Mountaineers offer to help Banahaw | Inquirer News
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Mountaineers offer to help Banahaw

By: - Correspondent / @dtmallarijrINQ
/ 12:15 AM January 29, 2015
The view of Mt. Banahaw from Lucena City. DELFIN T. MALLARI JR.

The view of Mt. Banahaw from Lucena City. DELFIN T. MALLARI JR.

A mountaineers’ group has offered to help prevent illegal treks to the mystical Mt. Banahaw.

The 10,901-hectare Mt. Banahaw-San Cristobal National Park has only three permanent forest rangers, according to park superintendent Salud Pangan.

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She admitted that protecting the park is a huge task.

Archie Malabanan, secretary general of Ugnayan ng mga Mamumundok ng Banahaw, (Association of Mountaineers at Banahaw), said his group was willing to be deputized as forest guards to protect Banahaw from trespassers.

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Ugnayan, composed of more than 200 mountaineers from Quezon, Metro Manila and other provinces in Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon), has always been a primary source of volunteer Banahaw guards during Holy Week.

Malabanan, a native of Dolores town in Quezon province, one of the gateways to the mountain, said the success of guarding Banahaw from incursions of irresponsible mountaineers would depend on the cooperation of villagers along the base of the mountain.

He said unscrupulous villagers often serve as paid guides to urban-based thrill seekers and nature trippers who want to access the mountain that has been closed to trekkers since 2004.

“There are numerous entry points and hidden trails to the mountain peak that need to be guarded against intruders,” he said.

Banahaw straddles the municipalities of Lucban, Tayabas, Sariaya, Candelaria and Dolores in Quezon; and parts of the towns of Rizal, Nagcarlan, Liliw, Majayjay and San Pablo City in Laguna province.

Pangan welcomed the offer of Ugnayan to serve as additional mountain guards but said the power to deputize rests with the office of the regional director of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

She said the DENR does not have deputized volunteers but if they accept the offer, they would need to undergo training as mountain guards.

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Early this month, a group of irresponsible mountaineers managed to sneak and reach the Banahaw mountaintop and even posted photos of their trek on their Facebook pages.

A certain Jepoi Mansibang, alleged leader of the mountain trespassers, posted messages on his group’s conquest of Banahaw and even declared readiness to face prosecution for violation of the law protecting the mountain.

Pangan said her office was preparing documentary evidence for the criminal charges they would file against Mansibang and the other illegal hikers.

Some Ugnayan members were able to save the photos and statements of Mansibang and his group before these were deleted from the Facebook pages.

The Protected Area Management Board closed the mountain peak in 2004, citing the deterioration of Banahaw’s environment and vegetation due to abuse and garbage left behind by trekkers.

Republic Act No. 9847 designates Banahaw and San Cristobal as protected areas that are off limits to trekkers until February 2016.

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TAGS: Archie Malabanan, Jepoi Mansibang, mountaineers, Mt. Banahaw, Mt. Banahaw-San Cristobal National Park, Ugnayan ng mga Mamumundok ng Banahaw
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