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MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno S. Aquino III called on the Filipino people to work together in preserving the country’s natural wonders to ensure environmental sustainability that in turn anchors economic progress and development.
Speaking at the official inauguration of the Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR) as one of the world’s New Seven Wonders of Nature (N7WN) at the One Esplanade Open Grounds in Pasay City late Friday night, President Aquino said that besides survival and economic growth, preserving the environment helps ensure the country’s world-class tourist spots retain their natural splendor.
“This honor reminds us of how truly blessed our country is and of how it is our task as Filipinos not to take these blessings for granted. We have to act as responsible stewards and this means valuing our natural resources and ensuring the environmental sustainability of all our development efforts,” the President said.
“Let us remember, tourism, however, must be nurtured and sustained, and the best way to do that is to take care of sites like the Underground River —not in words but most importantly in deeds… let us protect it, preserve it and make sure that it retains the natural wonder, the same goes for all our other natural treasures,” he added.
The Chief Executive also noted the cooperation and unity of the Filipino people which landed the PPUR as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature making it through a stiff global competition.
“Today it gives me hope not only for the success of our future tourism efforts but also for our continued success along the straight and righteous path,” he said.
President Aquino thanked everyone for the collective efforts which made the PPUR not only one of the country’s pride but also the pride of the world.
“I thank everyone who participated in this effort —from those who led the campaign, and most especially those who joined us in sending their text and internet votes,” he said.
He noted the “tremendous competition” before the Philippines landed the honor.
President Aquino received the award (plaque) from New7Wonders president and founder Bernard Weber signaling the official inauguration of the PPUR as one of the World’s Seven Wonders of Nature.
Present to witness the event were Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo, Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma Jr. and Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon Paje, who was designated by Malacanang as national campaign officer for the Philippines’ bid to land PPUR in the winning circle. The PPUR’s chief champion, Puerto Princesa Palawan Mayor Edward Hagedorn, was also at the event.
The Puerto Princesa Underground River is located some 50 kilometers north of the city of Puerto Princesa in Palawan. It consists of a limestone karst mountain landscape, several large chambers containing significant formations of stalactites and stalagmites, and an 8.2-km navigable underground river that winds through a cave before flowing directly into the West Philippine Sea. At the exit, a flawless lagoon is framed by ancient trees growing right to the water’s edge.
The other six included in the N7WN are Amazon River (South Africa), Halong Bay (Vietnam), Iguazo Falls (Argentina/Brazil), Jeju Island (South Korea), Komodo National Park (Indonesia) and Table Mountain (South Africa).
New eco-tourism sites
Meanwhile, President Aquino III said the government has identified several new eco-tourism destinations in the country apart from those which are already existing.
He encouraged local and foreign tourists to visit and personally experience the world-class tourist spots in the Philippines that serve as the pride of the Filipino people.
“I am happy to tell you that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Department of Tourism are working together to market even more natural wonders in our country as eco-tourism destinations. I understand that 78 of them have been identified in addition to those that we already have,” the President stressed.
The Chief Executive noted the potential contribution of the tourism industry in providing more employment opportunities.
“While they may not have the acclaim and titles that the Puerto Princesa Underground River has garnered, I can guarantee you that they will be equally representative of the beauty and the diversity of our country and they will undoubtedly boost our tourism industry as well," the President said, adding that tourism creates opportunities for our countrymen and has an immediate palpable effect on our economy.
"I am told that for each tourist that sets foot on our shores, one new job is created. Each tourist will have travel agents fixing the itineraries, tour guides who will show them around and merchants who will hopefully be able to sell them our locally made delicacies and handicrafts and a lot of others who are at the service industry,” President Aquino said.