Monday, March 30, 2009

Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park, Philippines


The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park is one of the most important conservation areas in the Philippines. It was created to protect the impressive cave systems, lush old growth tropical rainforest, interesting wildlife, unspoiled natural beauty of the area and one of the most impressive cave system in the world. Its main focus is 8.2 km. long underground river that flows beneath a spectacular limestone formation before directly emptying into the sea.It is a core area for the Palawan Biosphere Reserve and is designated as an Important Bird Area (IBA). It was also declared as a National Geological Monument. In recognition of global significance, the PPSRNP has been inscribed to the list of natural World Heritage Sites.As a natural area, the Park has attracted an increasing number of hikers, biologist, photographers, students and nature lovers. It is a source of pride and a key element in the identity of the people of Puerto Princesa in particular and of the Philippines as a whole.


The area was inscribed to the World Heritage List based on two natural properties. It features an 8.2 km underground river that flows beneath a spectacular limestone or karst formation before directly emptying into the sea. The lower half of the river is brackish and is affected by the ocean's tides. An underground river that flows directly to the ocean, and the associated tidal influence makes it one of the most unique natural phenomena of its kind to exist. It is said to be the longest navigable underground river in the world.The PPSRNP is only one of the very few places where a full mountain to sea forest ecosystems still exists. These forests ecosystems serve as natural habitats for numerous wildlife species and are significant for biodiversity conservation.  The Park represents Palawan’s moist forest that has been noted by the WWF as having the richest tree flora in Asia with high levels of regional and local endemism. The Park is one of the five Important Bird Areas (IBA) of Palawan which has been identified as one of the 7 Endemic Bird Areas (EBA) of the Philippines by Birdlife International. It is inhabited by 5 internationally threatened bird and 1 internationally threatened mammal species. The Park is inhabited by the Philippine cockatoo (Cacatua haematuropygia) and the Palawan peacock pheasant (Polyplectron emphanum) two internationally threatened species. 

Explore the Mystic Underground River - Park operated boats take visitors for a 1 hour tour inside the cave to marvel at one of the seven underground wonders of the world. Notable are the interesting rock formations, and the thousand of bats and swiftlets including the one that produces the edible birds nest. 

Adventure Caving - the park boast a number of cave systems that have interesting geological features. Climbing the Ugong Rock view deck allows one to marvel at the spectacular karst mountain formations and the natural beauty of the areas surrounding the Park. Other sites to explore include Lion cave, Daylight hole and the Kawili Cave. 

Wildlife Watching - another popular activity within the park is the bird watching. One must start early and preferably equipped with binoculars to see the brightly colored birds of the park. Commonly seen are parrots, hornbills, megapodes, pitas, leaf birds and herons. Other wildlife seen are the monitor lizards, macaques, squirrels. 

White Sand Beaches - The shorelines comprises some of the islands most beautiful beaches that are bordered by rocky headlands. The cool and crystal clear waters make it ideal for swimming, snorkeling and enjoying the sun. Most popular are the Sabang beach, Panaguman beach and Marta Fe beach. 


Management of the Park falls under the scope of Republic Act No. 7586 or the National Integrated Protected Area Systems (NIPAS) Act and Republic Act No. 7611 or the Strategic Environmental Plan (SEP) Law for Palawan. Based on the Provisions of RA No. 7160 or the LG Code of the Philippines, management of the Park was transferred from the DENR to the City Government of the Puerto Princesa in 1992.  

Although establish earlier, management of the Park began in 1979 when staff from the Ministry of Natural Resources were assigned to the area. Management was transferred to the Department of Environment and Natural resources Region IV Office. In 1988, the Philippine Government entered into an agreement with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) by signing a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for a Debt-for-Nature-Swap Program (DFNSP). Under the scheme, the WWF will assume responsibility to a portion of the Philippine Government external obligation; in return the Government shall invest the same amount for the conservation of the environment. The Park was fortunate to become one of the three areas to benefit from the program which eventually involved the Haribon Foundation and the Philippine Business for Social Progress.

Best Time to Visit: The Park is open to the public the whole year round; however the best time to visit is from January to June when the weather is drier making it easier to get around.

How to get there?
Puerto Princesa City is accessible by air with at least three airlines having daily flights from Manila and trice weekly from Cebu City. It is also accessible by sea with voyages scheduled twice weekly from Manila and once a week from Ilo-ilo.

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