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Puerto Princesa Underground River to open ‘Daylight Hole Cave’ tour
By Celeste Anna R. Formoso

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, April 4 (PNA) – The management of the renowned Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR) here is set to open a new community-based sustainable tourism (CBST) attraction in Sitio Sabang, Barangay Cabayugan called the “Daylight Hole Cave.”

Jovic Fabello, spokesperson of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) Staff, who went as part of a team to the PPUR over the weekend, told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) late Monday evening that the potential CBST is “a cavity within a contiguous limestone formation, which outlines part of the entire PPUR.”

Fabello said their team went to the site of the Daylight Hole Cave because it is a “significant cave” and, therefore, “should be assessed, surveyed, and mapped to determine its appropriate use and/or classification as stated in the Caves Act or Republic Act No. 9072” before it is opened to the public.

“The PCSD Staff, as a body under the PCSD, is mandated to provide machineries to coordinate the policy and functions, implement programs and organize such services in Palawan,” he said.

After the cave class has been determined, a participatory cave management planning should follow to ensure conservation measures and protection before a thumbs up is given for eco-tourism purposes.

He added a visitor management and safety plan must also be drawn to safeguard the site as part of the PPUR, which is a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site.

PPUR Park Superintendent Elizabeth Maclang requested the PCSD Staff to conduct the cave assessment of the Daylight Hole Cave, according to Fabello.

Their team included Palawan State University (PSU) archeologist Dr. Jun Cayron, members of La Karst Palawan Cavers Association and PPUR staff.

Prior to operation, PPUR spokesperson Jan Elmer Badilla also disclosed that UNESCO would be sending infrastructure and activity guidelines, which need adoption by the Sangguniang Panlungsod (City Council).

“The guidelines are still being crafted; we’re waiting for it from the UNESCO. Probably they’ll be sent next week. Then, we will need to request the City Council to adopt it before we can open the new CBST,” said Badilla, adding it will probably take time before it is operated.

The guidelines, Badilla enlightened, will contain what type of infrastructures and activities will be allowed to develop the Daylight Hole Cave as part of the park’s fresh CBST attraction.

“With infrastructures, the idea is to build traditional homes of the indigenous peoples (IPs) that live around the park area,” Badilla added.

The Daylight Hole Cave, “no doubt,” has potentials for ecotourism, Fabello furthered, as it can be offered as an alternative site to visit for tourists when the waves are strong in Sabang and the PPUR cannot be entered.

“Most caves are generally unsafe to traverse during bad weather, but if safety measures are placed within the area, then there is a possibility the Daylight Hole Cave can attract tourists, who love the adventure,” Fabello said.

Located at the back of the PPUR, the said cave is not a through and through cave. Its twilight zone is good for viewing and photography, while the dark zone will be off-limits.

Cave formations or dripstones (Speleothems) are abundant in the area of the Daylight Hole Cave. Speleothems are “secondary mineral deposits formed in a cave. They typically form in limestone or dolostone solutional caves.”

At its base is where the inflow of the freshwater is located that gushes inside the PPUR. It is a huge cave that was formed thousands of years ago due to a phenomenon called “collapse,” according to Fabello.

The cave cavity is measured to be approximately 32 meters wide and 28 meters high.

It has been known to the locals since the 90’s, and has been one of the venue for cave rescue training during the 7th Philippine Speleological Society Caving Congress held in the PPUR.

Since its discovery, and recently, many outdoor enthusiasts and tour guides frequent the cave without proper permits and safety gears.

This had to be stopped, said Fabello, until the Daylight Hole Cave is allowed to operate by environment authorities.

It is accessible by land, and will only take 30-45 minutes to trek with a little bit of hiking through a second growth lowland dipterocarp forest mixed with limestone forest and a bit of two short river crossings.

Once it is given the green light to operate, a memorandum of agreement (MOA) will be signed among the PCSD, its barangay home, the city government of Puerto Princesa, and the Protected Areas Management Board (PAMB) for the management plan implementation. (PNA)
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