The Local Government Unit (LGU) of Sta. Cruz in Davao del Sur will be closing the trails of Sta. Cruz and Digos City to all climbers this coming Holy Week.
Julius Paner, tourism officer of Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur told media they will be closing the trails to give way to their multipartite monitoring team to do trail and campsite assessment.
The monitoring team is composed of personnel from LGU, Department of Environmental and Natural Resources 11 (DENR 11), barangay and Bureau of Fire Protection 11 (BFP).
“Sa Holy Week di ko sure kung open na ning upat ka trails. Basta kami sa Sta. Cruz i-close namo from Holy Monday to Easter Sunday, bale seven days,” Paner said.
He said during Holy Week Sta. Cruz LGU usually allow same carrying capacity of 50 persons per day. Presently the trails of Sta. Cruz and Digos are open to climbers while the remaining trails are closed for the meantime.
There are six trail access to the country’s highest peak. These are Sibulan in Sta. Cruz, Digos, Bansalan, Magpet, Makilala, and Kidapawan.
Paner also said that among the trails, Sta. Cruz is the most preferred trail by climbers following the closure of the Kidapawan trail due to cracks and damaged caused by earthquakes last year.
Paner said every weekend Sta. Cruz trail is fully booked.
“Ang Sta. Cruz trail dili kaayo dako ang damage. Karon every weekend puno ang among trail,” Paner said.
The LGU of Sta. Cruz manages the Mt. Apo climb guided by the regulation of the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources (DENR) directing them to only allow 50 persons per day in the entire trail including campsite to ensure conservation of the mountain.
Paner said they also imposed the “no camping at the summit”.
“Very stringent ang policy but despite that Mt. Apo is Mt. Apo, a bucketlist for mountaineers mao daghan gihapon ang nagasaka,” he said.
Despite opening the trail to the climbers for five months last year, the LGU still managed to cater to 1,600 climbers.
“For years we have been practising this 50 persons per day. In tourism we have this “the more the merrier” thing but we have to consider the impact of Mt. Apo to the environment in general,”Paner said.
The LGU of Sta. Cruz is collecting P1,000 per person as hiking fee. Paner said majority of the revenue directly goes to the community wherein 70 individuals are earning as tour guides, 110 families are engaged in portering and 15 vendors have livelihood at the trail in Barangay Sibulan.
“Ecotourism per se is a balance between activity and environmental conservation that is why we don’t allow mass tourism as we do not want to experience what Boracay had experience. Revenue wise kung unsa ang nahatag sa LGU gamay lang siya but ang dako na revenue is directly given to the community such as tour guides, porters, habal-habal drivers. When tourists come to our place mas mudaghan ug mu-multiply ang ilahang economic activity,” he said.
Come summer particularly April this year, economic activity of the community is expected to boost as LGU of Sta. Cruz will be hosting plenty of tourism activities and events particularly two major extreme adventures, Mt. Apo Boulder Face Challenge, the longest running extreme adventure race in the country; and the Mt. Apo Sky and Vertical Race as part of the municipality’s Pista sa Kinaiyahan celebration.
“This is a feast for mother nature and its aim is not just to do tourism activity but also this is the time to make it as a strategy of conservation and protection of country’s highest peak Mt. Apo,” Paner said.
“We have proven for 10 years that Mt. Apo is the most extreme adventure race in Asia and now we are trying to make it a friendly race. Dili nato himoong extreme kaayo kay we would like to allow everybody to enjoy the beauty of Mt. Apo,” Paner said.
The race is an adventure race and a different kind of triathlon because the disciplines would be water tubing, mountain biking, and trail running that comprises 58.6 kilometers that has to be undertaken by the racers in one day only.
The Mt. Apo Sky and Vertical Race is a mountain ultra marathon with two categories: 50 kms category and 100 kms category.
Paner said the race lures a lot of foreign contingents from Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Southeast Asia.
“In fact for the last three years that we were holding this event, about 20 percent iof the participants are coming from foreign countries. Two years ago ang champion was from Spain. A year ago the champion was from Italy,” he said.
He said they are also expecting foreign contingents this year. Based on DENR regulations, they can only cater to 100 participants of each race.
Because we are allowed 50 persons per day and that will run for two days. Dili mi puwede mulapas,” he said.
The race has been included in the calendar of international events like Asia Trail Master International Trail Running Association, and the Ultra Trail Mont Blanc, a running association in Europe.