environmental conservation

Mount Apo takes a break: No trekking, no camping in protected park for 3 months

Rommel Rebollido

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Mount Apo takes a break: No trekking, no camping in protected park for 3 months

CLOSED. Mount Apo, the highest peak in the Philippines.

Bro. Jeffrey Pioquinto, SJ/Wikimedia Commons

The environment department says the annual closure allows the mountain to recover and wildlife to roam freely without human interference

GENERAL SANTOS, Philippines – The Philippines’ “King of Mountains” is off-limits to the public again until August 31.

The yearly three-month closure follows a 2021 decision by the Mount Apo Natural Park-Protected Area Management Board (MANP-PAMB) to shut the park from June 1 to August 31 every year.

“This is to give time for the sacred mountain to recuperate and allow wildlife to roam their natural habitats without anthropogenic intervention,” the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in the Davao Region said on Tuesday, June 4.

The annual off-limits season came about after authorities were alarmed over potential threats to the natural park’s environment, such as improper sanitation and waste disposal along trails and campsites.

Vandalism was also rampant, with spray-painted graffiti, some even engraved, on rocks and boulders along trails and at the peak of Mount Apo.

The MANP-PAMB resolution prohibits all trekking and camping activities in all areas – on the Soccsksargen and Davao region sides of the natural park. 

Mount Apo, the highest peak in the Philippines, stands at 9,692 feet above sea level. It is a stratovolcano known for its rich biodiversity and cultural significance. The mountain is revered by indigenous peoples and is a crucial habitat for various endemic species, including the critically endangered Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi). The MANP was established in 1936.

There are three main access trails to MANP from Cotabato province, starting from Kidapawan City and the towns of Makilala and Magpet. There are also access routes in Digos City and the towns of Bansalan and Santa Cruz in Davao del Sur.

The annual break will help preserve the remaining forest and endangered wildlife at Mount Apo, said Mercedes Dumagan, DENR regional executive director.

She said the yearly break helps ensure the protection of the park’s unique eco-diversity, economic, cultural, and ecological importance, with ongoing efforts to declare it as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Global Geopark.

DENR officials have been talking with local governments in the Davao region side of the park about their important role in the conservation and protection of the MANP. 

There is a need for intensified environmental awareness campaigns within their jurisdictions, Dumagan said.

She cited the initiatives in Bansalan town, Davao del Sur, for having an ordinance that requires a PAMB clearance for building and business permits. This ordinance is seen as a key step in regulating development within protected areas, Dumagan said.

DENR and Bansalan local officials have agreed to impose regulations on any development in MANP’s Strict Protection Zones (SPZ), emphasizing the importance of obtaining Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) from indigenous communities residing within the MANP.

Cotabato Governor Emmylou Mendoza has ordered the close monitoring of all trails in the Cotabato province side of the park.

Aside from strictly enforcing laws, Mendoza, who also chairs the Cotabato Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC), said law enforcers and local officials need to effectively monitor what is going on within and around the park.

She stressed the urgent need to protect the park’s diverse ecosystem, and for everyone to work together in sealing all trails and access points to the park. – Rappler.com

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