April 15, 2024

There’s an ongoing uproar over Captain’s Peak, a resort built at the site of the famous Chocolate Hills of Bohol. Every media outlet seems to have covered it and is a viral item on social media.
Yet, a sacred mountain, a heritage treasure and precious diversity habitat that has been under threat for over a decade is hardly whispered about.
Mount Pulag is a crucial forest reservation in Northern Luzon.
Encroachment of commercial farms into its perimeter has been going on and expanding for years.
A trekker’s destination for its glorious sunrise and sunset spectacles, and as the highest peak in Luzon and third highest in the country, it is constantly visited by hikers.
Of late, videos and photographs of throngs of hikers overcrowding the peak of Mount Pulag have surfaced on social media and a concerned office was quick to report it has been regulating the entry of hikers to ensure they do not exceed the carrying capacity of the summit.
But an internal investigation must be carried out by the concerned agency to verify allegations ranging from favored hike organizers, presentation of medical certificates without actual check-ups among hikers, and allowing hikers beyond the carrying capacity of the sacred mountain considered as the playground of the gods.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources is racing against time in regulating the expanding farm encroachments into vast tracks of pine and mossy forests which has reached an alarming level and considered the biggest threat to all the biodiversity and natural resources in this national park.
It’s time the government protects Mount Pulag at all cost, as it is also the source of some of the biggest rivers that course down to the lowlands on which millions in North and Central Luzon, including Metro Manila, depend for survival.
Covering 11, 550 hectares, Mount Pulag is also home to valuable endemic flora and fauna.
Mount Pulag has in fact placed the Philippines on the world map of biological diversity.
Lest we forget, American scientist Lawrence Heaney and Filipino scientist Danilo Balete, who made extensive research on mammals in Mount Pulag made an urgent call to the national government for the protection of the national park.
In 2011, a team of Filipino and American scientists rediscovered in Mount Pulag a highly rare mammal – a dwarf cloud rat last seen 112 years ago at the time.
There’s more. Mount Pulag is the only place that has the four known species of cloud rats, according to the two scientists.
While information has it that some of those openly defying the laws governing the mountain are well-off individuals capable of defending themselves in court if charged accordingly, the government must not be cowed in its effort to preserve and protect Mount Pulag, as any damage to this national park will be theoretically irreversible and no amount of funding will restore its natural grandeur for the benefit of the next generation.
We also urge the indigenous inhabitants whose ancestors once lived under the shadows of Mount Pulag to police their ranks against encroachment into the critical areas of the mountain.
We also urge concerned agencies led by the DENR to find ways on how to regulate tour groups that only think of a lucrative business without much regard for the preservation and protection of Mount Pulag and other mountain destinations in the Cordillera.
Time and again, we have asserted that the preservation and protection of this national park is a shared responsibility between the IPs and concerned agencies.
We continue to make this call.