DENR affirms Mount Banahaw still needs to rest

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Department of Environment and Natural Resources Region 4A CALABARZON Regional Executive Director and concurrently the Chairman of the Protected Areas and Management Board (PAMB) of the Mounts Banahaw and San Cristobal Protected Landscape (MBSCPL) Reynulfo Juan, announced the PAMB’s approval of the Protected Area Management Plan after an en banc meeting held on March 14, 2013 at the foothills of the sacred mountain in Nagcarlan, Laguna.

PAMB members Fe Urriquia of Rizal, Laguna and Arcadio Jaspo, barangay Chairman of Mamala I, Sariaya Quezon moved for the approval of the protected area management plan in the meeting presided by Nagcarlan’s Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Officer Calixto De la Peña. The body approved for the Plan’s immediate implementation starting 2013 to 2020.

The plan, as part of its ecotourism management, includes the potential reopening of Mt. Banahaw for trekking and climbing.

“Reopening poses a unique challenge to park management,” Forester Salud Pangan, MBSCPL Protected Area Superintendent, said, “we still have to map out all the trails, firm up regulations, decide on the fees and tourism products, and put these in place if and when it is declared open for trekking.”

“Some parts of Mount Banahaw is still closed until 2015,” she said.

PAMB Chairman Juan confirmed, “Resolution No. 02-2012 which was passed by the PAMB on February 16, 2012 is still in effect. The resolution extended the closure of the some critical portions of the mountains until February 16, 2015. By then, the PAMB will assess if the mountain may be reopened. ”

It was in 2004 when the PAMB passed the first resolution declaring certain areas as closed to the public. Areas declared closed were areas considered as sacred places or puestos from Brgy. Kinabuhayan to Kristalino Falls up to Dungaw to Tatlong Tangke then back to Kinabuhayan in the Dolores side, and from Brgy. Bugon to Pagbuga up to Dulong Ilaya in Brgy. Concepcion-Pinagbakuran and Concepcion-Banahaw in the Sariaya side, both in Quezon province.

In March 2006, more areas on the Laguna side were added in as closed to the public: Barangay Bukal in Nagcarlan; Barangays Ilaya Sungi and Novaliches in Liliw; and Bukal and Taytay in Majayjay.

Another resolution passed by the management board in 2009 extended the moratorium for another three years and expired on January 29, 2012.

The PAMB extended the closure of the mountains until Feb. 16, 2015 based on the results of studies done by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources -Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (ERDB) the biophysical characteristics and carrying capacity of the areas.

Juan said, “Initial assessments show that the protected landscape is recovering as a result of needed ‘rest’ during the last nine years of closure, but it is still threatened.”

“Mount Banahaw needs more time to rest,” he said.
He said, “It is during the lenten season or Holy Week that Mount Banahaw is most threatened.”

He reminds visitors to heed basic regulations such as not insisting to go to the “closed” or prohibited portions in Mt. Banahaw and other protected areas, and not only during the Holy Week.

He also reminded visitors not to leave their garbage in the mountain but bring this back with them and properly dispose of them.

He also warned of vandalism which includes picking or mutilating of plants, fruits and flowers, and writing and engraving on trees and walls. Altering or defacing facilities, boundary markers and park signs are also strictly prohibited.

Park Superintendent Pangan revealed that a team has been formed and is in place to ensure order in Mt. Banahaw.

Forester Magtanggol Barrion, staff of the Park Superintendent who is based at the Mount Banahaw Park Ranger Station in Kinabuhayan, said his team of DENR forest rangers coordinates with the office of the Dolores MENR Officer, Barangay Councils of Kinabuhayan and Sta Lucia, Quezon provincial Police office, Philippine Army, Quezon Provincial Disaster and Risk Reduction Management Council, Quezon Red Cross, Deputized Environment and Natural Resources Officers (DENROs), Tanggol Kalikasan and volunteer Mountaineers to keep order for the duration of the Holy Week.

“The team, including members of a mountaineering group has been manning assigned posts since Palm Sunday. We do this in shifts. The volunteer group will also help control movement of pilgrims and visitors and prevent ‘slipping’ into the restricted areas and also ensure proper disposal of wastes.” Barrion said, “This will be so until maybe Black Saturday to Easter Sunday.”

Republic Act No. 9847 was issued on December 11, 2009 declaring the Mount Banahaw-San Cristobal Protected Landscape covering an area of 11,133.30 hectares straddling the provinces of Laguna and Quezon.

MBSCPL has four peaks dominating the landscape. The highest peak is Mount Banahaw de Majayjay at 2,160 meters above sea level; second is Mount Banahaw de Dolores at 2,155 meters; third is Mount Banahaw de Lucban at 1,875 meters; and fourth is Mount San Cristobal at 1,470 meters.

MBSCPL is valued as a cultural and spiritual hub not only by the people of Quezon and Laguna but of the entire country. It is regarded as a life support system because it is source of water, food, timber and wood, medicinal flora.

A total of 51 species of terrestrial wildlife belonging to 35 families, 46 genera, was recorded thriving in the protected landscape. Of the species recorded, six are mammals, 34 are birds, four reptiles and seven amphibians. 35 are Philippines endemic species, 15 are non-endemic species. One species is still unknown.

The PAMB’s mission in formulating the management pland is ‘to protect, conserve and develop the MBSCPL’s integrity as a protected area that will enhance the biodiversity values, strengthen its life support system capacity, and will improve quality of life of communities, thereby bringing economic, social, cultural and ecological sustainability under the framework of sustainable development ethics, principles and practices.’