Inquirer News - An environment official and policemen arrested five South Koreans and 12 Filipino mountaineers inside the prohibited areas of Mount Banahaw in Dolores, Quezon, on Sunday.
Salud Pangan, park superintendent for Banahaw, identified the foreigners as Hak Su Kim, Eob Kyo Lee, Yanug Su Kim, Nak Si Ji and Chang Yong Lee, all of Barangay (village) Iruhin in Tagaytay City. They were members of one of two mountaineer groups found in an area which was still closed to outsiders, she said.
“They claimed that they were not aware that Banahaw is still closed (to the public). But it is impossible for any mountaineer not to know that,” Pangan said by phone.
The Filipino mountaineers with the Koreans were identified as Jeffrey del Rosario, Dave Dela Cruz, Bryan Maglalang, Roderick Perez, Aries Ilocario and John Paul Dulan.
Pangan said she received information on Friday that two groups of mountaineers, including some foreigners, would sneak into the mountain.
“I immediately alerted our forest guards to monitor the entrances, but the trespassers eluded my men when they sneaked very early (morning) and under cover of darkness,” Pangan said.
Police said the first group was composed of five Koreans and six Filipinos, while the second had 17 Filipinos from Metro Manila.
The 17 were identified as Wilson Labrador, Jonorie Boticario, Jaybee Laurel, Feil Gulane, Feves Estacion, Mark Arnold, Vilson Gahoy, Anne Estipona, Ronald Tugade, Dana Alarcon, Jan Ann, Rommel Anthony Britana, Michael Joseph Abalos, Jedeah Mariz Claro, Serlina Surian, Dennis Pensotes and Alfred Lazona.
The climbers were brought to the Dolores police station and were expected to be transferred to Lucena City on Monday. They will be charged with violating Republic Act No. 9847 or the Mounts Banahaw-San Cristobal Protected Landscape (MBSCPL) Act of 2009.
The offense is punishable by a fine of P5,000 to P500,000 or imprisonment of one to six years or both.
Pangan warned mountaineers and religious devotees that they would be arrested if they entered the prohibited mountain spots. They could only go as far as areas identified by billboard signs, she said.
In February, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) stopped pilgrims and mountaineers from sneaking into the closed areas through the backdoor being offered by several resorts at the foot of Banahaw.
In 2004, the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) started a a five-year program to resurrect the mountain’s resources which were damaged by slash-and-burn farmers and visitors who littered the place with trash.
With barbed wires, the PAMB sealed off several trails leading to certain areas in the bosom of Banahaw.