DENR plans to open parts of Banahaw for climbers, trekkers
LUCENA CITY, Quezon, Philippines—The mystical Mount Banahaw is still close to the public until February 2015 but the management board overseeing the protection of the mountain and the adjacent Mount San Cristobal is planning to reopen parts of the mountains for trekking and climbing, according to an environment official.
Salud Pangan, the park superintendent for Banahaw of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, disclosed that the Protected Areas and Management Board (PAMB) for Banahaw and Mount San Cristobal has drafted a plan for the “potential reopening” of the mountains for trekking and climbing.
She said the board would likely open mountain spots, which were not included in the restricted sections of Banahaw.
“Some parts of Mount Banahaw are still closed until 2015,” she stressed. She said camping, praying and other religious activities would be allowed only in designated areas.
She said the PAMB’s plan was approved by DENR-Regional Executive Director Reynulfo Juan after a meeting held on March 14 in Nagcarlan, Laguna.
Pangan said the planned reopening could pose a “unique challenge” to the park’s eco-tourism management.
She said they would have to map out all the trails, firm up regulations, decide on the fees and tourism products, and put all of these in place for the selective opening.
In a phone interview, Pangan said the plan would be immediately implemented within 2013 upon the completion by the PAMB of all the preparation.
In a statement, Juan, also the PAMB chairman, said their initial assessment showed the protected landscape was able to recover during its last nine years of closure.
He said, however, that threats to the landscape have not been eliminated and that Mount Banahaw would need more time to rest.
“During the Lenten season, Banahaw is most threatened,” said Juan.
He reminded pilgrims not to enter the restricted area, observe proper waste disposal and not to engage in vandalism.
Many religious believers would climb Banahaw, particularly during the Lenten season, believing it is inhabited by heavenly spirits.
Mount Banahaw, a traditional pilgrimage site for religious devotees and mountaineers, straddles the municipalities of Lucban, Tayabas, Sariaya, Candelaria and Dolores in Quezon and parts of the towns of Rizal, Nagcarlan, Liliw and Majayjay and San Pablo City in Laguna.
Most of the 2,177-meter mountain, which spans an area of 11,133 hectares, remains closed to the public until 2015.
Banahaw, which used to be visited by about half a million people during the Holy Week, has been closed to the public since 2004 to allow areas damaged by slash-and-burn farming and littering to recover.