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"Come Back, Come Back to Palawan, Philippines"

"The Economics of the Palawan Underground River as a Tourist Destination"


The same pump boat manned by a pump boat operator and assisted by a boat helper that took us from Sabang to the mouth of the underground river waited for us and ferried us back to Sabang. I asked the pump boat operator, how many trips had they made since morning until the time that we were his passengers. He sai that we were only his third trip and it was already 3:00 p.m. when we arrived Sabang. He confided to me that there were 43 pump boats that were ferrying the large volume of guests that arrived since early morning.

After disembarking from the pump boat, I went straight to the control table and asked the latest number of visitors that had so far registered. The lady told me that as of that time they had logged the 1,053th guest. There were less than 100 visitors that were still waiting for their turn to board the pump boat to take them to the mouth of the underground river.

We were already on board our van back to Puerto Princesa when I started to do my mental calculation on the economics of the underground river as a tourist destination. I started with the figures I got from the boat operator and the visitor control table.

I started to verify the accuracy of the figure of 1,053 guests. If there were 43 pump boats that carried only 6 passengers per trip and had made 3 trips, they had ferried 774 visitors. On their 4 trips, that would mean that they would have transported 1,032 which is pretty close to the 1,053 guests registered at the control table.

In terms of employment, directly benefiting from the influx of the tourists who want to visit the underground river are the pump boat operators, boat helpers and the forest rangers/boat men around 100 of them (43 pump boats multiplied by 2 crews each and the boat men that paddled the boat inside the river). Of course, the professional tourist guides, the cooks, food servers and the rest of the services providers in Sabang and at the mouth of the river depend on the tourist arrivals as the source of their livelihood.

Next, I considered that each van carry only 10 passengers. For the 1,053 guests, there were at least 100 air conditioned vans that were rented out by the visitors for that day! 10 years ago, only the staff working for the Second Palawan Integrated Area Development Project and first PIADP had air-conditioned service vehicles in Palawan. Even foreign tourists had to contend with riding non air conditioned locally assembled jeepneys! Van owners are not concentrated only in Puerto Princesa but are also from the nearby municipalities of Narra and Aborlan.

As I mentioned in my earlier article, we paid P1,200 per person for the underground river trip. Multiply it by 1,053 visitors, you had plowed in P1,263,600.00 to the local economy for just a single day. Definitely, it is not be the daily average because of the Palarong Pambansa that was held there at that time. But, even if only 1/3 of that figure will visit the river, it is still a significant figure to reckon with.

As a prospective investor who wants to retire in Palawan and have a good source of income, pick your choice: van rental business, pump boat operation, travel agency, food services?

Next post: the investments of the local government in their tourism industry.


Edgar Sandalo

Posted by E. Sandalo 18:45 Archived in Philippines Tagged ecotourism

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