Sta. Cruz to close Mt. Apo trail due to El Niño

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 10 March) — The municipality of Sta. Cruz will implement a temporary closure of its trail to Mt. Apo, the country’s highest peak, starting April 1, 2019, due to the El Niño phenomenon, Sta. Cruz Tourism officer Julius Paner said on Sunday.

Paner said in an interview on Sunday that there’s no definite date yet for the lifting of the closure order as the local government would have to depend on the advisory of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) on the drought, which is expected to hit several provinces in Mindanao.

The local government wants to implement the closure to prevent another forest fire on Mt. Apo and protect the climbers from the impact of El Niño, he said.

Mt. Apo, the country’s highest peak. MindaNews file photo by BOBBY TIMONERA

“We also have to look at the welfare of the climbers. We want to avoid cases of heat stroke,” he said, adding that climbers may not get water from the streams due to the drought.

Paner said the Sta. Cruz allows climbers who have already booked to scale the Mt. Apo can do so until March 31, 2019.

Mt. Apo Natural Park-Protected Area Management Board (MANP-PAMB) passed a resolution on March 31, 2016, closing all six trails in Kidapawan, Makilala, and Magpet in North Cotabato, Digos, Sta. Cruz, and Bansalan in Davao del Sur, after it suffered from a massive fire that started from its peak and later spread to other parts of the mountain, razing even some century-old trees.

The supposed “indefinite closure” of Mt. Apo was lifted on April 12, 2017.

In a March 8 Facebook post, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-SOCCSKSARGEN announced all the region’s Mt. Apo trails in Kidapawan, Magpet, and Makilala have been closed for trekking, climbing, camping, and tree planting activities starting March 7 to prevent possible cases of forest fire.

Paner said the Mt. Apo trail in Sta. Cruz would be opened for two days on April 13 and 14 for the Mt. Apo Sky and Vertical Race that is expected to attract around 100 racers from different parts of the world, including American and European racers.

Racers will scale the peak of Mt. Apo from the beach line of Sta. Cruz, he said. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)