By Antonio L. Colina IV
The Mt. Apo Natural Park-Protected Area and Management Board (MANP-PAMB) is pushing through with the opening of the Mt. Apo on April 12 despite the oppositions from the environmental groups who said it’s too early for the lifting of an “indefinite closure,” but local government units (LGUs) vowed the damaged areas will be off-limits to trekkers.
In an interview, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) 11 director Ruth Tawantawan, who is a member of the MANP-PAMB, told reporters that only three trails will be opened next week — Kidapawan City, Magpet in North Cotabato, and Sta. Cruz in Davao del Sur — after they complied with the comprehensive plan that includes a control mechanism.
She said the trails in Makilala in North Cotabato and Digos City in Davao del Sur will not be opened for failure to submit a plan; the trail in Brgy. Tamayong, Calinan District, Davao City has remained to be closed due to an executive order (EO) prohibiting trekking activities for its potential groundwater source for the city.
While the Bansalan trail, according to Joey Recimilla, Kidapawan City Tourism Officer and chair of the MANP-PAMB ecotourism committee, will be closed due to the insurgency problem.
Tawantawan said the local government units can submit their comprehensive plans, but will be subjected for review by the technical working group (TWG) of the MANP-PAMB.
A MANP-PAMB resolution passed on March 23, 2017 approved “the reopening of the Mt. Apo Natural Park trails to trekking/climbing activity” but “subject to the strict implementation the Unified Trekking Policy of 2015, Camp Management and Masterplan of 2016.”
Joint monitoring stations of DENR and LGUs will be placed in all trails, including entry and exit points, and designated base camps where the trekkers can camp out, she said.
She said the all LGUs agreed that trekkers will not be allowed entry to the damaged areas to ensure the healing will not be disturbed by the trekking activities.
She said special monitoring stations will be established in strictly prohibited portions of Mt. Apo. In Davao Region side, one will be placed near the crater adjacent to the burnt area, which is connected to Sta. Cruz and Digos trails while in Soccsksargen side will be at the Lake Venado that connects to Kidapawan and Makilala trails.