To conserve Mt. Apo and prevent man-made disasters such as the March 2016 forest fire which razed around 115 hectares of forests and grasslands, the Sta. Cruz local government would be limiting the number of participants in the Sta. Cruz Mt. Apo trail.
With the upcoming outdoor adventure event set this April, the Sta. Cruz LGU is limiting the number to 50 trekkers a day. Aside from that, camping in the summit is also not allowed, as mandated by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Julius Paner, Sta. Cruz tourism officer, said they are looking for sustainable tourism because they don’t want to end up like Boracay where the large influx of visitors caused damage to the environment. They want to balance the revenue to be given directly to the communities, and the environmental footprint.
There are 110 families, 70 porters, and around 10-15 vendors that are settled in Barangay Sibulan, the foot of the mountain. Although the tourism revenue would not be enough, he said, they still need to follow the DENR mandate to conserve and protect Mt. Apo.
When asked about how their upcoming ecotourism events could contribute to the environment, Paner said these events are regulated for ecotourism. He clarified that participation to these events does not make one an ecowarrior but instead, actions such as maintaining cleanliness and community participation in the mountain helps.
He also added that they have a unified policy for Mt. Apo, where there are station patrols on the trail that would be monitoring the race and those who are caught destroying the environment would be penalized and blacklisted.
The local government also has a 5-year tourism plan that aims to increase local revenue by creating more events such as festivals, and use tourism as a strategy to extend services to the people such as providing a water system—all while conserving the environment.
They are also planning to relocate the people living in coastal areas of Barangay Zone 1 and Barangay Bato to convert the areas into a tourist destination.
In 2019, the number of visitors to the municipality was 113,000, which is higher than 2018 with 108,000 visitors. The number of resorts have increased, as well, from three in 2005 to 12 at present. They also discovered two more waterfalls in the municipality.