By: Saul Pa-a
CALAMBA CITY, Laguna — Some areas of the Mt. Banahaw-San Cristobal Protected Landscape (MBSCPL) that fall within the strict protection zone remains closed to the public this Holy Week.
Maria Paz Luna, DENR-Calabarzon Regional Executive Director, told Philippine News Agency (PNA) on Tuesday that the MBSCPL Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) has decided to impose the closure until further notice from the local government unit.
“The continued closure on certain areas of the park has been set by the park’s management board as it falls within the Strict Protection Zone (SPZ),” Luna said.
She said the protected site is not yet fully recovered despite the imposition of the 15-year restriction on public access to the mountains.
She said the continuing closure would remain until barangays on its slopes are fully-prepared, trained, and ready to handle visitors and are able to implement the carrying capacity of the areas frequently visited.
The mountain’s mystical ambiance is “an open secret” to pilgrims, tourists, outdoor enthusiasts, mystical and esoteric groups as local folklores claim it to be home to a wealth of medicinal plants and rare flora and fauna species. It has been said that its refreshing environs have spiritual and therapeutic values.
In 2004, PAMB issued a resolution declaring specific areas in the protected area as closed to the public, covering different puestos (sacred places) of Barangay Kinabuhayan, Kristalino Falls, Dungaw, Tatlong Tangke then back to Kinabuhayan on the side of Dolores, and from Barangay Bugon, puesto of Pagbuga up to Dulong Ilaya in Barangay Concepcion-Pinagbakuran and Concepcion-Banahaw on the Sariaya side, both in Quezon province.
By March 2006, five more areas serving as public entry points in Laguna were also considered as restricted, particularly in Barangay Bukal in Nagcarlan; Barangays Ilaya Sungi and Novaliches in Liliw; and Bukal and Taytay in Majayjay.
Grass and bush fires seared through the slopes and peak in the famed “Dungaw” site in Mt. Cristobal in 2013 that prompted the PAMB to completely close it to the public.
MBSCPL Park Superintendent Sally Pangan said that at the onset of the Holy Week, more than 200 mountaineers from various local groups such as the Ugnayan ng Mamumundok ng Banahaw, San Pablo Mountaineers, Tanaka-Laguna, Buhawi, Tayabas Mountaineers and the Banahaw Dolores Outdoor Club have volunteered to provide extra manpower in regulating the movement of pilgrims and visitors to ensure those ascending the slopes would not slip 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.
Pangan said a command post is established at the Protected Area Management Office (PAMO) in Barangay Kinabuhayan, where people visiting other parts of the protected area are required to register and undergo a brief orientation.
Police teams have already been deployed to impose curfew hours in the park from 10 p.m. until 4 a.m. the next day. Checkpoints that are manned 24 hours are also set up to prevent crime and other untoward incidents. (PNA)