Barangay Sta. Juliana is the take-off point for novice trekkers to the crater of Mt. Pinatubo which formed a scenic emerald-colored lake or caldera two kilometers in diameter.
In an earlier CMTO advisory, the Mt. Pinatubo trek was temporarily suspended from March 23 to 26 spoiling the vacation of scores of tourists all set to make the trek to the Pinatubo crater.
The CMTO advisory said “trekking to the Pinatubo Crater is temporarily suspended effective March 23 due to the imposition of additional fees of P700 per person pursuant to an amendment to Botolan, Zambales Municipal Ordinance (MO) NO. 01- 2015,” which municipal officials here said is “arbitrarily being collected from tourists and guests.”
Marissa Velasquez- Vidal, acting Municipal Tourism Officer, signed the advisory which she said was a directive from Mayor Antonio “TJ” Rodriguez. Department of Tourism (DOT) Central Luzon Regional Director Ronnie Tiotuico had to intervene after a German television crew was prevented from trekking to Mt. Pinatubo by the CMTO on March 23.
Tiotuico said the German TV crew was on its last day of gathering footage for a documentary to be shown in Germany when the advisory took effect preventing them from going to the crater.
Vidal said the imposition of the additional fees is being contested by the indigenous people (IPs) of Zambales who are the legal private owners of the Pinatubo crater area by virtue of a Certificate of Ancestral Domain title which prompted the CMTO to issue the advisory.
However, Vidal said beginning March 26 (Saturday), the suspension of the Mt. Pinatubo trek via Sta. Juliana was already lifted.
The Sangguniang Bayan (SB) of Botolan, Zambales has enacted during a special session on March 18 SB Resolution 10-2016 amending MO 01-2015, which is “an ordinance prescribing eco-tourism fee, environmental protection fee, and ancestral domain preservation fee in the Mt. Pinatubo area within the boundary of Botolan, Zambales and imposing penalty for violation thereof.”
The SB’s amended resolution now imposes an additional fee of P350 environmental fee and P250 ancestral domain preservation fee on top of the P100 eco-tourism fee earlier imposed by MO 1-2015 for a total of P700.
The SB resolution said a fine of P2,500 will be imposed on anyone who refuses to pay the additional fees which is being collected by employees of the Botolan, Zambales local government unit at the boundary (mid-trail) of Capas, Tarlac and Botolan, Zambales.
The SB amended MO No. 10-2016 was signed by Vice Mayor Nick Manzo and Councilors Noel S. Ferrer, Mario Thomas D. Doble, Gregorio D. Jaring, Arthur R. Daria, and Oliver Olivares. It was approved by Botolan Mayor Doris Maniquiz-Jerezano.