Palwan's Underground River

Overall, the progress of tourism in Palawan Island has moved from a few dozen people per one flight a day, then mostly backpackers and nature adventure tourists and the opposite end of the spectrum – the high end market where the world’s rich and famous visit private island resorts.

But now, as Mayor Hagedorn points out, numbers of arrivals just in Puerto Princesa has reached over “480,000 and the year isn’t even over yet.” Hagedorn, who first was elected mayor of the city in 1992, has an affinity for parks, its river and forests.

Long before the Mayor entered politics, he owned a small bistro built in a lumberyard of his wife’s brother. Tourists came for good food and music in what was then a small city with potential. Ellen Marcello Hagedorn, his wife, was the island’s provincial tourism officer then.

Ellen, often spending her own money and traveling at great risk on small boats and charting dozens of tourism sites as far back as 1988, established Palawan’s first tourism map.

“Mrs. Hagedorn actually mapped most of what the world knows now as Palawan’s tourism spots. Working with local guides, she blazed the trail few dared back then and worked with local communities to find the tourist spots and how to make them accessible,” former Philippine Natural Resources Minister Teodoro Pena said in a radio interview. “We have come a long way. We still have a ways to go but now we are on the path we always dreamed possible.” Pena, who has long since retired from government, is also in the tourism business with a small family-owned hotel.

Much of Puerto Princesa’s tourism is this way: Inns and pension houses, a small spattering of larger hotels are being built, but for a community committed to environmental protection. Rapid development is governed by a master plan, which takes into account available resources. Zoning is enforced and only those sites that fully comply with regulations are given the green light to ensure growth is controlled.

“As best we can, we also need investors, but be forewarned – we follow all environmental and development rules. If they can live with that, they’re welcome.” Mayor Hagedorn told the Ground Report.

by Mikein Manila @ Ground Report