City asks Cimatu to retract UR claim

Amurao says his proposed road policy will be applied specifically in tourism sites like the Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR) and Honda Bay. (File photo)

The City Council has asked Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu to recant his claim that tourism in the Underground River has damaged the features of the city’s top destination.

Councilor Jonjie Rodriguez said on Monday he did not expect Cimatu to issue a statement without checking first its veracity with its local DENR offices.

“Supposedly, upon receiving the information, the first thing he had to do was to consult with their local offices. But what he did was he issued right away a very damaging statement,” Rodriguez said.

“For me, it’s really an irresponsible act,” he added. Rodriguez chairs the environment committee in the City Council.

Cimatu earlier said human-induced carbon discharge coming from a stream of visitors has darkened the underground river’s karst walls and ceiling.

Experts from the DENR’s Ecosystem Research and Development Bureau (ERDB), who conducted last week a scientific assessment at PPUR, however, have debunked Cimatu’s claim, saying the black soot presence was “negligible.”

The scientific group La Venta, which has conducted a series of caving exploration inside the underground river, had also dismissed Cimatu’s statement, calling it “fake news.”

During the City Council question hour on Monday, a Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) official said her office will also submit an official report to the secretary within this week once they get the final assessment result.

“In the report, we will emphasize that the allegation is not true,” PENRO’s Conservation and Development Sector chief Rhodora Ubani said.

Days after Cimatu made the statement, the PPUR Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) has resolved to pass a resolution asking him to rescind it.

“Last PAMB meeting, it was agreed to pass a resolution requesting [the DENR Central Office] to rectify the secretary’s statement,” Ubani added.

PPUR Park Superintendent Elizabeth Maclang said Cimatu’s withdrawal of his statement would help mend the collateral damage it caused to the image of the internationally-protected park and its management.

“We hope this statement considered as ‘irresponsible’ won’t be repeated anymore,” Maclang told the media.

Maclang said the secretary should sanction his subordinate who relayed him wrong, unscientific information to the park’s disadvantage.

“His source should be held accountable. We already got the name. Apparently, this person is also from the DENR Central Office,” Maclang added.

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