CALAMBA CITY: Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Regional Executive Director Reynulfo Juan said on Thursday that stiffer restrictions on Mt. Banahaw’s protected landscape are still enforced and may even be extended indefinitely.
Juan, who chairs the Mounts Banahaw-San Cristobal Protected Landscape-Protected Area Management Board (MBSCPL-PAMB), also expressed disappointment after aerial and on-site inspections by the assessment teams on the once lush vegetation of grass, reeds and bushes carpeting the mystical mountain show that the forest was gutted by fire due to human neglect.
Juan said the Mount Banahaw landscape and scenery before the fire incident showed its natural beauty restored with its rich foliage and forest and remarkable recovery since the restrictions were imposed in 2004.
He said the moratorium enforced since that time as part of its ecotourism management would now be extended indefinitely, especially for public trekking and climbing.
With 50 hectares of grasslands leveled to the ground, Director Juan supported recommendations by Protected Area Superintendent Salud Pangan and the investigation team to hold trekkers/individuals illegally entering the protected area to determine culpability and file necessary charges.
The assessment team comprised the multi-agency personnel from the Bureau of Fire Protection, DENR Quezon, Quezon provincial government and Sariaya and Dolores LGUs, Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC), Office of Civil Defense (OCD) and the Southern Luzon Command (SOLCOM)-Philippine Air Force (PAF) units.
The MBSCPL-PAMB approved then the Protected Area Management Plan in March last year at the foot of the sacred mountain in Nagcarlan, Laguna on the moratorium banning access to the public on some areas from 2013 to 2015.
But officials now have to review and map out all the trails and firm up stiffer regulations following the recent grassfire. Some parts of Mount Banahaw may have to extend closure beyond 2015.
According to the DENR regional office, the PAMB passed the first resolution in 2004 declaring certain areas closed to the public such as sacred places or “puestos” from Barangay Kinabuhayan to Kristalino Falls up to Durungawan to Tatlong Tangke and back to Kinabuhayan in Dolores town, Quezon.
The closure also includes Barangay Bugon to Pagbuga up to Dulong Ilaya in Barangay Concepcion-Pinagbakuran and Concepcion-Banahaw in the Sariaya side also in Quezon province.
In March 2006, PAMB also expanded the closure and areas declared as off-limits to the public in Laguna such as Barangay Bukal in Nagcarlan; Barangays Ilaya Sungi and Novaliches in Liliw; and Bukal and Taytay in Majayjay.
In 2009, the closure was again extended and a moratorium until 2012 was further stretched to February 16, 2015.
The board’s decision was based on studies and findings done by the DENR-Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (ERDB) after validating biophysical characteristics and carrying capacity of the areas.
DENR and Quezon’s Mt. Banahaw protected landscape officials through the support and assistance of environment groups are gearing up for stiffer controls on the movement of pilgrims and visitors at the onset of the Lenten Season.
Protected landscape teams are also set up to apprehend intruders and trespassers ‘slipping’ into the restricted areas, ensure upkeep and are on guard to avoid altering or defacing facilities, boundary markers and park signs.
Republic Act No. 9847 issued on December 11, 2009 calls for the protection and preservation of the Mount Banahaw-San Cristobal Protected Landscape (MBSCPL) which straddles about 11,133.30 hectares in the provinces of Laguna and Quezon. (PNA)