May 23, 2024

■  Ofelia C. Empian 

The Protected Area Management Office of Mount Pulag announced the Akiki trail is closed for trekking due to a recent fire incident while the Ambangeg trail remains open for trekkers.

This was the decision of the Cordillera Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council Emergency Operations Center and the Kabayan Bureau of Fire Protection following a fire that razed a portion of the Akiki trail in the early morning of Feb. 12.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources and other agencies are conducting monitoring and assessment in the area. The BFP is also investigating the fire incident.

The more popular Ambangeg or Executive trail and the challenging Akiki trail are the most common trails leading to the summit of the highest peak in Luzon at 2,926 meters above sea level.

The other two trails are the Tawangan trail and Ambaguio trail, the latter traversing Nueva Vizcaya.  

Mount Pulag Protected Area Superintendent Emerita Albas was quoted in reports as saying that Mt. Pulag is fully booked on the weekends and holidays until March. She said most of the trekkers are those working, so the weekend slot is always up for grabs.

“We’re encouraging the tourists and even residents to trek during the weekdays. We are now starting sending back people kasi dapat pagdating dito sa office may official receipt na paid reservations so pasok agad to avoid congestion in the park,” Albas said.

She said the re-servations should be made at least a month before as the carrying capacity of Mount Pulag is set at 500 persons per day.

The DENR recorded more than 5,000 trekkers who went up to Mt. Pulag in January. 

In the latest advisory of the DENR on Feb. 2, it stated that there should only be a maximum of 12 participants plus organizer per tour operator that should be allowed to trek. The office would be sending back trekkers without official receipt showing paid slot reservations with specific dates of entry and exit. 

Organizers shall pay their reservations at the Protected Area Management Office with their business permit from the Kabayan municipality, or permit from the concerned local government where their company is located.

Bulk reservation for numerous teams from a single person using a sole business permit will not be accepted, the advisory stated.

Also, the park management reserves the right to refuse entry for walk-ins without paid official receipts as a result of sudden declaration of special holidays or non-working days for other reasons.  

Those planning to trek the third highest mountain in the Philippines should be physically fit with medical clearance. Trekkers are also told to have protective gears especially against the cold weather to avoid hypothermia at the mountain. “We are reminding trekkers that any mountain is a protected area where it is a lifeline of the communities inside and outside. Before they enter, they should also know the responsibilities such as physical preparation, trek climbing, and garbage in garbage out principles,” Albas stated.