After officially proclaimed as one of World’s Seven Wonders of Nature, another global recognition is in the works for the Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR) in Palawan.
Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje said the DENR, through the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) is set to nominate the PPUR as Ramsar Site to the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance or Ramsar Convention in Switzerland.
Paje made the announcement even as he expressed gratitude to the Filipino people all over the world for casting their votes for the underground river. He also thanked other nationalities for their “overwhelming support,” saying the inclusion of the protected area among the world’s natural wonders is “very timely” with the government’s thrust to boost local tourism.
“The PPUR could be one of the gateways for tourists who want to see the country. It will also be a showcase of how the government can make the necessary adjustments, especially in terms of infrastructure and services, in coping with the expected influx of tourists to the area, to ensure that the pristine environment that the PPUR is known for will not be damaged irreversibly,” Paje explained.
According to him, the nomination of PPUR as a Ramsar site will highlight this year’s celebration of World Wetlands Day in the country. “February 2 is World Wetlands Day. We are going to mark this year’s celebration with the submission of PPUR’s nomination as a Ramsar site or wetlands of international importance,” he said.
Through Resolution No. 427-2011 issued on Dec. 22, 2011, the Puerto Princesa city government recommended to PAWB the park’s nomination to the Ramsar Convention because of its importance as a biodiversity conservation area. Among others, it features a spectacular limestone or karst landscape that contains an 8.2 kilometer-long underground river that flows directly to the sea.
PAWB, a bureau under the DENR, is the National Administrative Authority of Ramsar Convention.
The nomination of PPUR is pursuant to the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, also called the Ramsar Convention, an international treaty that seeks to conserve and sustainably utilize wetlands and protect them from progressive encroachment.
The Ramsar Convention was adopted in the Iranian City of Ramsar in 1971 and the Convention's member countries cover all geographic regions of the planet, with Philippines as the 119thcontracting party to the Convention.
Once approved, the PPUR is going to be the fifth protected areas in the country proclaimed as Ramsar Sites. Protected areas previously declared as Ramsar Sites include the Olonga Wildlife Sanctuary in Cebu in 1994; the Tubbataha Reefs, also in Palawan; Naujan Lake National Lake in Mindoro Oriental; and the Agusan Marsh in Agusan del Sur; all in 1999.
The environment chief explained that the PPUR National Park does not only refer to the river alone but encompasses all the various interconnecting ecosystems from the mountain to the sea, which include eight types of forests such as ultramafic and limestone; inland wetlands like rivers and fresh swamp; karst ecosytems; and coastal wetlands such as tidal flats and seagrass beds.
While noting the increase in tourist arrivals in Palawan the past year from 170,000 in 2010 to 250,000 in 2011, Paje assured the public that the DENR, together with the PPUR’s multi-sectoral Protected Area Management Board, and other government agencies would be working closely together to protect the PPUR.
The secretary also acknowledged that although the Philippine campaign “never doubted” that the PPUR would emerge as one of the winners past the provisional stage because of its proven natural and geological wonders, the overwhelming support from Filipinos all over the world who cast their votes online or via text messaging, and encouraged others to do the same, was a huge contributing factor for the win.
Palawan has been one of the country’s famous destinations, and the reported increase in tourist arrivals has paved the way for the construction of a new international airport in Puerto Princesa City , as well as additional hotels to accommodate the visitors.
- Published: 31 January 2012