29 April 2016
Can the Philippines save its mountains from popularity?
Within the last ten years, mountaineering has surged in popularity in the Philippines. However, the lack of systems and measures to regulate these activities has taken a toll on many areas experiencing an influx of trekkers. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) collects fees at some of the more popular mountains and the areas it considers as national parks. Although it also establishes and maintains trails in these areas, the DENR has not been doing much else to manage impact.
Mt. Pulag, one of the most popular mountains in the country to both seasoned climbers and amateurs alike, has suffered tremendous damage in the past decades (see right). Until December 2015, there had been no limit as to the number of climbers allowed in the park. Climbing the mountain costs less than PhP300 (about US$6) in DENR fees, grossly understating costs of the impact of trekkers on the area and leaving quantity demanded in a much higher level than it should be in. Several other mountains charge even less (Mt. Pico de Loro, another popular mountain suffering damage to its trails, charges fees less than US$1).
The DENR, in addition to handling certain mountains as protected areas, is also in charge of regulating corporations and managing resources and industries all over the country. Even the Biodiversity Management Bureau under DENR, which is directly tasked with the management of these areas, has other responsibilities outside the realm of national parks. A dedicated agency or bureau, much like the National Park Service of the United States, will be better able to manage mountaineering activities and ensure that prices paid by reflect all costs and generate the right level of demand. A national park service will also be able to direct trekkers to mountains with less traffic to be able to distribute impact.
Bottom Line The creation of an independent national park service in the Philippines could potentially help internalize unaccounted costs of mountain tourism, which has caused significant negative impacts on ecosystems.
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