The Puerto Princesa Underground River is one of the largest subterranean estuaries of the world, where tides propagates over 5 km inside. The cave, consisting of over 30 km of giant galleries, hosts an extremely complex ecosystem based on the huge colonies of bats and swallows. Its natural singularity was recognized as World Heritage by UNESCO since 1999, while the first part of its navigable branch was transformed into a show cave since 1982.  A peculiarity of this cave is that, even been visited by more than 300.000 people/year, no fixed structures at all have been installed inside PPUR, which therefore should be still considered a totally pristine cave.

In the last years, tourist pressure over the cave has been growing exponentially and first evidences of ecologic problems, mainly related with the diurnal rest of bats, have been recently noticed during the most crowded days. Therefore the Local Government together with the Natural Park Direction decided to investigate how to manage the increasing tourism without compromise the pristine environment of the PPUR and its surrounding area.

The possibility to develop such a research project was recently given by the Philippines - Italy Debt for Development Swap Program. The project was prepared by Tagbalay Foundation of Puerto Princesa (Palawan) and La Venta Esplorazioni Geografiche (Italy). It was accepted and granted at the end of 2015. Now the first field activities started and they will last 1 year.

The main targets of the project are:
1- Defining the “carrying capacity” of PPUR by completing the explorations and the multidisciplinary studies started over 25 years ago;
2- Upgrading the awareness of the Local and National authorities, stakeholders and citizens on the importance and fragility of the PPUR ecosystem;
3- Searching for alternative &/or additional caves where diverting a part of the incoming tourists;
4- Suggesting new side activities (merchandizing, open air activities etc.) to improve the economy of local inhabitants without increasing the pressure on PPUR.

Sponsor: Leica Italia, Laserscangst, Eragest di Tiziano Conte, Lifesaver, Amphibious, Ferrino, Dolomite, Scurion, De Walt, Allemano Metrology.

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