Environment group to climbers: help restore Mt. Apo

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 12 April) – Environmental group Interface Development Interventions (IDIS) appealed to climbers to commit to help restore the Mt. Apo Natural Park after its reopening on Wednesday.

IDIS acting executive director Chinkie Pelino-Golle, in a text message on Wednesday, said she hopes the trekkers will see the real status of Mt. Apo upon climbing its peak a year after a massive fire razed 115 hectares.

“I hope trekkers and climbers will see how badly Mt. Apo needs to be rehabilitated. And I hope they will commit to help restore and not destroy it,” she said.

Golle added that they continue to be vigilant in monitoring the rehabilitation plan and enforcement of policies of the MANP-Protected Area Management Board (MANP-PAMB).

On March 23, the MANP-PAMB issued a resolution to open Mt. Apo effective April 12 while ensuring that stricter policies are enforced to prevent last year’s massive forest fire from recurring.

Only the local government units (LGUs) of Kidapawan City, Magpet in North Cotabato, and Sta. Cruz in Davao del Sur were able to submit a comprehensive plan and a control mechanism while Makilala in North Cotabato and Digos City in Davao del Sur have yet to comply. The Bansalan trail will not be opened due to insurgency problem.

Davao City’s Watershed Management Council (WMC) urged Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio to issue a statement addressing the unauthorized trekking activities in Mt. Talomo, amid reports of illegal trekkers entering the mountain and traversing to adjacent Mt. Apo.

In a resolution passed during their meeting April 7, the WMC has supported the closure of Mt. Talomo indefinitely and urged the local enforcement agencies to act appropriately to ensure the non-entry of the climbers.

The council also recommended to Mayor Duterte to gather all tour operators, certificate of ancestral domain title (CADT) holders, officials from the barangays, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and City Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) in a meeting to discuss actions to address the illegal trekking activities.

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, the 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 (RA) 9237.

Mt. Talomo’s entry point also goes directly to Mt. Apo which might be used by climbers as entry point to Mt. Apo,” the resolution reads.

The WMC also backed the MANP-PAMB’s March 23 resolution to keep the trail in Barangay Tamayong, which leads to Mt. Apo, closed.

The resolution includes a stricter enforcement of the Unified Trekking Policy of 2015, Camp Management and Masterplan of 2016.

Among the control mechanisms include strictly no camping on the peak area, limit the number of trekkers to 50 a day, and closure of all entry points at 9 a.m. even if the number of trekkers is below maximum.

Joint monitoring stations of the Department and Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and local government units will be placed in all trails, including entry and exit points, and designated basecamps where the trekkers can camp out. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)