The recognition of the Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR) as one of world’s Seven Wonders of Nature and the adoption of the Manila Declaration on furthering the implementation of the Global Programme of Action (GPA) for the Protection of the Marine Environment marked the celebration of World Wetlands Day in the country, it was stressed today by Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje.

“This is definitely a ‘double success of sort’ for our wetland areas in particular, and the marine environment in general. In both events, Filipinos should take pride for taking the lead in the global effort to protect wetland areas not only for the economic benefits they provide but also the ecological services that we are now enjoying, and which we want the next generations to also enjoy,” Paje said.

February 2 of every year is designated as World Wetlands Day (WWD) by the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, also known as the Ramsar Convention. It is also declared the National Wetlands Day by virtue of Presidential Proclamation No. 74, series of 1999. This year’s theme is “Wetlands and Tourism”.

Wetlands are lands that may be permanently or seasonally inundated. These include lakes and rivers, swamps and marshes, peatlands, estuaries, tidal flats, mangroves and coral reefs, and even man-made sites such as fish ponds, rice paddies and reservoirs.

Paje said that the newly-declared wonder of nature best exemplifies this year’s WWD theme. “PPUR is a wetland, and has long been considered a prime natural jewel for our local tourism, drawing both foreign and local tourists” he said.

According to him, the underground river is a part of a national park that encompasses various interconnecting ecosystems from the mountain to the sea, including forests, inland wetlands like rivers and swamps, and coastal wetlands such as tidal flats and seagrass beds.

Earlier, Paje announced the move of the DENR, through its Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB), to officially nominate PPUR to the Ramsar Convention as a “wetland of international importance.”

Paje also said that the adoption of the Manila Declaration by representatives of 65 countries that participated in the recently concluded Global Conference on Land-Ocean Connections and the Intergovernmental Review Meeting on the Implementation of the GPA for the Protection of Marine Environment was equally an important tool in support of this year’s WWD’s international theme.

“Tourism has been identified in the global meeting as a key sector whose impacts and opportunities are closely interlinked with coastal areas and other wetland areas, as well as the marine environment,” he said.

Containing 16 provisions focusing on programs and activities that need to be undertaken starting this year up to 2016, the Manila Declaration calls on member countries to step up their efforts to protect the ‘blue world’ from pollutive land-based activities, particularly on priority areas such as marine litter, wastewater, fertilizer-induced pollution and biodiversity loss.