DOT XI: Mt. Apo needs time to recover

THE REGIONAL office of Department of Tourism (DOT) is appealing from the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) to reconsider its decision to open Mt. Apo to trekkers.

Roberto P. Alabado III, regional director of DOT XI, said yesterday on Wednesdays @ Habi at Kape that the country’s highest peak needs three to five years to rehabilitate from the blaze it suffered a year ago.

The mountain was sealed off by PAMB following the fire incident that razed about 150 hectares of grassland on March 26 last year.

“If we can give time to let it recover, it would be best that that it should still be closed. There are still (pieces of) evidence of the fire incident. We would not want our tourists to experience and see the razed mountain,” Alabado said.

Alabado was not present, though he was notified, in PAMB’s meeting last week on the move to lift the closure order on the mountain. The regional tourism office only applied for special permit to reopen the mountain for the conduct of Mt. Apo Sky and Vertical Race on April 29 and Mt. Apo Boulder Face Challenge on April 30.

The PAMB, which is headed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, decided to lift the closure order last week following the request of the local government units and indigenous peoples who make their living by being porters and guides for trekkers.

The mountain may be accessed via its trails in Kidapawan, Makilala and Magpet in Cotabato and Digos, Sta. Cruz and Bansalan in Davao del Sur.

The PAMB resolved that only 50 trekkers are allowed each trail a day starting April 12.

In a report of Philippine Information Agency (PIA), the board also imposed strict measures such as prohibiting the trekkers from staying overnight at the peak of Mt. Apo and requiring them to undergo mandatory orientation before the climb. Each trekker has to pay P2,000 as climbing fee.

“Climbing period should be at least two-three days only. All climbers are required to bring with them their own trash bags that will be collected by the PAMB at the exit points,” the report of PIA added.

But Alabado said the board has to also include the recovery cost in imposing the climbing fee. The recovery cost, he said, includes the maintenance and rehabilitation of the mountain, collection of wastes and establishment of comfort rooms.

“Let us also declare an open and close season to allow Mt. Apo to recover annually. The close season, for instance, should be during summer months when the risk of fire incidents is high. And while it is close, we can draw a fund from there to pay the porters and guides. The porters and guides can be deployed to help in the rehabilitation and maintenance of the mountain. This is to maintain the integrity of Mt. Apo as one of the country’s best eco-tourism sites,” Alabado said.

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