The next Baguio

SUNLIGHT creates magic of colors. / photographs courtesy of jorge hizon

The Zambales provincial government has approved the development of Mt. Tapulao to rival Baguio as the summer capital of the Philippines. Mt. Tapulao boasts similar charms and pine trees in a semi-temperate climate usually found in the Cordilleras.

A 450-hectare portion of the 17,000-hectare Mt. Tapulao will be transformed into a world-class eco-tourism complex through sustainable development to preserve the pristine environment of the mountain.

Tapulao (also known as High Peak) is the tallest mountain in the Zambales mountain range. The peak, which rises to an elevation of 2,037 meters (6,683 ft), is formed in the municipality of Palauig, Zambales. Its name is derived from the abundance of Sumatran Pine trees in the area, known in Zambal as tapolaw.

MOUNTAINEERS exploring a yet undiscovered haven.

For now, it’s the best-kept secret of mountaineers, who take two days to climb it, but always come back like they’ve just seen Shangri-La itself with stories about a hidden place enveloped in thick fog and carpeted with mossy pine trees.

The mountain is a treasure trove not only for its mineralized deposits but also for its biodiversity. According to a study by the University of the Philippines, the mountain hosts 78 animal and 41 plant species which are endemic to the country. Of these, two species of murid rodents can only be found in the slopes of Mt. Tapulao.

The mountain was once the site of large-scale chromite mining operations. The destruction of the beautiful natural scenery is visible in the mine pits on the summit as well as other related structures along the trail. The summit offers a 360-degree vista from where you can see other Zambales mountains on the eastern side, Lingayen Gulf to the north, and on the western side, the Zambales lowlands and the South China Sea stretching to as far south as Pundaquit in San Antonio.

LOCAL resident expertly negotiates a hanging bridge.

A study estimated the need to initially invest $2 billion for the construction and operation of five-star hotels, leisure facilities, casinos, conference centers, concert hall, condominium and villas, and a world-class 18-hole golf course.

There is also a plan to build a cable car that will stretch from the mountain’s summit to the beach areas.

HIKERS behold the splendor of a misty day.

To mitigate the negative impacts of massive land development, the provincial government will carry out a three-pronged approach, consisting of “planning, designing and monitoring” before, during and after the construction of various development projects.

To ensure the protection of the environment, developers will be required to provide services for water quality management, air pollution prevention, environmental impact study, soil erosion and sedimentation deterrence, waste treatment facilities and development of a recycling system.

PRETTY in pink, all by her meditating self.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources region 3 has signed a memorandum of agreement for the protection and development of 5,000-hectares (12,000-acre) of Mt. Tapulao.

The Sangguniang Bayan of Iba, Zambales approved an ordinance declaring the town’s part of Mt. Tapulao as an eco-tourism destination and a protected area.

TREES and grass co-exist in peace and beauty.

Residents of Dampay who are evacuees from the foot of Mount Pinatubo are the “self-appointed guardians” of Mt. Tapulao under the coordination of the Municipal Tourism Authority of Palauig, Zambales.

Now that Baguio City has become too congested, Mt. Tapulao could be an alternative. People are looking for an accessible, affordable resort where they can experience the cold climate of temperate countries.

(Adapted from various information materials)

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