Mount Banahaw still off limits this Holy Week

THOSE who are planning to go on a spiritual retreat this Holy Week are advised not to visit Mount Banahaw in Quezon as the government continues to rehabilitate the area.

Limiting the influx of human activity into the mountain has shown remarkable improvements but additional time is needed for it to recuperate some more, if not completely, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said.

Dr. Lope Calanog, head of the team for the DENR Ecosystem Research and Development Bureau, conducted the “carrying capacity and biodiversity study” with special focus on the vicinity of Kinabuhayan village in Dolores town.

Calanog said the village is highly susceptible to landslide, erosion and flash flood, as well as “observable disturbance” of biodiversity.

Using the 2007 data of visitors visiting the mountain during the Lenten season, the team found out that certain areas of the park, particularly the worship area, campsite, parking area, as well as the bathing area, have already exceeded the carrying capacity.

As a result, the research team recommended that the closure imposed by the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) for Mts. Banahaw and San Cristobal Protected Landscape (MBSCPL) from March 9, 2004 to 2009, extended up to 2012, be further extended for another three years.

The PAMB formalized the additional three-year closure in a meeting held at the Southern Luzon Polytechnic University last February 16.

Off limit areas starts in Kinabuhayan toward the approach to Kristalino Falls to Dungaw, to Tatlong Tangke and back to Kinabuhayan on the Dolores side.

Completing the list are Puesto Pagbuga in Bugon village and Bagong Ilaya in Concepcion village, and Pinagbakuran and Concepcion Banahaw on the Sariaya side.

Over 200 mountaineers have volunteered to beef up government personnel in regulating the movements of pilgrims and visitors, and to prevent anyone from “slipping” into restricted areas in the mountain.

Salud Pangan, a forester serving as the Protected Area Superintendent, said the police have already imposed a curfew in the park from 10 p.m. until 4 a.m. and that strategic check points have also been set up and being manned 24 hours to prevent crime and other untoward incidents.

“No roaming will be allowed after 10 p. m., and that vandals will be dealt with accordingly,” she said.

Acts that constitute vandalism, according to Pangan, include picking or mutilating of plants, fruits and flowers; writing and engraving on trees and walls, altering or defacing facilities, boundary markers and park signs.

She also urged campers to keep their area clean and sanitary at all times, with garbage and other refuse properly disposed of. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)

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