Gov’t, USAID partner to monitor Mt. Apo trekkers

FOR EASY booking to climb the country’s highest peak, the national government in partnership with United States Agency for International Development (USAID) will launch a website to register the trekkers.

Eduardo Ragasa, Mt. Apo Natural Park Protected Area operations superintendent, said Friday during the 16th National Convention of Tourism Officers at SMX Davao Convention Center that this will enable them to streamline and centralize registration process, booking and monitoring system of trekkers.

The website is being developed by USAID and Department of Environment and Natural Resources, which would be co-managed by the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) and local government units (LGUs).

“We envision this website a tool to further strengthen the coordination of the seven LGUs and DENR and showcase (Mt. Apo) as Asean Heritage Site,” Ragasa said.

While they are promoting ecotourism, he said they are also doing their best to protect the mountain. One of these includes the implementation of common trekking policy, which started last Lenten season.

The policy, which was approved by the Mt. Apo Natural Park-PAMB in February, aims to have uniform rules and regulations among the LGUs such as Sta. Cruz, Digos City, Bansalan, Makilala, Kidapawan City and Magpet that have trails going to Mt. Apo.

This includes having common trekking fee at P1,500 per trekker during peak season or P1,000 in off-peak season; collection of exit fees at P1,000-P1,500 if the trekker opts to exit at another trail; 20% discounts for senior citizens; porter fees at P500 a day for a maximum of 15 kilogram-baggage and tour guide fee at P1,000 a day.

The policy also cites that “all trekkers shall be pre-booked through LGU accredited tour operators, travel agency or through LGU Tourism Office or any other LGU department where mountaineering supervision is assigned by local ordinance or executive orders, if any.”

Following the implementation of the policy, Ragasa said there was a decline on the number of trekkers last Lenten season with only “less than 1,000” from 4,000 a year ago. There was also a reduction of the volume of garbage collected from Mt. Apo with one ton last June from 2.5 tons in the same month last year.

The PAMB, he said, will also pursue having a common camp management policy “to make the management of ecotourism and biodiversity conservation more effective and efficient.”

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