The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park (PPSRNP) is found in the Midwest coast of Palawan approximately 365 nautical miles south of Manila. It is located some 76 km northwest of Puerto Princesa City, facing the South China sea. It lies within portions of Bgys. Cabayugan, Marufinas, and Tagabinet, Its geographic coordinates are 10′ 10 north, 118′ 55 south.
The PPSRNP was established on March 26, 1971, by virtue of Presidential Proclamation No. 835 issued by the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos. Formerly known as the St. Paul Subterranean National Park, it initially comprised of 3,901 hectares of terrestrial reservation. To ensure long-term viability, former President Joseph E. Estrada signed Proclamation No. 212 on November 16, 1999 expanding the area of the Park to 22,202 hectares that now includes the entire catchment for the Underground River and significant forest important for biodiversity conservation. It was also renamed to Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park to properly identifying it with the place. The PPSRNP was also declared as a National Geological Monument on December 11, 2003 by the National Committee on Geological Sciences (NCGS).
There is no existing document that shows who or when the underground river was first discovered, but it is believed that the islands early inhabitants were the first to know of the existence, but their fear of spirits that they believe inhabit the caves prevented them from exploring the depts. The earliest mention one could hold of would be that of an Assistant Professor of Zoology at the University of Michigan who later became the Secretary of Interior at the first decade of American rule, Dean C. Worcester who wrote in 1887 while touring the island of Palawan “if accounts are to be believed, of a lake opening to the sea by a Subterranean River”.
Topography varies from flat terrain to rolling hinterlands, from hills to mountain peaks. The area is split at the center by a limestone or karst outcrop known as the St. Paul mountain range that rises 1,028 meters at its peak. The karst is 11 km long, averages 3-5 km wide and covers an area of around 35 sq. /km. It is estimated to be between 16 – 20 million years old.
The Park serves as a catchment to the Cabayugan River that flows down the slopes of Mt. Bloomfield, irrigating paddy farms before disappearing under Mt. St. Paul to become the underground river, and the Babuyan River which at 54 km is the longest river in Palawan. It provides water to local communities for domestic and agriculture use.
People and Livelihood
The PPSRNP has a population of 3,800 individuals including around 400 members of the Batak and Tagbanua, two of the seven cultural groups of Palawan. Majority of the people speak Pilipino and the local dialect Cuyunon, other dialects spoken include Ilocano and Cebuano. Most household earn their living from farming except in Sabang and Coastal areas of Marufinas, where many household depend on fishing and tourism. Indigenous People are traditionally engaged in gathering of minor forest products such as rattan (Calamus sp.)poles, almaciga (Agathis philippinensis) resin, and wild honey as the main source of income. They are also involved in upland farming and resort to hunting game to add to their food requirements.