Puerto Princesa, most desired ecotourism destination in the Philippines
PUERTO PRINCESA, Palawan — It took almost 10 years before I had the opportunity to again visit this city, which through the years, has remained vibrant with tourism as its major economic activity. Located 306 nautical miles southwest of Manila, Puerto Princesa maintains its reputation as the most desired ecotourism destination in the Philippines, with numerous tourism packages waiting for visitors who wish to explore the forest, coastal and marine environment of this city, known also for its gentle and friendly residents. Due to its pristine natural environment, Puerto Princesa and Palawan in general have made waves in the international tourism market in spite of global economic recessions during the past years.
The Philippines News Agency reported that the visitor arrivals in Puerto Princesa City last year has increased by 18 percent with foreign tourists growing faster at 23 percent, while domestic visitors surged by 17 percent. In the third quarter of 2009 alone, influx of tourists to this city posted a 34 percent growth, the highest registered among all destinations in the Philippines during the period, the report added. Tourism activities in this city continue to fuel the local economy and Puerto Princesa showcases an example that more than the direct consumptive values of our natural resources, there are other more appealing incentives if only we leave our environment intact and keep its purely natural state.
At the city proper alone, there are numerous attractions that a day would not be enough
to explore. One of the must-see destinations is the crocodile farm that has emerged as the Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center. Originally, the center was designed only for captive breeding of crocodile species, but later on accommodated a good number of endemic species, which provided additional attractions to many visitors. The population of the captive-bred saltwater crocodiles has increased dramatically through the years and it is by this reason that the center already engages in commercial trading of this species.
Not so far from downtown Puerto Princesa, there’s the Iwahig Prison and Penal Colony, which may sound unbecoming and unappealing for tourism. But authorities of Puerto Princesa really make use of what they have and maximized the presence of inmates for the production of souvenir and novelty items, such that the prison camp is an attraction by itself. But for nature enthusiasts, the Iwahig Prison and Penal Colony is an interesting site because the main prison camp is surrounded with lush forests and where numerous species of wildlife await discovery. In fact, a designated birding site was already established at the penal colony. To make the prison camp even more attractive, a picnic area was constructed along the river and where a refreshing natural swimming pool is available. This amenity is very popular as a weekend destination of residents.
The tourism potential of Palawan is heavily boosted by the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River Natural Park, known as the longest navigable underground river and probably the most beautiful subterranean river in the world measuring about 8.2 kilometers. The river winds through a breathtaking cave completely adorned with stalagmites and stalactites in varied sizes and shapes. This natural park has been inscribed as a World Heritage site and a finalist in the search for the Seven Wonders of the World. There are many other natural attractions that can be explored in Palawan. Pristine and white sand beaches are curving the coastlines of almost all islands and islets in the province. The protection of the coastal and marine environment in this part of the country is gaining economic momentum and truly reflects that we need not convert natural environment to give way to some other unsustainable and destructive economic activities. (This article also appeared at the Visayan Daily Star, 11 January 2010 issue, Bacolod City)*
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