Mt. Apo welcomes back climbers
KIDAPAWAN CITY—The city government decided to reopen a trail to Mt. Apo even before the country’s highest peak could recover from the fire that ravaged a large area of its forest and grasslands last year.
Mayor Joseph Evangelista said local officials agreed to follow a “controlled” reopening of the Kidapawan trail to Mt. Apo, the country’s highest peak at 2,954 meters above sea level, following the announcement by the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) to open the mountain to trekkers.
Evangelista said the reopening would lead to an influx of foreign and domestic climbers, boosting the city’s tourism and generating income for local micro-entrepreneurs.
Mt. Apo had been closed to trekkers following the fire that gobbled up more than 100 hectares of its forest cover during the Holy Week climb in March last year.
But PAMB decided to allow climbers back after town governments and village councils around Mt. Apo lobbied for the trail’s opening, saying indigenous peoples in their areas have lost their sources of income after the mountain was shut to trekkers.
Environmentalists said they had yet to see the forest’s full rehabilitation plan when PAMB announced the reopening of the trail in April.
But Evangelista assured that the city would strictly implement the trekking regulations set by PAMB to ensure the safety of climbers and prevent further degradation of the highlands.
Last year, an unregulated intrusion by climbers on the southern slopes of Mt. Apo resulted in a massive bush fire that took several weeks to contain.
“We will never commercialize Mt. Apo. We are bound to maintain strict imposition of rules,” Evangelista said.
He said the city tourism office would monitor and regulate the number of people on the mountain, which, during summer, could easily reach between 3,000 and 5,000 climbers.
Joey Recimilla, city tourism officer, said his office would conduct workshops for mountain guides and travel agencies starting next week.
While the Kidapawan trail had been reopened, Davao City’s Tamayong trail on Mt. Talomo, a mountain adjacent to Mt. Apo, would remain closed to climbers.
Mayor Sara Duterte said the the trail had been excluded from the list of entry points to Mt. Apo.
She warned mountaineers and tour operators against using this trail.
“The Davao City government strongly reminds the public of the possible sanctions to be meted out to violators,” she said.
Mt. Talomo has been described as a “recharge area” of the Talomo-Lipadas watershed, where Davao City gets its groundwater supply. —WILLIAMOR MAGBANUA AND CARLO AGAMON
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