‘Stop blaming, start working,’ mountaineers say on proposed Mt. Apo ban
DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/24 Apr) – “We should stop blaming and start
working on what can be improved,” the president of a mountaineers’
federation said amidst a plan by environment and tourism officials to
ban a climbers’ group from Mt. Apo.
Rey Sumagaysay, president of the 26-group Mountaineers Federation in
Southern Mindanao (MFSM), said zeroing in on the Mindanao Alliance
Mountaineering Club (MALMOC), the group of Ian Caasi who drowned Mt.
Apo’s Lake Venado on April 5, is not just.
Members of the Protected Areas Management Board (PAMB) of the Mt. Apo
Natural Park announced in a press conference Monday they are planning
to blacklist the group from entering the park in the next three years.
MFSM backed MALMOC’s claim they did nothing wrong even if they are
willing to push for a deeper probe. Photo courtesy of CADRe. Jay Crebillo, the club’s president, told MindaNews they were scheduled
to meet regional director Sonia Garcia of the Department of Tourism
“What happened was a freak accident,” Sumagaysay said as he stressed
that banning would not solve the problems in climbing Mt. Apo. He
suggested that there be more education to be conducted on mountaineers
wanting to climb Mt. Apo.
But he said, too, that Caasi’s drowning should serve as a wake up call
for government agencies, noting that those involved in the PAMB are
also liable for some lapses. For one, he cited there is no signage at
all that swimming or bathing at Lake Venado is prohibited.
But Sumagaysay suggested to stop the blaming and called on PAMB
instead to facilitate improvements and making the park safer for
“It is good to have signage, sufficient briefings, effective rescue
teams, among others, but it is also better if the climbers are more
responsible,” he said.
Sumagaysay cited the importance of training and education among
mountaineers as crucial to safety.
He said the federation has organized regular and on-call sessions for
the conduct of basic and advance mountaineering courses among its
member-groups and even to non-members.
Around 5,000 mountaineers are members of the federation’s 26 groups
under its umbrella. But Sumagaysay said they cover only a fifth of the
total number of climbers to Mt. Apo from Southeastern Mindanao, most
of whom are not trained mountaineers.
He said Caasi’s death should push mountaineering clubs to conduct more
trainings and education campaign, and also greater support from the
Sumagaysay said he will also make sure the recent local experience
will be brought to the national federation of mountaineers. Crebillo
is supposed to join Sumagaysay and hundreds of mountaineers nationwide
to the 28th national congress and climb in Mt. Talinis, off Dumaguete
Meanwhile, the sixty-member MALMOC is appealing the PAMB’s plan to ban
the mountaineering club from climbing Mt. Apo in the next three years.
Crebillo said what happened to Caasi, one of the two aspirants in the
23-member Holy week climb, was an accident.
He denied that the climb was an initiation rite as claimed by DOT’s Garcia.
Crebillo explained that Caasi, although still an aspirant at the time,
did not take part in initiation rites.
He said, however, that the group requires two minor and two major
climbs for aspirants to become full-fledged members.
But he said Caasi voluntarily joined a regular climb, and was assigned
an experienced member to guide him.
Crebillo said it was an accident and that the victim was properly
informed about prohibited acts in the park. “The group did not do
anything wrong. It was an accident,” said the founder of the
eight-year-old mountaineering club.
He said the group was shocked about the statements made Garcia and
Bonifacio Apura, regional technical director of the Department of
Environment and Natural Resources’ (DENR) ecosystems research and
Crebillo said it will be too much penalty for the group; it could mean
their demise. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)