By Antonio Colina IV
DAVAO CITY – Officials of the municipality of Sta. Cruz are optimistic that the town will still exceed the 108,846 in tourist arrivals last year, despite the closure of its trail to the summit of Mt. Apo, the country’s highest peak, starting April 1, due to El Niño, municipal tourism officer Julius Paner said on Monday.
Paner said the local tourism office expects at least 10 percent from last year’s tourism arrivals by promoting other tourism sites of Sta. Cruz, including the Tibolo Cultural Village, located on the foothill of Mt. Apo, of the Bagobo-Tagabawa tribe.
Sta. Cruz has one of the seven trails to the summit of Mt. Apo. Other trails are in Bansalan town and Digos City, Davao del Sur; Kidapawan City and Municipalities of Makilala and Magpet in Cotabato; and Barangay Tamayong, Calinan, Davao City. Trekking activities in Barangay Tamayong are prohibited for its potential groundwater source for the city.
The tourism head said there are other tourism sites in Sta. Cruz aside from Mt. Apo, including Passig Islet, Secret Island, Mt. Loay, and Kiblan Waterfalls. The town has 10 beach and inland resorts and boasts of water tubing activities along Sibulan river.
He said there is no definite date yet for the lifting of the closure as the municipality would still have to wait for an advisory from Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA).
But Paner said they would re-open the trail for two days from April 13 to 14 for the Mt. Apo Sky and Vertical Race, an annual international race where 100 racers from different parts of the world, including American and European runners, are expected to participate.
He said the international race helped boost the tourism industry of the town because it draws visitors to experience various attractions of Sta. Cruz, including Mt. Apo.
The runners will start from the beach line of Sta. Cruz to the summit of Mt. Apo, he said.
Winners of the Sky Race will get a sure slot to another mountain race on Mt. Ijen in Indonesia this year.
He said the Mt. Apo Boulder Face Challenge, an annual activity held every summer, has been suspended this year due to the El Niño.