Saturday, April 29, 2006

Road project to Mount Pinatubo opposed

By Albert B. Lacanlale - Sun Star

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO - The tourism department has expressed strong opposition to a Korean travel agency's project constructing a road through mountain ranges towards Mount Pinatubo.

Tourism Regional Director Ronnie Tiotuico said the road trailblazing project along Crow Valley in Capas, Tarlac is being undertaken by the PDC Development Corporation owned by Cris Park and Patton Kim.

The road is being made within areas owned partly by the Philippine Air Force (PAF) and under the political jurisdiction of the Municipality of Capas in Tarlac.

A long stretch of the mountain has already been cleared by heavy equipment in a span of three months, Tiotuico said.

According to the tribal community, the 20-kilometer stretch road through the mountain ranges from Capas, Tarlac all the way up to Botolan in Zambales was meant to provide comfort and convenience for foreign tourists wanting to make it to the crater with the least amount of effort and time.

During the anniversary of the travel company on April 20, about five Korean tourists suffered major injuries when their 4x4 vehicle turned on its side while negotiating an uneven terrain.

The tourists, who were on their way to the crater of Mount Pinatubo, were brought to Manila for treatment.

Koreans comprise 95 percent of foreign tourists visiting Pinatubo.
Although the project is tourism related, Tiotuico said they are concerned on the project's potential threat to the communities surrounding Mount Pinatubo.

The tribal community along the area, he said, fears the possibility of an avalanche of loosened volcanic debris resulting from the trailblazing project, especially during heavy downpour or slight tremor.

The tourism department, upon receipt of reports of the project, immediately asked the environment department in Central Luzon to look into the project and to determine if the project is compliant with environmental laws and best practices.

A report indicates that no environmental clearance was issued by the environment department nor was there a free and prior informed consent certification (FPIC) from the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).

The recommended trail to the volcano for the last seven years has always been the 30-kilometer nature-formed streambed along the O'Donnell River where tourists are needed to drive on board all-weather vehicle for an hour and trek for two hours before reaching the majestic crater.

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