Coffee farming to be barred at Mt. Apo

DAVAO CITY, Davao del Sur, Philippines — The government intends to strictly enforce the law prohibiting farming and other disruptive human activities within the protected area of Mt. Apo, the highest peak in the country.

Shirley Uy, the protected area supervisor of the Mount Apo Natural Park in Cotabato province, acknowledged that farming activities, particularly coffee cultivation, had already encroached on the protected mountain range for years, although some of the farmers were already in the area prior to the passage of Republic Act No. 9237, the law that declared it as protected and defined its boundaries, in 2003.

Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) Secretary Maria Belen Acosta stated that the government would seek inclusion of Mt. Apo in Unesco’s (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) list of World Heritage Sites; consequently, the law must be strictly enforced.

In May of 1936, Mount Apo, which straddles the boundaries of Davao City, Davao del Sur, and Cotabato, was designated a national park. The mountain was added to Unesco’s list of tentative sites in 2009, but it was removed in 2015 due to disruptive activities, such as the destruction of forests and other natural resources.

“We will implement the law gradually,” said Uy, anticipating some difficulties with the farm owners in the area.

She added that even outside the protected area, in zones designated for multiple uses, only organic agriculture and the use of endemic plant species were permitted by law.

“The correct terminology is that we only permit organic agriculture within mixed-use zones. She added that trees and other vegetation should not be destroyed.

This was expected to worry coffee growers along the mountain’s foothills, particularly those who named their specialty products after Mt. Apo and whose coffee had won international awards for quality.

The law is transparent
However, Acosta stated that the law’s provision was clear.

“Coffee plants should not be planted in a protected area. During the launch of the Mt. Apo Rescue and Conservation Center, which will ensure the protection of the mountain and its resources, Acosta stated that there should be a clear distinction between the protected portion of Mt. Apo and what was already designated as agricultural [land].

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