Mt. Batulao is on the hot seat as netizens ask fellow hikers and mountaineers to avoid or totally boycott the mountain as a hiking destination…for now.
Netizens took to social media to air their grievances and opinions on several issues now hounding Mt. Batulao, a favorite hiking destination for hikers and mountaineer wannabes thanks to it’s picturesque view and friendly trails.
The mountain is located at Batangas standing at 2,661 ft. and can be reached in less than 3 hours if coming from Metro Manila. The trails’ difficulty is very friendly to beginners and does not require any strenuous training thus most hikers find it a joy to walk it’s trails for a day hike or overnight just to unwind, escape the city noise, relieve stress, commune with nature or maybe train for upcoming sky running event.
When climbing Mt. Batulao, hikers can choose between the old trail or the new one as a route. The easiest route up the summit is via the old trail where in between the jump-off and the summit, signage of peaks 1 to 9 are found with peak 10 located at the highest elevation. Hikers then descend using the same route. This also applies with the new trail but with a higher level of trail difficulty for beginners.
Some also prefer the traverse route using the old trail to ascend the summit (Peak 10) and descend via the new trail or vice versa.
Guided by its mission statement of promoting environmental awareness and protection, the administrators of Climbers League for Ideal Mountaineering and Balanced Environmental Responsiveness (CLIMBER), the Facebook mountaineering page where the post appeared, hiked Mt. Batulao last 5-6 December 2015 to validate reports of the alleged illegal registration and forced guide service.
As a result, CLIMBER released their climb alert against the mountain last 14 December 2015 and is still pinned on top of the page for attention. Based on the admin post, they validated the reports that there are municipalities claiming ‘ownership’ or domain of the said mountain thus the multiple registration fees. They advised their more than 10K page members “not to climb” the mountain until the issues are settled by the concerned parties.
The aim of the advisory is to send a strong message to the local government unit of Batangas that mountaineers or hikers won’t “tolerate abusive, fraudulent, misleading and unlawful actions”.
However, there was no changes at the turn of the new year as a recent update from a netizen on CLIMBER pointed out a “health center”, a squat of a building within the vicinity of the jump-off area where hikers are strongly being advised to secure guide/s and to pay certain amount termed as ‘donation’.
According to several posts and comments on CLIMBER, the Facebook page with mostly mountaineers or hikers as members, netizens continue to report of multiple registration fees being collected at several points along the trail referred to as “toll gate”. This is still apart from the payment already made at the “health center”.
As one netizen reacted irritably “ano ba yan, konting kembot may bayad?!”
According to the posts, the locals posing as fee collectors stationed to 2 or more points along the routes are defending the separate collection, claiming that since the trails are traversing parts belonging to different municipalities, hikers should also pay to each. Based on the latest update of Ardie De Dios, a member of CLIMBER last 12 January 2016, the fee ranges from php 10 to php 30 per person.
Although securing a guide for hikers who are not familiar with the trail is strongly advisable, some hikers are questioning the policy being enforced even to those who have hiked the mountain numerous times and knows the trails like the back of their hands. Several hikers view this policy as greediness of several locals or barangay officials.
Although Ardie De Dios observed that the climb advisory has some effect and guides are no longer mandatory several hikers still experienced the jacked-up and forced guide policy.
I did the traverse in 2014 and we paid php 20 for registration fee and a guide for php500 for six (6) persons. However, the number of hikers were still a handful back then and it had quadrupled as of the present.
Sadly, these exploitation issues are not confined with Mt. Batulao but is also hounding Mts. Pico de Loro, Talamitam, Marami (Silyang Bato) and Maculot to name a few, most of which are just a few hours drive from Metro Manila.
Policies, fair to hikers and beneficial to locals, addressing these issues has to be implemented soon but for now hikers are clamoring for the cooperation from fellow mountaineers and hikers to boycott or abstain from hiking Mt. Batulao.#