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CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – Authorities pressed charges on Friday, December 10, against 26 mountaineers from Luzon and seven of their local porters for scaling without proper permits the 2,899-meter high Mt. Kitanglad, a protected area in the province of Bukidnon.
Police investigator Master Sergeant Teddy Boy Saliot of the Impasug-ong police said Army soldiers on Thursday, December 9, brought down the mountaineers to Sitio Intavas, Barangay La Fortuna, Impasug-ong, where policemen and Lumad volunteers were waiting.
Saliot said they brought the mountaineers to the court in Malaybalay on Friday for inquest for violating Republic Act No. 8978 by scaling without permit Mt. Kitanglad, the fourth highest mountain in the Philippines and a protected area.
“The main complainant here is the Protected Area Management Board of Mt. Kitanglad Range National Park,” Saliot said.
Saliot said the Prosecutor’s Office in Malaybalay City has set the bail of P30,000 for the temporary liberty of the mountaineers.
He said the group was unable to present a permit from the environment department’s Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau to climb Mt. Kitanglad.
Saliot said the mountaineers are still in detention in the Impasug-ong police station, while seven of the local porters were released.
The Protected Area Management Board of Mt. Kitanglad Range National Park has closed Mt. Kitanglad from the climbers as part of the COVID-19 health protocols of the province.
They also found a building on top of the mountain in need of repairs and unfit for climbers to stay.
Local mountaineer John Donasco said he and other members of the Kitanglad Guard Volunteers had monitored the mountaineers from Luzon as they started their climb on Thursday afternoon.
“Our officers radioed the soldiers stationed on top of the mountain to detain the group,” Donasco said. – Rappler.com
Froilan Gallardo is a Mindanao-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship.