Strict rules at Mount Apo eyed

Photo by Lymarc Roble
Photo by Lymarc Roble

THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)-Davao Region is pushing for stricter trekking rules in Mount Apo after its monitoring team observed trash, vandalism, and "traces of drug substances" in the mountain.

In a statement, DENR-Davao said the monitoring and assessment team, led by Regional Executive Director Bagani Fidel Evasco, along with some officials and protected area conservationists, went on trekking during the long weekend "to personally observe and assess the condition of the mountain."

"The goal is to assess the trail conditions and campsite situation in order to determine and strengthen preservation and conservation mechanisms for Mount Apo, which was hailed as an Asean Heritage Site in 2011," DENR-Davao said, adding that it is considering putting up facilities for a more convenient trekking experience.

During their activity, they noticed that there were a lot of trekkers during that time despite "rainfalls and strenuous trails."

However, the monitoring team also noticed "empty soda and water bottles, face masks, and all other kinds of trash" in trails and campsites.

"Disappointingly, liquors and traces of drug substances were also observed in the area," DENR-Davao said.

The agency added that boulders were also vandalized.

"Observations during the activity also led to pushing for stricter trekking rules because trekkers seemed to ignore the existing policies," the DENR said.

DENR-Davao reminded the public that Mount Apo is an established protected area by virtue of Republic Act 11038 or the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 1992 and Republic Act 9237.

"DENR-Davao is urging the trekkers to be responsible and follow the guidelines and policies set by the Pamb. Otherwise, repercussions will not only entail fines and punishments but also damage to nature. For sure that by now, we have realized that nature's revenge can be 'unforgiving.' [sic]," the agency said.

It also reminded the public to trek responsibly and to respect all the species in Mount Apo.

"It is all our duty to protect the 'King of Philippine Mountains' from exploitation as it is also a royalty when it comes to mitigating the threats of climate change," DENR-Davao said.

The mountain is under the management and regulation of the Protected Area Management Board (Pamb), composed of members, including DENR's regional executive director as chairman and advisor particularly on technical aspects.

According to the Philippine Official Gazette, Mount Apo, located between Davao City and Davao del Sur province in Davao Region, and Cotabato in Soccsksargen, is the highest mountain in the Philippines.

DENR submitted Mount Apo on December 12, 2009 for inclusion in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) world heritage list.

But in March 2015, it was taken out from the Unesco List of Tentative Sites due to the dramatic changes it experienced such as logging, intrusion of companies and urban and agricultural landscape, exploitation and poaching, among others.

According to Unesco, better conservation and a change in the content of documents are recommended.


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