A few months ago, I wrote about the garbage pit that greeted us on the summit of Mt. Kitanglad in Bukidnon. Admittedly, the Philippines’ fourth highest mountain is not exactly the most scenic of places. It hosts the transmitters of ABS-CBN and GMA, the two giant media networks, as well as those of PhilCom, a telecommunications company, and the National Grid Corporation (NGCP), which operates the country’s power transmission. Still, it is a declared protected area under the law so dumping your trash there is supposed to be strictly prohibited. (Ah, but who are we kidding? We are not exactly known for our impeccable implementation of laws, much less for proper waste management.)
I sent an email about the garbage problem to the Protected Area Superintendent (PASU) office in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Malaybalay. We don’t have the best public bureaucracy but I still believe there are hardworking and honest people in government who do their job well. Bringing the concern to their attention might lead to some positive action to solve the problem.
After several weeks, I got feedback from local contacts in Bukidnon that the Protected Area Management Board have discussed the problem during their meeting and ordered a clean-up of the Kitanglad summit.
I was in Malaybalay last month and I dropped by the DENR office to get updates. According to Deputy Superintendent Daniel Somera, the board has commissioned the local porters and guides association to bring the garbage down from the mountain.
Photos courtesy of PAMB
The management board also wrote to companies that operate the transmitters regarding the waste disposal of their staff. Only the NGCP bothered to respond. ABS-CBN, GMA and PhilCom conveniently ignored the issue. These three pay an annual land use fee of P75,000 each while NGCP pays P30,000. (Mas mahal pa yata ang gown ni Kim Chiu sa Star Magic Ball kesa sa binabayad ng ABS-CBN para sa Kitanglad.)
NGCP was charged a lower rate because it was a government-owned corporation when it started its operations. Since it has been privatized (Henry Sy Jr. of the SM empire is now the president and CEO), the board may want to look into increasing its land use fee. Good grief, they should increase everyone’s land use fee. These firms are worth billions and they pay peanuts for the long-term use of a valuable natural resource.
It’s funny that these giant companies which pride themselves with their environment programs, foundations and supposed public service won’t even lift a finger to help keep a mountain clean, the same mountain they greatly benefit from.
Mr. Somera also said that the board has allotted P1.1 million from the integrated protected area fund to renovate the bunk house where mountaineers usually spend the night. The plan is to build an extension so that it can accommodate up to 15 people, the allowed maximum number of climbers per day. Construction is slated to start either later this year or next year.
To be honest, I don’t really see the point of having a bunk house in the first place. Mountaineers bring their own tents anyway and camping is entirely expected when one goes on a climb. (Or maybe I’m just bitter because I didn’t get to sleep there and instead, we had to endure a freezing night in the rain. I can be resentful like that.)
Overall, commendation goes to the management board of Kitanglad Range for acting on the garbage problem. Much thanks to Mr. Somera and Ms. Noli Itaas of the PASU office for graciously accommodating my inquiries. The biggest credit, however, goes to the group of porters and guides who worked hard to clean the mountain and were only paid P2,000 for the job. They had to deal with the disgusting mess left by irresponsible people who can’t be bothered with hauling down their own trash.
If you happen to climb Mt. Kitanglad (or any mountain for that matter), please, for the love of God, Tanduay or whatever you hold sacred, dispose your garbage properly. Bringing down your trash will not kill you; leaving it there will surely kill the mountain.