has generally been increasing in actual amounts, from P.9 million in 2002 to P2.5 million in 2009, or two percent and 3.08 percent, respectively, of its IRAs for those years. But its allocation for Kalatungan fell from P114,000 to P84,000 in 2007 and has neither increased nor decreased since.

(Next: Other issues confronting Bukidnon’s three mountain ranges)