26 mountaineers from Luzon arrested for climbing Mt. Kitanglad without permit

CAGAYAN DE ORO (MindaNews / 11 December) — Authorities on Thursday arrested 26 mountaineers from Luzon and seven of their local porters for scaling without permit the 2,899-meter high Mt. Kitanglad, a protected area in Bukidnon and an ASEAN Heritage Site.

Police investigator Master Sergeant Teddy Boy Saliot of the Impasug-ong police said Army soldiers brought down the mountaineers to Sitio Intavas, Barangay La Fortuna, Impasug-ong where policemen and Lumad volunteers were waiting.

Saliot said they brought the mountaineers to the court in Malaybalay on Friday for inquest for violating Republic Act no. 8978 by scaling without permit Mt. Kitanglad, a protected area and the fourth highest mountain in the Philippines.

“The main complainant here is the Protected Area Management Board  (PAMB) of Mt. Kitanglad Range National Park,” Saliot said.

According to Saliot, the Prosecutors Office in Malaybalay City  set the bail of P30,000 for the temporary liberty of the mountaineers reportedly led by Mark Harold Borja of Manila.

He said the group was not able to present a permit from the PAWB to climb Mt. Kitanglad.

Saliot on Friday night said the mountaineers were still detained at the Impasug-ong police station but the seven local porters had been released.

Mt. Kitanglad Range, one of the few remaining rainforests in the country, as viewed in Barangay Sil-ipon, Libona, Bukidnon. MindaNews file photo by H. MARCOS C. MORDENO

Mt. Kitanglad is one of five peaks in the Kitanglad Mountain Range. The Mt. Kitanglad Range Natural Park (MKRNP), with a total land area of 47,270 hectares, was declared a Protected Area through Republic Act No. 8978 in 2000 and was declared as ASEAN Heritage Park in 2009.

The PAMB of the MKRNP has closed Mt. Kitanglad to climbers as part of the COVID-19 health protocols of the province.

It also found a building on top of the mountain in need of repairs and unfit for climbers to stay in.

Local mountaineer John Donasco said he and other members of the Kitanglad Guard Volunteers monitored the mountaineers from Luzon as they started their climb Thursday afternoon.

“Our officers radioed the soldiers stationed on top of the mountain to detain the group,” Donasco said. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)