Monthly Archives: December 2011

Gov’t set to improve Palawan’s tourism infrastructure

Palawan tourism


Puerto Princesa Mayor Edward Hagedorn (center) shows New Seven Wonders Foundation president Bernard Weber and director Jean-Paul de la Fuente the awe-inspiring sights of the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park in this photo taken on Oct. 23, 2011. RODEL ROTO



The year 2012 is going to be filled with preparations and projects for the Puerto Princesa Underground River’s emergence as an international tourism star.

With the underground jewel’s inclusion on the list of the new seven wonders of nature—a list that would be finalized in the first quarter of the new year following the verification of votes—the already rising number of tourists there is expected to increase even more.

This is why, according to Environment Secretary Ramon Paje, the government is focused on improving and increasing infrastructure to cope with the influx of visitors and the expectation that their numbers will further rise this year. Protecting the natural features of Puerto Princesa is also a priority, he added.

Paje said that following the underground river’s inclusion on the list of new seven wonders of nature, the current booking stands at 1,500 a day, but the capacity of the tourist facilities at present is only 800. The number of bookings is almost twice what could be accommodated, he noted.

But as big as this number is, “that can even double,” he said, especially when the final list of the New Seven Wonders that includes the underground river is officially confirmed. Even airlines are flying bigger airplanes to Palawan because of the number of tourists to Puerto Princesa, he noted.

The list of new seven wonders of nature, announced in November, was considered provisional because the organizers still had to validate votes received by the winners in a global poll. The final announcement is expected early in 2012, and Philippine officials are confident of the underground river’s place on the list.

Paje said that as far as he knew, the organizers would not release the ranking of all seven winners, but he believes the underground river was among the top vote-getters.

Because of the visitors coming in droves and with more expected to arrive, Paje said, President Aquino has  made the Puerto Princesa Underground River a major Cabinet agenda item during its last meeting and ordered the expansion of the airport there to be an international gateway for tourists, especially those coming from such big markets as Xiamen, Shanghai and Kaoshiung.

The Department of Tourism was instructed to develop plans for new hotels as well. The administration is also hoping for the private sector to come in.

But at the same time, the government wants to ensure that the star of the show—Palawan’s own natural wonders—will not be destroyed.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources will play the crucial role of protecting the underground river even as the area around it is developed, according to Paje.

“We’ve been instructed by the President to ensure that as we expand and accommodate more tourists, it will not damage the environment or cause damage to natural features,” he said in a phone interview.

“Even if we would want tourists to come, we don’t want to commercialize it. We just want to make the transportation and infrastructure very efficient and tourist-friendly,” he added.

Paje also said the underground river’s designation as one of seven new wonders in the world is sure to put it on the tourism map of the globe.

He noted that when China’s Great Wall and India’s Taj Mahal were named among the seven wonders of the world, they became top destinations and highlights of their country. It is hard to think of China without thinking of the Great Wall, while thinking of India immediately conjures an image of the Taj Mahal, he said.


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The incredible beauty of El nido , Palawan

El nido in Palawan

Snake Island in Palawan to host coastal research center

Snake island in Palaw




SNAKE Island, a 7.5-hectare snake-shaped island within Honda Bay in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, will be the site of the National Coastal Marine Center for Research (NCMCR) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Environment Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje recently issued DENR Administrative Order (DAO) 2011-12 establishing Snake Island as site of the NCMCR, targeted to be a prime research center for the country’s coastal and marine resources in the region.

Snake Island is also the site of a DENR-manned monitoring station, the only structure in the island, and a few makeshift cottages run by the Honda Bay Boat Owners Association, which provide temporary shelter for tourists.

The NCMCR in Snake Island would serve as a field station for applied research for marine and coastal ecosystems, ecotourism and biodiversity. It would also house a laboratory for researchers to study interventions for coral reefs, seagrass and mangroves. The NCMCR would further serve as a model for sustainable coastal and marine management and showcase the proper implementation of ecotourism principles.

According to Paje, the establishment of the center is a step towards a more effective and efficient conservation of the country’s marine biodiversity.

“We need to implement clear interventions in protecting and rehabilitating our coastal and marine ecosystems as they provide food and livelihood to millions of Filipinos,” Paje said.

The Snake Island, according to Paje, is an ideal and strategic site for the country’s coastal and marine research program as it also represents the megadiversity of the Philippines.

“Being located in Palawan, which as we all know is the country’s last ecological frontier, Snake Island is definitely a good choice to put up our research center,” Paje added.

Paje has strictly clarified that the DENR will not entertain any foreshore lease agreement or application that will be inconsistent with the objectives and functions of the NCMCR.

Also, he said commercial and industrial businesses other than those related to agriculture will also not be allowed on the island.

The DENR chief has directed Executive Director Jacob Meimban of the DENR’s Coastal and Marine Management Office to coordinate with other marine experts, institutions and agencies such as the DENR’s Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau, the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development, the University of the Philippines’s Marine Science Institute, and Silliman University in designing the NCMCR, particularly its laboratory facilities.
by Jonathan Mayuga