MANILA, MAY 30, 2007
(BULLETIN) (First of two parts) - By ROBERT DEAN S. BARBERS General Manager, Philippine Tourism Authority

IT IS still with much amazement that some 180 kilometers southeast of Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, off the coast of the Sulu Sea, one can find an atoll coral reef that astonishes and bewilders any marine life-loving individual.

The place is called Tubbataha Reef.

Most of us may know about this place, yet I would like to share my dive experience with this natural wonder that I firmly believe is Godís gift to the Philippines.

Tubbataha was declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in December, 1993. It is now a marine sanctuary protected area also known as Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park.

It is made up of two atolls, the North and South Reefs. Each reef has a small protruding beach with no vegetation at all. A deep channel with a length of approximately 8,000 meters divides both atolls.

April of last year, I was fortunate to accept the award from The Marine Diving Fair in Tokyo, Japan naming the Philippines the third best diving site in the world. We trailed only Palau and the Maldives that are also exemplary diverís paradise. Truly, Philippines can be the diving capital of Southeast Asia.

The Tubbataha Management Office (TMO) staff revealed that they are getting strong support and coordination from the Department of National Defense (DND) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) who is mandated to supervise and exercise protective management of the Tubbataha Reef. There are no inhabitants on the reef but just a ranger station to guard the atoll.

Tubbataha Reef was established in August 11, 1988 with an area of 33,200 hectares. In 2006, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, through an executive order, increased the boundaries of the park by 200 percent. It is now 96,824 hectares in size and guarded by armed rangers all day of the year.

Being a certified scuba diver for the past six years and having the opportunity to experience the beautiful and colorful underwater edens of the sea, diving in the world famous Tubbataha Reef gave me an arcane feeling on what to expect beyond those deep blue crystal waters.

(Tomorrow: The dive of a lifetime)

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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