Pinatubo treks remain suspended

    CLARK FREEPORT — Trekking to the crater-summit of Mt. Pinatubo has remained suspended amid dangers posed by bad weath er, but tourism offi cials in Capas, Tarlac said tourists could instead shift destination to other areas, such as Lake Tambo at the foot of the mountain.

    mountain. In a forum with the Capampangans in Media, Inc. (CAMI), Capas tourism offi cer Marissa Velasquez cited the need to spread this advisory so that trekkers from Metro Manila and even foreign adventurists would not waste their time coming over to trek to the volcano’s summit, a major tourist attraction in Central Luzon.

    “But there is an alternative for tourists, name ly Lake Tambo which is also located in Sta. Juliana. The lake’s waters are safe and one could catch there big fi shes and shellfi sh,” she said.

    Barangay Sta. Juliana in Capas is the safest take-off point for treks to the two-kilometer wide crater lake which formed at the summit during Mt. Pinatubo’s historic eruption in 1991.

    “We advise visitors to fi rst check with us whether the ban has been lifted. When the weather is good, we fi rst have to inspect the trekking route to ensure the safety of trekkers, “ she said.

    Velasquez noted that most of the accidents, many of them fatal, involved persons who climbed the slopes of Mt. Pinatubo without registering fi rst with her offi ce which coordinates with those who rent out 4×4 vehicles and guides for their trek.

    She also said that Mt. Pinatubo treks are also suspended whenever the so-called Crow Valley area within Sta. Juliana is being used for joint US-PHL military exercises under Balikatan. “Sta. Juliana is part of the Crow Valley military reservation used for live fi ring and bombing exercises during Balikatan,” she added.

    An average of 4,000 trekkers a month register with the Capas tourism offi ce during the safe dry months which usually start in November up to the middle of the following year before the rainy season, she said.

    “We collect P500 each as tourism fee from each trekker. Owners rent out their 4×4 vehicles for P3,000 with each vehicle capable of accommodating fi ve persons. Their hired guide, usually Aetas familiar with the terrain of Mt. Pinatubo, is paid P500,” Velasquez said.

    “Registration starts at 5 a.m. up to 7 a.m, because it takes hours to trek up and trek down. So usually, we only have one batch of trekkers who leave in the morning. During very fi ne weather, sometimes we allow two batches with the last one leaving not later than 10 a.m.,” she added.

    Velasquez said, however, that swimming and boating in the crater lake are banned yearround because of risks to health posed by the chemical composition of the lake.

    She noted that local folk in Sta. Juliana offer their homes for overnight stay of tourists for P500 per night, including breakfast.


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