Not so long ago, Puerto Princesa City was a place no one really bothered to know, except of course the Puerto Princesans. What little that people knew about Puerto Princesa were mostly conjured images of a not-so-wholesome place like being the abode of prisoners, and where malaria abounds.
In 1992, people started to notice and become curious about Puerto Princesa. They started talking about Puerto Princesa being the cleanest city in the Philippines. National government leaders from both the executive and legislative, media men, national and international sports celebrities, members of the academe and the studentry, and leaders from other local government units who came to our city had invariably the same thing to say. It’s clean and green.
To protect and preserve the city’s environment – marine and terrestrial – the city instituted environmental protection measures. It waged war against the spoilers of nature. It was then that people took a really long and hard look at Puerto Princesa and they seem to have liked what they saw. They showered Puerto Princesa with numerous awards and accolades. Earth Day Award, Macli-ing Dulag Environmental Achievement Award, Best Governed Local Government Unit Awards and Peace Award; these are just among the many that people from everywhere bestowed on the city.
As the city now ride high in the blaze of glory on the basis of what it have successfully begun, it has to confront the ultimate challenge – that is developing the economy of the people in a sustainable way. As it was initially enthralled by the vast potentials of industrialization, the city requested for and were granted by His Excellency, Pres. Fidel V. Ramos, a 1,072-hectare of land carved out from the Iwahig Penal Colony to be used as the City Industrial and Commercial Zone.
Recent realities, however, compel the city to reconsider the chosen path to economic development. Most of the investors who came over did so because they were drawn by the well-known cleanliness and natural beauty of the place, not by its industrial endowments. Then its inclusion in the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asia Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) unraveled its agricultural and tourism potentials more than its industrial promise. Because Puerto Princesa cannot realistically compete with the Metro-Manila area and the Calabarzon in terms of attracting industrial investments given the already present infrastructure and industrial base in those regions. And cannot lock horns with Davao, Cagayan de Oro City and the Socsargen areas for a share of the so-called industrial pie.
On the other hand, can any of the above places vie with Puerto Princesa City and Palawan in terms of ecological purity; natural beauty such as the magnificence of the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park – the world’s longest navigable underground river; an abundance of exotic flora and fauna, many of which are endemic in Palawan alone? Eco-tourism is the buzzword of today’s world travelers. And eco-tourism is definitely Puerto Princesa City’s distinct advantage over the rest.
Nature has thus chosen for Puerto Princesa the road to economic development. And coupled with such an auspicious reputation as the “Last Frontier” in this part of the globe that has already attracted the world’s travel planners to include it in the itinerary of trans-ocean luxury vessels, eco-tourism is undoubtedly the key to the city’s sustainable development.
It is in this context that the city government have decided to request the conversion of the 1,072-hectare Industrial and Commercial Zone at Brgy. Sta. Lucia into an Environmental Estate. The Estate will be an eco-tourism park and environmental center of the Philippines. It will serve both as a catalyst for economic growth and a vehicle for preserving the environment. It will also become an institution in conservation and the world’s fountain of biological knowledge.
The Estate will have four (4) major components:
The Academic Center – Designed to attract naturalist from around the country and even the world. It can become a facility for exhibits, lectures, demonstrations and exchanges between the people of Puerto Princesa and its environs in learning and understanding our ecological heritage. Consultant guest, naturalists, botanists, scientist of the natural science, landscape artist, marine biologist and nature lovers can engage in the actual field study process. The center and its populace shall become a repository and recipient of data, information and specimens which shall offer an opportunity to observe and investigate the rich living diversity of our aquatic and terrestrial ecology and man’s evolving relationship with it.
The Academic Center will be composed of:
- South Security Node
- South Parking Area
- Hotel Area
- Preserved Church
- Interdenominational Church
- Research Museum
- Concert Hall
- Tropical Aquaria Garden
- Museum (Main)
- Hot Springs
- Beach Forest Reforestation
- Interpretive Center
- Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS) Center
The Wildlife Component – Ecology is the study of the relationships of organism to their environment. Man has a relationship with all the other organisms in a given environment and needs an appreciation of this relationship. In spite of the wide adaptability of most living things, they normally inhabit specific neighborhood or habitats. The Wildlife Component is a habitat exploration venture set free.
It will have the following features:
- Central Train Terminal
- Man-made Landscape
- Forest Model
- Wildlife Viewing Station
- Special Interest Shops
- Ornamental Propagation Farm Center
- Herbal Plantation
- Bird Sanctuary
- Nursery & Diverse Species
- Reforestation Techniques
Eco-tourism Village – To promote the habitats of Palawan, the Eco-tourism Village will feature:
- Jogging/Biking Trail
- Nature Viewing Spot
- North Train Station
- North Security Node
- Viewing Tower
- Hostel Type Units (Log Cabins)
- Aboriginal Home and Artifacts/Crafts Center
- Aboriginal Habitats
- Orchid Farms
- Curio Shops
- Book Shop
- Photo Lab
- Dipterocarp Reforestation Techniques
- Folk Arts Center
- Freshwater Fish Life Study Station
Recreation Component – Eco-tourism is not eco-tourism without adventure travel. Travelers seek to fulfill specific desires and his has evolved to going somewhere they have never been and doing things they have never done before. And nature has taken a reversal of fortune: before it was just a backdrop; now it is part of the infrastructures of the industry. The temperate environment has a lot of new surprises for the adventurous. And adventure is the best avenue to learn more about the environment. This is the marketing niche served by this component.
Adventure will be harnessed through:
- Camping Area
- Toilet Facilities
- Cooking Facilities
- Backpack Tents
- Viewing Tower
- Jogging/Biking Trail
- Sea Canoe Station
- The Outdoors Specialty Shop
- Water Adventures
Having thus set our sites on tourism in lieu of industrial development, we intend to make Puerto Princesa City as the eco-tourism capital of the Philippines, the ASEAN region and the world by making it a world-class, park-like city. The environmental Estate is an important beginning towards the realization of that dream.
Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park – The park is home to what is believed to be the world’s longest navigable underground river, and is the city’s foremost tourism destination. For the first half of 1994 alone, it has received 7,477 local and 8,598 foreign visitors for a total of 16,042.00 in entrance fees alone, not to mention its multiplier effect on the economy of the local populace. A 150% increase in the number of foreign visitors was noted. This despite Mayor Edward S. Hagedorn’s order to put on hold the marketing blitz for the capital city of Palawan as a tourist destination until the necessary amenities like lodging, telecommunications systems and roads shall have been attended to.
For better administrative control, the DENR turned over the management of this world-renowned park to the city government. This turnover of management from national to local government is the first of its kind in the history of the country and was conceived through the effort and initiative of the mayor.
Recently, the Park was declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Environment, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Aside from the already popular Puerto Princesa City Subterranean River National Park and the exotic Honda Bay, the city’s overall tourism development blueprint includes the following projects that are by no means less important:
1) The Puerto Princesa City Coliseum – The city is fast becoming the country’s convention and conference center. Not counting the regular tourists who have come flocking, some 147 groups have been registered to have held conferences, conventions, and similar such activities here.
2) Zoological and Botanical Park – To be located in the Irawan Watershed, this proposed 50-hectare Park will showcase the diverse flora and fauna that are endemic in Palawan and the Philippines.
3) Sta. Lourdes Hot Spring – The Spring water spas are attractive alternatives for those who have gotten tired of sun and sea.
4) Salakot Falls Forest Mountain Resort – This will provide nature-lovers the necessary gateway to Puerto Princesa City’s dense forest mountains; Mountain Trekking, water spas in the woods, and many other unique features, another natural alternative to the sea.
5) Salvacion Viewdeck – A panoramic view of Honda Bay, the dozen or so island inside it and the wide expanse of greenery fronting the East Coast.
6) Talaudyong Beach Resort – Sun, sea and wide stretches of white beaches. This is another paradise that is only waiting to be tapped. Its distance from the City Proper makes it the perfect hideaway for the privacy-conscious.
7) Canigaran Sandbar – Right in the fringes of the City Proper, a perfect place for those without the luxury of time and travel.
8.) Government Center and Nature Park – To be located in a 100-hectare area at Brgy. Sta. Monica where the New City Hall Building, Justice Hall, Palawan State University, Palawan Sports Complex and other government offices are currently housed, it will become yet another hallmark of Puerto Princesa as a veritable city of parks and greens.