Geo-Politics in Mt. Apo

During my recent climb in Mt. Apo, I found out how this National Park is subjected to an ongoing turf war among provinces, cities and towns whose boundaries intersect at the top of this mountain. Mt. Apo is supposedly that - a National Park - but the way local officials in Kidapawan, Digos, Bansalan and Sta. Cruz implement their own rules about the mountain, they demarcate it in a way that limits the mountain to their own local park.

Mt. Apo National Park, created in 1936 by Pres. Manuel Quezon, is a 72,000-hectare national patrimony straddling the provinces of North Cotabato and Davao del Sur and the city of Davao. Submission has been made to the UNESCO in 2006 for Mt. Apo's inclusion as a World Heritage Site due to Mt. Apo's outstanding biological diversity.

Since the advent of mountaineering in the Philippines, more and more people have trekked to the park in the hope of conquering Mt. Apo's peak. Of course, problems arose as irresponsible hikers themselves have taken more than just pictures and certainly left more than their footprints (to paraphrase the mountaineer's creed). This alarmed officials and rules were set up to be strictly implemented. There are permits, checkpoints and briefings needed before a group is allowed up the mountain.This system is fine except that there is no coherence among the local officials in the different towns and provinces involved. The rules are set up to each of his own. If one enters the trail in Kidapawan for example, the hiker pays a permit fee that allows access only within the boundary of Kidapawan and necessitates payment of an extra exit fee if one goes out through Kapatagan in Digos. This rule is vice-versa. In other words, one can only enjoy a certain part of the national park based on where payment is made.

Moreover, things become messier during the Holy Week as every entrance point to the mountain gets a jeepload or a busload of trekkers. If the trail in Kidapawan, Digos, Sta. Cruz, Bansalan and Davao all gets clogged-up with hikers, how do local officials expect the mountain to recover from all that onslaught of foot traffic? My point is, permits to Mt. Apo should be centralized so they can control the number of people up there. This is the system that works well in the Inca Trail in Peru: only 500 people per day are allowed, including porters and guides. The Peruvian government has even a website where trekkers can check availability of permits in real time!

If a system can be in put in place for the benefit of all - and I mean the whole Philippines, then do it. Let's make Mt. Apo a National Park again. This Grandfather of Philippine mountains belong to all Filipinos after all - not just Kidapawan, Digos, Bansalan, Sta. Cruz or Davao - no matter what the boundary says.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous7:02:00 AM

    Agree ako dyan. Sana gawin nilang mas-organized at hwag maging kanya-kanya sa pag-angkin ng Mt.Apo.


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