MANILA, Philippines—Puerto Princesa Mayor Edward Hagedorn on Thursday called for tighter protection of the Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR) and hailed the agreement between the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Department of Tourism (DOT) to intensify the biodiversity conservation efforts and ensure that they would not be compromised by ongoing tourism development projects.
Hagedorn, in a press statement, noted that both Environment Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje and Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. had backed the international campaign to make the PPUR as one the New 7 Wonders of Nature last year.
Under the DENR-DOT accord, both departments agreed to make sure that known ecotourism spots like the underground river are preserved and threatened species living in those areas are well protected. Hagedorn has been an environmentalist and had been responsible for protecting PPUR from the ravages of unrestricted tourism. He is running for the Senate in the May 13 elections as an independent.
Hagedorn has vowed to put more teeth to environmental laws, stressing that the spate of disasters that has gripped the country for several years could have been avoided had the country implemented measures that could mitigate the impact of climate change.
The mayor said that under his leadership, Puerto Princesa was able to cut back carbon emissions. He also implemented an annual tree-planting drive to provide more forest cover to a city that is already 70 percent forest. Several million trees have been planted under Hagedorn’s initiative.
He and Paje have been engaged in promoting the defense of biodiversity, mutually supporting the campaign of Bantay Dagat in Puerto Princesa to protect marine resources while policing PPUR to prevent the despoliation of the river, which is also known as a rich archaeological site, harboring 20-million-year-old fossils of the sea gow or “dugong.”
“The best way to promote tourism is to protect the country’s natural resources,” Paje said. “We have to protect the environment to make tourism more sustainable.”
Apart from PPUR as a model for sustainable tourism, DENR also cited efforts to maintain and improve the quality of the beaches at the world-renowned Boracay Island if the tourism industry were to maximize revenues and maintain a steady influx of visitors.