Banahaw portions off-limits to lenten pilgrims, devotees

Trekkers, pilgrims, and excursionists this Holy Week are reminded that some portions of Mt. Banahaw and Mt. San Cristobal in Quezon and Laguna provinces are off-limits to the public.

Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Region 4A (DENR-CALABARZON) Executive Director Reynulfo Juan said it is during the Lenten season or Holy Week that Mt. Banahaw is most threatened. He reminded visitors to heed basic regulations such as not insisting to go to the “closed” or prohibited portions in Mt. Banahaw and other protected areas, and not only during the Holy Week.

[caption id="attachment_124804" align="aligncenter" width="504"] ‘CLOSED’ MOUNTAINS — Portions of Mt. Banahaw and Mt. San Cristobal in Quezon and Laguna provinces, which have recently been hit by bushfires, are off-limits to the public, as per the instruction of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Region 4A, citing that it is during the Holy Week that Mt. Banahaw and Mt. Cristobal are most threatened. (Photo by MBSCPL PASu Office)[/caption]

He reminded not to leave their garbage in the mountain but bring it back with them and properly dispose it. He warned of vandalism, which includes picking plants, fruits and flowers, and writing and engraving on trees and walls. Altering or defacing facilities, boundary markers and park signs are strictly prohibited.

The DENR said that some parts of Mt. Banahaw remain closed until 2015. Due to a series of forest fires that occurred at Mt. Banahaw and at the adjacent Mt. San Cristobal, the Department has included some areas in the latter as no-go zone to visitors. In an en banc meeting held last April 2, the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) of the Mts. Banahaw and San Cristobal Protected Landscape (MBSCPL) issued a resolution to extend the coverage of strict protection zones.

Juan, who is also the PAMB chairman, and MBSCPL Superintendent Salud Pangan, signed the resolution. The strict protection zone included sacred places or areas known as Kapatagan, Suplina, Salaming Bubog, Kuweba ng Dios Ama, Pinagbinyagan, Ilalim, Talong Ambon, and Mahal na Birhen.

The zone covers a total area of 5,275.6 hectares with mossy forest at 1,700 meters above sea level (masl) up to the mountain’s summit. Under the resolution, all tourists and pilgrims who intend to visit cultural and recreational areas within the MBSCPL are required to secure permits from the protected area superintendent (PASu). Meanwhile, residents in the area need not secure a permit but should be enlisted in the barangay or village.

Areas under cultural and recreational zones, include sacred places, camp sites, pilgrimage sites, and the defined trail, including rivers, creek, and other bodies of water considered places of worship and for recreation. PAMB said it will strictly enforce the rules and regulations for the “defined trail” where pilgrims and tourists may enter, and areas that are off-limits to pilgrims and tourists. An individual found to have violated the off-limits zone will be imposed a fine of P100 to P500,000 and one-day community service or environmental orientation.

The PASu may impose administrative fine of P10,000, and if it is greater than this to P500, 000, it will be imposed by the PAMB chairman. If the amount of damage is more than P500,000, administrative penalty over such amounts can only be imposed in the settlement of PAMB.

For second offense, the violator will be held criminally liable. It was in 2004 when the PAMB passed the first resolution declaring certain areas as closed to the public. Areas declared closed were areas considered as sacred places or puestos from Barangay Kinabuhayan to Kristalino Falls up to Dungaw to Tatlong Tangke then back to Kinabuhayan in the Dolores side, and from Barangay Bugon to Pagbuga up to Dulong Ilaya in Barangay Concepcion-Pinagbakuran and Concepcion-Banahaw in the Sariaya side, both in Quezon province.