Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park
June 24, 2006
The inclusion of the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, which is the city's primary tourist attraction, in the prestigious World Heritage List was announced after the Unesco World Heritage Committee convened in Marrakech, Morocco last Nov. 29. It is now part of the 630 sites of ''outstanding universal value'' that represent the highest artistic and cultural achievements of humankind or natural sites of intense beauty and ecological significance.
According to the Unesco, ''(the) Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park was inscribed (in the list) on the merits of its magnificent subterranean river with unique natural formations that empties into the sea.''
The latest addition to the heritage list is the only national park in the country with a dense tropical forest cover within the boundaries of the city. Thus, ''all of the environmental preservation programs and maintenance are meticulously undertaken by the city of Puerto Princesa, whose successful environmental program has won national and international awards for the city government led by Mayor Edward S. Hagedorn,'' said a Unesco statement.
The Unesco announcement came two weeks after then President Estrada changed the name of the St. Paul Subterranean National Park into the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park through Presidential Proclamation No. 212.
The area covered by the Subterranean National Park was also increased from 3,901 hectares to 22,202 hectares to include the tributaries of the underground river.
The proclamation also declared it as a protected area under the Network of Integrated Protected Area System (Nipas) Act of 1992.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources transferred the management of the Subterranean Park to the city government through a Memorandum of Agreement in December 1993. The transfer of management of a national park from the DENR was the first of its kind in the country.
Mayor Hagedorn expressed joy in the park's inclusion in the World Heritage List since the international community will now help in taking care of the park.
Hagedorn also said this will prevent people from destroying the park's environment.
The inclusion of the park in the World Heritage List will be a great boost in the ecotourism industry of Puerto Princesa City. The Unesco will also get funding agencies to support the maintenance and provide technical expertise to help in the protection of the underground river.
Hagedorn, who has less than two years to go in his last term as mayor of Puerto Princesa, expressed apprehension that the park might not be protected after his term.
The park is reported to be the most accessible area in the Philippines for wildlife viewing. It also contains a unique navigable subterranean river.
A tourist Exit Survey conducted by the Palawan Tropical Forest Protection Programme between September 1997 to April 1998 revealed that 75.7 percent of respondents cited the subterranean river as their primary reason for traveling to Puerto Princesa.
The survey also found that visitor satisfaction was very high with 92 percent of respondents saying they would recommend visiting Puerto Princesa to a friend and 89 percent saying that the management of the park had improved.
The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park had 39,979 visitor in 1997. It is currently receiving significant financial support from the city government.
The park plays a significant role in Hagedorn's bid to make Puerto Princesa a model for ecotourism and a convention center of the Philippines