Underground River pushes PAL to deploy bigger planes next year

NATIONAL carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) said it will deploy planes that can accommodate up to 335 people to Palawan after the Puerto Princesa Underground River was recently declared as one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature.

Deploying wide body jets like the Airbus A330 is in response to the expected influx of tourists to Puerto Princesa as the company eyes to intensify its promotional activities there, PAL president Jaime Bautista said.

The underground river was also included in the top six destinations featured in PAL’s 2012 corporate calendar.

“This is how important PAL regards this wonderful destination,” Bautista said.

At present, PAL flies twice daily to and from Puerto Princesa using its single-aisle A320.

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 that could hold bigger aircraft are those in Cebu, Davao and Iloilo.

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 list compiled by the Swiss foundation New7Wonders after a global poll that started in December 2007.

Overall, Puerto Princesa Mayor Edward Hagedorn said there are now 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 World Heritage Site of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco), the underground river is located in the village of Sabang, 81 kilometers north of the city.

Known as the Philippines’ last biodiversity frontier, besides the river, Palawan has white-sand beaches, lush forest, and wildlife parks.

The underground river, also known as the St. Paul or Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, covers 8.2 kilometers 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. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)

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