The Cautionary Tale of Mt. Data

While researching the Cordillera region, stumbled upon a Lonely Planet Magazine (Philippines) issue that suggested doing a Bontoc stopover instead of Baguio on the way to Sagada. The 4-hour travel difference from Manila (making that a 10-hour ride) is offset by the quaint accommodations one can expect from Mount Data Hotel and the "old Baguio feel" of Bontoc. Tempting, I thought. So what else is there that would make it a compelling stop? 

Complementing Mount Data Hotel built by the Marcoses in the 60s is the Mt. Data National Park established in 1936. One would assume that this forest park used to be in demand with many tourists (otherwise why a hotel?) and, hence, is just waiting for a "rediscovery." With the popularity of towns beyond it like Sagada and Banaue, surely Mt. Data National Park could be a good item to add on one's road trip itinerary to the North. 

That is if Mt. Data does not represent a tragic state of affairs in environmental conservation in our country. Michael A. Bengwayan of VERA files reports that what used to be a mossy forest area of 5, 512 hectares is now down to 89 hectares, with the rest converted to agricultural lands. The area's cold climate and high altitude is apparently perfect for growing commercially in-demand vegetables like cabbage and potatoes. Now, we're all for growing our agricultural industry, but what about that "national park" status? In this age of "fun in the Philippines" what do titles like this merit for not-as-popular, out-of-the-way tourist spots? What used to provide natural habitat to Philippine deers, civet cats, and wild pigs now mainly serve as a cautionary tale environmental activists use to keep Mt. Pulag from suffering the same fate. 

Oh, and about that "national park" status, this news from Sun Star Baguio reported that the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources (DENR) recommended reclassifying Mt. Data's national park status to "agricultural" or "residential." So, I thought that the whole point of being a national park with budgets allotted for their maintenance and preservation (hello, National Parks Development Committee) is so it could be kept from the claws of loggers and developers? Mt. Data was destroyed within a period of 40 to 50 years, a mere blink of an eye when one considers how long it took for those trees to grow. Are we so fun-loving that we don't care so much about preserving our resources and the natural environment even for just another generation? 

So we ask the DENR, the National Parks Development Committee, the DOT, exactly what kind of fun do we have planned for our country?  

No comments:

Post a Comment