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17 November 2011
PAL promotes underground river; to use bigger jets to Palawan
Philippine Airlines (PAL) and the city government of Puerto Princesa are teaming up to maximize the tourism potential of the Puerto Princesa Underground River after it was recently declared one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature.
      
In a recent news forum, PAL president and chief operating officer Jaime Bautista said the flag carrier is supporting Puerto Princesa Mayor Edward Hagedorn’s program to attract more tourists in the wake of the new global recognition bestowed on the Puerto Princesa Underground River.
     
Hagedorn, who was also present during the forum, said the interest of tourists, both foreign and local, towards the underground river has been significantly aroused by the attraction’s new international fame.
      
The underground river, along with the Amazon rainforest, Vietnam’s Halong Bay, Argentina’s Iguazu Falls, South Korea’s Jeju Island, Indonesia’s Komodo, and South Africa’s Table Mountain, was included in the lofty list of seven wonders of the world by the Swiss foundation New7Wonders after a global poll that started in December 2007.

Bautista said aside from PAL's promotional activities in the Philippines and abroad, the flag carrier will deploy its wide body jets like the Airbus A330 so it can accommodate the expected influx of tourists to the city. At present, PAL flies twice daily to and from Puerto Princesa using its single-aisle A320.

“In support of Mayor Hagedorn’s program to attract more tourists, we will fly our bigger planes to Puerto Princesa,” he said. He added that Palawan's underground river was included in the top six destinations featured in PAL's 2012 corporate calendar. "This is how important PAL regards this wonderful destination," he stressed.

According to Bautista, the recent renovation and expansion of the Puerto Princesa airport was timely as it could now accommodate the bigger aircraft. He said besides the Puerto Princesa airport, the other provincial airports which could accommodate bigger aircraft are those in Cebu, Davao and Iloilo.

Hagedorn, for his part, credited PAL for helping develop and boost Palawan’s tourism industry. He said when Palawan was still considered a missionary route, PAL was already flying to the island.

He said while before there were only two to three flights a day to Puerto Princesa, now there are 11 flights a day unloading not only local residents but mostly foreign and domestic tourists. Last year alone, around 425,000 tourists visited the underground river. The city government is expecting some 550,000 visitors this year.

Already a Unesco World Heritage Site, the underground river is located in barangay Sabang, 81 kilometers north of the city. Known as the Philippines’ last biodiversity frontier, besides the river, Palawan has white-sand beaches, lush forest, wildlife parks, and natural wonders.

The underground river, also known as the St. Paul or Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, covers 8.2-kilometer of water that runs beneath the limestone mountain. It is believed to be the longest underground river in Asia. While navigating the underground river, one can see visible formations of stalactites and stalagmites that have developed over 20 million years.

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