26 trekkers nabbed on restricted mountain
LUCENA CITY—At least 26 urban nature trippers were arrested by police and Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) forces on Sunday, after entering the closed section of Cristobal and Banahaw mountains in Dolores, Quezon province.
Salud Pangan, DENR park area superintendent for Banahaw, said the trekkers were arrested by the authorities in Sitio Bangka in the mountain village of Sta. Lucia while descending Cristobal.
“They also intruded into the restricted area of Mount Banahaw,” Pangan said on the phone on Monday afternoon.
She said Mounts Banahaw-San Cristobal Protected Landscape is a prohibited area as declared by the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB).
The PAMB is a multisectoral body created by law to keep watch over the estate-declared protected areas.
Republic Act No. 9847 designates the Mt. Banahaw and Mt. San Cristobal protected areas as closed to trekkers up to February 2016 to protect the gains from reforestation that has been going on since 2004.
Pangan said the trekkers, in three different groups, were nabbed in succession by DENR forest ranger Magtanggol Barrion and local policemen.
She said the trekkers had no permit from the DENR to climb the prohibited areas.
The DENR official said a concerned villager tipped off the presence of mountain intruders through a text message.
The violators were composed of office employees and call center agents from different parts of Metro Manila.
“They were urbanites out to enjoy the long weekend by nature tripping but they violated the law,” Pangan said.
She said one of the groups admitted to paying a local villager to serve as mountain guide.
The arrested trekkers were detained at the Dolores police jail, but were expected to be released Tuesday, after posting P12,000 bail each, according to Pangan.
The DENR official disclosed that unscrupulous mountaineers using social media like Facebook had again been luring urban nature trippers to climb the mystical Banahaw.
“We’ve been monitoring their activities,” she said.
Pangan reiterated that her office was not issuing permits to any group or individual to climb and get inside the restricted areas of the mountain.
“I’m warning gullible nature trippers that if someone shows a permit from my office, most likely it is a fake document with my forged signature,” Pangan said.