North Cotabato governor assures Mt. Apo safe from impact of dev’t

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/18 July) – The provincial government of North Cotabato has assured to protect the remaining forest cover of Mt. Apo amid talks of huge investments that may enter the protected area.

“This is one of our ways of keeping a balance between development and environment protection,” said Gov. Emmylou Talino-Mendoza.

Speaking to reporters here last week, Talino-Mendoza said the province always considers the phenomenon of climate change in evaluating the possible impact of every development project that comes in.

“It is very important for us,” said the governor as she pointed out the heavy flooding experienced by the people of North Cotabato months back.

Mendoza said the need to protect the remaining forest cover of Mt. Apo, a protected area, will also be addressed in the establishment of an ecotourism park in the upland village of New Israel in Makilala town.

The village is one of the favorite entry points used by mountain climbers to scale Mt. Apo because of its forest cover that has remained intact.

“If we open and declare the area as ecotourism site, the efforts to keep it protected will generate more participation from every community and people that may have contributed to its destruction and they have to spare these areas from their activities because somehow these areas are their source of livelihood. So what we do now is to strike a balance,” Talino-Mendoza said.

She said the ecotourism park project aims to “protect the remaining forest cover in the Mt. Apo protected area and restore the denuded parts through the active participation of the community”.

She said the provincial and municipal governments are very optimistic about the project.

Mt. Apo, also an ASEAN Heritage Site, covers 54,974 hectares and includes portions of the towns of Magpet and Makilala and Kidapawan City in North Cotabato, the towns of Bansalan and Sta. Cruz and Digos City in Davao del Sur, and Davao City.

Last April, North Cotabato 2nd district Rep. Nancy Catamco was surprised to discover that a vast portion of the Mt. Apo protected area has been denuded, especially at the Davao del Sur portion of the mountain.

According to the report of the Kidapawan-based Mount Apo Foundation Inc. (MAFI) and the Kidapawan-Magpet-Makilala (KMM) ecotourism triangle’s tourism group sometime in March, the forest cover of the mountain was deteriorating and encroachment into the natural park was already alarming.

Encroachment of agriculture into Mount Apo has caused forest denudation triggering an inquiry by the House of Representatives. (Rico Biliran/MindaNews)