DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 18 April) – City Mayor Sara Duterte said they are mulling over a comprehensive ecotourism and cultural plan for Mt. Talomo to regulate trekking activities and protect the watershed and the nesting site of the Philippine Eagle.
This developed after the city government received reports of illegal trekkers who would scale up Mt. Talomo as a jumpoff point to Mt. Apo Natural Park.
“However, for those who wish to visit the mountain, the public is informed that a comprehensive ecotourism and cultural plan will soon be rolled out. This will cover regulations that will ensure that the watershed area is protected from human activities that are injurious and destructive to the environment,” Duterte said in a statement Tuesday.
She appealed to trekkers and guides to stay away from Mt. Talomo and find other entry points to Mt. Apo, which was officially reopened last April 12 in three trails – Kidapawan City, Magpet in North Cotabato, and Sta. Cruz in Davao del Sur.
Duterte said the cultural plan is now being taken up by the city government, Department of Tourism (DOT) 11, and Philippine Eagle Foundation, but added they are planning to tap and manage cultural activities of the Bagobo community.
Aside from being home to the Philippine Eagle, she said Mt. Talomo is an important recharge area of the Talomo-Lipadas watershed.
Citing the suggestion of DOT 11 director Roberto Alabado III, the mayor said in a separate interview over ABS-CBN that the visitors can immerse in the cultural community where they can camp out and do regulated hiking activities that will not destroy the watersheds and the nesting areas of the eagles.
Duterte asked for the cooperation of the lumad community for the preservation efforts of Mt. Talomo.
On April 7, the Watershed Management Council (WMC) passed a resolution urging the mayor to issue a statement addressing the unauthorized/illegal climbing and trekking activities on Mt. Talomo.
The WMC also supported the closure of Mt. Talomo indefinitely and urged local enforcement agencies to act appropriately to ensure the non-entry of climbers.
It also recommended to the mayor to gather all tour operators, holders of certificate of ancestral domain titles (CADT), barangay officials, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DERN), and City Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) to discuss actions to address illegal trekking.
Created through the 2007 Watershed Code, the WMC serves as a monitoring and evaluation council that ensures the protection, conservation and management of the watershed areas, and issue policies that would ensure the health and sustainability of the watershed areas.
According to the resolution, Mt. Talomo ridge is covered within the Mt. Apo Natural Park that, along with its peripheral areas as buffer zones, was declared as a protected area by Republic Act 9237 (Mt. Apo Protected Area Act). (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)