UPLB, Los Banos: Senior members of the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) here have maintained their positions not to close the Mount Makiling this HolyWeek amidst the series of fires that gutted Mount Banahaw and La Mesa Dam, where visitors are banned from entering these two areas for years.
Through the Makiling Center for Mountain Ecosystems (MCME), the stand was made public as the UPLB authorities declared that Mount Makiling would be opened to visitor starting Maunday, April 14 to Easter Sunday, April 20. They expect some 8,000 devotees, youths, local and foreign tourists to flock to the site at the onset of the Holy Week.
Basic infrastructure projects such as road repairs and widening as well as rehabilitation of other tourist spots have been put in place including the mobilization of volunteers tasked to secure the area and provide assistance to the visitors.
One part of the 4,224-hectare mountain features the 14 Stations of the Cross where Catholic devotees and tourists congregate at any given time to pray in the duration of the Lenten season.
The MCME authorities believed banning the entry of people into Mount Makiling primarily to protect the air a was not a prudent move.
“We want them [visitors]to be responsible while enjoying the beauty of Mount Makiling,” Dr. Roberto Cereno, deputy director of the UPLB MCME said.
Guided by the slogan, “Make it Makiling,” Cereno, recalled that in 2002, the center has
instituted stringent policies that paved the way for the significant changed in the quality of guests coming into the Mt. Makiling during Holy Week. From 8,000 to 10,000 guests, the figure went down considerably to 5,000-6,000, a clear indication that the measures have driven out undesirable visitors.
”Also, volunteers from the University of the Philippines, used to collect 1,000 kilos of garbage composed of plastic bags and emptied containers of mineral water ad bottled liquor every year shortly after the exodus of guests,” he pointed out.
The volume as well as the big and small trees indiscriminately cut down and used as tents or temporary shelters while inside the mountain, went down drastically since the strict policies have been implemented, he noted.
The rigorous regulations including among others, requiring guests to declare and entrust to the staffs at the Station One,
entry gate, their personal belonging like liquor, knives, bottled water and foods packed in plastic bags, have contributed greatly in maintaining sanity and order in Mount Makiling, Cereno added.
During the same period, despite of the No Ban Policy, the Center has not received nor recorded any report of fire that occurred inside the Mount Makiling, proving that prohibition or banning the entry is not the answer in protecting and securing the forests.
In March 2004, the provincial office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Quezon province, closed Mount Banahaw to the public in an effort to restore its damaged forest resources resulting in the abuses committed by the visitors including those using the site for religious services or worship.
Activities such as trekking and sightseeing inside the La Mesa Dam in Quezon City, have virtually been banned as part of the sustained undertakings to shield the watershed, a main source of water supply for Metro Manila and other nearby towns and cities.
The Mount Makiling is an inactive volcano, which was declared 33rd Association of Southeast Asian Nations Heritage Park by environment minister of the region on October 3, 2013. It is a sanctuary of vanishing plants and animal species and a major outdoor learning site for students including those from foreign countries like Japan, South Korea and the United States.
It s also a favorite place for trekking, camping and mountain biking.