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Province of Palawan - Archived News

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How to get the best out of the Malunggay
Moringa (Malungay) leaves compared to common foods
Values per 100gm. edible portion
Nutrient Moringa Leaves Other Foods
Vitamin A 6780 mcg Carrots: 1890 mcg
Vitamin C 220 mg Oranges: 30 mg
Calcium 440 mg Cow's milk: 120 mg
Potassium 259 mg Bananas: 88 mg
Protein 6.7 gm Cow's milk: 3.2 gm
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Undergroud River in Palawan
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Underground river in Pureto Princesa, Palawan
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Baracuda Lake, Coron, Palawan
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A Barangay Clearance is NEEDED in order to get a Business License.
So why is the barangay name not in most business addresses?
Ask your Barangay Captain/Chairman to create a Resolution to make it mandatory to put the barangay name in all Business addresses.
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U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Kristie A. Kenney and USAID/Philippines Environment Office Chief Daniel Moore witness the safe and sustainable collection of ornamental fish by certified Marine Aquarium Council collectors in Palawan

Meet ‘MakMak’: Kiddie campaign conveys grave state of Philippine wildlife

By Jhesset O. Enano (Reporter, Philippine Daily Inquirer)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY — Clad in a brown ranger vest, “MakMak” will soon fly in and make a clarion call for biodiversity conservation in schools at Brooke’s Point town in southern Palawan.

But MakMak, with his radio, binoculars and whistle, is no ordinary ranger.

Rather, he is a mascot of the endemic blue-naped parrot (Tanygnathus lucionensis), which has been drafted as the town’s ally against the illegal wildlife trade.

MakMak, which stands for “makabayan, makakalikasan,” is the brainchild of local officials who underwent the “Campaigning for Conservation” training under Protect Wildlife, a project by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) for biodiversity conservation and habitat protection.

Launched in March, MakMak was an idea designed to develop a love for nature in the hearts of children through puppet shows, comics and songs.

“We believe that children have an influence on their parents,” said Rebecca Gadayan, acting municipal information officer.

“We want them to tell stories to their parents about how they should join in forest protection efforts to protect MakMak’s kind and other species thriving in the forest.”

Face of campaign

Local officials said they chose the colorful bird to be the face of the town’s environmental campaign since it was easier to elicit empathy for the bird that was already popular in communities.

Brooke’s Point is one of five municipalities in Palawan covered by the Mt. Mantalingahan Protected Landscape, an area of 120,457 hectares that is home to indigenous peoples as well as several endemic and endangered flora and fauna.

It is also the point of origin of Brooke’s Point’s watershed, which provides water to the mainly agricultural town.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), there are four critically endangered, five endangered and 14 vulnerable species within this protected area whose forests also host threatened and restricted-range birds of the Palawan Endemic Bird Area, including the blue-naped parrot.

Uphill battle

But the illegal wildlife trade and improper use of some of the town’s natural resources, like timber, have threatened its rich biodiversity.

Despite multiple efforts by the local government to push environment protection and conservation among adults, it remains an uphill battle, Gadayan said.

“We’ve had so many environmental campaigns targeting adults, but they have not been truly effective,” she said, adding that wildlife capture and poaching, as well as kaingin, or slash-and-burn practices, remain.

“So this time, we decided to flip our strategy: it will be the children who will now influence their elders. They can share with their parents our message that MakMak should remain free and his habitat should be protected.”

Locally known as “pikoy,” the blue-naped parrot, or the Philippine green parrot, is listed as a near-threatened species in the IUCN’s Red List, with its population on steady decline because of hunting, trapping and habitat loss.

School partnerships

As of last year, the IUCN said that there are some 1,500 to 7,000 mature pikoy in the wild.

Gadayan said local officials hope to roll out their campaign in school events, partnering with teachers and school administrators to include their message of conservation in the academic year’s activities. They hope to visit at least one or two schools every month.

Outreach activities in the town’s 18 barangays are also being eyed for MakMak, which has already received positive feedback during the campaign’s official launch with schoolchildren earlier this year.

Renewed strategy

While the USAID has underwritten the conceptualization and execution of the campaign with a P300,000 funding, the local government of Brooke’s Point has also committed P200,000 to continue implementing the campaign throughout the year.

But it remains to be seen whether MakMak and the renewed campaign strategy will bring about behavioral and cultural change in how communities and indigenous groups protect the environment, Gadayan said.

“We know there is still a long way to go,” she said. “What is important is to continue our efforts and spread our campaign to keep MakMak and other species free to roam in their habitat.”

P3.2-M of illegally caught fishes seized in Palawan

By RAFFY AYENG

A SHIP carrying illegally caught fish and other endangered species worth P3.2 million were seized as it headed to Manila, the Philippine Coast Guard said on Thursday.

The PCG said the Merchant Vessel Alejandra, which was carrying about 200 fish tubs, left Linapacan in Palawan on May 19 enroute to Delpan Wharf when combined elements of the PCG and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) seized the ship the next day.

The PCG said that of the 162 tubs that were examined, 79 were filled with fish that were caught through dynamite fishing. Another tub was filled with stingrays and sharks.

The tubs that contained fish caught through legal and accepted means were turned over to the concerned consignees. The others that came from dynamite fishing were given to charitable institutions.

The confiscated endangered species are subjected to further investigation and disposition, the PCG said.

The Coast Guard Medical Service arrived in Delpan and conducted an initial check-up on the 10 crew members who were brought to Gat Andres Bonifacio Memorial Medical Center for final physical and medical examination.

Saving El Nido and its rich biodiversity

By Jonathan L. Mayuga

There is more to El Nido in Palawan than its beautiful landscape and seascape.

A first-class municipality known for its crystal-clear waters and breath-taking island scenery, El Nido is home to a diverse species of birds, fish and amazing marine wildlife that adds value to ecotourism.

Also known for its stunning coral reefs and colossal limestone cliffs, El Nido is rich in biodiversity.

Unfortunately, decades of neglect and unsustainable tourism practices are threatening to destroy El Nido, a good reason it is now the subject of massive rehabilitation by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Protected area

Covered by this captivating town is the El Nido-Taytay Managed Resource Protected Area, which also includes portions of the nearby Taytay town.

Established by virtue of a presidential proclamation signed by then-President Joseph Estrada on October 8, 1998, the El Nido-Taytay protected area is considered one of the largest marine sanctuaries in the Philippines.

It is approximately 90,321 hectares, where 36,018 hectares is terrestrial, while 54,303 hectares comprise the coastal and marine areas. It is shared by 18 barangays from the municipality of El Nido and three from the municipality of Taytay.

The protected area also covers a total of 1,442 hectares of mangrove area, 2,00 hectares of seagrass and 2,000 hectares of coral reef.

The highest peak in the protected area is on Cadlao Island, with an elevation of 640 meters. Spotted with karst limestone formations, the islands and the mainland El Nido is unique in many ways.

Before being declared a protected area, El Nido is previously covered by conservation measures aimed at protecting this beautiful town from destructive development projects and activities.

Administrative Order 518 signed in 1984 established a 360-square-mile maritime area in El Nido as a turtle sanctuary.

El Nido is one of the eight priority areas of the National Integrated Protected Areas Program (Nipap).

Beautiful lagoons

Within the El Nido-Taytay protected area are some of the tourist attractions being showcased by tourism officials of the municipality of El Nido and the provincial government of Palawan.

These include the Big Lagoon and Small Lagoon, the Secret Lagoon, all in Miniloc Island, and the Cadlao Lagoon in Cadiao Island.

Known as the country’s last ecological frontier, Palawan is a major source of wild-caught fish in Luzon.

According to the area’s biodiversity profile released by the DENR-Mimaropa region, a total of 197 species of fish species belonging to 28 families have been recorded within the area.

Commonly found species of fish within the area are damselfish, parrotfish, triggerfish, butterflyfish, angelfish, wrasse, grouper, snapper, rabbitfish, goatfish and barracudas. But often, sharks can also be found in its famed Bacuit Bay. Marine turtle haven

Even before the establishment of the protected area, El Nido’s islands and islets are hosts to five of the seven marine turtles—the green sea turtle, hawksbill turtle, olive ridley, leatherback and loggerhead turtle.

El Nido is also frequented by dolphins and whales. Some of them have been recorded by the DENR, such as the bottlenose dolphin, spinner dolphin, bryde’s whale and humpback whale.

The rare sea cows, locally called dugongs, are also found in the seagrass areas of Barangay Corong-corong, Manlag and Aberawan.

Birds and fish sanctuaries

El Nido is known to host a number of native birds, including those that are identified with Palawan, such as the Palawan blue flycatcher, Palawan flowerpecker, Palawan tit and Palawan hornbill.

Two endemic species can be found in El Nido’s Taraw Cliff—the Amorphophallus natolii, and Amorphophallus salmoneus.

Besides the protected area, there are seven locally managed fish sanctuaries and marine protected areas (MPAs) that give marine ecosystems in El Nido double protection. These are the Mitri Island, Dilumacad Island, in Barangay Buena Suerte; Depelder Reef in Barangay Corong-corong; Masagana MPA in Barangay Masagana; Tres Marias, Guintongaoan/Turtle Island in Barangay Bebeladan; and Cagbatang MPA in Barangay Pasadeňa.

An outdoor laboratory

Henry Adornado, regional executive director of Mimaropa, said being rich in biodiversity, El Nido is ideal for the conduct of scientific research.

Adornado, a former director of the Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau, said he had already appealed to the Department of Tourism to fund a study that will determine El Nido’s carrying capacity.

Such study will entail a cost of not less than P5 million, which will help policy-makers come up with better rules and regulations without compromising El Nido’s ecological integrity.

He said El Nido offers biologists a great learning experience given its unique island ecosystems and the surrounding coastal and marine areas.

“It is rich in terrestrial and marine biodiversity. It has a lot of secrets waiting to be uncovered,” he said in Filipino. Pollution, human encroachment

Carol Esmenda, El Nido-Taytay protected area assistant protected area superintendent, said El Nido’s water is deteriorating owing to pollution caused by direct discharge of untreated wastewater from the mainland.

Worse, developments, such as the construction of break walls in the beach to protect resorts, is seriously threatening marine turtles, El Nido’s flagship species.

Esmenda said in an interview with the BusinessMirror on May 14 that because some locals are selling their properties to foreign investors, El Nido is experiencing a construction boom, with or without necessary permits, even within the supposedly protected area.

This, she said, is causing a lot of distress to El Nido’s already threatened terrestrial and coastal habitats.

“Because of development in the beaches, like human encroachment, marine turtles are unable to find their way back to their nesting grounds. Marine turtles have this unique characteristic that they go back to where they were hatched to lay eggs,” she explained in Filipino.

Some locals, she said, are also reportedly consuming turtle eggs, and some egg gatherers are secretly selling them to tourists.

P10-M Ipaf

Esmenda, however, is confident that stronger protection will soon be put in place for protected areas with the approval of their work and financial plan that will utilize the P10 million in revenues generated by the park.

The fund is from the automatic Integrated Protected Area Fund (Ipaf) which allows the protected-area management to retain 75 percent of the revenues they generated in the operation of a protected area.

“Last December we came up with the work and financial plan, and [it] was approved, so we are hoping to hire more park rangers to protect the park,” she said, confiding that the protected are has only two boats, one of which is already unserviceable.

She said they plan to hire 10 more park rangers and hopefully, acquire even small motorized boats to strictly enforce a policy guided by 2015 carrying capacity study on the maximum number of boats to be allowed operating in El Nido.

“Before, we only ask favors from the Philippine Coast Guard and LGUs [local government units] for us to use their boats because it is also part of their mandate. Hopefully, with our Ipaf, we can have our own boats and more rangers to protect the park,” she said.

According to Esmenda, the park rangers will also help create the ecotourism rules and regulation, so as to ensure the protection and conservation of El Nido’s threatened wildlife.

Easement rules violation

Records from the DENR-Mimaropa Office revealed a serious violation of the easement rule in El Nido. Of the combined 603 commercial and residential units inventoried by the DENR in the area, 285 are commercial establishments, while 318 are households. So far, 496 violators of easement rules have been issued a notice to vacate, representing 82 percent of the total number of inventoried buildings.

According to Adornado, the DENR continues to issue notices to vacate to violators of the easement rules. Of those issued with notices to vacate, 99 owners of these commercial and residential establishments have so far complied with the order.

Adornado said the DENR with the help of experts from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) and the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) are determined to enforce environmental laws, particularly the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004.

He said water samples are being collected from outfalls and those that fall below accepted standard in terms of coliform bacteria depending on the gravity of the violation.

Some establishments, he said, are issued with a notice of violation, while some have already been issued a cease-and-desist order, effectively stopping their operation, pending compliance of corrective measures.

“Some establishments are already putting up their own wastewater-treatment facilities, and some are already connecting to sewer lines,” he said.

Saving El Nido

According to Adornado, saving El Nido’s rich biodiversity by strictly enforcing environmental laws and regulating tourism will ensure sustainable tourism that will benefit communities.

Compared to Boracay, Adornado said the problem besetting El Nido is a lot more manageable with ample budget.

He said enforcing environmental laws entails costs outside the regular budget of the DENR, and sometimes require the expertise of DENR personnel from other units such as the MGB.

He said going island to island, patrolling the vast territory and going resort to resort requires manpower, as well as logistics to mobilize people.

Adornado said El Nido boasts of unmatched natural beauty. Its landscape, the beaches, its pristine waters make it a tourist magnet. Keeping it that way, he said, will be the only way for the communities to continue enjoying nature’s bounty.

“If you are an environment lover, the landscape, El Nido is really beautiful. If we can maintain its beauty, it will be of great benefit to the people in El Nido,” he said.

Puerto Princesa to host Batang Pinoy nationals finals

By Jean Malanum (PNA)

MANILA -- Palawan's capital city of Puerto Princesa will host the National Finals of the Batang Pinoy, the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) announced on Tuesday.

PSC Chairman William "Butch" Ramirez said the Batang Pinoy national secretariat will meet with Puerto Princesa Mayor Lucilo Bayron on May 23 to finalize the details of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for the tournament, which was scheduled from August 25 to 31 this year.

"We have happily accepted the offer of Puerto Prinses to host the national finals," said Ramirez in a statement.

An estimated 10,000 athletes, who took part in the qualifying legs held in Tagum City, Iloilo City and Ilagan City, will see action in 21 sports.

Participants in billiards, cycling, gymnastics, judo and muay thai were given automatic slots in the National Finals.

Last year's National Finals was co-hosted by Baguio City and the province of Benguet.

DENR Mimaropa warns polluters in El Nido

By Lyndon Plantilla (LP/DENR Mimaropa)

QUEZON CITY (PIA) -- The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) – Mimaropa strictly enforces environmental laws on restaurants and hotels found polluting Bacuit Bay in El Nido, Palawan.

“We have initial investigations done on other hotels and restaurants and we are just waiting if results of their effluent samples would merit issuance of Cease and Desist Orders (CDOs),”said DENR Mimaropa Regional Executive Director Henry Adornado.

Last week, a DENR-Mimaropa team led by the Environment and Management Bureau (EMB) Mimaropa served CDOs to El Nido Sea Shell Resorts and Hotel in Brgy. Buena Suerte; Doublegem Beach Resort and Hotel; Buko Beach Resort; Panorama Resort (Mangonana Inc.), Four Seasons Seaview Hotel and Stunning Republic Beach Resort, in Brgy. Corong-corong; Sava Beach Bar/Sava Nest Egg Inc., El Nido Beach Hotel and The Nest El Nido Resorts and Spa, Inc. in Brgy. Masagana.

Cuna Hotel, also from Barangay Maligaya allegedly discharging blackish and foul smelling wastewater, was also served with CDO as ordered by the Pollution Adjudication Board.

“Until these erring establishments have shaped up, we have no other choice but to enforce the law and stop them from polluting El Nido,”Adornado said.

The establishments’ water line and facilities from the kitchens to the comfort rooms (faucets, kitchen sinks, lavatory, sewer lines, outlet pipes,etc) were sealed and notices of violations were posted outside of the buildings.

Engineer (IV) Dan Goodwin Borja, a member of the implementing team and Officer-in-Charge of the EMB Administrative and Finance Division, said that if an establishment was served with a CDO, the CDO stops the cause of pollution."

“It is a tedious process but that is what the law prescribes. We make sure all our actions are done in due process,” said EMB Mimaropa Regional Director Michael Drake Matias who signed the CDOs.

Wastewater samples taken from the establishments, based on laboratory analyses, went beyond the DENR’s ’General Effluent Standards for Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD).

BOD is a measure of the quantity of oxygen used by microorganisms when decomposing organic materials present in water. It provides an index on how discharged wastewater affects its receiving environment.

A high BOD indicates high amount of organic matter present in the water sample.

Furthermore, these establishments were found continuously discharging wastewater without valid permits which violate Rule 14.12 of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of The Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004 which says "Disapproved applications or suspended or revoked wastewater discharge permits shall not grant any right or privilege to the applicant or former permit holder to discharge its waste water into any body(ies) of water and /or land. Any discharge shall be a ground for the immediate issuance of a cease and desist order,"

Engineer Borja said these establishment have no permits and are not allowed to discharge wastewater.

The ongoing rehabilitation of El Nido forms part of the strong directive of Secretary Roy Cimatu to protect all bodies of water in the country.

Goat farmer is Palawan mayor

By Shane Frances Montecillo

NARRA, PALAWAN, Philippines — From goat farm to town hall.

Gerandy Danao, a man who raises 34 goats for a living, has ended the more than 30-year rule of a family in Narra town, Palawan province.

Danao, who ran as an independent candidate, won by 1,033 votes over reelectionist Mayor Lucena Demaala.

He said he relied mostly on “word of mouth” from people who knew him and campaigned for him. “I told myself, if no one will run against Demaala, I will. It’s time for change,” he told the Inquirer.

“If it weren’t for the people, I wouldn’t have won. This is for them,” he said.

Demaala and her husband, Clarito, had held power in Narra for more than 30 years.

Asked about his plans for the first-class farming town of Narra, Danao said he would focus on agricultural programs, construction of farm-to-market roads, distribution of machinery to farmers and tourism.

The new beachfront hotel in El Nido

(BusinessMirror)

ROOMS with intimate views of paradise that are also kind to the pocket are now offered by the recently launched 50-room Huni bed and breakfast hotel at Lio Tourism Estate. Globally acclaimed for its natural beauty, the Ayala Land community in El Nido has been master planned to remain ecologically sustainable for decades to come beginning with the design of its beachfront hotels.

Named after the Filipino word meaning “hum of the sea,” the sprawling Huni hotel features simple contemporary architectural lines and buildings with no more than two stories to keep the visitor’s attention on the turquoise waters of Bacuit Bay and Lio’s pristine 4.5 kilometers of ivory beach. Huni’s spacious air-conditioned rooms from 34 to 54 square meters further make use of full-length glass doors that emphasize the restful surroundings. The hotel has further dispensed with sachets and single-use plastics in its rooms and main dining facility in line with measures to remain respectful of the environment.

“Huni offers good value for couples and groups seeking to better appreciate nature, to try out new activities or to just relax,” according to Joey Bernardino, group director for sales and marketing of Ten Knots Development Corp. that developed the brand. “Less than a five-minute drive from Lio airport, it is also a short stroll through Lio beach to the curated dining and retail options of Shops at Lio and the cultural offerings of the artists’ village Kalye Artisano, also within the estate.”

At the same time, it is highly accessible to El Nido town, the jump-off point to island hopping to Bacuit Bay’s iconic sights like the Big and Small Lagoon; the bay’s not-to-be-missed snorkeling sites; limestone caving; rock climbing; and other adventures. When energies have waned, Huni’s swimming pool and breezy lounging areas that make use of natural weaves and materials also offer guests the option to just laze at the hotel or to do less strenuous activities like volleyball, kayaking and paddle boarding at the beach.

Bernardino explained that over the long-term, the Huni brand will be available in other Ayala Land tourism estates and communities. “We established the brand to make new tourism areas accessible to a broader market that appreciates value.”

The resort brand will also stand for consistent and customer-focused service, qualities that are associated with the Ayala Land name. “Wherever a Huni property is found, guests can be assured of a relaxing vacation. We envision that in the future, guests will be in the habit of booking a Huni room each time they want to explore an Ayala Land destination.”

Huni Lio is accessible through direct flights to Lio airport from Manila, Clark, Cebu and Puerto Princesa via AirSwift. It can also be reached by land by van service from Palawan’s biggest airport at Puerto Princesa and San Vicente, Palawan. The van ride from Puerto Princesa to Lio, Beach is an estimated six hours while the ride from San Vicente to Lio Beach is around three hours.

El Nido and all its attractions, including those at Lio, are collectively considered the last frontier, according to Bernardino. “As world populations grow, putting nature-based destinations at greater risk, we also expect more visitors to [come to] our piece of paradise,” he said. Huni is an excellent reason to visit Lio and all the other attractions of El Nido sooner than later.

DENR flags 10 hotels 'gravely polluting' El Nido's Bacuit Bay

By Keith Anthony S. Fabro (Rappler.com)

The hotels are served cease and desist orders for discharging wastewater without valid permits

PALAWAN, Philippines – The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has issued cease and desist orders (CDO) against 10 hotels for "gravely polluting" Bacuit Bay in El Nido, one of the country’s tourism hotspots undergoing massive rehabilitation.

Signed by Michael Drake Matias, regional director of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) Mimaropa, the orders were served on Wednesday, May 15, to the following establishments found discharging wastewater without valid permits:

• El Nido Sea Shell Resorts and Hotel
• Doublegem Beach Resort and Hotel
• Buko Beach Resort
• Panorama Resort (Mangonana Inc)
• Four Seasons Seaview Hotel
• Stunning Republic Beach Resort
• Sava Beach Bar/Sava Nest Egg Inc
• El Nido Beach Hotel
• The Nest El Nido Resorts and Spa, Inc

The DENR said these establishments violated Rule 14.12 of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of Republic Act No. 9275 or the Clean Water Act of 2004.

Under RA 9275, establishments with "disapproved applications or suspended or revoked wastewater discharge permits" are prohibited to do such an act as it would pollute any receiving body of water.

The order specified that the result of the laboratory analysis on the wastewater taken from said establishments went beyond DENR effluent standards.

Meanwhile, the DENR's Pollution Adjudication Board served the same order to Cuna Hotel, which has existing complaints for "discharging blackish and foul smelling wastewater."

Cuna Hotel's effluent sample had "greatly exceeded the water quality standard set by the department." The department said it remains "in force and in effect until modified or lifted by the Board or the DENR secretary."

To ensure that erring establishments stop discharging wastewater, a team from the regional EMB sealed all their water lines and facilities, from their kitchens to toilets.

The team also posted a notice of their violations to the public.

“It is a tedious process but that is what the law prescribes. We make sure all our actions are done in due process,” Matias said in a press statement.

While the 10 establishments had been placed under close watch, the DENR continuously checked the wastewater discharge of other business structures in El Nido.

“We have initial investigations done on other hotels and restaurants and we are just waiting if results of their effluent samples would merit issuance of CDO,” said DENR Mimaropa Regional Executive Director Henry Adornado.

“Until these erring establishments have shaped up, we have no other choice but to enforce the law and stop them from polluting El Nido,” Adornado added.

Hotel owners who received orders have been given time to comply with requirements prescribed in the law to legally operate.

The ongoing rehabilitation of El Nido forms part of Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu's directive to protect all bodies of water in the country for people to enjoy their most beneficial use.

“We have longed benefited from El Nido. It is about time we all realize that we have a shared responsibility to protect and save it from degradation so that we and the generations to come can still savor the beauty and natural resources that this wonderful island has to offer, ” Ardonado said.

2019 Toyota Road Trek goes back to Palawan

By Randy S. Peregrino

THIS year’s Toyota Roadtrek was more special and memorable for all the participants. Aside from returning to the scenic province of Palawan for the fourth time, Toyota Motor Philippines also commemorated the 15th edition of this annual summer media drive event. According to TMP, it was a celebration of friendship between the company and the media that goes beyond business. So once again, select members of the motoring media flew in to the scenic province of Palawan for this exclusive drive that has become a tradition of fun, camaraderie with friendly competition among participants.

Introducing the new Avanza

One of the highly anticipated episodes at this year’s Roadtrek event was the introduction of the new Avanza. During our first stop at the Princesa Resort, TMP presented the refreshed model in radiant Dark Blue SE shade. Several years since its last update and having been the second best-selling multipurpose Vehicle (MPV) in the country, next only to the Innova, we couldn’t agree more that it’s high times TMP introduce the latest iteration.

First vice president for Brand and Product Planning Cluster Cristina Arevalo confidently shared the Avanza’s milestone of finally reaching around 100,000 unit sales since its introduction in 2006. “The Avanza is the vehicle choice for the young and starting family on the lookout for best-value without sacrificing style. This year, TMP is among the first in the Asean region, along with other countries, that launched the new Avanza,” she said.

The new look is definitely sportier. It highlights the new split-type LED headlamps design united with the grille’s chrome bar. The rear end, meantime, received new set taillights complemented with a new combined red lenses and chrome bar garnish. Even the alloy wheels are new with a nice two-tone design. As for the interior, there’s the new 6.8-inch Capacitive Touch Panel Display infotainment system. The unit is enhanced with K2 technology allowing multiple phone connections for hands-free and streaming functions. Moreover, smartphone mirroring is enabled through T-link app.

Under the hood, both the 1.5-liter (103 hp) and 1.3-liter (95 hp) engines where retained with an optional drivetrains of four-speed automatic transmission and five-speed manual gearbox. Safety-wise, there are two SRS airbags, three-point ELR seatbelts for all seats, and an Isofix child seat restraint system. All these with the Antilock Braking System (ABS). Price starts at P731,000. The best part is that, for the 1.5-liter Velos and G variants, customers will get the new features without any price increase according to TMP.

Divide et impera

Of course the event won’t be a Toyota Roadtrek without it’s known entailing sequences of challenging activities for the participating groups. Teamed up with our publication’s motoring editor Tet Andolong along with fellow scribes Aries Espinosa and Tessa Salazar, we all came prepared for the contests ahead.

The initial phase kicked off with a game of tic-tac-toe on the ground. Each team member had to race toward the placed plastic circles to plant flag poles in order to complete the required combinations. Add to that the photo contest with the new Avanza. After that, we then proceeded to Toyota Puerto Princesa dealership for another task. This time, teams played the difficult game using three bamboo pipes cut in half with lace and hanged in our necks. Without touching, we had to slide plastic balls and drop it in a bucket.

Then the task to come up with a music video from a song we picked. Because of the tight deadline, each team had to film inside the assigned vehicle while on the road. Aside from that, we got series of trivia questions to answer while en route to the next stop.

Rolling with the Toyotas

When we arrived at the airport, our team’s assigned vehicle was the top spec Vios 1.5 G Prime model. It was like a reconnection with the car from the previous drive event to La Union and Baguio. The vehicle’s radiant Super Red shade, sporty kits, chrome accents, piano black finishes and the16-inch alloy wheels relived the same level of excitement. With the interior’s absolute endowment of all the bells and whistles you can find in a premium subcompact sedan, taking it for a spin was as refreshing as ever.

Next vehicle to drive was the burly FJ Cruiser in its well-liked bright yellow shade. As a passenger this time, one of notable things the interior had to offer is its absolutely Spartan cabin designed for rugged use. Those hard but well-shaped plastic materials at door sidings, as well as floor linings and everywhere, tells you that this vehicle is ready to take on dirt and water. The acceleration brute was given coming from its massive 4.0-liter V6 engine, but what we like was the spacious cabin which provided enough room to sprawl around while filming our music video.

Then came the new Avanza. For the longest stretch of the road trip, we get to drive this newly introduced model on the well-paved roads yet with constant tight turns. On the road, hauling four occupants plus heavy luggage at the back didn’t hinder the 1.5 liter mill’s delivery at all. It provided steady acceleration on leveled roads. But on long stretch of ascents, there was a need to squeeze all the torque you can get from lower gears.

Having a relatively stiff suspension setup, its level of rigidity became an advantage. Even with high ground clearance, the vehicle was nimble on turns and curves and even demonstrated good maneuverability. Add to that the light yet responsive steering. After the winding roads, we finally reached Taytay port. From there we sailed to the majestic Apulit Island resort where checked in, settled and capped the day with dinner and socials.

Culmination night

On our last night, no other than TMP President Satoru Suzuki greeted us. “For almost two decades now, the Toyota Roadtrek tradition has been a symbol of our enduring friendship that goes beyond business,” he said. “I’d like to congratulate everyone for their genuine display of friendly competition. The games and challenges of Roadtrek are tests of character, and I’m really happy to see the best of motoring journalist played out together with grace,” Suzuki concluded. Our team may have fell short on accumulated points this year, but we still look forward to next year’s edition of the Toyota Roadtrek.

Work begins on zoning marine protected area

(PR)

PALAWAN -- Scientists from World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Philippines and Large Marine Vertebrates Research Institute Philippines (Lamave) have set up an acoustic network to study shark and ray movements and habits in Cagayancillo.

The research, funded by WWF-Singapore, is part of a three-year large marine protected area project in north eastern Palawan. The acoustic technology will give the team an insight into identifying key habitats for sharks and rays to effectively zone and develop Cagayancillo’s 1-million hectare marine protected area (MPA).

The acoustic network consists of a number of acoustic receivers (underwater listening devices) that are placed underwater at a depth of 20-30 meters on strategic areas of the islands and atolls. The receivers “listen out” for “pings” transmitted by acoustic tags attached to select sharks and rays. The team successfully deployed three new receivers and replaced one that was deployed in Arena, an atoll in the south of Cagayancillo, in June 2017. Later this month the team aims to tag sharks in Cagayancillo waters, an output that was thwarted in April by rough weather and low encounters with sharks.

Cagayancillo is a remote archipelagic municipality in the heart of the Sulu Sea that lies 330 kilometers east of Puerto Princesa and 170 kilometers away from Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park.

In 2016, the local government unit declared the municipality the largest multi-use marine protected area in the Philippines. Unlike Tubbataha, which is a strict no-take zone, the Cagayancillo multi-use marine protected area currently accommodates sustenance fishing, seaweed farming and commercial fishing, with current restrictions only designated to marine reserves within the MPA.

The deployment of the acoustic network is one step in a wider research study towards zoning the MPA, with fish and coral studies also being carried out in a holistic approach to managing the ecosystem.

The acoustic network will enable the team to understand how sharks and rays are using Cagayancillo’s diverse habitats. The frequency of pings collected by different receivers will shed light on important areas for the species and give an insight into why species may be spending time there.

The success of Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is a clear inspiration for the municipality of Cagayancillo, whose goal is to protect municipal waters to safeguard the ecological and economical importance, ensuring a thriving ecosystem for its people both for sustenance and economic gain through tourism. This research by WWF-Philippines and Lamave will provide a scientific perspective on the marine resources and how best to protect them, information that aims to compliment local knowledge.

“Working with the people of Cagayancillo in protecting the marine environment has always been striking the balance between safeguarding the marine wildlife and sustaining livelihoods. How to connect the lives of rays and sharks with that of the local communities, in real terms, remains to be the challenge we face. We earnestly hope that science and insights from the locals themselves will show us the way,” said Marivel Dygico of WWF-Philippines.

Busuanga airport development project breaks ground

By Faye Orellana (Reporter, INQUIRER.net/gsg)

MANILA, Philippines – Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) Director General Capt. Jim Sydiongco, together with local officials of Palawan, on Tuesday led he groundbreaking ceremony for the P953.4 million Francisco B. Reyes – Busuanga Airport development project.

The project is aimed at improve the airport’s facilities and allow it to handle larger aircraft.

“The airport development project involves the construction of a runway embankment and re-orientation of the airport’s runway,” CAAP said in a statement.

“A runway re-orientation was deemed necessary as both the approaches of the airport’s existing runway are facing the mountains,” it added.

The airport is the main gateway to the Calamian Group of Islands that compromises the islands of Busuanga, Coron and Culion, which are sought after tourist destinations.

Target completion of the airport development project is 2021.

Currently, the airport handles 16 domestic flights operated by Cebgo, PAL Express, Skyjet and Air Juan.

Thief caught on the act while preying on cop’s motorcycle

By Aaron Recuenco

Wrong target, wrong timing.

A 29-year old man’s attempt to steal money from motorcycle riders did not end the way he expected it to as he was caught by his two latest victims who turned out to be cops.

Supt. Socrates Faltado, spokesman of the MIMAROPA (Mindoro Oriental and Occidental, Marinduque, Romblon, and Palawan), said the arresting officers were able to recover the wallet of a rookie cop containing P800 from suspect Gerald Canong.

Faltado said Police Officer 1 Nuvy Remo was with PO3 Joel Sales to conduct a follow-up operation in Barangay Sicsican in Puerto Princesa City in Palawan. They parked their motorcycles at around 7 a.m. near a business establishment.

But as they went back to their motorcycles, they saw a man who was busy opening the utility box of the bike owned by Remo.

Canong was reportedly too busy that he was not able to sense the arrival of the two cops. This led to his arrest.

Faltado said Canong was caught off guard as the two cops announced his arrest.

Appropriate criminal charges are now being readied against the suspect, according to Faltado.

Israeli energy firm eyes Palawan exploration

By Lenie Lectura

ISRAELI firm Ratio Petroleum Ltd. wants to partner with Philippine National Oil Company-Explo-ration Corp. (PNOC-EC) to jointly explore possible petroleum reserves in the east Palawan basin.

Ratio Petroleum was awarded Service Contract (SC) No. 76 covering Area 4 of Eastern Palawan, as part of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) fifth Philippine Energy Contracting Round (PECR), launched in May 2014.

SC 76 spans 416,000 hectares across the east Palawan basin for potential oil and gas resources. The seven-year exploration project is expected to cost $34.35 million, which will be used for studies, data gathering and drilling activities over the initial seven-year contract period.

DOE Undersecretary Donato Marcos said Ratio Petroleum proposed to expand the area in which exploration activities will be conducted and enter into a farm-in agreement with PNOC-EC.

“They have expressed interest in nominating for the expansion of SC 76 to get a maximum area of 1.5 million hectares, farming in with PNOC-EC and also looking at joint nomination with EC. They have expressed serious interest,” said Marcos.

DOE Secretary Alfonso Cusi said representatives of Ration Petroleum are in the country to discuss their plans. “Ratio people are in town since Monday,” said Cusi last week.

There are currently 23 active petroleum service contracts in the Philippines with the following developers: Shell Philippines Exploration, Total E&P, PNOC-EC, Nido Petroleum, Philodrill, PXP Energy and Galoc Production Company.

The largest and most successful natural gas industrial project in Philippine history is the Malampaya Deep Water Gas-to-Power Project.

Ratio Petroleum was established in 1992 and has a number of large-scale operations at the Levant basin in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Israel, as well as offshore operations in the Republic of Malta and the Co-operative Republic of Guyana. 19 firms

Meanwhile, Marcos said the agency has received firm interests from nine firms to explore pre-determined areas for possible oil and gas reserve, while 10 firms have nominated their respective areas of interest under the Philippine Conventional Energy Contracting Program (PCECP), a hybrid of PECR.

The DOE is aggressively pursuing the implementation of the PCECP so the country could establish a strong “Explore, Explore, Explore” program.

He did not identify the 19 interested firms.

Under the PCECP, there are two modes of application potential investors may pursue.

First, interested parties may wish to bid on the 14 Pre-Determined Areas identified by the DOE (one in Cagayan, three in East Palawan, three in Sulu Sea, two in Agusan-Davao, one in Cotabato and four in West Luzon). The application period is 180 days, and was officially opened last November 22.

Alternatively, the applicants could also nominate and publish other areas of interest. In this mode, applications could be submitted at any time of the year, and would be subjected to a 60-day challenge period.

All accepted applications shall be evaluated by the DOE Centralized Review and Evaluation Committee based on the criteria pursuant to Department Circular No. DC2017-12-0017.

Sandiganbayan junks Palawan governor's bid for reinvestigation of graft case

(Rappler.com)

The anti-graft court says Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez did not present any new evidence

MANILA, Philippines – The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan denied Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez's bid to have his graft case returned to the Office of the Ombudsman for a new investigation, saying there were no new evidence presented.

Alvarez had filed a motion seeking to set aside his indictment and suspend proceedings to review evidence in his case. However, a special division of 5 justices junked this on a 3-2 vote.

In a majority resolution penned by 2nd Division chairman and Associate Justice Oscar Herrera Jr, the Sandiganbayan said the Ombudsman's ruling had already considered Alvarez's arguments and found them lacking due to a failure to introduce new evidence.

The Ombudsman, added the anti-graft court, also noted the defense's failure to point to procedural violations or any error of law.

Aside from these, the Sandiganbayan ruled that since Alvarez filed a motion for reconsideration before the anti-graft court, he could no longer request for an Ombudsman reinvestigation.

"A motion for reconsideration and a motion for reinvestigation are alternative remedies...which may not be availed of successively. Otherwise stated, the availment of one remedy precludes the availment of the other," Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje Tang said in her concurring opinion.

This was echoed by Associate Justice Maryann Corpus Mañalac, who added that Alvarez was able to present his side during the preliminary investigation.

"The denial of a motion for reconsideration filed by a respondent who actively participated during preliminary investigation, as in this case, is certainly not a valid ground in support of a motion for reinvestigation," she said.

Alvarez's case stemmed from alleged anomalies in a Cagayan de Oro Water District (COWD) bulk water supply project approved in 2004.

He was charged with COWD Board of Directors chairman Francisco Mendez; members Sarah Borja, Raymundo Java, and Sandy Bass Sr, and former Local Water Utilities Administration head Lorenzo Jamora.

Prosecutors at the time said the officials favored Rio Verde Water Consortium for the project as it was declared a qualified bidder even if it did not go through the bids and awards committee.

Alvarez denied he was part of Rio Verde Water Consortium and said he only had one share to his name.

Associate Justices Michael Frederick Musngi and Lorifel Pahimna dissented in the Sandiganbayan ruling.

Passenger vessel runs aground near Bisucay Island Cuyo, Palawan

By Faye Orellana (Reporter, INQUIRER.net)

MANILA, Philippines — A passenger vessel carrying more than 100 people ran aground near Bisucay Island in Palawan, the Philippine Coast Guard report showed on Sunday.

The PCG said that MV Milagrosa J-3 ran aground off Banda Point, Bisucay Island Cuyo, Palawan on Friday.

The said vessel, driven by Captain Nelson Ortaliz, left Cuyo Island bound for Iloilo City. However, due to a strong current, the vessel hit shallow waters around 11 p.m. of Friday.

Around 93 passengers and 15 crew members were aboard MV Milagrosa J-3 when the incident happened.

DOT welcomes US travel firms’ citation on Boracay and El Nido, Palawan as among best beaches in Asia

By Analou de Vera

The Department of Tourism (DOT) on Sunday welcomed the citation of a US travel firm on Boracay and El Nido, Palawan as among the best beaches in Asia.

In spite of its six-months closure last year, Boracay was named as ninth best beach in the region by TripAdvisor’s 2019 Traveler’s Choice Awards.

On the other hand, the Nacpan Beach and Las Cabanas Beach, both located in El Nido, Palawan were also included in the list, ranking 13th and 22nd respectively.

“We take it that this TripAdvisor citation of Boracay and El Nido, is indicative of the positive reactions to the reforms and new policies being implemented in an effort to inculcate a culture of sustainable tourism,” said Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo- Puyat.

“This bodes well with our campaign of highlighting the people’s genuine testaments and reactions to our destinations,” she added.

Boracay received over six thousand reviews with 62 percent ‘excellent’ rave reviews and 24 percent ‘very good’ rating, with some of the comments acknowledging the rehabilitation done in the island.

Meanwhile, as of February 27, a total of 320 accommodation establishments in the island accounting to 11,662 rooms are now accredited by the Boracay Interagency Task Force.

“The Inter-Agency Task Force is excited for the completion of the island’s rehabilitation; the second phase on April, and the third on December this year. It will further promote the better Boracay and see #MoreFunTogether,” said the tourism chief.

Ship runs aground near Bisucay Island in Palawan

By Dona Magsino (/KG, GMA News)

A ship ran aground near Bisucay Island in Palawan on Friday night.

According to a report on GMA News TV's Balitanghali Weekend on Sunday, the seacraft which departed from Cuyo Island ended up in shallow waters due to strong winds.

Around 100 passengers, including the crew, were safely rescued by the Philippine Coast Guard early Saturday. No one was reported hurt.

The ship has already been brought to the Cuyo Pier for inspection.

Phinma Petroleum withdraws 14% stake in Palawan prospect

By Danessa Rivera (The Philippine Star)

MANILA, Philippines — Phinma Petroleum and Geothermal Inc. (PPGI) has completed the withdrawal of its interest in a petroleum block in northwest Palawan after securing government approval.

The company told the Philippine Stock Exchange yesterday that it relinquished its 14.063 percent participating interest in Service Contract (SC) 6 Block B in favor of its partners.

This was approved by the Department of Energy on Oct. 30, 2018, one year and eight months after the company notified the consortium of its plans to withdraw.

“The company believes that the remaining prospects in the block are either uneconomic or extremely high risk and, therefore, do not warrant further investments,” PPGI said.

However, the company retained its 2.475 percent carried interest in the block, which is a non-paying interest comparable to a royalty that shares in any production revenues.

This is “to ensure that the company will still benefit in the event of any commercial oil production in the area.”

Its other partners in the prospect include Philodrill Corp., Nido Petroleum Ltd., Oriental Petroleum & Minerals Corp., Forum Energy Philippines Corp. and Alcorn Petroleum & Minerals Corp.

SC 6 or the Cadlao prospect was discovered in the 1970s.

The field was flowing close to 1,000 barrels of light crude oil per day in 1991 when production was suspended to allow the transfer of its dedicated floating production facility to another field.

PPGI still owns 7.78 percent of SC 6 Block A. Last year, the consortium, which owns the prospect, proposed a work program to the DOE, which is composed of seismic interpretation and mapping and integration of quantitative inversion results that serve as input to preliminary well design and costs estimates.

Its partners include Pitkin Petroleum, Philodrill Corp., PetroEnergy Resources, Philex Petroleum, Forum Energy Philippines, Anglo-Philippine Holding and Alcorn Gold Resources.

PPGI previously relinquished its stake in an oil prospect. In May last year, PPGI also decided to give up its interest in Service Contract (SC) 51 in northern Leyte.

Following its withdrawal, the company will recognize a loss of P32.7 million for the write off of its share in the expenditures incurred to date under SC 51, which is equivalent to 22 percent of its total assets as of March 31, 2018.

Where To Next: North Palawan's Underwater Treasures That Are A Summer Sight To Behold!

By Mels Timan

With the sunny skies of late, one can’t help but to ruminate about summer plans. To stake your wanderlust, consider Northern Palawan’s Bacuit Bay. With more than 800 fish species, Bacuit Bay is a highly prized snorkeling paradise, offering a variety of marine habitats within proximity to each other.

Having been declared a protected area since the 1980s, Bacuit Bay is home to three of the four island-paradise destinations that carry the El Nido Resorts (ENR) brand, namely Miniloc, Pangulasian and Lagen, where a glorious underwater scenery offers a serene yet vibrant experience that must be experienced. The fourth island resort, Apulit, is in the neighboring municipality of Taytay, where marine life also abound. Here are some of the amazing marine life encounters one can experience in Bacuit Bay.

Encounter Miniloc’s Fish ‘University’. The sight of thousands of Bigeye Scad swimming in unison is a sight to behold. With undetectable communication, they move in astounding synchronization, a genetically programmed pattern of behavior that protects them from predators.

Swim with the Jacks. Because of the prevalence of Scad in the waters of Bacuit Bay, Giant Trevally a.k.a Jacks, locally known as Talakitok, frequent the waters of Miniloc Island. Mariglo Laririt, the island’s ENR Environmental Director shares that the Jacks who visit are observed to be breeders, a clear indication that the species have pinpointed the island’s reef as a safe haven for them and their young.

Get up close and personal with Sharks and Rays. Black-tip Reef Sharks and Blue-spotted Ribbontail Rays are among Pangulasian Island’s most important visitors. Because the premier island resort’s house reef is part of a channel leading to the open sea, these incredibly graceful creatures have become regular guests.

Find Nemo. Popularized by the Pixar animated film of the same name, the Clownfish is one of the many species that frolic in the numerous fish habitats found within Bacuit Bay, a short swim away from any of the El Nido Resorts in the area. Boasting of the one of the highest levels of marine biodiversity, the picturesque reefs serve as home to several other exquisite species as well, including the Blackspotted Pufferfish, Angel Fish, damselfish, Wrasses, and Butterfly Fish, to name a few.

Witness a turtle release. Bacuit Bay is an established sea turtle hatching site, where ENR environmental officers and staff frequently chance upon the golf-ball sized eggs of these sea creatures in Bacuit Bay’s many beaches. As very few of the nest population (one out of every 100 eggs laid) survive into adulthood, the eggs found are carefully gathered and reburied in protected areas where they can be shielded from monitor lizards, birds, and illegal poachers. Upon hatching, guests of the resorts are also often witness to the hundreds of turtle hatchlings scurrying from the beach to the ocean, usually at dusk.

DENR eyes cleanup of Palawan bay

By Rhodina Villanueva (The Philippine Star)

MANILA, Philippines — After Boracay and Manila Bay, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is planning to clean and improve the water quality in Bacuit Bay in El Nido, Palawan.

Henry Adornado, executive director of the DENR- Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan), yesterday expressed confidence they could make the bay safe for swimming by May.

The Bacuit Bay has been placed under water quality management area (WQMA) by Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu through Administrative Order No. 2016-08 issued on May 24, 2016.

The WQMA is an integrated water quality management system designed to protect and save bodies of water through the collaborative efforts of stakeholders and government agencies.

“Water quality management is one of the priorities of Secretary Cimatu. The declaration of Bacuit Bay as a WQMA was part of the administration’s thrust to achieve clean water for all. We look forward to having a sustained and collective action toward saving Bacuit Bay and the rest of our natural resources here in El Nido,” DENR Assistant Secretary Reynulfo Juan said during a recent forum in El Nido.

Last year, the DENR created Task Force El Nido to handle the cleanup of coastal areas and ensure implementation of environmental rules and regulations in the area.

This year, the DENR will establish a one-stop shop to assist concerned stakeholders in complying with government requirements and permits.

World cliff diving event to take place in El Nido

By Ivan Stewart Saldajeno (PNA)

MANILA — The Philippines gets to host the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series for the first time as the competition series goes to the now famous Miniloc Island in El Nido, Palawan.

The best cliff divers in the world will converge in the said island from April 12-13 in the first leg of the Cliff Diving World Series' 2019 season, its 11th overall.

Rhiannan Iffland of Australia opens her bid for a fourth consecutive world title in the women's division, while England's Gary Hunt looks to capture his eighth title in the men's division.

El Nido is one of three new additions to the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series host areas.

The World Series makes its next stop in another debuting city, Dublin in Ireland, on May 12, while another cliff diving tournament will happen on July 14 in Beirut, Lebanon.

Overall, seven cities will host this year's Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series, capping the season in Bilbao on Sept. 14.

Unlike the usual diving events, the divers will have to plunge to the open water from 27 meters high, nearly thrice the maximum height of pool diving, while performing acrobatic skills in midair.

Endangered Napoleon wrasse spotted after half a decade in Palawan

By Em-Em S. Mandanas (ACB)

The Napoleon wrasse is a known gentle giant creature distinguished by interesting patterns on its scales. It has hump over the head like a Napoleon’s hat, which further protrudes as they age. No wonder it is one of the favorite fishes for divers to encounter across the world. Its meat is one of the most expensive luxury foods in the Southeast Asia.

The divers group Dive The World reported that the Napoleon wrasse is valued around USD 100 per kilogram in restaurants in Hong Kong. As the number of Napoleon wrasse decreases at a fast and alarming rate, its price inevitably increases. The fish is on the World Conservation Union’s (IUCN) 'Red List of Threatened Species', and is listed for protection on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

Fortunately, the endangered Napoleon wrasse, including the ‘Dugong’ (which is classified by the IUCN as ‘vulnerable), have been spotted in Palawan, Philippines after half a decade of absence.

The return of the Napoleon wrasse

In Coron, Palawan, the Tagbanua Tribe and the fisherfolks community rejoiced after witnessing again the endangered Napoleon wrasse, the sea cow (dugong), more sea turtles and schooling fishes swimming in the waters of the Bulalacao Marine Protected Area (MPA). The year 2018 has been a successful milestone in the community folks’ efforts to restore their marine bidoversity, which was destroyed by enormous cyanide and dynamite fishing activities over the past decades.

Mr. Pacifico Beldia II, Marine Biodiversity Conservation Manager of Malampaya Foundation Incorporated (MFI), shares “We started to notice the remarkable recovery of fish stocks, especially the grazer species like parrotfishes, siganids, and acanthurids. These species groups tend the reefs to prevent algal overgrowth that smothers the live corals. We also started noticing the recovery of small pelagic fishes fusiliers and scads indicating the eradication of illegal fishing practices in both the No Take and Sustainable Use Zones. The succeeding years, we saw the endangered Napoleon wrasse in all of our permanent transect sites, and, this year, we saw the black tip shark in one of the No Take Zones, and a dugong in the seagrass bed just near the community wharf. Sea turtles sightings became more and more common as well.”

A comprehensive biophysical assessment in 2012 determined that 90 per cent of the surveyed reef areas in Bulalacao were overfished and showed signs of damage from blast fishing and other unsustainable fishing practices like the use of compressor or huka fishing.

Taking the lead in conservation efforts is the MFI, the social arm of the Malampaya joint venture partners Shell Philippines Exploration, Chevron Malampaya LLC and Philippine National Oil Company-Exploration Corp., supported by the Coron Municipal Agriculture Office, the National Commission on Indigenous People, and the Tribal Leaders and Indigenous Peoples’ Organization, all of whom intensively working against the persistent illegal and destructive fishing activities in the area.

In November 2014, the Bulalacao MPA was launched, which was graced by the tribal leaders of the Tagbanua tribe and the parish priest who led the blessing of the first boundary marker deployed in one of the No Take Zones. This is one of MFI’s priority biodiversity conservation projects emphasizing the importance of grassroots representation, participative approach in decision-making, social preparation and advocacy, research, habitat restoration and conservation, and the provision of conservation incentives in the form of livelihood projects and skills training scholarships.

“The process of formalizing the conservation covenant with the Tagbanua Tribe and fisherfolk sector of Brgy. Bulalacao took MFI and the Coron Local Government took two years. The various sectors made sure that all socio-cultural restrictions are satisfied while doing all the resource assessments,” said Beldia.

Emphasizing the significance of vertical and horizontal linkages in marine conservation initiatives, MFI engaged into joint activities such as rehabilitation of coral reefs and mangroves; species restocking; the construction of MPA guardhouses; training of community volunteers in enforcement as Bantay Dagat; training in supplementary livelihoods such as enviro-farming; and provision of the necessary supplies and equipment for such works. They also established collaborations with the academe such as with Western Philippines University in Puerto Princesa, Palawan.

The sorry state of the Bulalacao seas

“Limang taon ko rin ginagawa ‘yan. Araw-araw ‘yan, at pag iniwanan na namin yung isla, bugbog talaga siya. [I was doing that for five years. That was every day, and when we were done with an island, it was really destroyed.]," recalled Sabino Flores, the mild-mannered fisherman.

Over the past decades, the Bulalacao area was dominated by deadly fishing activities brought about by the sudden influx of irresponsible and unlawful foreign traders and fisherfolks. Cyanide and dynamite fishing, known as “bungbung” by the locals, were among the most destructive methods.

Formerly one of the known ‘ilegalistas’, Flores used to own four fishing boats. He was raking in Php150,000 every 15-day cycle, catching live reef food fish like coral trout (known locally as suno), as well as lobsters. This heartless illegal fishing,which prevailed over a long period of time, left the marine waters with tremendous damage indicating a serious threat to the livelihood of the community people. A one-hour fishing then would yield a 10-kilogram catch; but now it’s just two kilos for an all-day fishing. It became even harder for locals as outsiders came to the hardly surviving seas for their resources.

Inspiring courage and strength to restore Bulalacao’s marine biodiversity

Seeing the tremendous damage, Flores was bothered by his conscience, prompting him to help form the Bulalacao Fishermen Multipurpose Cooperative. He convinced his fellow fishermen to give up the bad habits and illegal methods of fishing that continuously destroy the marine ecosystem.

“Nabawasan nga ang kita, pero nawala sa konsensya mo yung nagpapakasarap ka, pero yung mga susunod sa iyo, wala nang matitikman. [I lost some income, but my conscience was freed from the guilt that there would be nothing left for the future generations to come]”

Eventually, he was elected as a barangay councilor in 1997; and in 2013, became the barangay chairman, levelling up the advocacy on biodiversity conservation in his community.

A most significant milestone during his term was the establishment of the Bulalacao Marine Protected Area (MPA) – 3,298 hectares of ocean divided into no-take zones and multiple use areas meant to safeguard the corals and fish stock around Bulalacao’s 13 sites. With the help of the MFI, which has been doing marine conservation work in the municipality since 2012, the people of Bulalacao witnessed the progress of the MPA from a barangay resolution to a municipal ordinance, until its approval in November 2014.

Rogelio Pavia, a member of Bantay Dagat, said “Siyempre, hangad natin na hindi mapariwara ang karagatan natin. Paano naman kung lahat kami ay gumagawa ng mali? Hindi naman tama sa mata ng Diyos at ng batas. Basta proud ako sa ginagawa ko; dito ako nagkatibay ng loob at humuhugot ng lakas, dahil may nagsusuporta sa amin.” [Of course we don’t want our ocean to go to waste. What would happen if we all did bad things? That wouldn’t be right in the eyes of God and the law. I am proud of what I do; this is where I draw courage and strength, because we are getting support.]

Pavia and other fishermen in the locality now serve as members of the Bantay Dagat of Bulalacao MPA, tasked with protecting it from illegal fishermen, and patrolling the perimeters of the area to secure its continuous recovery.

Juanito Adezas Jr., a boat operator for the Bulalacao-based Hikari Pearl Farm and a volunteer diver for MFI’s Marine Biodiversity Conservation Program, considers himself an eyewitness to the development that the MPA has brought to Bulalacao.

“Masaya ako dahil dumadami na ang isda, bumabalik na sa dati ang coral—nakikita ko ang pagbabago,” he says. “Wala nang magagawa yung mga ilegalista dahil may batas na, at gobyerno at barangay na ang kalaban nila.” (I’m happy because there are more fishes and the coral reefs are coming back—I can see the difference. The illegal fishers can’t do anything because there is a law now, and they’d be going against the government and the barangay.)

Pushing for a healthier marine life in the ASEAN region

Dr. Theresa Mundita S. Lim, international biodiversity expert, marine conservation advocate, and Executive Director of the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB), praised the participatory approach of the MFI in recovering the marine life in Bulalacao while strengthening the indigenous people and fisherfolks in the local community.

“We have to learn from this very valuable experience and encourage more collective efforts on local, national, regional, and global levels to conserve our marine biodiversity; promote responsible and sustainable use of resources and livelihood; save marine habitats; stop single-use plastics that harm our healthy waters; and continuously combat illegal and destructive activities,” Dr. Lim emphasized.

Dr. Lim noted that the economic benefits of ASEAN’s marine biodiversity are immense. It is estimated that the total potential sustainable annual economic net benefits per square kilometer of healthy coral reefs in the region ranges from USD 23,100 to USD 270,000 arising from fisheries, shoreline protection, tourism, recreation, and aesthetic values.

She said the continuous overexploitation of coastal and marine resources, habitat change, pollution, and climate change, among many other drivers of biodiversity loss, threaten the rich marine resources of the region.

“Studies revealed that in the Asia-Pacific region alone, a total of 11.1 billion plastic items such as shopping bags, fishing nets, diapers and tea-bags are entangled in coral reefs, which according to scientists of Journal Science, is likely to increase by 40 percent by 2025. Plastic pollution, aside from overfishing and climate change, puts our marine resources and habitats at faster and higher risk of deterioration,” Dr. Lim said.

Dr. Lim cited examples of good practices in marine conservation. Indonesia, one of the ASEAN Member States, enacted a ban on plastics to curb marine degradation in its seas with the aim to reduce the single-use plastics like styro-foams and shopping bags by 70 percent in the Bali area.

In Singapore, the National Parks Board and private sector partners are embarking on a big project to restore its coral reef ecosystems in the Small Sisters’ Islands Marine Park. The project is part of efforts to protect the coral reefs around Singapore and enhance marine biodiversity in the island's surrounding waters.

In the Philippines, Dr. Lim lauded the recent pronouncement of President Rodrigo R. Duterte ordering the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to take the lead in a massive clean-up campaign for Manila Bay.

WATCH: No closure for Panglao, El Nido yet, interagency task force says

By Rosette Adel (Philstar.com)

MANILA, Philippines — The interagency task force composed of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Tourism and Department of Interior and Local Government said it is not keen on closing Panglao, Bohol and El Nido, Palawan despite the warnings to resorts and hotels.

DOT Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said she and two other secretaries, DILG’s Eduardo Año and DENR’s Roy Cimatu, went to Panglao and El Nido last November to order the resorts to follow the easement laws in view of the rehabilitation for the islands.

Puyat said they gave the resort owners and management six months to comply with the easement and environmental laws before they can decide whether to close them for rehabilitation just like what they did in Boracay.

Aside from Panglao, Puyat disclosed they are also looking into rehabilitating Coron, Palawan and Siargao and other major tourist destinations such as provinces in the Cordillera region.

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