DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/11 March) – Sta. Cruz town in Davao del Sur has remained optimistic it will exceed last year’s tourist arrivals of 108,846 despite the closure of Mt. Apo, the country’s highest peak, starting April 1, due to the El Niño phenomenon, municipal tourism officer Julius Paner said on Monday.
Paner said the local tourism office expects an increase of at least 10% from last year’s tourism arrivals by promoting other sites of Sta. Cruz, including the Tibolo Cultural Village, located on the foothill of Mt. Apo, of the Bagobo-Tagabawa tribe.
Sta. Cruz has one of the seven trails to the summit of Mt. Apo. The other trails are in Bansalan town and Digos City, Davao del Sur; Kidapawan City and Makilala and Magpet towns in North Cotabato; and Barangay Tamayong, Calinan, Davao City.
Trekking activities in Barangay Tamayong are prohibited for its potential groundwater source for the city.
Paner said that aside from Mt. Apo there are other tourism sites in Sta. Cruz, including Passig Islet, Secret Island, Mt. Loay and Kiblan Waterfalls. The town has 10 beach and inland resorts and boasts of water tubing activities along Sibulan river.
He said the lifting of the closure order would have to wait for an advisory from the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration.
But Paner said they would reopen the trail for two days from April 13 to 14 for the Mt. Apo Sky and Vertical Race, an annual international race where 100 racers from different parts of the world, including American and European runners, are expected to participate.
He said the international race helped boost the town’s tourism industry, as the visitors got to experience various attractions, including Mt. Apo.
The runners will race from the beach line of Sta. Cruz to the summit of Mt. Apo, he said.
Winners of the Sky Race will get a sure slot to another mountain race on Mt. Ijen in Indonesia this year.
He said the Mt. Apo Boulder Face Challenge, an annual activity held every summer, has been suspended this year due to the El Niño phenomenon.
He believed the closure of the trail would not greatly affect the tourist arrivals in Sta. Cruz, as the number of tourists received by the town for climbing activities, was minimal.
There were only 3,396 visitors who climbed Mt. Apo via Sta. Cruz trail last year, he said.
He said Sta. Cruz also joins international tourism roadshows to promote its tourism sites. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)