PN photo

The Underground River national park in Barangay Cabayugan needs P5 million to rebuild the tourism facilities that Typhoon Odette demolished.

Elizabeth Maclang, superintendent of Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park (PPSRNP), told Palawan News that their current challenge is a lack of “better facilities” to serve their visitors.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic and Odette’s onslaught in December 2021, which inflicted major damages, the park has been utilizing temporary spaces to cater to visitors.

Maclang said rebuilding their waiting sheds at the Sitio Sabang wharf, the dispatching station, service boats, and other amenities is the park’s top priority in its recovery plan.

“Yong mga facilities namin, wala talaga kaming maayos na facilities after Odette,” she said.

“After ng Odette, January 2, ilang days lang yon, naglinis lang talaga kami and then kahit walang maayos na facilities nag-reopen — naglagay lang kami ng temporary tents doon,” Maclang added.

She explained that these facilities are crucial because they allow for the swift, efficient, and secure delivery of logistics and other tourist support services.

The park administration had sent letters to the City Council and mayor Lucilo Bayron, in his capacity as chair of the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB), requesting funds to rebuild the damaged facilities.

She said the answer was favorable, and that a team of evaluators had been deployed to inspect what needed to be repaired and rebuilt.

“Agad-agad naman, a week after, pumunta yong team ng architects ng city at tiningnan yong mga facilities namin. Apparently, meron si city government na pondong pang repair ng mga nasirang facilities. Isasama siya as priority,” she said.

“Ang kailangan siguro nasa P5 million — maliit lang naman. Yong mga service boats namin, malalaki yon, kailangan din ayusin,” she added.

She said they must take advantage of the off-season for tourists to rebuild in order to be ready for peak season the following year.

“Sana magawa na namin lahat ngayong low season para ready na kami sa peak season next year — nandyan na si facilities,” Maclang said.

Manpower recall
When COVID-19 management was implemented in Puerto Princesa, park employees had to be placed under it so they wouldn’t lose pay.

Now that the tourism sector is beginning to recover and the park is regaining its foothold, they are already needed.

Maclang said they’re now in the process of recalling 55 of their personnel who were temporarily called to serve the city’s programs against COVID-19.

“Ang problema yong manpower namin. Di ba nasa IMT sila? So, kukunin na rin namin. Booking officers, cave guides, boat crew — babalik na sila by July. By June, mag-e-end na rin naman sila [doon], kukunin ko na sila lahat,” she said.