Opinion: Mt. Pulag – a tour operator’s perspective

pulag - akiki trail1

Pinoy Mountaineer is calling for a constructive conversation about what we should do to preserve the beauty of Mt. Pulag and other mountains in light of the problems brought about unregulated ecoutourism. Contributions are welcome at mews@pinoymountaineer.com. 

by Anonymous 

I may be one of the outfitters who really gain a lot from having guests coming to Mt. Pulag, but I follow all the rules, and I don’t mind having it closed, seriously.

Having had a close encounter with the locals for more or less 5 years, however, I feel for them and I know that if tourism dies, their income will die too.

If there’s no more tourism, they will farm, if you’ll notice, farming reached the area of the park already and we don’t want that. How much more if you close the park? What the locals claim is that they do not know the effects of farming from the ecosystem in the park.

Here are my dreams and/or suggestions for Mt. Pulag:

1. Inform the locals of the effects of farming at the park area. More LNT awareness.

2. Do not close the park BUT be strict with the rules. This we all know, Maam Mereng kept on implementing rules but the locals themselves do not follow. They encourage more hikers, walk ins, anything that will give them money. Even some organizers do not follow. The implementing of the rules should come from the DENR, and as powerful or influential hikers/mountaineers/outfitters we must encourage the locals to be united with the DENR. Personally, I cannot blame Maam Mereng for everything, I pity her, because she does not have the support of the locals.

3. Encourage home stays and ranger camping – in all days of the week. Right now, this only happens on weekends.

I organized a training for the guides last year, I plan to do this annually. Although my main topic was first aid and LNT, I actually wanted to encourage them slowly about how to maintain the park. I can only get their attention with First Aid as a topic.

It was too difficult for me and heart breaking to know that most of the park fees goes to the government. Some of the locals say that the P80.00 environmental fee goes to government officials. I don’t know if this is true, but hikers do registration fees

Travel Factor, Trail Adventours, YABAG and myself are one of the many outfitters who brings clients to Mt. Pulag every weekend. Believe me, these outfitters are even better than the rest, because they follow whatever PaSu says.

There are the so called hard core mountaineers/outfitters who brings up to 70-100/pax per weekend. They don’t have reservations, they walk in, drink liquor till they drop, do not respect the rules, the locals, do whatever they want basically. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate them, I just don’t like what they are doing, and I tell it to them whenever I have a chance.

Mt. Pulag to be closed or not – is an old issue that I kept on seeing at blogs. But what can we really do for the mountain?

Closing it from June to November might be a good idea too. But then again, when I think about the locals, I begin to think twice.

I hope you could encourage volunteers to go to Mt. Pulag And conduct environmental seminars, studies etc. They don’t even have a concrete study about the carrying capacity! Where are all the funds?! They don’t have medical kits, uniforms, etc.

Okay, enough of the whining and thanks for taking time to read, glad you reached up to this part. This has just become a frustrating part of my life and it’s too big, I can’t do anything, because I’m also afraid to be hated by the locals and the local government, aside from conducting seminars and training, and hopefully in the near future – make the locals and the DENR work together. Sakit nila ang inggit. But even so, I love both the locals and the DENR officers.

I must add – maybe it’s easy for some of the mountaineers to say “close the park” – because they don’t go there as often as we do. Do they really know what’s happening up there? Do they know the situation? Do they understand what will happen if they close the park? I think not. We need an expert to decide on this.

But – Whatever the DENR says, my company will follow whole heartedly.

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