Plea to protect Banahaw rings louder after 2 fires
LUCENA CITY—The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), a nongovernment organization and a mountaineer group on Friday called on pilgrims and nature trippers to keep off areas tagged off limits on Mt. Banahaw.
Alfredo Palencia, DENR Quezon province chief, said entry to the prohibited areas of the mountain was strictly not allowed.
While some areas are open to the public, he said people should not leave trash behind “and take extreme caution especially with fires.”
During Holy Week, Banahaw becomes a mecca for nearly half a million people who consider the mountain mystical. These include pilgrims, mountaineers and nature trippers.
Banahaw 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 province.
Members of cults attribute supernatural activities to the mountain and have propagated the belief in its supposedly miraculous healing powers.
Palencia said DENR personnel, policemen, soldiers, municipal disaster risk reduction and management councils, village officials, nongovernment organizations and volunteer mountaineers would strictly enforce the order of the Protected Area Management Board to keep the upper portions of the mountain off limits to the public until 2016.
He reiterated a warning made by Reynulfo Juan, DENR
Calabarzon director, that anyone found entering and leaving mountain trails would be questioned by authorities in relation to two forest fires that hit Banahaw and adjacent Mt. San Cristobal on Tuesday and Thursday.
Salud Pangan, DENR park area superintendent for the two mountains, said she suspected that the fires were man-made.
She said the culprits sneaked into the restricted spots of the mountain under cover of darkness.
But with lots of old foot trails leading to the mountain apex, guarding the gates is easier said than done.
Archie Malabanan, veteran mountaineer from Dolores town, said that with numerous mountain trails to be guarded, the help of village officials and indigenous peoples was needed.
He also cited the economics involved in the undertaking.
Malabanan disclosed that due to poverty, some villagers had been offering their services to trespassers to guide them via secret mountain trails for a fee.
“Strict implementation of the law and solid cooperation of mountain villagers are key factors here,” said Malabanan, also the secretary general of Ugnayan ng Mamumundok sa Bundok Banahaw.
Efrelyn Escultura-Calabano, special project officer of Tanggol Kalikasan Southern Tagalog based here, appealed to the public to give Banahaw more time to regenerate and heal from the destruction wrought by long years of abuse by man.
“Ten years of closure is not enough. We have to give her more time to show life once more,” Calabano said.
She cited the return to Banahaw of the rare rafflesia, considered to be the world’s biggest flower, and other flower species in several areas of the mountain.
Calabano also asked the national and local government to help in the funding for the protection of the mountain.
Mounts San Cristobal and Banahaw, which have a combined land area of more than 10,000 hectares, have only three forest rangers on the Quezon side and two in Laguna.
“Ideally, the huge area should have 12 forest rangers,” Pangan told the Inquirer.
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