banahaw to be closed for another 3 years

for people such as myself, the news on the extension of mt. banahaw's closure for another 3 years is a huge disappointment. i have joined a total of 67 climbs since i took up the sport in 2003, and count as among my achievements my ascents to such glorious peaks as those of mount apo (twice), mount pulag (seven times), mount halcon, mount kinabalu (twice), mount amuyao (twice), mount napulauan, mount bulusan, and the mariveles mountains. but i took it up a little too late, and the PAMB resolution restricting access to mount banahaw was enforced in 2004. it would have expired in march of this year, but alas, this development came along.

there are several other mountains which are "fenced" either by regulation or circumstance. mount apo was once also closed, although because of its breadth, it was possible to approach it from areas where the municipal governments were friendlier. mount kanlaon fell the same fate for a short time, although not purely on environmental concerns, but due to volcanic activity. the phivolcs has also advised against getting too near mounts mayon and bulusan, although i'm not sure if those advisories are still in place. access to mount halcon is also currently restricted, and it was supposedly due to the impact of mountaineers to its fragile biodiversity, although having been there twice (first, on a failed ascent), i could tell that it still is pretty wild and savage, that traces of human activity seemed to be very limited. lately though, my friend don had a workshop with iraya mangyans in paitan, and he reported that the municipality of baco is now warming up to the idea of opening the mountain again because of the potential of tourism income, but the iraya mangyans, who consider halcon their home, are opposed to it because they consider the visits as an invasion of sacred places, and they are generally averse to outsiders.

i am myself an advocate for the environment, and i may not be as vocal as greenpeace or as crazy in my ways as some erratic artists, but my concern flows naturally from my love for nature, and my desire to preserve it is a direct result of my respect for all creation. the reason i'm blogging about these things now is that i think the PAMB has made an ill-advised decision based on a few misconceptions. the total closure of mountains will not cure the ills of neglect and apathy. in their desire to protect the mountain, they have barred the entry of its enemies, but in the process, also closed it off from its allies. the news article on its closure says that banahaw suffered from "modern pilgrims and urban-based nature trippers" who "had littered the place with trash". i would like to think that most mountaineers, and almost all those i know, share a common passion for caring for the environment because it is what we enjoy, and we cannot even begin to think of destroying it since we wouldn't want to make ugly the places we frequently visit. we drink the waters that flow on its pristine streams, and we roll around the earth that envelopes it, so for us, it is of utmost importance that it be kept pure and clean. the true opponents of mountain environments are usually the locals who are unfortunately not aware of the benefits of taking care of it. they casually and routinely litter the trails with these little plastic bags, and clear out patches of trees and bushes to make way for food crops. these activities alter the environment and reduce the habitats of endemic species, driving them out, and eventually force them to extinction.

mountains are always free. under the law, they are part of the public domain, and they belong to everyone. access may be regulated, and in extreme circumstances, may be restricted. but closure, plain and simple, ultimately brings no palpable results. rather, it is sound management of a mountain's resources and potentials which are needed to restore it to to its verdant glory.