The 50th anniversary celebration of the establishment of the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park (PPSRNP) was a markedly subdued affair compared to previous occasions, as local authorities had to take into account the pandemic restrictions.

But while traditionally festive activities were put on hold, the PPSRNP management hopes that more Palawan locals will visit the park and nearby tourist destinations with their discounted rates as tourism sector started to open to cater to local tourists.

According to park superintendent Beth Maclang, discounted rates are still up for locals who have never visited the site. Nearby community-based sustainable tourism (CBST) sites, such as the Hundred Caves and Ugong Rock, are also open to tourists at discounted rates.

“’Yong mga permits natin na dating P500 per head, ngayon sa P100 puwede na ninyong bisitahin ang underground river. Hindi na rin kailangang dumaan pa sa travel agency, puwede na kayong mag-drive papunta sa Sabang,” said Maclang.

Maclang explained that the anniversary celebration marks 50 years of challenges and triumphs in protecting the park’s local flora and fauna while earning revenue from tourist visits, as well as ensuring that those living in the protected area abide by conservation guidelines. Aside from protecting the park’s natural resources, climate change is also one of the park’s upcoming challenges.

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“Dalawang barangay kasi ang sakop ng park, which is Marufinas and Tagabinet. Ang isang identified na challenge through the years ay ang pagtaas ng poverty incidence due to population growth, kaya tumataas ang demand sa paggamit ng natural resources. Halimbawa, ‘yong mga indigenous peoples na umaasa sa almaciga resin trade,” she added.

However, she stated that park the management is grateful to the communities and park staff who played their part in the park’s conservation and enriching the tourism value of the site.

“Noong nagsimula ang pandemic last year, talagang wala na kaming income kasi wala na ngang tourists. Although self-sustaining naman ang park management, kasi ngayon wala kaming tinanggal na tao dahil sa kawalan ng kita, baka kakailanganin naming mag-operate at 50% manpower kung sa 2022 ganito pa rin ang sitwasyon,” she added.

The PPSRNP was first called the St. Paul Subterranean River National Park because it is part of the St. Paul mountain range. It was declared as a national park by virtue of Presidential Proclamation No. 835 on March 26, 1971.

It was initially under the jurisdiction of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) before the Puerto Princesa City government took over its management on Novemer 12, 1999.

It was then enshrined in to UNESCO World Heritage list on December 4, 1999 because of the high-value biodiversity in its area and the unique rock formations in the underground river. It is also culturally and historically significant to the indigenous peoples living in the area, whose ancestors believed that their gods and deities lived inside the caverns of the underground river.

In November 11, 2011, it was declared as one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature in a global online poll.

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is a senior reporter for Palawan News who covers politics, education, environment, tourism, and human interest stories. She loves watching Netflix, reading literary fiction, and listens to serial fiction podcasts. Her favorite color is blue.