Those looking for a new exciting getaway from the busy metropolis need not look far. For one, Puerto Princesa is one of the biggest cities in the world with a total land area of 253, 982 hectares and a coastline of 416 kilometers.

It is also endowed with rich natural resources and highly diverse flora and fauna found in both land and sea, unlike any of those found in the rest of the country. The City has the largest forest cover in the country and boasts of one of the healthiest coral reef covers which makes it an ecological paradise destination of choice.

Today, the City is envisioning itself as a city where man and nature can co-exist in balance and harmony. If there is an admirable reverence for nature outside and around the province of Palawan, the city is acknowledged as the country’s “Last Ecological Frontier in addition to being declared as a “Biospheric reserve” by the United Nations.

This is very much in evidence as Puerto Princesa City is not only carbon neutral but in fact, significantly carbon negative (a new buzzword in the world’s Inter-government Panel on Climate Change). Although laudable, it still needs continuous efforts to maintain and the city, like other major cities in the country has to find ways to satisfy the needs and aspirations of its citizens.

Since Mayor Hagedorn took over the helm of the city, he has redeemed his promises of planting more than two million trees until this year, increasing the forest cover of the city from 40% to 70% with an expected annual growth of 100,000 seedlings expected to be planted. By the time Mayor Hagedorn completes his current term of office in June 2013, he is expected to transform Puerto Princesa from a city whose natural resources were ravaged by both the needy and the greedy to one of the most progressive ecotourism destinations in the country, with an environment that is protected and cared by the people.

Puerto Princesa’s underground River (PPUR) is one of the nominees of the New 7 onders of Nature competition.

The Puerto Princesa Underground River is the longest underground river on the planet rich in troves of pre-historic fossils, recently discovered by the member of the La Venta Georgraphical Exploration, a group of Italian explorers. The group recently discovered a 20 million year old fossil of a sea cow embedded in a limestone formation just above the waters of the river. The Italian explorers stressed that the find has been confirmed to be the remains of a pre-historic sea cow called Sirenia, from which the dugong in Asia and manatees of the Atlantic Ocean descended, and promptly declared that PPUR is “truly a wonder of nature.”

Apart from being a real wonder, the Puerto Princesa Underground River is sure to attract more tourists to the city, according to the Mayor.

“It is expected to raise tourism receipts and create more jobs not only for the city but the country as a whole. Its victory in the New 7 Wonders would intensify ecotourism and affirm Puerto Princesa’s role as a top tourism drawer in the Philippines,” Hagedorn said.

For now and in the future, Mayor Edward Hagedorn remains passionate about his work and vision. “I am more than optimistic,” he beams. “I am confident that the best is yet to come. We have continuously survived and have reaped the results of having taken that leap of faith towards Puerto Princesa’s progress.”

(Story courtesy of Manila Bulletin’s VIC ALBORNOZ LACTAOEN)