GENERAL SANTOS CITY -- The municipal government of Tboli in South Cotabato shut down the famed crater-lake of Holon to visitors starting Monday, in line with its annual rehabilitation.

The entire mountain lake and its environs were specifically declared off limits to trekking and other tourism-related activities for at least two months based on an executive order issued by Tboli Mayor Dibu Tuan.

Tuan said the move is in compliance with the provisions of Municipal Ordinance No. 33, series of 2016, that sets the conservation and protection activities for the area's tourism sites.

He said Section 20 of the ordinance provided for the "closing or cordoning off of certain areas of the cave, forest, lakes and others to visitors at certain times of the year or for several years to allow the ecosystem to breath or revert to its natural state."

"This will give the lake some time to recuperate and allow us to implement some conservation initiatives," he said in a radio interview.

Lake Holon, formerly known as Maughan, is the banner ecotourism destination of Tboli and draws thousands of local and international visitors annually.

It is part of the area's ecotourism circuit, which includes the Bakngeb Cave in Barangay Laconon, Lamhaku Hot Spring in Barangay Lamhaku, and Hidak Falls and Hikong Kemebel in Barangay Kematu.

Tuan's order did not cite the specific date for the reopening of the lake but noted that it will be made before the opening of the town's Seslong Festival in March.

The local government has yet to announce the date of the annual festival, which was held last year from March 5 to 16.

During the lake's temporary closure, the mayor said local government personnel managing its operations will undergo trainings and refresher courses.

He said the municipal government will rehabilitate the trails, cottages and other tourism facilities at the lake.

"We will also commission some experts to conduct a biodiversity assessment of the area," he said.

In 2018, the municipal government closed the lake from visitors for 70 days, the longest in the last three years.

As part of the its rehabilitation program, the local government first closed down Lake Holon for nine months from June 2014 to March 2015, 55 days in 2016 and 63 days in 2017.

Lake Holon is nestled at Mt. Melebingoy (Mt. Parker), which is listed as an active volcano.

In 2003 and 2004, the lake was declared as the cleanest inland body of water in the entire country.

From 2016 to 2017, it was recognized as among the world’s “Top 100 Sustainable Destinations”, along with Lake Sebu. (PNA)