Inasmuch as we mountaineers would love to climb Mt. Banahaw again, we respect the DENR’s plan to extend the public closure of the mountain. As long as there are no facilities and manpower in place to regulate and educate visitors, we are afraid that the healing of the mountain would be interrupted, and it may suffer, to use a medical metaphor, a “relapse”. The opportunity for hikers to enjoy a mountain is a privilege, not a right; it is secondary only to the protection of the mountain and the sustenance of its ecosystem.
Ultimately, however, the only win-win solution for Mt. Banahaw (and all the Philippine mountains) is regulation, not closure. A properly regulated national park is sustainable because the revenue from the visitors is itself the source of funds for the maintenance of the parks, and because the number of visitors are controlled so that there is minimal impact to the environment. Trained guides will themselves police trekkers if needed, and the trekkers themselves would serve as a deterrent to much more harmful activities such as illegal logging and slash-and-burn farming.
A mountain cannot prepare itself for reopening; guides must be trained, facilities need to set up and legislation enacted, if needed. We hope that all the stakeholders will make a concerted effort towards this end, particularly the DENR and the LGUs. If these things are not done, Banahaw will never be ready. I am sure that many mountaineering groups and individuals will be glad to support these measures.
Mountaineers may have to wait for Mt. Banahaw yet again; I trust that it will not be in vain.