Puerto Princesa City — Almost P2 billion worth of infrastructure projects funded by the Asian Development Bank in this city are boosting its US$100 million development plan which will make it ready for a massive tourism promotion that aims to bring in 600,000 tourists in just three years’ time.
Known as the Philippines’ last frontier because of its strong environmental program, Puerto Princesa wants to be the country’s no. 1 tourist destination for its eco-tourism. It is currently among the top or major tourist destinations in the country. At its height, tourism arrivals reached 170,000 but have since gone down drastically with the terrorism scare caused by 9-11 and the infamous kidnapping by the Abu Sayyaf at one of its popular island resorts in 2001. Starting on the 3rd quarter of 2002, tourist arrivals have increased with the City gaining popularity as a conference and sports destination.
The man behind the city’s ambitious development is Mayor Edward S. Hagedorn, a living legend in his own right due to his checkered past and close affinity to past and present national leaders. He was one of the local government officials who pledged crucial support to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo at the height of the political crisis in July.
He says he is not in a hurry to promote his city as yet, as he implements his development plans which put a premium on sustainable development above all else. Among the beautification and improvements in infrastructure he is undertaking are the widening of Rizal Ave., reclamation of the wharf, and putting a promenade along the boulevard, just like Manila’s Baywalk. He is also purchasing additional police cars and hiring more police officers to beef up the current police force complement.
It is for this reason that he is grateful for the major infrastructure projects funded by the ADB that were recently completed or near completion which consist of an arterial road network, a sanitary landfill and fisheries project.
The P1.6 billion Palawan North Road is a 134-kilometer road which stretches from the city to Roxas, cutting travel time from four to five hours to just one and a half hours. The concrete road was made with a special concrete paver, making it much smoother than normal concrete roads. Engineers boast that it is a world-class road. It was completed in 2004. The road is part of the ADB’s Sixth Road Project which aims to improve infrastructure in the countryside to boost economic development. The project consists of the 80.34- kilometer Puerto Princesa-Langogan road and the 54.14-kilometer Langogan-Roxas road. It is located along the northeast coast of Palawan.
“These nice roads are a catalyst for development. Normally, investors, when they come, they first look at the road network, for the delivery of goods and products. Roads are a major aspect of development,” says Mayor Hagedorn. “We would like to thank the ADB for making us a part of their major programs, particularly in infrastructure.”
“Before, when you go to Roxas, you stop at San Rafael which is 75 kilometers from the city. All buses stop there to eat because the trip is long. After the uphill climb in Langogan, there’s another eatery, and they eat again because they are hungry again,” says Simeon Alarcon, Vice President of the Palawan Chamber of Commerce. “Now, the buses don’t stop anymore.”
The Palawan North Road boosts the tourism economy of the province, which is one of only two industries after agriculture. It leads to major tourism spots like Honda Bay, the Underground River, and its famed world-class resorts like El Nido, Club Noah-Isabelle, etc.
Another ADB-funded project is the P200-million sanitary landfill in barangay Sta. Lourdes, touted to be the first local government-controlled sanitary landfill in the country. It was one of the projects submitted for ADB funding in 1991 under the Philippine Regional Municipal Project. It is now operational and the Mayor is inculcating in his constituents to be conscious of solid waste management by having a proper waste disposal from the source.
“If you don’t have a comprehensive solid waste management program, if you get a huge influx of tourists, you won’t know how to address the garbage problem. So we’re lucky that before the influx of more tourists, we are now ready for a massive solid waste management program,” Mayor Hagedorn says.
The project will cover the entire urban population and more than half of the rural population. The required capacity is for 20 years waste generation. With the implementation of the zero waste management program under R.A. 2003, the City expects that the life span of the sanitary landfill will extend to 50 years or more.
The sanitary landfill will be implemented in 6 phases on a 26.9 hectare lot. Phase 1 covered the construction of a leachate treatment plant and pumping stations; composting plant; and auxiliary facilities like access road, perimeter fence and gate, cut-off ditches and drainage system, monitoring wells, protection dikes, gas vents, waste recovery shed, equipment yard and wash bay, weighbridge, guardhouse, and administrative building. Dump trucks and a landfill vibratory compactor were also purchased.
The third ADB project in the city is the Fisheries Resources Management Project which supports the strong environment vision of Mayor Hagedorn. Under the P40 million project, 370 hectares have been declared fish sanctuaries, prohibiting fishing and any other human activity. “We are achieving our goal of sustainable development and reduction in poverty,” says the Mayor. The city also maintains nurseries with mangrove seedlings and the maintenance of the full-grown mangroves.
The project has an income diversification component, through community participation for the sustainable livelihood of fishermen who were once engaged in destructive and or unsustainable means of fishing, by providing microfinancing for such activities as crab fattening, fish drying, processing etc. It covers 56 coastal barangays. In Honda Bay alone, there are 18 coastal barangays benefiting from the project while in Puerto Princesa Bay, it covers 22 barangays.
Ironically, the Mayor has a strong environmental advocacy not because he has been an environmentalist all his life but because he was among the first loggers in Palawan. “The turning point was when I was elected mayor in 1992. It was a humbling experience that you are not from here and you were elected. That’s what changed my outlook. Because of the trust and confidence of Palaweños, I promised I am going to protect the resources that rightfully belong to the Palaweños.”
And this strong environmental advocacy has garnered for the mayor and his city numerous environmental awards not just locally but from international organizations as well.
(Source: adb.org – By Rita Festin, ADB National Officer )