Representative for Palawan’s 3rd District Edward S. Hagedorn, said that the damage caused by Typhoon Odette in Puerto Princesa City was a wake-up call and a reminder to protect the environment again.

Hagedorn made his remarks at the opening of the Tourism Month 2022 celebration on Friday.

“Nakita natin yung kahalagahan ng kalikasan. Noong nakaraan na bumaha at nagiba ang mga bundok, ang bumagsak na mga troso galing sa bundok, hindi trosong pinutol ng bagyo kundi trosong pinutol ng tao. Ibig sabihin, kung titingnan mo yung ating forest cover mula sa kalsada, green na green pa,” he stated.

“Pero binuksan ng Diyos yung mata natin at nakita natin na doon pala sa loob, angdami nang pinuputol na troso. Kaya noong mag-landslide, ang kasamang bumagsak ay mga troso,” he added.

He also said that protecting the environment, especially in Puerto Princesa City, is important for the growth and promotion of tourism because most of the city’s tourist spots are natural sites.

He also mentioned two important factors, which he said will ensure tourism sustainability.

“Ang dalawang ginawa ng Panginoon para sa ating mahabang pagtatamasa ng mga biyayang binigay niya – ang tao at ang kalikasan. Gaya ng sinasabi ko lagi, man and nature should coexist. Sabi nga nila, environment can do without us, but we can never do without the environment,” he said.

“Kung walang kalikasan wala tayong pag-uusapang kaunlaran. Kaya itong bagyo at pandemic, eye opener ito ng importansya kalikasan para sa tao. Nakita natin na noong nagkasakit ang mga tao, halos mamatay ang ekonomiya natin. Dahil sa bagyo, lumabas yung pagkasira ng kalikasan. Kaya ibalik natin ang kahalagahan ng tao at ng kalikasan,” he added.

He also talked about the importance of community-based sustainable tourism (CBST) and how the sites were set up when he was first elected mayor of Puerto Princesa.

He also looked back at how the city government was able to take over the management of Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park (PPSRNP) from the national government, particularly the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

He said he wanted to make the Puerto Princesa Underground River the centerpiece of the city’s tourism because of its uniqueness, unlike white sand beaches, which he said were hard to promote because they can also be found in other parts of the country.

“Unang-unang nakita ko noon, hindi tayo magna-number 1 sa turismo kung wala tayong isang lugar na unique at pwede nating ipagmalaki sa buong mundo. Totoo, marami tayong magagandang white sand beaches, pero sa tuwing mag-iimbita ako ng mga tao mula sa iba’t-ibang lugar para mag-invest, ang sinasabi sa akin ay dito sa Luzon, Visayas at Mindanao marami ring magagandang beaches, bakit pa kami pupunta dyan. Kilala yan sa malaria, sa Iwahig (penal colony), sa ketong,” he said.

Having determined to take PPSRNP management from DENR, he was able to get the signatures of 10 cabinet members, convince then President Joseph Estrada to sign a Presidential Proclamation expanding the coverage of the park from 3,000 hectares to 22,000 hectares, and have it proclaimed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a World Heritage Site.

“Kaya ang sabi ko, kukunin natin ang UR dahil kung wala yan, wala tayong ipagmamalaki sa turismo. Ang kinita natin noong unang taon natin, nasa P70 million ang pumasok sa turismo,” he said.

He also expressed confidence that he was able to bring the tourism industry to its right track but was unluckily hit by the pandemic and a natural calamity. He, however, said he can see that tourism is fully on its way to recovery.

“Kaya bago ako bumaba, nakatitiyak akong natumbok natin ang tamang buhay ng turismo. Ngayon napakaganda ng takbo natin. Pero inabot tayo ng pandemya at ng bagyo,” he said.

“Pero ngayon, bumalik na naman ang sigla ng lungsod ng Puerto Princesa. Nandyan na naman ang mga eroplano, fully booked. Ang mga hotel, napupuno at ang mga restaurant. Kaya bilang lingkod-bayan pag-isipan natin at huwag na huwag nating kalilimutan ang tao at ang kalikasan,” he said.


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