Mount Apo, the highest mountain in the Philippines, will reopen to trekkers after a devastating fire destroyed huge tracts of forest and grassland last year.
The decision follows extensive lobbying from local people who rely on guiding tourists as a major source of income.
Kidapawan City Mayor, Joseph Evangelista, said a “controlled” reopening of the Kidapawan trail to the 2,954-metre peak had been agreed by the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB).
Although environmentalists say they have yet to see the forest’s full rehabilitation plan, the mayor assured them that the city would implement strict regulations to prevent any further degradation of the highland landscape.
More than 100 hectares of forest cover were destroyed during Holy Week in March last year. Irresponsible trekkers who had left a bonfire burning were blamed for the blaze, which took several weeks to contain.
At the time it was announced that the mountain could be off-limits to visitors for up to five years.
“We will never commercialise Mount Apo,” the mayor said. “We are bound to maintain strict imposition of rules.”
He said the city tourism office would monitor and regulate the number of people on the mountain, which, during summer, could reach 5,000.
Joey Recimilla, city tourism officer, said his office would conduct workshops for mountain guides and travel agencies starting next week.
The Tamayong trail on nearby Mount Talomo will remain closed to climbers.
Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte said the the trail had been excluded from the list of entry points to Mount Apo.
“The Davao City government strongly reminds the public of the possible sanctions to be meted out to violators,” she said.
Mount Talomo is described as a “recharge area” of the Talomo-Lipadas watershed, from where Davao City draws its water supply.