Tubbataha National Marine Park offers free entrance fee for Palaweños

September 25, 2010 11:34 am 

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Sept. 24 — Tubbataha Park Management Board (TPAMB) announced Thursday that they are waiving the conservation fee for local residents of Palawan entering the world-renowned Tubbataha National Marine Park located in the municipality of Cagayancillo in Palawan.

Palawan governor Abraham Kahlil Mitra made the announcement in line with the desire of the provincial government to boost local tourism and make the travel to one of the most beautiful coral reefs in the world less expensive and affordable to local tourists.

Mitra hopes the move will encourage Palaweños to experience for themselves the excitement and pride of visiting the UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site, a privilege which has long been reserved for elite and moneyed sports divers and reef lovers worldwide.

Tubbataha's trademark among the world divers is its coral walls with extensive colonies of fish.

”We believe local tourism in the area will be enhanced and thousands of people will acclaim how powerful and artistic our Almighty God is in creating this wonder of nature,” Mitra said.

Tubbataha Reef is located in the middle of the Central Sulu Sea, 98 nautical miles southeast of Puerto Princesa City.

It is composed of two large shallow reef platforms enclosing a sandy lagoon. On the seaward portions of the reef platform are steep, often perpendicular reef walls extending to 50 feet.

Most of the park area is submerged, with only a few permanent emergent sandy islands.

Deputy Park Manager Dr. Terry Aquino said that the executive committee of TPAMB is now drafting the implementing rules and regulations to ensure that the privilege of free entrance to the Tubbataha reef for the local residents of Palawan will be followed accordingly.

The committee wants to determine what proper documents will be required from the marine park visitors to establish residency in order to avail said benefit.

”Park visitors still need to pay the pumpboat hire going to Tubbataha. Only passenger boats with allowable passenger capacity are allowed in Tubbataha reef. The Philippine Coast Guard and MARINA will not allow fishing boats to enter the marine park,” Dr. Aquino said.

Tubbataha reef is one of the three World Heritage Sites in the Philippines. The other two are the Puerto Princesa Underground River and the Banaue Rice Terraces.

It is home to nearly 400 species of fish and bird species, enough reason to declare Tubbataha as a National Marine Park through Proclamation No. 306 on August 11, 1998.

Underwater visibility can often exceed 30-meter seascape with underwater caves teemed with marine life.

Commercial fishing or collecting corals are illegal within the 33,200 hectares of its reefs and surrounding areas.

To manage the tourism activities, the Protected Area Management Board was formulated and the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff acts as secretary.

A master plan was approved which included zoning and charging of entrance fee for dive boats and making the area a no-fishing zone. The money collected will directly be used to cover various conservation programs. (PNA) LOR/Lyle B. Coruña/mec

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