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The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park (PPSRNP) in Sitio Sabang, Barangay Cabayugan was not spared by Typhoon Odette, inflicting significant damage on the forest itself and tourism facilities surrounding the park.
The park’s management office told Palawan News they estimate that around 80 percent of the forest canopy around the Central Park Station alone had been destroyed.
It said the debris needs to be removed as they pose serious risks of sparking forest fires when they begin to dry out.
The park’s staff is still completing its damage assessment on the natural features of the World Heritage Site.
Park spokesperson Elmer Badilla said that damage to the Central Park Station included about 20 percent uprooted hardwood or Dipterocarp trees.
Odette on December 17 rammed through the northern part of the city bordering Roxas town, with a strength of around 185 kilometers per hour (kph).
Badilla added that among the tourism features damaged by the typhoon were the waiting areas, dispatching and police booths, information office building, Kwago Base Checkpoint, and Central Park Station facilities. It also washed out some Community-Based Sustainable Tourism (CBST) sites like the Mangrove Paddle Boat Tour, Jungle Trail, and Sabang Sea Ferry.
Badilla said that one of their urgent concerns is the woodland’s vulnerability to forest fire, especially in the area of Brgy. Marufinas.
Residents living near the trees should consider relocating, he suggested, in order to avoid causing the forests to be destroyed due to fire.
“Unexpected yong damage sa Sabang pa lang. Yong PPUR office, hindi siya heavily damaged, may mga yero lang na natanggal, pero just the same, siyempre may kailangang ayusin, may kailangang i-repair. Nakakalungkot ang pangyayaring ito, — limited lang din naman ang budget ng PPUR,” Badilla told Palawan News.
“Yong forest, vulnerable siya sa fire. Isa yan sa concern namin ngayon. Dapat ang mga residente, mag-relocate muna sila. Wala rin kasing pag-ulan since the past days, so yong fire puwedeng mangyari dahil sa natural causes or man-made,” he added.
Pledges from private organizations
The Puerto Princesa Underground River, like other tourist attractions in the city, has not earned money since the onset of COVID-19, when travel restrictions were established to prevent its spread.
Badilla said they’re also calling for donations from individuals and private organizations that have the means to help.
“Most ng budget ng PPUR naka-focus sa conservation. Wala pang kita kasi nga COVID, kaya iniisip namin ang repair and rehabilitation na gagawin,” he said.
“May mga pledges na rin to help us repair yong mga nasira na facilities. So far, meron ng P100,000 na from donation,” he added.
Among the private entities that have made pledges are Palawenyo Savers Club and Petal Trading.