By Antonio Colina IV
DAVAO CITY – The Municipality of Sta. Cruz will implement a temporary closure of its trail to the summit of Mt. Apo, the country’s highest peak, starting April 1, due to the El Niño, Sta. Cruz Tourism officer Julius Paner said.
Paner said that there will be no definite date yet for the lifting of the closure order as the local government would have to depend on the advisory of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) on the drought, which is expected to hit several provinces in Mindanao.
The local government wants to immediately implement the closure to prevent another forest fire on Mt. Apo and protect the climbers from the impact of El Niño, he said.
“We also have to look after the welfare of the climbers. We want to avoid cases of heat stroke,” he said, adding that climbers may not get water from the streams due to the drought.
Paner said the Sta. Cruz will still allow the remaining climbers who have already made their bookings to scale Mt. Apo until March 31, 2019.
In a March 8 Facebook post of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-SOCCSKSARGEN, all the region’s Mt. Apo trails in Kidapawan, Magpet, and Makilala have already been closed for trekking, climbing, camping, and tree planting activities starting March 7 to prevent possible cases of forest fires.
Mt. Apo Natural Park-Protected Area Management Board (MANP-PAMB) passed a resolution on March 31, 2016, closing all six trails in Kidapawan, Makilala, and Magpet in North Cotabato, Digos, Sta. Cruz, and Bansalan in Davao del Sur, after it suffered from a massive fire that started from its peak and later spread to other parts of the mountain, razing even some century-old trees.
The “indefinite closure” of the Mt. Apo was lifted on April 12, 2017.
Paner said the Mt. Apo trail in Sta. Cruz would be opened for two days on April 13 and 14 for the Mt. Apo Sky and Vertical Race that is expected to attract around 100 racers from different parts of the world, including American and European racers.
Racers will scale the peak of Mt. Apo from beach line of Sta. Cruz, he said.
He said the Mt. Apo Boulder Face Challenge, an annual activity held during summer, has been suspended this year.
“We’re all set for the Sky Race. We are in the stage of coordination with all the stakeholders,” he said, adding the race helped boost the tourism industry of Sta. Cruz by attracting visitors from different countries to experience the Mt. Apo.