Mt. Banahaw improves but still off limits to pilgrims

Picture of Mount Banahaw.Picture of Mount Banahaw. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
After eight consecutive years of being closed to the public, Mt. Banahaw has already shown some signs of improvement, but has not yet fully recovered.  Thus, the continued moratorium on certain areas of the park for another three years has been set by the park’s management board.
This was announced today by Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje, saying that the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) for Mts. Banahaw and San Cristobal Protected Landscape (MBSCPL) has decided to extend the moratorium giving the mountain sufficient time to full recovery.
It was in 2004 when the board issued a resolution declaring specific areas in the protected area as closed to the public, starting from the different puestos (sacred places) of Brgy. Kinabuhayan to Kristalino Falls up to Dungaw to Tatlong Tangke then back to Kinabuhayan in the Dolores side, and from Brgy. Bugon puesto of Pagbuga up to Dulong Ilaya in Brgy. Concepcion-Pinagbakuran and Concepcion-Banahaw in the Sariaya side, both in Quezon province.
In March 2006, five more areas on the Laguna side of Mt. Banahaw were banned from the public. These were Barangay Bukal in Nagcarlan; Barangays Ilaya Sungi and Novaliches in Liliw; and Bukal and Taytay in Majayjay.
Three years later, in 2009, another resolution was issued by the management board, which extended the moratorium for another three years covering all the aforementioned areas expiring on January 29, 2012.
In an en banc meeting held on February 16, 2012, at the Protected Area Superintendent Office in Brgy. Kinabuhayan in Dolores, Quezon; the board issued Resolution No. 002-2012 formalizing another three-year closure.
Paje said the PAMB’s decision is based on the recommendation of the DENR’s Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (ERDB), which conducted on July 2007 to Sept. 2009 a comprehensive and diagnostic assessment of the biophysical and sociocultural characteristics in Mt. Banahaw.
Specifically, the research team, headed by Dr. Lope A. Calanog, looked into the carrying capacity and biodiversity of the protected area, focusing on the vicinity of Brgy. Kinabuhayan.
The research team, headed by Dr. Lope A. Calanog, reported that the mountain has already “shown some remarkable improvements” as a result of the moratorium, but stressed “more time is needed for it to recuperate some more, if not completely.”
The research team also found the area to be “highly susceptible to landslide, erosion and flashflood.”  Using the 2007 data of visitors visiting the mountain during the Lenten season at 3,528, the study concluded, “certain areas of the park, particularly the worship area, campsite, parking area, as well as the bathing area, have already exceeded their carrying capacity.”
Meanwhile, MBSCPL park superintendent Sally Pangan said that more than 200 mountaineers from various local groups such as the Ugnayan ng Mamumundok ng Banahaw; San Pablo Mountaineers; Tanaka-Laguna, Buhawi, Tayabas Montaineers; and the Banahaw Dolores Outdoor Club; have volunteered to beef up government personnel in regulating the movements of pilgrims and visitors, and to prevent anyone from slipping into restricted areas.
“We will be patrolling the whole protected area throughout the Holy Week, in cooperation with the local government units, the police force, volunteer groups, radio groups, and many more,” Pangan said.
According to her, a command post has already been set up at the Office of the PASU in Brgy. Kinabuhayan, where people visiting other areas of the protected area are required to individually register and briefed on the “Dos and Don’ts” while inside the park.
Pangan also said that the PNP has already imposed a curfew in the park from ten o’clock in the evening until four o’ clock in the morning 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 stressed.
Acts that constitute vandalism, according to her, 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.