SINCE the closure of the White Peak (Mt. Pandadagsaan) in New Bataan after the fall of typhoon Pablo in 2012, it has yet to be officially opened for public climbing and climbs conducted after that closure is illegal and “under the table”, said Compostela Valley Tourism Office.
Last Monday, March 12, through a post of a Facebook page Defend Mt. Apo, Compostela Valley Tourism Officer Christine Dompor clarified that the “ritual fee” that the White Peak climb organizers are implementing are fake and there is no such thing as “ritual fee”.
Through a phone interview with Dompor, she said they have yet to officially open the mountain for public climbing since its closure in 2012. Those who are organizing the climb are usually under-the-table transactions made by mountaineers from Davao City and other neighboring areas in the region. Instead of coordinating with the local government unit of Compostela Valley and the Tribal Executive Council (TEC), these mountaineer-organizers coordinate with individual clans that they have contact with.
According to Dompor, their office has a partnership and agreement with TEC, the highest policy making body of the indigenous community in New Bataan. Organizing climbs should have the approval of the LGU and TEC and not just of a few individual clans, Dompor emphasized.
As to what have reached the Compostela Valley Tourism Office, the trekkers pay about P2,000 “ritual fee” which Dompor said is illegal. She emphasized that they are not commercializing White Peak (Mt. Pandadagsaan) and the decision and the welfare of the IP community and of the mountain is of utmost priority still.
This April to June, they wish to officially open the trek to certified climbers limiting to only 20 persons per climb. She said they are already fully booked for the months of April to May.
“Coordination will really matter because whatever rescue operations or any other similar incident, they do not have the capacity to cover that. They do not have the capacity to protect their invited tourists. So those fly-by-night mountaineers and organizers, they are also the ones going to be held responsible because we already have trekking policies. They should know about it and not just contact the clan members they know and organize trekking schedules on their own,” said Dompor.
She added one of the reasons they haven’t yet officially opened the trek despite its huge tourism potential is that TEC has yet to come up with a coordinated decision that would allow opening up of the trek. Because of the typhoon Pablo as well, the usual route was made dangerous with parts of the track damaged by the heavy rain.
“Now, we are still doing some rerouting scheme, new trails that can be passed through. For now, there are still some huge boulders along the way that may endanger the trekkers once there is rain in the area,” said Dompor. (JPA)