Lumber taken from trees in the PPSRNP felled by Typhoon Odette, which will be inventoried and processed to rebuild homes. (Photo courtesy of Beth Maclang)

Residents in Barangay Cabayugan where the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park (PPSRNP) is located, were reminded on Sunday by city government officials not to engage in illegal activities involving natural resources, citing that the forests surrounding the area are crucial in maintaining the Underground River’s natural water flow.

Park management’s inventory and monitoring after typhoon Odette recently showed that some residents have been taking advantage of the large number of fallen trees.

Bayron told residents of the barangay during the distribution of free lumber and construction materials that they play an important role in making the park viable for tourism, which benefits the communities in terms of income.

“Sa lahat ng mga nandito, sa Cabayugan area, talagang kailangang pangalagaan natin itong gubat natin sa paikot ng Underground River. Kasi ang Underground River, nagdala ng maraming negosyo at benepisyo sa lungsod ng Puerto Princesa. Kailangan hindi talaga matuyo ang ating Underground River, kailangan magpatuloy ‘yan kasi magdadala pa ‘yan ng marami pang benepisyo sa ating lahat,” Bayron said.

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City Environment and Natural Resources Office (City ENRO) chief Atty. Carlo Gomez likewise said in an interview that it is possible that illegal logging in the park’s forests could affect the water source of the Underground River.

“Very critical talaga itong estado ng ating national park. There is an ongoing activity for assessment noong entire environment in terms of damage caused by typhoon Odette. Napakaimportante kasi nga ‘yong dumadaloy na ilog diyan ay halo ng tubig dagat saka tubig tabang. Tubig tabang naman nanggagaling sa bundok, umaagos naman doon sa ating underground river,” Gomez said.

“So, tama ‘yong binabanggit ni mayor, kung mawawala ang puno, mauubos ito, baka wala nang tubig na dumaloy sa ilog papuntang Underground River, eventually matuyuan. Ayaw nating mangyari ‘yon. Kung makikita mo naman talaga ngayon, ang damage ni Odette sa national park, sobrang laki,” he added.

He also said reforestation efforts are underway for the park, which sustained heavy damage to its old-growth forests.

“There are already efforts to conduct reforestation programs, with different government agencies and NGOs natin. Sa ngayon, nakipagtulungan ang Philippine Native Tree Enthusiasts. Nakipag-coordinate din tayo, nagpadala sila ng mga buto para i-germinate natin. Hopefully by June, maitatanim na natin ‘yan,” he added.

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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.