SUSTAINABLE tourism and environmental protection can be achieved for Mt. Apo despite growing problems in biodiversity and habitat preservation, said Kidapawan Mayor Atty. Jose Paolo Evangelista during the Ceremonial Signing and Planning Workshop on November 23 to 24, in Davao City.

Evangelista, who also describes himself as an environmental activist, said an increase in tourism revenues also translates to increased funds for environmental protection.

He added that it is unfair to think that there is a competition between tourism and environmental protection given that concerned agencies are working hand-in-hand to implement programs that will benefit Mt. Apo.

“I think it is unfair to paint that there is a competition between environmental preservation and tourism... Many of us here in this room from the government are working hand-in-hand. In fact, we have environmental and tourism stakeholders here with one goal which is to preserve Mt. Apo. If Mt. Apo is destroyed then the tourism industry is also destroyed,” he said.

Evangelista noted that funds collected from tourism activities are not given entirely to local government units.

“The proceeds that are collected are devoted towards environmental protection and preservation. It’s placed in a trust fund...It doesn’t go exclusively to the LGUs... Even the funds from the LGUs are used for environmental protection,” he said.

He encouraged the public to debunk the myths that tourism activities destroyed the environment and act collectively to contribute to current efforts for environmental preservation

“The increase in income should also translate into an increase in funds for environmental preservation and protection. That’s the challenge going forward to sustain the momentum in order to destroy the myths perceived by the public that tourism has destroyed the environment,” he said.

Recently, violations have been recorded in Mt. Apo by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources due to irresponsible trekkers and tourists.

Among the violations were non-observance of the IATF guidelines in terms of social distancing, unregulated noise along the trails and camps, and the presence of alarming cultivation beyond the strict protection zone. JDC