JUNE 10, 2008
(STAR) By Aurea Calica - Four of the country’s top tourist spots have made it to the Top 10 list in the worldwide search for the “Seven Wonders of Nature.”

Senators Pia Cayetano and Richard Gordon attributed the latest development to the “online power” of Filipinos.

As of yesterday, Tubbataha Reef in Palawan was in second place, followed by Chocolate Hills in Bohol (fourth place), Puerto Princesa Subterranean River, also in Palawan (sixth) and Mayon Volcano in Bicol (10th).

Only Tubbataha Reef and Chocolate Hills were previously in the Top 10.

Cayetano hailed Filipinos here and abroad for taking time to go online and acknowledged the critical role played by local governments, environmentalists and non-government organizations in encouraging more Filipinos and even foreigners to vote for the Philippine nominees.

“I hope this strong show of support is reflective of a deeper appreciation of our responsibilities as a people not only to promote, but also to save our natural resources from various threats,” said Cayetano, chairperson of the Senate committee on environment and natural resources.

For his part, Gordon said “this is one contest where Filipinos all around the world can participate in and where victory is practically assured.”

Others in the Top 10 led by first placer Ha Long Bay of Vietnam are: 3. Cox’s Bazaar, Beach (Bangladesh – Asia), 5. Ganges River (Bangladesh/India – Asia), 7. Mount Everest (Nepal – Asia), 8. Amazon River/Forest (Bolivia/Brazil/Colombia/Ecuador/Peru/Venezuela – South America), and 9. Mount Fuji (Japan – Asia).

The search for the Seven Wonders of Nature is organized by the non-profit New Seven Wonders Foundation, which also undertook the “New Seven Wonders of the World” search last year.

The aim of the search is to create public awareness and contribute to the protection of the world’s natural heritage and foster respect for cultural diversity.

The list of nominees and the mechanics for voting are posted on the poll’s official website www.new7wonders.com while the live rankings can be viewed at http://www.new7wonders.com/nature/en/liveranking.

Filipinos can still vote online for the Philippine bets until Dec. 31, after which the Top 77 nominees will be submitted to a panel of experts that will put together a shortlist of 21 finalists by January 2009.

A second round of popular voting for the 21 finalists will then follow until the end of 2009, with the Top Seven nominees being officially declared the new “Seven Wonders of Nature” by year 2010.

Gordon said this would be one way to help speed up the growth of Philippine tourism, which could provide people with the means to raise them out of poverty and give them back their pride.

“We can beg oil and power companies for lower prices all day or argue for the scrapping of taxes, but the real solution for our people’s consumer price woes is to focus on creating more income earning opportunities. Tourism has the capacity to provide such a wealth of opportunities directly to our countrymen and we’ve seen many times over that where tourism advances, poverty retreats,” Gordon said.

Gordon also underscored the importance of ensuring the passage of his Tourism Bill, which along with the establishment of Tourism Enterprise Zones throughout the country, would also provide funding support and incentives for the development of tourism related industries.

“Along with the enactment of the tourism bill, we must revive efforts to open the NAIA (Ninoy Aquino International Airport) Terminal 3 as well as ensure funding support for the upgrading of our country’s airports. Particular attention must be given to provinces like Palawan, especially now that it has caught the world’s eye through the 7 Wonders Campaign,” Gordon said.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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