Wednesday, March 20, 2013

No To Stairs To Apo

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Kidapawan - Kapatagan Trail
(Apo Traverse)
Mt. Apo is a national treasure. Having tagged as the highest peak in the Philippines, towering at 2,954 MASL, this mountain is not only a symbol for the people of Davao and Cotabato but of the whole country and its countrymen.
Recently there is a plan to construct a 16,620-step stairway to its summit and here is Schadow1 Expeditions' official stand on this move.

There are two known trails for Mt. Apo: the Kapatagan Trail facing Davao is usually used as a jump-off point where you will be facing vertical climb challenges with its massively bouldered trail; and the Kidapawan trail which is usually used as a traverse (exit) trail. The Kidapawan trail is known for its rich ecosystem ranging from grasslands, to rainforests, a magnificent and phenomenal lake at 2283MASL, the Venado Lake, waterfalls and rivers.

The Kidapawan City government has proposed a plan of a Php 2.5 Million project to build a stairway trail to Mt. Apo, the country's highest peak, which according to them will boost the tourism of the mountain and with an objective to "make the tour to the peak a lot easier for tourists by constructing a permanent stairway." Aside from the stairway, there are plans to construct "state-of-the-art" toilets at Lake Venado and the Marble river which is along the Kidapawan Trail.

The plan is nothing but a disturbing news and the official stand of Schadow1 Expeditions is a big no to stairs to Apo. Here are the following points why we are committed together with other mountaineers on its stand against this move:

Apo is a natural wonder and a national treasure. Any changes to the environment has significant and long-term impact to the surroundings and creating permanent stairs to Apo is not an exception.

As Apo signifies the Philippines in a way having the highest elevation in the country, its local government must not be the sole deciding entity on such matters. Multiple non-governmental organizations and groups must be consulted on such a move as headed by the central government itself via the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Dialogs must be open and consultation must be sought from environmentalists, mountaineers, Manobo tribesmen, tourism officials and geologists aside from the local government. The mountain is not owned by just one city. The mountain is already there even before Kidapawan city was established way back 1998.

Apo, as for its stature, is already a marketing tool by itself. Hence, tourists and mountaineers alike has been flocking to the mountain as it is. Actually, the amount of people visiting this mountain is already a problem. Making the trail easier would even invite "non-mountaineers" to easily climb this mountain, thus prone to exploitation.

When I say non-mountaineers, this would be people who are just mere tourists who have no sufficient exposure to the mountains and has not yet internalized the importance of "leave no trace and do not change the mountains" agenda of a mountaineer. For a real mountaineer, the trail is the essence, and the summit is the reward. Paving the trail does not only defeats this purpose; but also destroys the mountain's natural foundations. The Kidapawan trail is along Apo's caldera and is a natural rainforest thus destroying it and replacing with cement is nothing but a backward move for Eco-tourism. If the project is eying for a "walk in the park", then it must not be a mountain.

An example of a mountain with an easy trail that has been exploited and is now indefinitely closed is Mt. Banahaw in Quezon. What more could a paved trail do especially if the driving force of a certain project is to increase visits without a definitive plan and will-power to protect the natural features and resources of a mountain?

Currently, the Kidapawan trail has been collecting P700/pax "environmental" fee  whether you use the trail as a jump-off or an exit point yet collections from the hundreds of hikers who trek this trail daily is seemingly and surprisingly insufficient for the environment and would still like to place trails to this mountain for more financial gain. This is obviously an irony.

Economic development must not hinder environmental preservation. Commercialization is not always a solution as most of the time, this is a key for greed to thrive. And there is no reason for greed when the surroundings itself is a person's playground. Do not use Mt. Apo as a thriving ground for such human bigotry.

In time, I do hope that Kidapawan officials and its people realize the treasure Mt. Apo brings especially when it is part of its backyard. Tourism may boost their city's economy but let us not forget that exploitation may lead to destruction which in the long run destroys the reason why tourism thrives within their jurisdiction. Schadow1 Expeditions urges the government to think of the possible drawbacks of this project, and to block the move so as to ensure the children of Cotabato will still wake up to a new day with this mountain, still doing what it does best... to provide the Filipinos a symbol of stature and a nourishing ecosystem within the region.

March 20, 2013
Las PiƱas, Philippines

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