Palawan: The Last Ecological Frontier

Our economy will surely get a tremendous boost if ecotourism is effectively managed on a sustained basis. And without doubt, all talks concerning an ideal setting for environmentally sustainable tourism development will ultimately point to the island province of Palawan.

Considered to be the country’s last ecological frontier, Palawan is blessed with rich terrestrial and marine endowments, splendidly unique flora and fauna, and is a veritable treasure trove of world-class scenic spots.

No wonder it was picked as the perfect location for shooting the 1997 James Bond thriller “Tomorrow Never Dies.” Even the renowned underwater explorer, Jacques Cousteau, was mesmerized by Palawan’s natural splendor, compelling him to remark that it was the most beautiful place he ever explored.

He must have seen the magnificent seascape, comprising nearly 11,000 square kilometers of coral reefs which serve as underwater gardens for myriads of fish, a seascape described as one of the best in the world.

In 2007, the National Geographic Traveller named Palawan “one of the best destinations in the world,” and prior to this well-deserved accolade, the UK’s Guardian chose Palawan’s picturesque beaches as “one of the top 10 beaches in the world.”

Save it Before it’s Lost

Why am I citing all these distinctions that put Palawan on a pedestal? It is to drive home the point that our country is so naturally endowed that all we have to do, as a supposedly enlightened people, is to faithfully cherish, nurture and protect our God-given natural resources for our own benefit and for posterity.

Otherwise, if we don’t get our act together, we will soon lose all our grandiose natural attractions due to environmental degradation caused by greed, ignorance and lack of resolute will on the part of our government officials to do what is right. This is a real threat that must be addressed with a sense of urgency.

Environmental administration in Palawan has two levels, namely the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for the national level, and the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) for the provincial level. By law, the PCSD, which is directly under the Office of the President, is mandated to implement the Strategic Environmental Plan for Palawan.

I just returned last week from a four-day stay in Palawan. It was my first time to visit the island province, now a world-famous tourist destination, and it proved to be an eye-opening experience as I glimpsed brewing trouble in the paradise island.

In recent years, Palawan saw continuing migration from all parts of the country, and this heavy influx of people is beginning to strain the resources of the province. As a consequence, there are now increasing cases of illegal settlers invading beach resorts and lodging facilities catering to domestic and foreign tourists.

This problem must be nipped in the bud soon. Otherwise, Palawan will be a lost frontier. When I left Palawan, the people in Coron were gearing up for their fiesta, which will culminate this Saturday. To all Coronians, Happy Fiesta!

Media practitioner and book author Jorge B. Osit began Business Agenda report four years ago. He looks forward to compiling select pieces for a forthcoming book. For feedback, e-mail [email protected].

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