DOLORES, Quezon—The Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) for Mounts Banahaw and San Cristobal has declared the two mountains as still off limits to trekkers for the next three years.
In a meeting on Thursday, the PAMB tasked by the government to monitor state-declared protected areas adopted the recommendation by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)-Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (ERDB) to extend the closure of the mountains until Feb. 16, 2015.
“Our collective decision is for the benefit of Mounts Banahaw and San Cristobal. The place is not yet ready for public intrusion. We have to protect and sustain the gains from its past closure,” Salud Pangan, DENR-Protected Area Superintendent for Mounts Banahaw-San Cristobal, said in an interview after the meeting.
The two mountains cover 11,133.30 hectares straddling several towns of Quezon and Laguna were declared protected under Republic Act No. 9847 by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Dec. 11, 2009.
Mt. Banahaw, which used to be visited by about half a million people during the Holy Week, was sealed off to the public since 2004 to resurrect the mountain resources damaged by slash-and-burn farming and the irresponsible conduct of mountaineers, religious pilgrims and nature trippers who littered the place with their trash. Its 8-year closure was supposed to have ended on Jan. 29, 2012.
For the coming Holy Week, the PAMB will also promulgate restriction for religious devotees and urban mountaineers who annually troop to Kinabuhayan to pray and camp out at the allowed areas.
She said campers, religious pilgrims and vendors would be assigned in two separate areas. “The campers will also be required to pay a certain fee before they can be allowed to put up their tents,” Pangan said.
A study of the ERDB shows that the camping site, worship areas and the common bathing place for devotees in one of the “sacred” rivers in the village had already exceeded their carrying capacities.