LUCENA CITY, Quezon, March 28 Mounts Banahaw and San Cristobal are still being rehabilitated, thus, are off limits to groups and individuals wanting to go mountain climbing during the week, officials on Wednesday said.
Banahaw Park Superintendent Salud Pangan of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Calabarzon, said Mounts Banahaw and San Cristobal still need five to eight years of rehabilitation before they can regain their natural features.
Pangan cited a study by the Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (EDB) showing the carrying capacity of certain areas in Mounts Banahaw and San Cristobal used for worshipping, camping, parking and bathing have exceeded their limits.
He told reporters that last February, the Protected Area Management Board of Mounts Banahaw-San Cristobal Protected Landscape (PAMB-MBSCPL) had agreed to extend the closure of Mt. Banahaw for another three years.
"Mounts Banahaw and San Cristobal are off limits to mountaineers. Groups and individuals who attempt to climb the mountains might only find themselves in prison, instead of spending their precious time for the Holy Week, Pangan said.
DENR 4-A Director Reynaldo Juan said Tanggol Kalikasan, an environmental law office, recommended another three years closure of Mounts Banahaw-San Cristobal to enable PAMB to assess biodiversity in these areas, and establish a management scheme for visitors, tourists and mountaineers.
The Southern Luzon State University (SLSU) in Lucban town is also implementing actions focused on reforestation and rehabilitation of the 200-hectare denuded area in Mounts Banahaw and San Cristobal that were abandoned the kaingeros.
SLSU Lucban president Dr. Cecilia N. Gascon revealed the Universitys ongoing effort during the first quarter meeting of the Regional Development Council (RDC) over the weekend.
Gascon said reforestation of the area will be undertaken by university personnel and students all throughout school year 2011-2012 and in the years ahead.
The program is in collaboration with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Region 4-A and non-government organizations (NGOs), she said.
According to PAMB, Mt. Banahaw was first ordered off limits on March 9, 2004 for eight years, with some areas closed to climbing for five years.
PAMB director Arnulfo Hernandez said mountaineers, devotees and local and foreign tourists are banned from going up Mt. Banahaw-San Cristobal for another three years starting Feb. 17, 2012.
Mt. Banahaw has been a favorite Holy Week destination for many devotees, as it is believed to be a holy mountain, Hernandez said.
In December 2009, then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signed a law declaring Mt. Banahaw and Mt. San Cristobal as protected areas, he said. (PNA)