Mt. Banahaw visitors to be charged higher entrance fee
LUCENA CITY—Devotees and nature trippers heading to Mount Banahaw this Holy Week will have to pay a P50 entrance fee to have access to the government-allowed areas on the foot of the mystical mountain, an official of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said on Wednesday.
The Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) approved the entrance fee, up from P20, last year, but it was not implemented due to late newspaper publication and lack of ticket receipts, said Salud Pangan, park superintendent for Mt. Banahaw and adjacent Mt. Cristobal, said the P50 entrance fee, up from current P20.
Hundreds visit Banahaw during the Lenten season on the popular belief that the mountain is inhabited by heavenly spirits and that they, too, will experience something divine.
Pangan said she was expecting complaints against the higher fee, but said the PAMB is authorized by law to collect fees for its Integrated Protected Area Fund. The board is a multisectoral government body tasked with monitoring state-declared protected areas.
Starting Palm Sunday on March 29, the new fee will be collected at the ticketing gates in the mountain villages of Sta. Lucia and Kinabuhayan, both popular gateways to Banahaw in Dolores town. “The collection of fee will be yearlong and not only during Holy Week,” Pangan said.
Dolores residents with valid identification cards are exempted from paying the fee. Only adult visitors must pay, but the age level of exemption has “yet to be decided.”
Pangan said the mountain peak, classified as a “strict protection zone” where the more revered “holy spots” are located, would remain off limits to the public.
Visitors will only have access to several spots at the base, declared “multiple use zone,” for praying, camping and nature-tripping. The zone is open to the public throughout the year.
Those bringing their own tents will have to pay additional P100 for every tent they will pitch for a whole-day stay and P150 for an overnight stay, Pangan said.
Policemen will guard all mountain trails this Holy Week (March 30-April 5) against trespassers, said Senior Supt. Ronaldo Genaro Ylagan, Quezon police chief. Violators will be arrested immediately and face criminal charges.
Ylagan said the policemen would be aided by DENR forest rangers, the military, volunteer mountaineers and barangay (village) “tanod” (village guards) in enforcing Republic Act No. 9847, which designates Banahaw and San Cristobal as protected areas.
The PAMB closed the mountain peak in 2004, citing the deterioration of Banahaw’s environment and vegetation due to abuse and tons of garbage left behind by trekkers. The peak will remain close to the public until February 2016.
Despite the prohibition, devotees and adventure seekers have continued to sneak to the peak.
Since its closure, the mountain has shown signs of restoring endemic lives, as luxuriant wildlife fauna and flora species have began to flourish again. Cascading waters have also returned in several mountain falls while thick vegetation have regrown, Pangan said.
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