MANILA, March 11, 2006 (MALAYA) By Juan B. M. Tordesillas - Puerto Princesa is Puerto Puerto Princesa is synonymous with breath-taking sights, pristine sand beaches, lush rainforests and beautiful islands. Mangrove swamps and limestone cliffs create a scenic counterpoint to foaming surf pounding the uneven shoreline. Hilly terrain dotted with trees, home to a wide array of colorful wildlife, hug the winding roads to the north. Rivers, cold and hot springs, and waterfalls offer a serene repose amid the rugged landscape.

Right in the center of the main island of Palawan—a province dubbed as being the Last Frontier in this part of the globe, Puerto Princesa serves as its nerve center being the seat of public administration as well as the focal point of trade, commerce, service and industry.

The city’s prime industries includes tourism, agriculture, and fishing. Around 1,000 hotel rooms meet the increasing demand of foreign and domestic visitors. About 60% of tourism revenues came from local MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, & Exhibitions) market. While an estimated 75,409 hectares are agricultural lands producing rice, corn, banana, mango, coconut, cashew, coffee, and root crops. The city is also one of the biggest suppliers of marine products in Metro Manila and other Asian countries.

Not so long ago, Puerto Princesa was a place that few bothered to visit. In 1992, however people started to take notice about Puerto Princesa. They started talking about Puerto Princesa being the cleanest city in the Philippines. National government leaders media men, national and international sports celebrities, members of the academe and the studentry, and leaders from other local government units who came to our city had invariably the same thing to say. It’s clean and green.

On July 1992, Puerto Princesa elected a new leader in of Mayor Edward S. Hagedorn. It was his vision "to see Puerto Princesa as model city in sustainable development," by developing the city based on the following concepts:

• A park-like city demonstrating balance and harmony between development and environment;

• A center for eco-tours, healthful recreation, applied research on ecology, ecosystem, marine and terrestrial flora and fauna and environmental management;

• A home for disciplined inhabitants who are responsible stewards of the city’s ecological system and resources; their quality of life improved as they enjoy directly or indirectly the bounties of nature and the fruits of their labor; and;

• Its major thoroughfares developed as boulevards, promenades and stretches of tree-lined and coastal highways interspersed with parks and resorts and provided with appropriate facilities for tourism, agriculture, commerce and environment-friendly industries

To protect and preserve the city’s environment – marine and terrestrial – the city instituted environmental protection measures. against the spoilers of nature. It was then that people took a really long and hard look at Puerto Princesa and they liked what they saw. They showered Puerto Princesa with awards and accolades. Earth Day Award, Macli-ing Dulag Environmental Achievement Award, Best Governed Local Government Unit Awards and Peace Award. These are just among the many that people from everywhere bestowed on the city.

As the city now rides high in the blaze of glory, it has to confront the ultimate challenge – that is developing the economy of the people in a sustainable way. As it was initially enthralled by the vast potentials of industrialization, the city requested for and were granted by His Excellency, Pres. Fidel V. Ramos, a 1,072-hectare of land carved out from the Iwahig Penal Colony to be used as the City Industrial and Commercial Zone.

Oplan Linis Program (Clean and Green Campaign)

Launched on August 1, 1992, the program aims to sustain cleanliness, beautification, and sanitation in the city through active and continuing partnership among government agencies, non-government organizations, the private sectors, and citizens. The program has earned for Puerto Princesa the coveted label of being the cleanest and greenest city in the Philippines

Oplan Linis has six major components: Cleanliness, Beautification, Sanitation, Sagip-Dagat (Save Sea), Sagip-Hangin (Save Air), and Information and Education.

In 1994, Puerto Princesa was formally declared the Cleanest and Greenest Component City in the country. Its 98% rating over the 95% garnered by Baguio City as the Cleanest and Greenest Highly Urbanized City technically makes Puerto Princesa the cleanest city of them all.

Oplan Linis’ success is not only in terms of actually and immediately cleaning and greening the city, but also in sustaining the cleanliness effort. In 1995, Puerto Princesa again bagged the Cleanest and Greenest Component City Award scoring a near- perfect 99.8% rating. In 1996, it received the Hall of Fame Award for having been declared as the cleanest and greenest component city for three years in a row.

This Program was chosen by the Asian Institute of Management as one of the ten most outstanding local government programs, and was awarded the Galing Pook Award.

Comprehensive Housing Program

Puerto Princesa’s vast land area and its rich terrestrial and marine resources have become like magnets that attracted a lot of in-migration from all over the country. They came in droves and squatted in public and private lands whose owners either did not care or know. Majority of them, being fishermen, chose the coastal areas for being closest to their source of income. This went on unabated for many years.

Locate. Identify. Register. This is what the City Government under Mayor Edward S. Hagedorn did to understand the magnitude of the problem of homelessness in the city. After having instituted measures to arrest further squattering, the next necessary step was to find suitable relocation sites, source funding for land acquisition, site development, and housing construction.

Of the 9,500 squatter families so far surveyed in the city, 7,980 or 84% live along the coastal areas of Puerto Princesa Bay, Honda

Bay, and Ulugan Bay. And collectively, they have become the greatest polluters of the city’s three most important bays.

That is why when Mayor Edward S. Hagedorn first assumed the mayoralty post in July 1992, the problem of homelessness is one major concern. He pursued a comprehensive approach. Through the City Housing Office that the Mayor Hagedorn formally created on 23 October 1992, a thorough census was conducted to locate, identify and register all squatters, especially those living along the coastlines. As a result of the census listing, the City Government was able to determine who, where, and how many are the city squatters.

Tired of waiting for the promised housing assistance by the National Housing Authority, the City Government took it upon itself to purchase a 5.4-hectare land in Brgy. Sicsican and single-handedly develop it into a low-cost subdivision. There, 150 single-detached houses were constructed, 170 developed home lots were awarded, and the construction of 110 row houses has just been completed. The project has since become home to 430 families, relocating an equivalent number of erstwhile coastal squatter families.

Agriculture Program

Puerto Princesa City is primarily an agricultural economy. It is almost self-sufficient in food, except for a few varieties of vegetables. Metro Manila’s ten million population get their fish and other marine supplies from the city in particular and Palawan in general. To improve the farmer’s quality of life, however, there exists the urgent need to introduce productivity enhancement programs.

Agricultural Development Program has three sub-sectors to insure effective implementation and continuity:

• Mango Development – it is designed to provide grafted mango seedlings to farmer-cooperators. To date, satellite nurseries in Barangays Luzviminda, Mangingisda, Napsan, Bagong-bayan, Maruyogon, San Rafael, and Langogan have been put up to bring the nursery services closer to their intended beneficiaries. Some 43, 407 mango seedlings have been distributed to farmers.

• Strengthening of Agro-based Cooperatives – The program conducted management trainings for cooperatives and helped organize and register them. It also held trainings/seminars on new technologies like food processing, hillside farming, backyard and bio-intensive gardening.

• Materials Inputs – To provide the mechanism to make readily available all the necessary agricultural inputs such as fertilizer, pesticides, and the like.

Livelihood Program

To achieve this objective, Mayor Hagedron adopted a three-pronged approach: Enhanced agricultural productivity, aggressive tourism development with the end in view of making Puerto Princesa the eco-tourism capital of Asia, and promotion of livelihood activities that are not necessarily reliant on natural resources.

Initially, the City Agriculture Department and the City Social Welfare Department undertook the organizing, training, screening, evaluation and final determination of possible beneficiaries of the City’s Government various livelihood assistance schemes such as agro-forestry; rice, corn, vegetable, and cut-flower production; furniture making, goat, poultry and piggery raising; cattle breeding and fattening; sari-sari stores; buying and selling; and similar such projects that promote self-employment.

All in all, a total of P27,626,960.00 have been released by the City Government to 1,187 family beneficiaries.

Due to poor repayment record, however, seen in retrospect as having been caused largely by some of the people’s dole-out mentality, Mayor Hagedorn shifted tactic and involved the San Teodoro Rural Bank in a project called Sosyo sa Negosyo.

Under the new scheme, the rural bank puts up 150% of whatever amount that the City Government appropriates for livelihood assistance. Since its implementation, P2,664,300.00 have already been loaned out to 142 family beneficiaries for such livelihood activities as shell craft and native products manufacturing, mushroom culture, fruits vending, art and beauty shops, and many others. Since then, repayment record has gone up to a healthy 80%.

Education Program

To highlight the importance that the city government attaches to education as playing a pivotal role in the city’s future development, Mayor Edward S. Hagedorn launched the City Education Enhancement Program. The project intends to improve the standard of education within the service area of the city government by identifying and prioritizing the establishment of schools, and organizing a continuous training scheme for schoolteachers in the city. It laid the groundwork for the separation of the School for Philippine Craftsmen from Palawan Integrated National School (PINS) and its conversion into a School of Arts and Trade. It proposed the establishment of the City Manpower Training and Development Center. It assisted in the preparation of documents required for the recognition of PINS-Annex High Schools of Bgys. Luzviminda, San Rafael, and Sta. Lourdes.

Environmental and Eco-tourism Program

The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park was declared by Proclamation No. 835 on March 26, 1971 and was

recently declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Environment, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

It is located in the West Coast of Palawan, 81 km north of Puerto Princesa City. The land form in the park are associated with rocky mountains ( of marble and limestone) running from north to south. Two-thirds of the area is covered by lush tropical rainforest from the shoreline to the highest peak, and one-third is thinly vegetated karst limestone. The vegetation types include lowland forest (often with 35 m. canopy), coastal forest and karst forest.

This National Park is currently a popular destination for visiting bird-watchers, and most of the threatened and restricted range birds of the Palawan Endemic Bird Area have been recorded here. Several threatened species are regularly seen in the extensive lowland forests and substantial number of Palawan Phesant Peacock and Philippine Cockatoo are found in the park.

Being one of the major tourist destination of the City it has an annual income of about P 5 million every year. Like other protected areas, it is being managed by the Protected Areas Management Board (PAMB) headed by the City Government of Puerto Princesa where PCSDS seats as a member of the Board Various joint endeavor have been done so far between and among government and non-government organizations including the community surrounding the Park to improve the services to visitors who frequent to the Underground River when they are in Puerto Princesa .

The Management of the Park was turned-over to the City Government through a Memorandum of Agreement ( MOA ) with DENR. However, the DENR this year, wanted to revoke the MOA and imposed mandate to supervise the Park. It is here where the PCSD came in.

To protect and preserve the city’s environment – marine and terrestrial – the city instituted environmental protection measures. It waged war against the spoilers of nature. It was then that people took a really long and hard look at Puerto Princesa and they seem to have liked what they saw. They showered Puerto Princesa with numerous awards and accolades. Earth Day Award, Macli-ing Dulag Environmental Achievement Award, Best Governed Local Government Unit Awards and Peace Award; these are just among the many that people from everywhere bestowed on the city.

Because Puerto Princesa cannot realistically compete with the Metro-Manila area and the Calabarzon in terms of attracting industrial investments given the already present infrastructure and industrial base in those regions. And cannot lock horns with Davao, Cagayan de Oro City and the Socsargen areas for a share of the so-called industrial pie.

On the other hand, can any of the above places vie with Puerto Princesa City and Palawan in terms of ecological purity; natural beauty such as the magnificence of the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park – the world’s longest navigable underground river; an abundance of exotic flora and fauna, many of which are endemic in Palawan alone? Eco-tourism is the buzzword of today’s world travelers. And eco-tourism is definitely Puerto Princesa City’s distinct advantage over the rest.

It is in this context that the city government had decided to request the conversion of the 1,072-hectare Industrial and Commercial Zone at Brgy. Sta. Lucia into an Environmental Estate. The Estate will be an eco-tourism park and environmental center of the Philippines. It will serve both as a catalyst for economic growth and a vehicle for preserving the environment. It will also become an institution in conservation and the world’s fountain of biological knowledge.

The Estate will have four (4) major components:

Recreation Component – Eco-tourism is not eco-tourism without adventure travel. Travelers seek to fulfill specific desires and his has evolved to going somewhere they have never been and doing things they have never done before. And nature has taken a reversal of fortune: before it was just a backdrop; now it is part of the infrastructures of the industry. The temperate environment has a lot of new surprises for the adventurous. And adventure is the best avenue to learn more about the environment. This is the marketing niche served by this component.

The Wildlife Component – Ecology is the study of the relationships of organism to their environment. Man has a relationship with all the other organisms in a given environment and needs an appreciation of this relationship. In spite of the wide adaptability of most living things, they normally inhabit specific neighborhood or habitats. The Wildlife Component is a habitat exploration venture set free.

The Academic Center - Designed to attract naturalist from around the country and even the world. It can become a facility for exhibits, lectures, demonstrations and exchanges between the people of Puerto Princesa and its environs in learning and understanding our ecological heritage. Consultant guest, naturalists, botanists, scientist of the natural science, landscape artist, marine biologist and nature lovers can engage in the actual field study process. The center and its populace shall become a repository and recipient of data, information and specimens which shall offer an opportunity to observe and investigate the rich living diversity of our aquatic and terrestrial ecology and man’s evolving relationship with it.

Eco-tourism Village – To promote the habitats of Palawan, the Eco-tourism Village will feature: jogging/biking trail, nature viewing spot, north train station, north security node, viewing tower, hostel type units (log cabins) and interest areas such as aboriginal home and artifacts/crafts center, aboriginal habitats, orchid farms, curio shops, delicatessen, etc. Having thus set their sites on tourism in lieu of industrial development, the city government of of Puerto Princesa City intends to make their the eco-tourism capital of the Philippines, the ASEAN region and the world by making it a world-class, park-like city. The environmental estate is an important beginning towards the realization of that dream.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved