Cleaning Up a Mountaintop

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.)

Garbage pit on Mt. Kitanglad.

Transmitters on the summit.

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

Porters and guides cleaning up the garbage dump.

How on earth does a tire end up on the summit?

Empty Tanduay bottles. This happens to be the popular drink of choice among mountaineers who climb Dulang-Dulang and Kitanglad. There were also alcohol bottles on the campsites in Dulang-Dulang. Apparently, the much-touted “leave no trace” principle means shit to some climbers.

Some of the collected trash from the dump.

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.

Response of the National Grip Corporation.

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.

Bunk house on the summit. We had to camp outside during our climb though because it was locked when we got there.

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.


28 thoughts on “Cleaning Up a Mountaintop

  1. jebuzinjamonk

    I remember tuloy what Ken Robinson quoted in one of his speeches made, he said: “If only insects were to disappear from the earth within 50years, all life on earth would end. But if all human beings disappear from the earth within 50years all forms of life will flourish.” How true!!!

    1. Tintin Post author

      Yep, we’re great at destroying in a flash what nature has built over millions of years. For a species that claims we’re the smartest ones around here, we can be ridiculously stupid and short-sighted at times.

    1. Tintin Post author

      Thanks. It was a simply civic duty and I didn’t really do that much anyway. It was the people who took action that really made the difference.

    1. Tintin Post author

      Thanks. It didn’t take that much courage though (of which I have little to begin with); just an internet connection and enough idle time to type out a complaint. So it’s actually kind of embarrassing when people give me credit for this. Yes, it is sad and totally mind-boggling how people aren’t taking responsibility for such as simple thing as garbage disposal.

    1. Tintin Post author

      Sure, no problem. I actually brought up the garbage problem when this TV show on GMA (Born to be Wild) contacted me about D2K. They said they’re going to bring it up with their producer but I wasn’t able to follow up anymore if they actually did something about it.

  2. Jess Descalsote

    sad to say, not only in Mt. Kitanglad, the same situation at the summit campsite of Mt. Apo, I took some pictures of it, just the same some bottles usually Tanduay, plastic bags and bottles, and other waste. That’s one reason why I dont bring liquor every time I climbed mountain. I climbed Mt. Apo last September.

    1. Tintin Post author

      Yeah, I also heard the same feedback from friends who went on a recent climb to Mt. Apo. It’s sad and infuriating. I hope the park management authority gets its act together in enforcing rules on garbage disposal considering that Apo has probably the highest climb permit fee among our mountains.

  3. Kenjo

    I think even the fanciest tent will eventually flood pag malakas ang ulan so it’s good to have a bunker. Sana maakyat ko rin yang Kitanglad soon.

    Tanduay and trash – same problem with popular destinations like Romelo and Maculot. Batulao and Pico de Loro are as popular, pero hindi naman ganun kadumi. I wonder where the difference lies.

    1. Tintin Post author

      Kapag ganun, edi lahat na ng campsites sa bawat bundok may bunker. Ok din naman na i-renovate yun, ang kaso lang kasi sobrang dami na talaga ng structures sa Kitanglad. May basketball court na nga eh. I guess the invasive human activities are a necessary evil since important telecommunications infrastructure ang andun. Pero sana mas lakihan naman ang land use fees na binabayaran ng mga companies at magamit ang funds na yun for the benefit of the locals particularly the indigenous tribes. At maging strikto rin in enforcing the rules on protected area management.

        1. Kenjo

          Agreed, kahit blockbuster lagi ang Pulag, malinis pa rin. Political will siguro ang difference baka yung DENR sa kitanglad pa dekwadekwatro lang sa mga opisina nila.

          LOL @ basketball court. Grabe naman.

          1. mt kitanglad pamb

            We opted to share this information to give justice to the people who truly work hard for the Kitanglad range protection.
            The existence of telecommunication facilities located atop Mt. Kitanglad started even before the park has been declared as a protected area. Thus, to provide flexibility in management, the DENR-PASu and PAMB imposed a sub- zoning of the park. The particular site wherein telecommunication facilities are present is classified as Special Use Zone while the trails and other areas wherein mountaineers are allowed to visit are classified as Recreation Zone.

            The Kitanglad range has been enlisted as among the parks in the Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) or ASEAN Heritage Park last CY 2009 (aside from Mt. Iglit-Baco in Mindoro, Mt. Apo in Davao, and the newest one Mt. Malindang in Misamis Occidental). The PAMB of Mt. Kitanglad is known as the most cohesive and functional management board in the country. There are many initiatives in Kitanglad park management that have been replicated by other areas both local and abroad. These are manifested by the presence of foreign and local visitors doing educational tour, invitations as resource person, etc. Therefore, “dekwatro” style of personnel is not welcome in Mt. Kitanglad Office as there are many tasks that need to be accomplished in order to sustainably manage the park.
            We appreciate the comments and suggestions that the mountaineers have made. We know that all sectors in the society are part in the continued protection of the Mt. Kitanglad Range Natural Park.

  4. Pingback: Happy to Live, Glad to Give 7: The Mt. Apo Series – Day 2: Atop the Highest Peak! | the fine line

  5. Jayson Park

    Even the mountain is protected and is a National Park, people still abuse it and just take it for granted. I do hope we humans would take action and just throw the trash properly. To think that this mountain is just near our place. This is sad.


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