Puerto Princesa Underground River now Protected by International Convention


The Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR), home to about 800 plant and 233 animal species —including 15 kinds of endangered birds only found in the Philippines— is now protected under the internationally-recognized Ramsar Convention on "Wetlands of International Importance".
The PPUR is the 2,084th site to be included in the convention, an intergovernmental agency treaty across 163 countries providing "the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources." The convention was formally adopted in Ramsar, Iran, in 1971 —hence its informal name.
Most of the species found in PPUR are critically endangered, according to the Philippine Public Information Agency's report.
The subterranean river was cited for its biodiverse ecosystem, as well as for the conservation efforts of the local government for its sustainable development.
"(The PPUR is a) unique biogeographic region because it connects a range of important ecosystems from the mountain-to-the-sea, including a limestone karst landscape with a complex cave system, mangrove forests, lowland evergreen tropical rainforests, and freshwater swamps,” according to Ramsar.
Wetlands.org describes "wetlands" as bodies of water with land, including mangroves, marshes, swamps, rivers, lakes, flood plains, rice fields, flooded forests, and coral reefs. Wetlands can even be inland or coastal, permanent or seasonal, natural or man-made.
"Wetlands are one of the world’s most important environmental assets, containing a disproportionately high number of plant and animal species compared to other areas of the world," Wetlands.org said.
Wetlands can be found around the world, and collectively cover an area that is 33 percent larger than the USA.
Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Ramon Paje, City Mayor Edward S. Hagedorn, and a Ramsar official unveiled a marker on PPUR site on Dec. 4.
PPUR is the fifth Philippine wetlands site recognized by Ramsar.
Other recognized Ramsar sites in the Philippines are Mindoro Oriental's Naujan Lake National Park; Palawan’s Tubbataha Reefs Natural Marine Park; Cebu's Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary; and Agusan del Sur's Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary.
Cebu's Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary was the first site recognized by Ramsar, in 1994. Naujan Lake, Tubbataha Reefs, and Agusan Marsh were added to the list in 1999.
The DENR, through its Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau, nominated the PPUR to the Ramsar Convention to highlight the celebration of World Wetlands Day on Feb. 2, 2012.
The 22,202-hectare underground river, a favorite tourist destination, has already been decorated with a string of recognitions from national and international organizations.
The PPUR is counted among the New Seven Wonders of Nature, and also bears the distinction of being a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, a World Heritage Site, an ASEAN Heritage Park, a National Geological Site, and a Philippine National Park.
— TJD, GMA News
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