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Province of Palawan - Archived News

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Herbal remedies for diabetes.JPG
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


How Tagbanua tribesmen protect the ‘mermaids’ of Palawan

By Gregg Yan

Wearing fins from recycled plastic containers, tough Tagbanua tribesmen have become the protectors of the dugong, those gentle marine mammals that have become prey to poachers in Northern Palawan.

The dugong (scientific name: Dugong dugon) is legally protected by Republic Act No. 9147, or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act, because aside from being occasionally hunted, the mammals often drown after becoming entangled in fishing nets.

“We’re here to safeguard about 30 dugong,” said Deave, a Tagbanua tribesman enlisted as both spotter and guard against poachers and illegal fishers in the Calamianes Islands in Northern Palawan.

“Our livelihood depends on wildlife so it makes sense to protect them. Protecting [the] dugong safeguards our own future,” he added.

The dugong, or sea cow, which is related to elephants, can grow up to 3 meters in length and weigh up to 400 kilograms. It is the fourth member of the order Sirenia, alongside three manatee species. The dugong has a forked tail while a manatee has a round, paddle-like tail.

Wiped out

A fifth species, the gigantic 8-meter-long Steller’s sea cow, was completely wiped out by 1768, just 30 years after being discovered by scientists.

Dugong comes from the Malay word duyung, meaning “lady of the sea,” which might explain so-called mermaid sightings by sailors in olden times.

Sizable herds of dugong once plied the Philippine archipelago until hunting and habitat loss reduced their number.

Today, the dugong is globally classified as vulnerable, though it is considered critically endangered in the Philippines because of its rarity. Small populations still hold out in Isabela, Mindanao, Guimaras and Palawan, but encounters are extremely rare.

The Calamianes Islands in Northern Palawan remain one of the last areas in the country where the giant marine herbivores can be seen regularly.

Guided by expert divers and Tagbanua tribesmen, Best Alternatives Campaign, a movement to promote good environmental and sustainability practices, recently got a chance to interact with the dugong.

To successfully conserve the dugong, local government units and communities must stamp out poaching, minimize the threat of accidental entanglement in fishing nets, and most importantly, preserve the integrity of seagrass meadows.

Often overshadowed by more colorful and popular marine habitats like coral reefs and mangroves, seagrass meadows are highly productive and provide food for many marine creatures—from rabbitfish (samaral) to sea turtles and the dugong. Unfortunately, many seagrass habitats are being destroyed by reclamation and pollution.

Best caretakers

“We can learn a lot about sustainable use and responsible stewardship from the dugong. The mammal consumes a lot of seagrass yet it leaves the seagrass bed even healthier than before,” said dugong conservationist Dr. Teri Aquino.

“When feeding, [the] dugong helps release micronutrients from the seabed, making nutrients more accessible for small fish. And this is why we always see fish swimming with [the] dugong. This marine mammal living the simplest of lives is one of the best caretakers of our seagrass habitats and the animals that live in them,” Aquino explained.

Through the dedicated efforts of local wardens like Palawan’s Tagbanua tribesmen and by protecting the country’s remaining seagrass meadows, tomorrow’s Pinoys might yet get a chance to swim with real mermaids.

Puerto Princesa City Government to bid for Palarong Pambansa

By Melissa Hikilan

The City Sports Office together with the city government are preparing to submit a bid for the hosting of Palarong Pambansa 2020.

City Sports Director Atty. Gregorio Q. Austria said that they were in Manila last week to bid for Palarong Pambansa. He also said that there are 2 other provinces that also bid for the said which are Marikina and Mindoro.

‘’Ang isang region, ang delegation nila inaabot ng mga 550 pataas at minsan sobra pa… So more or less ang gina-guarantee ng Dep Ed hindi bababa sa 1, 500 athletes, officials at mga bisita ang pupunta dito sa Puerto Princesa kung makukuha natin itong Palarong Pambansa,” Austria said.

He also explained that in bidding for this event, there are presentations on the expectation of the athletes and teachers, convenience of the place, good ventilation of the venue, sufficiency and uninterrupted power supply in water and electricity and how far the playing venue is.

‘’Yung ating Mayor ay talagang ina-upgrade nya yung mga facilities natin, makikita nyo na meron nang na-upgrade yung oval natin bago yan… Ngayon naka-appropriate na naman ang city na P140 million for upgrading, construction of other sports facilities and the renovations, so e-expect natin this year na maraming mangyayari pa,” he added.

Aside from Palarong Pambansa, the city government wants to host Batang Pinoy and an international event, IRONMAN triathlon.

‘’Hindi ito kasing dami ng Palarong Pambansa ito siguro mga 1,500 lang yung mga atleta bukod dun sa mga dinadala nilang mekaniko at pamilya na gustong magbakasyon, so yung dalawang ito bagamat sports ito kino-consider ito ng Sports Tourism… ni-line up natin mga activities na ito kung saan makikinabang yung palengke, tricycle transpo sector, restaurants and hotels. Yun ang gusto mangyari ni Mayor…. So as of the moment yun ang ginagawa ng City Sports,” he said.

According to Austria, as of now he saw the advantages that the City has—-a compact venue in Sports Complex and accessibility of transportation from other regions in Mindanao (Davao), Cebu and in Clark going to Puerto Princesa which Mindoro doesn’t have.

Since the bidding is still in inspection phase, the City government is aiming to get the said event as Austria said, “We are in the right direction.‘’

Puerto Princesa City Business Permit Renewal, deadline on January 21

By Melissa Hikilan

The City government’s Business One-Stop-Shop (BOSS) is reminding all business owners in the City of the deadline for renewal of business permits will last until January 21, 2019.

Licensing Officer IV, Aurea G. Pallaya said that the processing time for the renewal of business permits will strictly follow the schedules. She urged all business owners to renew their permits on time to avoid penalties.

According to Pallaya the transactions are no longer overdue because she observed that some are ending up with the fast processing of business permits.

“Sa ngayon, oras lang yung nakikita at napapansin ko dito. Yung iba kung talagang masipag at tuloy tuloy yung paglakad nila more than one hour lang is tapos na kaagad,’’ she said.

She explained that there are only 3 steps these steps are: First is, file and assess. Second is pay. And lastly, Claim approved business permit.

She reminded those who have already begun the steps in the process that they should finish it on the right day to avoid complaints in releasing their permits.

“Yung nagpapatagal lang naman ay yung mismong lack of requirements at mismong may ari dahil minsan ang dahilan nila pupunta, magpa-encode, and then magpa-assess hindi pa sila magbabayad dahil mag iipon pa sila ng pambayad so makalipas pa ang ilang araw saka babalik hindi na namin fault yun sa kanila nayun.’’ Said pallaya.

On the other hand, the City government are expecting that there will be less complaint and aiming for all renewal business permit will comply their requirements on the said deadline as they serve the people of Puerto Princesa with all the service they can provide.

PALECO acting manager aims for efficient power supply in Palawan

By Kaisha Faye Sanchez

Providing efficient power supply to avert more blackouts in Palawan is the main priority of the newly-installed acting general manager of Palawan Electric Cooperative (PALECO).

The National Electrification Administration (NEA) appointed Engr. Nelson A. Lalas to the position on January 7, 2019, after PALECO submitted a position paper to NEA that expressed its respect to the right of the government agency to designate one under the Republic Act 10531 or “National Electrification Administration Reform Act of 2013.”

The acting general manager is in charge of the day-to-day operations of PALECO to guarantee the effective delivery of electric service to the member-consumer-owners. He can also approve or disapprove board resolutions and make major decisions not included in the routine operations such as hiring employees, signing of checks, withdrawal slips and other banking transactions. The designation is also implemented to help resolve the issue of continuous blackouts experienced in Palawan.

According to Napoleon Cortes, PALECO HRDM Manager and outgoing Officer-in-Charge (OIC), the AGM can help in the technical operation of PALECO. “May mga major decisions na pending dahil OIC lang ako. Ang Acting General Manager makakapag-decide siya. Marami siyang pwedeng gawin na hindi pwedeng gawin ng OIC. Makakatulong siya sa technical operation ng PALECO,” he said.

Engineer Lalas, meanwhile, said that there are different causes of the blackouts in Palawan. “Yung sanhi ng brownout minsan ay sinisisi natin sa PALECO pero minsan din nanggagaling din yan sa ating power supplier, sa ating transmission line, and of course, yung vegetation din, yung mga kahoy na umaabot sa ating mga linya. Pero ang PALECO naman sa ngayon ay ongoing na nagkakaroon ng massive clearing ng vegetation,” he said.

Engineer Lalas also added, “Kailangan nating ayusin ang ating distribution line; may ginagawa tayong mga system improvement.”

During the duration of his service, Engineer Lalas is aiming for an efficient or reliable power supply in Palawan. “My duty as the acting general manager is to manage in order to have an efficient or reliable power supply sa ating mga members and consumers. Yung brownout ay dapat ma-improve natin para sa ganun ay magkaroon ng effective electric service sa ating mga consumers ng kuryente.”

His designation will be terminated upon the appointment of a permanent general manager, which will be done by NEA. There are currently three applicants for the position of PALECO General Manager.

Midterm election gun ban starts January 13

By Ma. Snyrah Niña Pascua

To keep the midterm elections peaceful and orderly, the Philippine National Police and Commission on Elections implemented the election gun ban officially started last Sunday, January 13, 2019.

Senior Insp. Pearl Manyll Lamban – Marzo, Public Information Officer of Puerto Princesa City Police Office, said that they are ready for this year’s gun ban operation, and prior to the day of implementation they already have an implementing plan and they are already organizing all the things needed for the operation such as mobile patrols.

During this gun ban period the Philippine National Police (PNP), together with Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), will be conducting checkpoints in random parts of the country, including parts of Palawan. Last, Sunday, January 13, 12:01 am, the team started its kick off checkpoint operation.

The checkpoints seek to check all the vehicles, particularly if there are guns or explosives. Aside from firearms, deadly weapons such as knife, grenade, and all illegal weapons are prohibited to be carried during this period of time, to prevent any unlawful act during the election period.

There are no vehicles exempted in any checkpoints that the team will be conducting. Checkpoints will be held in well lighted area, has a standard signage, and only uniformed personnel are allowed to conduct a visual checking of the vehicles, Marzo said.

There are people who are exempted to the gun ban period provided that they have a proof and documents of exemption and they are included to Commission of Election’s (COMELEC) list of exempted people during the gun ban period.

“Sa ngayon ang alam natin na ang PNP at the same time ang AFP ay Gun Ban exempted na, provided dun na masusunod lahat ng rules na nakalagay mismo duon sa exemption na nakalagay sa ating COMELEC,” Marzo added.

She also tackled the sanctions, penalties and charges for those persons who will be caught violating any of the rules and regulations specified in the Republic Act 10591 also known as the “Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act.”

Marzo also mentioned that since the gun ban period started last January 13, the Province of Palawan, specifically the City of Puerto Princesa is in the manageable state of control in terms of the peace and order. The police team is thankful to the people of Palawan for the cooperation.

“Remind ko lang po ulit ang ating mga kababayan na nagsimula na po yung COMELEC gun ban, so para po hindi tayo magkaproblema at hindi po tayo mahuli sundin na lang po natin ang lahat ng inuutos ng direktiba pagdating po sa COMELEC gun ban for 2019 election.”

Marzo’s message and reminder for the people of Puerto Princesa City and the province of Palawan.

The 2019 national and local elections will be held on the second Monday of May, which is May 13, 2019, and a month after the election is the end of the gun ban period

Leo class cruise ship Superstar Virgo docks at Puerto Princesa Port

By Leila B. Dagot (LBD/PIAMIMAROPA-Palawan)

PUERTO PRINCESA, Palawan (PIA) --- The Superstar Virgo, a Leo class cruise ship owned by Star Cruises landed at the port of Puerto Princesa on January 5.

On board the cruise were 1, 200 tourist passengers, mostly Filipinos and Chinese.

Michie Meneses, senior tourism operations of the City Tourism said that most of the passengers enjoyed visiting tourist destinations in the city particularly the Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR).

“We have a great advantage in our tourism (pertaining to PPUR) and just prove that we are a cruise ship capital,” Meneses said.

It had also its maiden voyage or initial trip in the city on December 31 which carries almost 800 passengers, majority are Filipinos.

Based on the City Tourism's list, 12 cruise ships are expected to arrive in the city this year.

Palawan power utility submits revised distribution plan

By Victor V. Saulon

THE Department of Energy (DoE) has ordered Palawan Electric Cooperative (Paleco) to submit an updated power distribution development plan (DDP) to determine whether the government should continue looking after the provision of electricity in the area.

“We required them to submit a revised DDP,” Mario C. Marasigan, director of the DoE’s Electric Power Industry Management Bureau, told reporters last week.

“Depending on the DDP, then we may have to decide whether to continue the arrangement with the NPC (National Power Corp.) to provide services for the El Nido area in terms of the generation and wires,” he added.

DoE Undersecretary William Felix B. Fuentebella confirmed that Paleco has submitted a revised DDP, which was forwarded to Mr. Marasigan’s bureau. Mr. Marasigan said that for the rest of Palawan, the DoE is looking at enhancing the power transmission substations. He said his bureau will also review the power supply agreements.

“We have already initiated discussions with them to include in their DDP the power supply procurement program and the review,” he said.

DoE’s intervention in Palawan comes after President Rodrigo R. Duterte issued a warning to local officials to solve the energy issues in the province. He gave Paleco until the end of the year to address the frequent brownouts or he will seek a new electricity provider for Palawan.

Last month, state-run National Electrification Administration (NEA) said it intervened in the management and operation of Paleco in its bid to help resolve the power supply issues in the province.

NEA Administrator Edgardo R. Masongsong issued an office order on Dec. 10 designating engineer Nelson Lalas as project supervisor and acting general manager of Paleco “effective immediately,” the agency said in a statement.

Mr. Lalas’ designation will cease upon the appointment of a regular general manager, which is subject to NEA confirmation.

Mr. Marasigan said the problem in Palawan is related to transmission.

“The common causes of the problem in Palawan apparently are the lines and substations. It’s not insufficient power supply. In fact, it has oversupply in terms of PSAs,” he said.

He also said that some areas in Palawan were also not connected to the electric cooperative such as El Nido, Taytay and San Vicente, which are among the province’s key tourist destinations.

“But the interconnection should be completed by 2019 as programmed by NPC-SPUG (small power utilities group),” he said.

For this year, DoE expects power demand in Palawan to fall in line with expectations that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Department of Tourism are looking “some of sort of restrictions as far as the entry to El Nido,” Mr. Marasigan said.

“There won’t be any closures but the DENR has been finding some issues. For example there is a lot of encroachment on beach areas so that means we will see a reduction in such facilities. So that’s reduction in consumption,” he said.

Palawan farm turns into habitat for endemic species unintentionally

By RODOLFO ABALOS, JR. (Registered Forester, PhD in Forestry, /LBG, GMA News)

The Yamang Bukid farm in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan was intended to be a turmeric plantation, but due to the evolving needs of the local farmers and the community of Barangay Bacungan, it has evolved into a place for relaxation and a habitat to wild, endemic species of animals and insects in the area.

Driven by a strong motivation of "doing business with a heart" for community development and for the environment, Baguio City-based Yamang Bukid Healthy Products, Inc. had sought to reach out to all major cities in the country to allow the firm to grow and to help more and more people to make a living.

This desire carried Yamang Bukid (YB) to Palawan, with its first outlets in Puerto Princesa City malls. And as it branched out to other super markets, it needed raw materials for its main product Turmeric 10-in-1 Tea and thought of setting up a farm solely dedicated to turmeric.

After it acquired a 1.2-hectare tract of unproductive land in Barangay Bacungan in late 2017, YB started planting turmeric to compensate for the scarce supply coming from Baguio.

The turmeric farm was doing very well and employed dozens of idle farmers who used to be illegal loggers. But no single fully-grown tree was cut down during the land preparation of the farm.

With the strong drive to do business with a heart, demonstrated in efforts at letting others live while taking care of the locality’s ecosystem, YB hired several residents and enlisted the help experts in agriculture, forestry and animal husbandry.

Seeing the success of the turmeric farm, owners of adjacent tracts of unproductive land began offering their properties, which YB welcomed as it saw the opportunity to develop the several hectares of idle estates for the YB, the community, and for enhancing biodiversity in the area and preserving the environment.

With the generous financial support of its main initiator, Mr. Rene Maduro, and with the help of experts including Eleerico Tabal, Registered Agriculturist, PhD candidate Agronomy Science, Organic Agriculture and Urban Gardening resource person; Glenn Lasaca Calipus, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, PhD candidate Animal Physiology and Molecular Biology; and some 150 hired local farmers, the YB Farm has evolved into a what it is now.

A total of 135 of the 150 YB Farm’s farmers used to be illegal loggers, and each one of them cuts three fully-grown trees daily. This translates to 146,552 trees being saved yearly due to the employment opportunity the farm has given them.

But soon, the farm was troubled by questions about sustainability amid inadequate income. With over a hundred hired hands, how could the farm continue to help the community, the families of the farmers who have already found a home in the YB Farm?

Holding on to its business philosophy of living a life for others in a healthy environment, the YB farm leaders refused to entertain the thought of firing people.

Instead, they moved on finding ways to augment the financial gains of the farm by planting organically-grown medicinal, ornamental, fruit-bearing plants, even as they embarked on a tree-planting endeavor with now over 200 viable saplings of endemic plant species.

Then, the farm's initiators conceived of putting up the House of Kakanin in the hopes of getting additional income for the farmers’ wives by producing popular delicacies flavored with the farm’s home-grown crops, and packaging the food products in indigenous materials.

The House of Kakanin was a step for augmenting the farm’s income, which led to another, and more income-generating projects.

Without a pause, the farm’s landscape has continued to evolve, and as it bursts into a cool idyllic sight, it caught the attention of passers by, visitors, and tourists who happened to stray on paths leading to the YB farm.

At the start, they came in trickles, fascinated by the things that the farm has to offer and the happy faces of the farmers and the workers --all from Barangay Bacungan --who are comparably well-paid and cared for.

Then, the visitors came in hordes and now in streams, as the farm transformed into an agro-forestry showcase, an ideal place for people, families, and friends to be in commune with nature —free of any charge.

To cater to the needs of the visitors, the YB farm put up a restaurant under the cozy ambiance of canopies of giant mango trees, and other amenities for people to relax as they escape from the toxic city life.

Aware of a the possible impact of influx of visitors that could stretch the carrying capacity of the locality as the farm turned into a local attraction, the YB farm management has laid out a plan to build a water-treatment facility which is expected to operate in January 2019.

To properly dispose of the organic and household refuse from the restaurant and other farm activities, YB has put up a vermiculture to produce organic fertilizer.

But there is more to Yamang Bukid farm, perhaps, being taken for granted by the human visitors, but is more loudly being heralded by the frequent visits of birds of prey, tree-dwelling animals, bees, butterflies, and crawling insects.

As it evolved across a short period of time, the YB farm has accidentally created a habitat for endemic wild species in Palawan.

Hawks, hornbills, falcons, squirrels, bees, dragonflies, and butterflies that were not seen before the farm's coming have now become added attractions to the place.

DoE assures power stability in Palawan and Iloilo

By Alena Mae S. Flores

The Department of Energy said it will ensure uninterrupted power supply in Iloilo City and Palawan province as it deals with electric cooperatives that supply electricity to these areas.

Energy Undersecretary Felix William Fuentebella said Palawan Electric Cooperative, which supplies electricity to Palawan, already submitted plans to the department which are under review.

“Paleco submitted their plans which I signed and referred to the Power Bureau for review,” Fuentebella said.

Mario Marasigan, director of the Electric Power Industry Management Bureau, said the National Electrification Administration, assigned a new general manager for Paleco.

“We required them [to submit a Transmission Development Plan] to see the actual situation in Palawan. Depending on the submission of the TDP, we will decide whether to push through with our instruction for NPC [National Power Corp.] to provide services for the El Nido area in terms of the generation and wires,” Marasigan said.

Marasigan said that for the rest of Palawan, the department was looking at enhancements of substations.

“We will also review their power supply agreements [PSAs]. We have already initiated discussions with them to include in their TDP their power supply procurement program and the review,” he said.

Marasigan said Paleco’s power situation was due to “line problems” and not lack of generation capacity. Paleco is the lone power distributor in Puerto Princesa City and 18 municipalities, serving 137,277 consumers as of June 2018.

“The common causes of problems in Palawan is apparently the lines and substations, not insufficient supply. In fact, they have oversupply in terms of PSAs. For transmission, there is constraint in the substations,” he said.

Marasigan said El Nido, Taytay, San Vicente had problems with transmission interconnection, which would be fixed by 2019 as programmed by Napocor-Small Power Utilities Group.

Marasigan said that in the case of Iloilo City, More Electric Power Corp.’s franchise passed third reading in both houses of Congress.

“It has not been signed by the president…Supposedly it was endorsed before the closure of the session. But we do not have a copy and we cannot confirm if it was transmitted,” he said.

He said the Senate version set a two-year transmission period “that will ensure continuous distribution services within Iloilo City.”

Marasigan said that during the transition period, Panay Electric Cooperative would continue to serve Iloilo City. Peco’s franchise is due to expire this month.

“During the transition, there will be negotiation as far as the use of facilities…It would be hard without the transition. It’s going to be an abrupt change,” he said.

Red tide alert remains hoisted over 5 provinces


THE Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) on Friday said paralytic shellfish poison was again detected in waters off Eastern Samar, Bohol, Palawan, Pampanga and Bataan.

In its latest Shellfish Bulletin, BFAR said the red tide toxin has remained in the coastal waters of Matarinao Bay in Eastern Samar; coastal waters of Dauis and Tagbilaran City in Bohol; Lianga Bay in Surigao del Sur; Puerto Princesa Bay, Puerto Princesa City in Palawan.

Likewise, municipalities in Bataan, including Mariveles, Limay, Orion, Pilar, Balanga, Orani, Abucay and Samal, are still positive for paralytic shellfish poison beyond the regulatory limit, the bureau added.

According to the BFAR advisory, “all types of shellfish and Acetes sp. or ‘alamang’ gathered from the areas [mentioned] are not safe for human consumption.”

“Fish, squids, shrimps and crabs are safe for human consumption provided that they are fresh and washed thoroughly, and internal organs such as gills and intestines are removed before cooking,” it added.

Red tide is a phenomenon caused by an explosive growth and accumulation of certain microscopic algae, predominantly dinoflagellates, in coastal waters.

The toxin, which can kill fish, birds and marine mammals, and cause illness in humans, can last days, weeks or months, and can also change daily due to wind conditions.

Red tide alert remains hoisted over 5 provinces


January 05, 2019

   home / News / Regions / Red tide alert remains hoisted over 5 provinces

THE Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) on Friday said paralytic shellfish poison was again detected in waters off Eastern Samar, Bohol, Palawan, Pampanga and Bataan.

In its latest Shellfish Bulletin, BFAR said the red tide toxin has remained in the coastal waters of Matarinao Bay in Eastern Samar; coastal waters of Dauis and Tagbilaran City in Bohol; Lianga Bay in Surigao del Sur; Puerto Princesa Bay, Puerto Princesa City in Palawan.

Likewise, municipalities in Bataan, including Mariveles, Limay, Orion, Pilar, Balanga, Orani, Abucay and Samal, are still positive for paralytic shellfish poison beyond the regulatory limit, the bureau added.

According to the BFAR advisory, “all types of shellfish and Acetes sp. or ‘alamang’ gathered from the areas [mentioned] are not safe for human consumption.”

“Fish, squids, shrimps and crabs are safe for human consumption provided that they are fresh and washed thoroughly, and internal organs such as gills and intestines are removed before cooking,” it added.

Red tide is a phenomenon caused by an explosive growth and accumulation of certain microscopic algae, predominantly dinoflagellates, in coastal waters.

The toxin, which can kill fish, birds and marine mammals, and cause illness in humans, can last days, weeks or months, and can also change daily due to wind conditions. Advertisements

Eating shellfish from areas with red tide may lead to paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP). According to US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, PSP could lead to “muscle paralysis and respiratory failure…and in these cases death may occur in two to 25 hours.”

Vulcan donates Palawan properties to former workers

By Reicelene Joy N. Ignacio

LISTED Vulcan Industrial and Mining Corp. on Wednesday said it has donated two properties in Roxas, Palawan to its former employees, as well as current workers of Alakor Corporation and Anglo Philippine Holdings Corporation.

In a disclosure, Vulcan said the donated properties were part of its mine site that has been shuttered and non-operational for decades.

“The donations were made in favor of groups of individuals who are either former employees of the Corporation who live or used to live in the area or current employees of related parties, Alakor Corporation or Anglo Philippine Holdings Corporation, who signified their interest to acquire said properties,” it said.

According to Vulcan, it donated the properties after considering their book value of P87,144, as well as the cost of maintenance and presence of informal settlers.

At the same time, Vulcan said it transferred its mineral production sharing agreements (MPSA) in Negros Occidental to United Paragon Mining Corporation (UPMC), in exchange for the latter assuming the listed company’s liabilities, obligations and future claims.

MPSA 092-97-VI and MPSA 113-98-VI have an aggregate historical value of P12.89 million.

Under the deal, UPMC will assume Vulcan’s liabilities amounting to P13.33 million, as well as any liabilities and obligations arising from the oil and mineral assets, including deferred exploration costs.

The transfer also involves Vulcan’s condonation of its advances to UPMC amounting to P539,173.42.

Shares in Vulcan closed 3.7% or 6 centavos lower at P1.54 each on Wednesday.

Palawan’s ‘Hidden Beach’ emerges No. 1 among top 50 beaches in Asia, says travel firm


THE “Hidden Beach” at El Nido in Palawan was ranked first in the list of the Top 50 beaches in Asia in 2018, according to a Canadian travel agency.

Flight Network said the famed beach emerged No. 1 for its “sheer untouched beauty, remoteness, sand and water quality, annual days of sunshine, and average annual temperature.”

“The wild, vegetation-covered rock formations and crystal clear waters of Hidden Beach will make you feel as if you’ve been dropped into a movie,” the company said, quoting Sachin Aggarwal of Carlson Wagonlit Travel.

The Maya Bay and Railay Beach of Thailand was ranked second and third respectively.

Eight other Philippine beaches were also listed among Asia’s best. They are the Guyam White Sand Beach in Siargao (13th); Palaui Beach in Cagayan Valley (22nd); Caramoan Island Beach in Camarines Sur (29th); Dahican Beach in Davao Oriental (41st); Gumasa Beach in Sarangani (45th); Kalanggaman Island in Cebu (49th); and Paliton Beach in Siquijor (50th).

The Hidden Beach previously placed third in the world ranking of best beaches in 2018 by the same company, after Greece’s Shipwreck Beach in Zakynthos, which was ranked No. 1, and Australia’s Whitehaven Beach in Queensland, No. 2.

Flight Network consulted 600 travel journalists, editors, bloggers and agencies experienced in traveling “to rank the best beaches in the world, based on their personal and professional experience.”

“We received unparalleled insight into the most spectacular beaches on earth,” the company said.

Catholics urged to be bearers of 'faith news,' not fake news

(ABS-CBN News)

MANILA - Puerto Princesa Bishop Socrates Mesiona has a reminder for Catholics on the first day of the new year.

According to a report from the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, Mesiona on Tuesday reminded the faithful to be bearers of good news and not fake news.

During the mass held at the Puerto Princesa Cathedral for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, Mesiona proposed three possible New Year's resolutions, one of which is for Catholics to be bearers of good news.

“Like the shepherds in the Gospel, let us all be carrier of good news, not gossip. Faith news and not false news,” he said.

“These days, there’s so much negativity in this world, we need more good news to uplift the spirit of our brothers and sisters,” Mesiona added.

NEA asks Palawan electric co-op to cooperate

By Alena Mae S. Flores

The National Electrification Administration asked the Palawan Electric Cooperative to allow the state-run agency to resolve the power situation in Palawan province.

NEA administrator Edgardo Masongsong made the statement after Paleco expressed concern over the agency’s move to appoint an acting general manager to oversee the power utility’s operations.

“Despite its status as an electric cooperative registered with the Cooperative Development Authority, the NEA will not stand idly by. We will exercise the agency’s inherent jurisdiction over Paleco as it has the technical capability to turn things around in Palawan and for Palawan member-consumer-owners,” Masongsong said.

Masongsong designated Engr. Nelson Lalas as project supervisor and acting general manager of Paleco on Dec, 10. Lalas was tasked to manage the day-to-day operations of Paleco and to ensure the efficient delivery of electric service to its member-consumer-owners.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier expressed his disappointment over the worsening power supply problem in Palawan, and warned Paleco of government takeover if frequent service interruptions in the province were not solved by the end of the year.

Paleco, for its part, outlined a range of issues in providing reliable electricity service to its MCOs, which included the delay in the approval of its capital expenditure plan by the Energy Regulatory Commission.

Paleco put on hold its planned upgrading of distribution lines pending approval of its capex application.

Paleco also proposed to install substations in strategic places in Puerto Princesa City and in the southern part of Palawan and put up a Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition system to improve the power supply reliability in the province.

The electric cooperative said it filed its application for capex program in March 2017 but has yet to receive its approval from the ERC.

“We all know that electric industry is a regulated business controlled by the government, particularly the ERC. We cannot implement the said major projects without the approval of the ERC,” Paleco said in its position paper.

Pending ERC approval, the Paleco board passed a resolution requesting the ERC to allow the EC to implement some of the projects as emergency capex included in the application, such as the purchase of the SCADA system and the installation of two substations in Puerto Princesa.

Another concern of Paleco was the construction of transmission lines of the National Power Corp. and upgrading of its substations to augment its existing capacities.

Paleco also said different government laws, rules and regulations were hindering the implementation of the electrification projects in the province.

It noted the delays in the processing and issuance of necessary permits like the environmental compliance certificates and electrical permits from the local government.

Paleco said the road widening projects of the Department of Public Works and Highways were also contributing to the causes of interruptions in electrical service in the province.

“The road widening is an excellent project because this will boost the progress of the City of Puerto Princesa and the province of Palawan. However, Paleco’s operations were greatly affected due to the need for the relocation of affected poles which in turn result to a series of power interruptions,” Paleco said.

The local power utility also sought the national government’s assistance to get Palawan’s rightful share in the Malampaya project to accelerate the electrification projects in the province.

Paleco is the lone power distributor of Puerto Princesa City and 18 municipalities, serving 137,277 consumers as of June 2018.

Guhit Palaw’an promotes culture and arts of indigenous people

By Harthwell Capistrano

Painting, weaving, and exhibitions were the major activities during the recently concluded event that promotes the culture and arts of indigenous people in the island province of Palawan.

Dubbed as the Guhit Palaw’an, the on-spot-painting competition, was in line with the JCI Puerto Princesa Oil project entitled, Resurgence of Palawa’an Culture and Arts.

“As part of our advocacy on helping the Resurgence of Palawan Culture and Arts, JCI Puerto Princesa Oil conducted the Guhit Palaw’an on the spot painting contest to showcase the beauty of Palaw’an Culture and Arts and at same time to recognize the talents of our own local artist in Palawan,” said Rexlin Azarcon, 2019 Chapter President of JCI.

One of the members of JCI Puerto Princesa Oil also known for his upcycling artistry, Jc Enon initiated the project for Guhit Palaw’an and invited some local artists in Palawan to join the whole day event held at Marina de bay last December 21, 2018.

It was a spontaneous whole day event with Tingkop (harvest basket) weaving and exhibit held at the restaurant of Marina de bay with trainer and weaver Rosalinda Gacayan from Bataraza Tourism Office. The weaving activity was participated by members of JCI Puerto Princesa Oil, Puerto Princesa Kiao and some tourists.

Palawan local artists signed up and participated in painting contest “Guhit Palaw’an”. Some were members of Guhit Pinas-Palawan and Arts on the move artists, namely: Leonard Ansiong, Ramfil Dagumboy, Brian Kenneth Yatco, Ron Edrada and Stephanie Joyce Lopera.

Artists were given time the whole day to create their masterpieces on a 4ft x 3ft canvass in the art material they preferred such as water color, acrylic paint, latex, and oil with a theme of creating awareness, promotion, and preserving Palaw ‘an culture and arts.

The 21-year-old local artist, Leonard Ansiong from Brgy Tabon Quezon Palawan bagged the first prize of Guhit Palaw’an On-the-spot Painting Contest, and received the Php5,000.00 cash.

“Pinapakita ng aking obra na talagang kahanga hanga ang sining at kultura ng isa sa ating Ethnolinguistic group dto sa Palawan na ang Palaw’an. Mula sa kanilang Traditonal Basket, na ginagawa ng kababaihan nasa edad 50-60 yrs old, pero ngayon tinuturo at ibinabahagi na nila sa kabataan, ang susing pag hahabi, yung paterns, anito na nagsisimbulo ng Good Harvest at ang sulat Ibalnan. Patuloy nawa nating palaguin ang sining at kultura na meron ang Tribung Palaw’an, lets protect and preserve the culture and arts,” said Leonard Ansiong.

Other local artists Stephanie Joyce Lopera and Ron Edrada placed second and third respectively, and received Php3,000.00 and Php2,000.00 cash prizes. Consolation prizes were awarded to two remaining local artists, Ramfil Dagumboy and Brian Kenneth Yatco worth Php500.00 cash each plus gift certificate from Marina De Bay.

Local artist masterpieces are available for viewing and are for sale at the exhibit area of Marina de bay’s restaurant, including Tingkop and other handicraft souvenir items.

“Enough of colonization. We’ve been colonized already more than a hundred years ago and let’s spare our indigenous people culture, values, and arts of so called civilization. Instead let’s protect and preserve our indigenous people culture and rights and their identity through their expression in arts to increase in creating awareness and promotion such as Guhit Palaw ‘an and exhibits showcasing Palaw’an music, dances, arts, handicraft, and many others,” said Gilbert Ramoya, Project Chair.

In partnership with Marina de bay, JCI Puerto Princesa Kiao, Iconic Travel and Events, and Bataraza Tourism Office, the event a success, which is also aligned to JCI Philippines national project that protects and preserve cultural heritage.

JCI Puerto Princesa Oil aims to build a resilient community by motivating new breed of leaders that are willing to dedicate its time and effort to act from global impact.

The organization received numerous recognition and awards from different stakeholders with its wide-array of community development and self-empowering programs. It was recently recognized at “Dangal Awards” during JCI Philippines Southern Luzon Area Conference at held at General Trias, Cavite dated September 1, 2018.

• Most Outstanding Local Organization Category 1
• Most Outstanding Local Organization President Category 1, Francisco Baluyut III
• Wow si Mom: Best in Public Relations Program
• Merit Award: Kita-Kita (Eye Health Program for Senior Citizens) as Best Public Health Program
• Merit Award: SIKAD Palawan
• Merit Award: JCI Puerto Princesa Oil Website as Best in Website

Now on its incoming 44th year, under the leadership of its 2019 Chapter President Rexlin D. Azarcon, the chapter will continue to grow as the leading network of young active citizens in Puerto Princesa City.

“JCI Puerto Princesa OIL bannered the theme HEAT UP for 2018-2019 which means Highly Empowered Active Team, because we believe on creating a strong effective team to bring positive change to the community. We want to create and nurture an environment where our members learn, can create a deep sense of mission that made each and every one of us a better persons, and to use our and talents and skills effectively to the local organization and community. Because becoming a Highly Empowered Active Team means an effective way to provide positive change to the community,” said JCI Chapter President Azarcon.

With its 2019 theme-banner HEAT UP (Highly. Empowered. Active.Team.), JCI Puerto Princesa Oil will continue to produce quality leader through its development trainings and opportunities.

Yamang Bukid’s Christmas gift for Ate Inday

By Kia Johanna Lamo

4 years ago, her leg was amputated because of diabetes. She rests all day in her wheel chair. Her husband lost his right eye sight due to eye cataract.

Ate Inday, 51, with paucity, wasn’t able to visit her doctor after being amputated.

You can see it in her eyes that she really wanted to walk again. She said “Ang hirap ng ganitong sitwasyon, no?”

With sadness in his eyes. Before, Ate Inday had her campaign through media and other more companies, but nobody came back to help.

Since Christmas is the season of giving, The Yamang Bukid Farm granted her help for her prosthetics so she could walk again.

The Yamang Bukid also granted her a cash for their livelihood. A capital for them to start out their Sari-sari store that’s operational now.

Ate Inday bursted in tears. Not knowing how to explain the immeasurable joy she had.

The Yamang Bukid Farm took her to Bahatala Inc., a non-profit organization that lends help to those who are physically challenged through providing prosthetics.

And, good news! Because Ate Inday will be having herself rise from her wheel chair and will be able to walk again this upcoming 2019.

This 2019, Ate Inday will have a brighter life, a more energetic one, an immeasurable joy and again, The Yamang Bukid Farm, through a simple help marked a space in Ate Inday’s heart no one could ever replace.

The DOT in 2018: Promoting sustainable tourism

By Analou De Vera

The Department of Tourism (DOT) prepared to end the year 2018 on a positive note, with the country’s tourism projecting a positive image to the world, following efforts on the promotion of sustainable tourism and the rehabilitation of major tourist destinations in the country.

After years of environmental degradation, the Philippine government decided to close the world-famous Boracay Island for six-months to conduct a massive rehabilitation. This, after President Duterte described the island as a ‘cesspool.’

Although the bold effort made stakeholders fear the possible negative impact on the tourism industry, DOT Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat in October said that improvements in the island is proof that it was a “good decision.”

In a recent media conference, the tourism chief said that their goal for next year is to continue the rehabilitation of other major destinations and the promotion of alternative sites. Rehabilitation works will be conducted in El Nido and Coron in Palawan, Panglao in Bohol, and Siargao.

We will still to promote alternative destinations but we will continue rehabilitating all the other major tourist destinations especially those that don’t follow environmental laws, she said.

After the Boracay experience, many people have learned the importance of sustainable tourism, the tourism chief said, citing the messages that have been sent to her.

“I’ve noticed that a lot of people… people I don’t know, really want to maintain Boracay and you can’t imagine how many text messages I receive from people I don’t know, asking that their tourist destinations be also rehabilitated like Boracay.” said Puyat.

“I think this is very good because the people are actually concerned about the environment and to keep their tourist destination clean,” she added.

Overall, Puyat said the Philippine tourism image is “very positive,” not only around the country but [also] abroad.”

5.8-M foreign visitors

Puyat reported that from January to October this year, foreign visitor arrivals reached 5,880,895. This is 7.43 percent higher compared to the same period last year with only 5,474,310.

She reported that South Korea still remains the country’s top source of foreign tourists, followed by China, United States of America, Japan, Australia, Taiwan, Canada, United Kingdom, Singapore, and Malaysia.

The tourism chief said that among the factors for the increase in foreign arrivals was the growth in the number of Chinese tourists which registered a 30.71 percent increase.

“We’ve renewed our ties with the Chinese government, so now, they’ve been encouraged to come here,” said Puyat.

Expecting 7.2M tourists

Asked whether her department is still confident of achieving its 7.4 million foreign arrival target, Puyat said they are only expecting the arrivals to be ranging from 7 to 7.2 million.

“I’m not confident. Though, it has been increasing… we have to admit that the closure of Boracay [affected the number of foreign arrivals]. Of course, that is a top tourist destination which was closed for six-months… I’m confident that it will surpass the previous year but I don’t think it will reach 7.4 million,” Puyat explained.

Cooperation and partnerships

Since Puyat became the tourism secretary in May, she has been in constant communication with other government agencies, particularly with the departments of Transportation, Justice, and Public Works and Highways. The tie-up with these departments aims to improve accessibility of tourist destinations, increased air connectivity; and improve tourism-related infrastructure, facilities and services.

Puyat said that they also have partnerships with the private sector to boost the country’s promotion of responsible farm and culinary tourism. Among the recent partnerships the department forged were with Cebu Pacific, Jollibee Food Corporation, and Ayala Malls.

Controversies, reviewing all transactions

As soon as Puyat sat as the head of the DOT, replacing former Tourism Secretary Wanda Corazon Teo, she vowed to stop graft and corrupt practices by reviewing all the agency’s transactions. She said this was the marching order she received from the President.

Puyat ordered the suspension of Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) food tourism program–the ‘Buhay Carinderia.’ The food tourism project was suspended allegedly for an P80 million project that did not pass a bidding process, and had been paid in full despite not yet being completed.

Puyat in a media briefing in June said that she will review all the contracts of her department which she finds “uncomfortable.”

It is basically more of the contracts that I’m not comfortable with. I’m not saying that the contracts are bad,” she explained.

“For me the proper agency to say that if I should proceed with the contract or not is the Commission on Audit. So, I will be guided by them… I would rather make sure that the people’s money is safeguarded,” she added.


To end the year, the Tourism Secretary has guaranteed transparency in all its dealings and promises that the rehabilitation of Boracay is not the end of its efforts to save other destinations from degradation.

More fun in the Philippines

For the coming year, DOT is looking forward to prove that it is still correct to say –“It is more fun in the Philippines!”

Tatler Checks Into... Club Paradise Palawan

By Sam Santamaria

Discovery’s Club Paradise Palawan is the tropical destination for anybody looking to get away from the busy city life. The resort, set on a remote island in Coron, has many activities offer guests, including: snorkelling and diving at the house reef, lunches at the hidden beach, cruising with cocktails, and sunset dinners at a private island just a few minutes away by the island’s speed boat. 

Perfect for a romantic getaway, the island resort has been the destination for over 15 weddings and countless proposals this past year. A fun place to bring children, families can also enjoy island hopping and water activities with itineraries tailor-made by the friendly staff, or explore the island’s many points.

From relaxing by the beachfront cabins with a view of the mountains, to hiking to Eagle’s Point, the island’s highest peak, or even enjoying a pampering at the Glow Spa, there is something to do for everyone. 
As this 19-hectare island is dotted in a UNESCO biosphere reserve, the resort has also begun eliminating single-use plastics and holds monthly coastal cleanups that guests are free to join. 

An experience in itself, Club Paradise Palawan is worth a visit for all those who enjoy the sun, sand, and sea.

Scattered rain expected over eastern PHL, Palawan; LPA may enter PAR Tuesday

(DVM/KG, GMA News)

The Eastern Visayas, Caraga, and Davao Regions, as well as Palawan, could expect cloudy conditions accompanied with scattered rain and thunderstorm due to the trough of a low-pressure area, weather service PAGASA predicted in a Christmas day forecast.

PAGASA said the low pressure area located 1,060 kilometers east of Mindanao as of 3 a.m. Tuesday may enter the Philippine Area of Responsibility within the day. It may develop into a tropical cyclone.

The northeast monsoon would meanwhile bring cloudy conditions with light to moderate rain over the Batanes and Babuyan Islands; as well as cloudy conditions with light rain over Central Luzon and the rest of northern Luzon.

The northeast monsoon would also be responsible for the partly cloudy to cloudy conditions and isolated light rain over the rest of Luzon.

Metro Manila will experience improved weather conditions with isolated rain showers. Temperature in Metro Manila will range from 23 to 30 degrees Celsius.

Over the rest of the country, partly cloudy to cloudy conditions accompanied with isolated rainshowers could be expected.

Winds would be strong from the northeast over extreme northern Luzon, where coastal waters would be rough to very rough.

A gale warning has been raised over Batanes, Calayan, Babuyan Islands, Ilocos Norte, and the northern coast of Cagayan where waves of up to 5 meters are expected due to the surge of the northeast monsoon.

Over the rest of Luzon and the eastern sections of the Visayas and Mindanao, winds would be moderate to strong from the northeast with moderate to rough surrounding sea conditions.

Finally, winds over the rest of the country would be light to moderate from the northeast to northwest with slight to moderate coastal waters.

Palawan communities enjoy brighter days

By Ritchel Mendiola

In today’s technologically-advanced world, it’s hard to believe there are still areas where people have no access to bare necessities such as electricity and water. In the Philippines alone, around 16 million Filipinos continue to live in communities that do not have these.

“It was so hard. We did not have electricity or water so we had to make do with what we had,” said Ofelia Serrano, resident and community village association secretary in Sitio Logpan, El Nido.

Until recently, Sitio Logpan was one of the several communities in Palawan where daily conveniences are severely lacking. Residents here had to rely on kerosene lamps for light, firewood for cooking, and endure a four kilometer walk to get water from an open well. However, all that changed when Pilipinas Shell Foundation Inc. (PSFI) came along.

SINAG Program

PSFI’s “Sustain, Invest, Nurture Access to Green Energy” or SINAG program has been working to provide green energy to remote areas in Palawan.

Palawan maybe the location of the Malampaya Deep Water Gas-to-Power Project that provides up to 30% of the country’s power needs, but some remote off-grid communities in Northern Palawan continued to suffer from a lack of access to energy as only 60% of households are connected to the main grid.

In July 2014, PSFI launched “Access to Energy” (A2E) — a Global Shell initiative that provides remote communities their own renewable resources of energy.

The project, then, considers areas in Palawan that are unlikely to experience power provided by government or commercial power establishments in the next five to 10 years.

Brighter Communities

A2E currently has five projects in Palawan — Sitio Kalakwasan, Barangay Decabaitot, Barangay Baras, Sitio Ligad, and Sitio Binaluan.

All of these communities are being powered by A2E’s microgrid, which makes use of the combination of solar, hydro, wind, and diesel generator power to provide clean energy.

Sitio Binaluan, home to 509 Tagbanuas, held a ceremony in November 16 wherein the city’s Christmas tree was lit for the very first time. The ceremony marked the first time the community will be celebrating a brighter Christmas.

Clean Water

Aside from providing access to energy, A2E also supplies clean, potable water to communities.

SINAG Kiosk, launched in Sitio Logpan last November 15, is the first solar kiosk in the Philippines with a water chlorination system. The kiosk and the water pumps run on solar panels, maintaining PSFI’s focus on renewables.

The kiosk also offers solar home systems units, clean cookstoves, refrigerators and freezers for drinks and fish.

“The kiosk is a really huge help. Our lives really changed after having power and water,” Serrano said.

“We are now more inspired to get up everyday because we have water, we have electricity for cooking, and we have a source of livelihood thanks to the kiosk,” she added.

The SINAG kiosk is the first A2E Social Impact Fund Awardee, and is just the first of many more kiosks that the PSFI plans to provide in the future.

This, along with the other A2E projects by PSFI, not only promises brighter homes for communities, but also enriched and improved lives through access to energy

Experience the spirit of Christmas at Astoria

By Harthwell Capistrano

This holiday season, Astoria Palawan brings us with another exciting opportunity to experience the warm spirit of Christmas.

Dubbed as “Paskuhan sa Astoria,” the resort features various activities with Simbang Gabi masses including the choir led carols, acoustic band, bubble shows, and entertaining performances of the resort’s dance troupe.

The first in Astoria, the festivities started on December 15 up to January 6, 2019, said General Manager Jocelyn M. Suarez.

“This is open to all. You will find a lot of ‘instagrammable spots’, and activities for the children,” Suarez said.

The resort has scheduled trips going to their location from the City Proper and they are offering it for Php 300 round trip, which includes a consumable of Php 100 for the food or to purchase any items being sold. But for those who have cars, they will only pay the consumable Php 100.

“We would like to invite everyone to please come, see, and experience Astoria Palawan,” Suarez said.

The resort will also showcase parol-making contest using recyclable materials, which is one of the advocacies of the resort in protecting the environment.

Astoria Palawan has been actively involved Community-Based Sustainable Tourism, involving various stakeholders in Palawan to promote local products without charging them.

“We welcome them without any fee para mabenta kung ano meron sila at makilala ang products nila,” Suarez said.

“It is one of the advocacies of Astoria,” said Suarez adding, “We want to share our blessings. We want to be involved with the community.”

Hailed as the Number 1 in Trip Advisor among 54 hotels and resorts in Puerto Princesa, Astoria Palawan strives to cater the demands and needs of the local and international tourists, to enhancing and improving their services.

“We want to make a difference here in Palawan. And we really want to make Astoria to be known,” Suarez said.

NEA takes over beleaguered power coop in Palawan

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- The National Electrification Administration (NEA) has taken over the management and operational control of the beleaguered Palawan Electric Cooperative (PALECO) and has brought in a new general manager to lead in fixing its woes.

The NEA, which described the take over as intervening in the power co-op’s responsibilities to help resolve Palawan’s power supply problems, ordered engineer, Nelson Lalas, last December 10 to be PALECO’s project supervisor or acting general manager “effective immediately.”

In a news bulletin posted Friday, NEA administrator Edgardo Masongsong said the move is pursuant to Presidential Decree No. 269 as amended by Section 5 of Republic Act No. 10531 or the National Electrification Administration Reform Act of 2013.

"In the exigency of the service and pursuant to Sections 4 (e) and (j) of Presidential Decree No. 269 as amended by Section 5 of RA 10531, Engineer Lalas is hereby designated as Project Supervisor/Acting General Manager of Palawan Electric Cooperative effective immediately," Masongsong’s office order stated.

Lalas’ designation will only end if a new general manager has already been confirmed by the NEA.

Among Lalas’ tasks is “to manage the day-to-day operations of PALECO to ensure the efficient delivery of electric service to the member-consumer-owners.”

He also has the “mandate” to approve or disapprove Board resolutions in consultation with concerned departments in the NEA.

Lalas is also “authorized to sign and countersign checks, withdrawal slips, and other banking transactions, as well as to perform other tasks that may be assigned to him for operational efficiency.”

PALECO currently has three applicants vying to fill up the position of general manager -- Cesar Joseph R. Baloloy, Alladin P. Cruz, and Gonzalo G. Ong Jr., who are now undergoing the selection process set forth by PALECO and the NEA.

Based on available information online, from a news article posted by Bombo Radyo Philippines, Lalas figured in August 2018 in a controversy as general manager of the Camarines Sur Electric Cooperative (CASURECO) 2 in Naga City.

The news cited the call for him to be kicked out as general manager of CASURECO-2 for failure to implement several power projects on time.

Jeffrey Tan-Endriga, chairman of the board of directors of PALECO, said Saturday that they will contest NEA’s move for takeover through a position paper.

“We will send a position paper regarding this, particularly on the responsibilities that Lalas was given. What is the basis for giving him the power to approve or disapprove Board resolutions? The general manager, under our setup, sits in the body but he doesn’t have any voting power, he only has speaking rights,” Endriga said.

He said the power co-op’s BOD has the legal position to refuse the takeover because it is not “ailing.”

What it has is a “technical problem” that could have been resolved had their capital expenditures (CAPEX) been approved early by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).

Endrigo added they will pass a resolution that will only allow Lalas to sign checks for salaries of employees, but not PALECO’s obligations to its suppliers.

“We have the legal position to do this. He can sign under three million or five million to pay for the salaries of the personnel of PALECO, but he cannot sign checks to pay suppliers. Over that, the chairman can have the function based on the Republic Act 9184 or the Procurement Reform Act,” he said.

Endriga also said that power interruptions have lessened since they have already been allowed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to remove any vegetation that disturbs the distribution lines.

In October, President Rodrigo Duterte, in a visit to Puerto Princesa City, gave Palawan and PALECO officials the ultimatum to shape up and stabilize power supply or ship out.

He said the national government will not hesitate to takeover PALECO if the power problems are not fixed by the end of 2018.

PALECO is the lone power distributor in Puerto Princesa City and 18 municipalities, serving 137,277 consumers or 57 percent of the 240,700 potential connections as of June 2018.

Alfonso Cusi orders power cooperative in Palawan to improve service

By Danessa Rivera (The Philippine Star)

MANILA, Philippines — Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi has given Palawan’s sole power distributor until the end of the month to improve the power situation in the island.

The Department of Energy (DOE) plans to take over the operations of the beleaguered Palawan Electric Cooperative (PALECO) if power woes are not solved by the end of the year.

“I have given instructions that if PALECO will not shape up by the end of the month, the (government) will take over,” he said.

The government takeover will be done through the task force organized by the DOE and the National Electrification Administration (NEA), Cusi said.

“I cannot afford (power) service to be interrupted,” he said.

This follows President Duterte’s warning last month that the government would take over PALECO’s facilities if it cannot resolve the recurring power outages.

He has given PALECO until the end of the year to shape up or face takeover.

Commenting on the President’s pronouncement, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian backed the government’s plan to take over PALECO to solve the province’s worsening power supply problem.

Gatchalian said Palaweños have long complained about the lengthy rotational brownouts they have experienced in their province, and PALECO’s seemingly chronic inefficiency in coming up with solutions to the problem.

The Senate energy committee, which Gatchalian chairs, is holding a dialogue and a committee hearing with PALECO stakeholders to discuss the power situation and to determine the cause of the long brownouts in the province.

PALECO, which has the second largest franchise area in the country, provides power to Puerto Princesa City and 18 municipalities, serving a total of 135,284 consumers as of the end of April.

Citing data from NEA, Gatchalian said each PALECO consumer experienced an average of 126 power interruptions last year, which he said was beyond the NEA standard of 25 interruptions per consumer per year.

This resulted in an average of 16 hours of power interruption every month or a total of 187 hours last year, Gatchalian said.

Based on the NEA standard, the acceptable frequency of power interruption is 45 hours per consumer per year.

Climate forecast among experts’ forum topic in Palawan

By Leila B. Dagot (LBD/PIAMIMAROPA-Palawan)

PUERTO PRINCESA, Palawan (PIA) --- Future climate projections and mitigation potentials of mangroves and sea grasses were discussed by members of panel technical experts in a forum at Palawan State University (PSU) in San Vicente town, province of Palawan.

The event was organized by the Climate Change Commission (CCC) and has the theme“Mangroves, Marshes and Sea grasses:The Role of Blue Carbon in Addressing Climate Change”. The forum engaged the academe, local government units, national government agencies, and non-government organizations to discuss current initiatives and policies, science and practices involving blue carbon.

The experts motivated stakeholders and communities to act and implement projects or initiatives that will prepare for the impact of climate change and create more resilience, while improving social, tourism development goals.

San Vicente was one of the chosen eco-towns for the local implementation mechanism in the National Climate Change Action Plan (NCCAP) that provides direction for sustainable economic growth for 2011 to 2028.

Municipal Administrator James Paul Inawasan said that they were surprised at being chosen as recipient of the activity, but they take it as an advantage to theircommunity.

“It’s a good review that helps our master planning especially when it comes to environmental protection,” he said.

Exploring Southern Palawan: Chasing waterfalls in Narra

By Keith Anthony Fabro (

There's more to Palawan than Puerto Princesa and El Nido

PALAWAN, Philippines – More than sprawling pristine beaches in northern Palawan, there’s a whole lot of unexplored beauty in this paradise of an island province. For a totally different Palawan experience, head down south and be amazed by its off-the-beaten upland destinations.

In Narra town, 92 kilometers south of Puerto Princesa City, spend a week or two chasing its stunning waterfalls. To guide you better, we’ve listed below 4 waterfalls you can visit for your holiday adventure in southern Palawan:

Estrella Falls

Estrella Falls is the place to go, especially for those who need a short break from their daily stressful routine. In 20 to 30 minutes from the town center, you can reach this falls in Barangay Estrella Village.

Narra’s iconic Estrella Falls was declared a hall of famer in the regional search for cleanest inland water body in 2002. And let me tell you, it never disappoints! Its inviting emerald waters are so irresistible that you’d want to take a dip once you get there.

Chancing upon a horde of monkeys is also an experience in itself. It’s tempting to give them food just to see them up close and personal. But that’s a no-no here. To keep you safe, the management discourages monkey feeding. Why not just appreciate them from afar, right?

Here’s surely something you don’t want to miss – atop Estrella Falls are other waterfalls – 63 more! If you’ve got an overflowing sense of adventure, go ahead and take your exploration to the next level. Hire a well-trained mountain guide then start trekking earlier to catch them all in their awesome glory.

But here’s the catch: getting to the last falls – the grandest among all – would take you up to 4 days! So this means spending nights camping by the river. Interestingly, as you find yourself in the heart of the jungle you’ll get to spot rare animals like the Palawan wild boar, a host of different bird species, and many more.

If you were to ask what’s the most exciting part of this nature immersion activity, we tell you it’s the descent. As you head back, get your adrenaline pumping and do some falls jumping! But a friendly reminder: proceed with extra caution and if unsure, don’t.

Delta Falls

Thrill-seekers who want to escape the rowdy crowds would surely love the solitude Delta Falls offers. Off the tourists’ radar, this waterfall is tucked in the mountains in Barangay Taritien, a 15 to 20-minute ride from the town center.

You can reach Delta Falls even without a guide, but if you’re afraid of getting lost, we suggest you to get one. For the brave, just ask the locals about the jumping-off point then from there, trek up, until you reach it in less than 30 minutes.

Unlike Estrella Falls, there isn’t much swimming space in Delta Falls. But what makes this one awe-inspiring is it’s as high as a 3-story building. At the base of this waterfall, get refreshed as you let the cascading cold waters wash away all your worries.

Inuman Banog Falls

Another waterfall that’s getting popular in Narra is the Inuman Banog Falls. It also requires less than an hour of trekking, as it is situated deep in the mountains in Sitio Buong in Barangay Dumangueña, a 30 to 40-minute ride from the town center.

Surrounded by a lush forest, Inuman Banog is a 3-tiered waterfall. The highest is around 50 meters high. This is an indigenous community-run destination so trekkers are required to pay a guide fee.

You might ask, what’s in the name? It can be translated as “the drinking place of eagles.” According to folklore, early settlers had experienced extreme drought that dried up rivers. While searching for water sources, they saw an eagle, locally called banog, going to and from this place. In desperation they followed it and eventually discovered a flock of eagles and other birds drinking at this waterfall.

Here, you can spend a day splashing around, or maybe reconnecting with nature and yourself. Falls jumping in select spots is also a must-try but always do it with extra caution.

Sultan Falls

Magnificent is the word that perfectly describes the 300-feet high Sultan Falls. This waterfall is one of the exceptional features you’ll see when you climb Sultan Peak, a 3 to 4-day (including ascent and descent) hike from the jump-off point in Sitio Mariwara in Barangay Princess Urduja, some 30 to 40 minutes away from the town center.

The journey to Sultan Falls involves lots of river crossing, which makes it even more challenging yet thrilling. Serving as natural wind coolers are giant pine trees flanking these rivers. The best feeling? It’s when you could feel the cold, strong wind hugging your tired body.

Whether you’re a wildlife expert or an enthusiast, you’ll definitely be awed by impressive floraand fauna along the trail. Don’t miss the opportunity to see the Palawan endemic Nepenthes palawanensis, a carnivorous pitcher plant species considered as one of the world’s biggest. You’ll also come across different orchid and bird species unique to this place.

To catch the stunning sunrise, set up your tent atop Sultan Falls. At night, you can star gaze and, as cliché-ish as it may sound, contemplate on the meaning of life and your purpose of existence.

As the day breaks, it’s up to you to push yourself further and conquer the summit two hours away, which is already in sight. But since you’re there already, why not?

DAR cites 20 agrarian coops from Mimaropa

By Saul Pa-a (PR)

MANILA - The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) has cited 20 Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Organizations (ARBO) from Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan) for their outstanding performances this year.

Out of 176 ARBOs from the region, 20 were cited as the best performing cooperatives in terms of growth, income, management, and sustainability during a DAR regional summit from Dec. 10 to 12 at the Hotel H2O in Manila.

DAR also awarded 10 farmers with National Certification II on Agroentrepreneurship by Technical Education Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

Agrarian Reform Secretary John R. Castriciones said these citations are proof of the hard work of the ARBOs and the assistance of the department and its partner agencies to help increase farmers’ income and uplift their lives.

“Ang DAR ay may mandato, hindi lang land for the landless farmers, kundi bigyan din ng suporta ang ating mga farmers. Kung walang suportang ibibigay sa ating mga ARBOs, hindi po uunlad at tataas ang pamumuhay ng ating mga agrarian reform beneficiaries,” Castriciones said.

The 20 awarded ARBOs are the CK Plus Multi-Purpose Cooperative, Mansalay Agriculture & Fisheries Development Cooperative; Narra Irrigators and Advocates Multi-Purpose Cooperative; San Miguel Farmers and Fishers Multi-Purpose Cooperative; Sta. Maria Agrarian Reform Community Cooperative; Samahang Gumagawa Tungong Tagumpay Multi-Purpose Cooperative; Lourdes Multi-Purpose Cooperative; Elvita Farmers Multi-Purpose Cooperative,; Tanikala ng Pagkakaisa Multi-Purpose Cooperative; Mindoro Progressive Multi-Purpose Cooperative;

Bagtingon Upland Farmers Association of Land Occupants; Calma Socio Economic Multi-Purpose Cooperative; Agra Progreso Multi-Purpose Cooperative; Gloria Site; Tagumpay ng Curanta Free Farmers Cooperative; Samahan ng mga Manggagawa sa Balatasan; Samahan ng Magpapatubig ng Mansalay, Inc.; Samahan ng Nagkakaisang Kababaihan ng Matulatula; Malalong Multi-Purpose Cooperative; and Magdiwang Agrarian Reform Community.

The Mimaropa region consists of Oriental Mindoro, Occidental Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan.

NFA cuts yearend rice procurement target in Palawan

By Celeste Anna Formoso (With reports from Rachel Ganancial/PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- The National Food Authority (NFA) in Palawan has reduced its 5,000 bags of unhusked rice yearend procurement target to 1,000 due to price-buying competition with private traders and inadequate drying facilities.

Ma. Lewina Tolentino, provincial food authority manager, said Thursday that despite the PHP3 buffer stocking incentive (BSI) they have added to their PHP17.00 buying price, it is still difficult to compete with the PHP22.00 to PHP23.00 that private rice traders are offering to farmers.

“Nakakalungkot kasi kahit anong gawin namin, nagbabarangay-barangay na kami, actually nag house-to-house pa nga sa mga populated areas ng farmers [pero wala talaga] (It is disheartening because we’ve already gone village-to-village and house-to-house in areas populated by farmers, but nothing happens),” Tolentino said.

Tolentino said their procurement volume is also dependent on the number of drying facilities they have.

Currently, the NFA in Palawan only has four drying machines in Narra and Brooke's Point, not enough to handle local rice volumes for milling.

“Actually, it is really difficult for us to be able to purchase many sacks of palay kasi nga tumaas ang presyo nang pamimili ng traders tapos 'yong isa pa, ayaw na nila magbilad. They would rather sell them straight from the thresher or the harvester (… because the traders increased their buying price, and another thing is they don’t want to open dry them anymore),” she added.

The 1,000 bags of unhusked rice, she explained, can make 630 (or 63 percent milling recovery) bags of rice which are enough if will be added to the 20,000-30,000 bags they are expecting to receive from imports this month.

Tolentino said that on November 23, the Department of Agriculture (DA) had a consultation meeting with the farmers, seed growers, and the NFA to address different concerns.

It is where the problems of the NFA's low buying price and the insufficient number of mechanical dryers surfaced as the factors that hinder the purchase of adequate volumes of palay for Palawan.

They had since written to the DA to request for funds for the additional mechanical dryers but so far, Tolentino said they have not received any update.

Tolentino said the farmers can help the NFA stabilize its procurement goal by selling to them instead of the private rice traders.

“Hopefully, we are targeting 1,000 and we are calling on our farmers to support the NFA because whatever palay we buy in Palawan will be the same palay converted to rice that will be sold to our residents,” she said.

Palawan guv allays fears on proposed creation of 3 provinces

By Celeste Anna Formoso

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez has allayed fears on the proposed division of Palawan into three provinces and assured provincial government employees of his support.

During Monday’s flag raising ceremony, Alvarez said the welfare of the employees have been considered in the proposal to create Palawan del Sur, Palawan del Norte, and Palawan Oriental.

He said employees, who want to transfer to the new provinces in Roxas, Taytay, and Brooke’s Point, have nothing to worry about because the cost of living in the municipalities is low compared to Puerto Princesa City, where the provincial capitol is located.

“Ang sweldo ninyo ay hindi ‘yan umaangat taun-taon nang malaki [kundi] konti lang. Mababa ang cost of living sa Brooke’s Point, Roxas at Taytay. In other words marami kayong masi-save (Your salaries do not increase big enough every year… the cost of living in Brooke’s Point, Roxas, and Taytay is low. In other words, you will be able to save),” Alvarez said.

He said employees who opt to transfer can take that option or retire early and set up their own businesses, as he assured he would help the employees.

“Ang may gusto – pwedeng lumipat. Pwede [rin] namang mag-early retirement. Kunin mo ang pera mo at mag-negosyo (Those who want to transfer may do so. Or they could file for early retirement, take the money, and set up businesses),” the governor added.

The proposal to divide Palawan into three new provinces was approved last month under Senate under Bill No. 8055. The Lower House passed it unanimously in August.

Save Palawan Movement (SPM) and One Palawan campaign, which opposes the split, said there was no clamor to divide the province and the proposal had not undergone enough public consultation. (PNA)

The 12 Philippine peaks worth a dayhike this Christmas break

By Gideon Lasco

Best to take advantage of the cold the holiday season brings

It is the season to be hiking, Yes, one can hike year-round in the Philippines, but December marks the start of the cool and dry months that are ideal for outdoor activities. After all the holiday partying and eating, keeping fit can be a challenge. Fortunately there’s always a nearby mountain to climb wherever you find yourself in the archipelago.

Here are twelve mountains around the country that you can do as daytrips this Christmas:

1. Mt. Iraya, Batanes - Situated in a higher latitude relative to the rest of the country, Batanes enjoys a winter season characterised by chilly winds and cool temperatures. One unique way to experience the province is to climb Mt. Iraya in Basco, the highest peak in Batanes and the country’s northernmost 1000-meter peak. After trekking up a dense forest and a reed-riddled ridgeline, those lucky to reach the summit on a cloudless day will be treated to a superb view of our northern isles.

Starting point: Sitio Banaraw (near the airport), Basco, Batanes

Hours to complete: 6-8 hours

Difficulty: Moderate

2. Mt. Ulap, Benguet - Getting tired of the crowds in Baguio City? You can always head out to Mt. Ulap in Itogon, Benguet which is less than an hour away from the city. It does get crowded in Mt. Ulap too (it’s best to start very early) but there’s still plenty of space to enjoy the cool mountain breeze; trek across rolling, pine-forested slopes; and catch a view of the Cordilleras. Instagrammable attractions like the Lion King-esque Gungal Rock will draw the most attention, but the real pleasure of Mt. Ulap lies on the trail.

Starting point: Brgy. Ampucao, Itogon, Benguet

Hours to complete: 4-6 hours

Difficulty: Moderate

3. Mt. Arayat, Pampanga - If you’ve traveled anywhere north of Manila, chances are you’ve seen this mountain: at 1,030 meters, it is a towering presence above the rice fields of Central Luzon. Mt. Arayat has two major peaks—the North Peak in Magalang and the South Peak in Arayat—and a number of trail options, each featuring forested trails interrupted by scenic viewpoints. The one near the South Peak (the mountain’s true summit) offers the sight of Pampanga River meandering through the vast plains of the region.

Starting point: Mt. Arayat National Park, Arayat, Pampanga

Hours to complete: 5-10 hours (depending on the trail)

Difficulty: Moderate-Difficult

4. Mts. Pamitinan and Binacayan, Rizal - Although the surge of popularity in recent years has taken some of its appeal, hiking in Rizal remains an attractive choice for hikers owing to its stunning scenery and sheer proximity. Mts. Pamitinan and Bincayan in Rodriguez, for instance, are just 1-2 hours away from Quezon City, but they’re already on the foothills of the Sierra Madre. Don’t let the relatively low elevation fool you (just over 400 meters each): these limestone mountains require some scrambling. And if you find climbing one of them too short a hike, you can always climb both.

Starting point: Brgy. Wawa, Rodriguez, Rizal

Hours to complete: 3-4 hours (each mountain)

Difficulty: Easy but caution advised in rock scrambling

5. Mt. Makiling, Laguna - If North Luzon has Arayat, South Luzon has Makiling: another well-known mountain that is steeped in culture and history. Mariang Makiling, the mountain’s personification and guardian, occupies a treasured place in our folklore, while history lovers will appreciate the fact that Mt. Makiling is the only Philippine mountain that Jose Rizal was documented to have hiked. Many folks avoid Makiling because of the limatik (leeches), but they’re largely harmless and you might actually miss them entirely during this time of the year. Whether doing a regular hike via UP Los Baños or doing a traverse from Sto. Tomas; Mt. Makiling and its tropical rainforest makes for a great day outdoors.

Starting point: UP College of Forestry, Los Baños, Laguna

Hours to complete: 5-7 hours (UPLB), 6-9 hours (Traverse from Sto. Tomas)

Difficulty: Moderate-Difficult

6. Mt. Maculot, Batangas - A distinctive, dome-shaped landmark in Batangas, Mt. Maculot in the town of Cuenca is a highly-recommended hike for beginners. The hike commences with a steady ascent through woodland before emerging in the mountain’s open slopes. Most hikers head to the ‘Rockies’—a rocky outcrop that offer stunning views of Taal Lake, Taal’s Volcano Island, and much of Batangas, but one can also go for a longer hike up the mountain’s forested summit (930m) and through the ‘Grotto’—a hill at the other side of the mountain marked with a cross.

Starting point: Brgy. Siete, Cuenca, Batangas

Hours to complete: 4-5 hours (Rockies), 6-8 hours (Summit)

Difficulty: Easy-Moderate

7. Mt. Asog (Mt. Iriga), Camarines Sur - Mayon Volcano may be currently off-limits to hikers, but there’s plenty of alternatives in Bicol Region. One of them, Mt. Asog in Iriga, Camarines Sur, is a volcano in its own right. Dayhike-able from Bicol’s major cities (e.g. Naga, Legaspi), a hike up Mt. Asog takes you to its crater rim, which offers spectacular views of caldera underneath, as well as Bicol’s fabled mountains, from Mt. Isarog to the peerless Mayon Volcano.

Starting point: Sitio Ilian, Brgy. San Nicolas, Iriga, Camarines Sur

Hours to complete: 5-7 hours

Difficulty: Moderate

8. Mt. Agua Colonia, Iloilo - With its highest peaks over two thousand meters above sea level —many of them unexplored—Panay island is a mountaineer’s paradise, and fortunately there are some peaks close enough to do as a dayhike from Iloilo City. One of them, Mt. Agua Colonia, features a beautiful forest and Bato Dungok, an impressive rock formation reminiscent of Pico de Loro (which would have made it to this list were it not officially closed at the moment).

Starting point: Brgy. Lico, Alimodian, Iloilo

Hours to complete: 5-7 hours

Difficulty: Moderate

9. Mt. Bahile, Puerto Princesa - Palawan is more known for its beautiful islands, beaches, and two World Heritage Sites, but it is also home to numerous mountains that straddle the island province’s central spine and reflect its unique geology and biodiversity. Some of these peaks take days to complete, but others - like the 747-meter Mt. Bahile - are close enough to do as dayhikes from Puerto Princesa. Flanking the taller Mt. Tapyas, its summit offers views of Palawan’s slender landmass, surrounded by Sulu Sea and the West Philippine Sea.

Starting point: Brgy. Salvacion, Puerto Princesa City

Hours to complete: 6-8 hours

Difficulty: Moderate

10. Osmeña Peak, Cebu Festive Cebu can be as crowded as Metro Manila, but those who seek to go outdoors have plenty of options both north and south of the city. Perhaps the most picturesque of them is Osmeña Peak which, at 1,013 meters, is the island’s highest point. Located in Dalaguete and accessible by habal-habal, it actually takes just 30 minutes to reach the peak, but one can take more time (and burn more calories) to explore the summit area which is characterised by distinctive jagged peaks - or traverse to Kawasan Falls, whose milky blue waters comprise another of Cebu’s fabled attractions.

Starting point: Brgy. Mantalongon, Dalaguete, Cebu

Hours to complete: 2-3 hours

Difficulty: Easy

11. Mt. Hibok-Hibok, Camiguin - Climbing Mt. Apo or any of Mindanao’s major peaks takes an average of three days, but there are plenty of dayhikes too. One highly-recommended option is Mt. Hibok-Hibok, a forested volcano that rises to 1332 meters in Camiguin, the “island born of fire.” At the summit, one can peer down the verdant crater and enjoy views of Bohol and Northern Mindanao. There is the option to go down the crater and traverse to Brgy. Yumbing—or go back to the trailhead to the hike with a reinvigorating bath in Ardent Hot Springs.

Starting point: Ardent Hot Spring, Mambajao, Camiguin

Hours to complete: 6-8 hours

Difficulty: Moderate

12. Lake Holon, T’boli, South Cotabato - Another fantastic dayhike in Mindanao can be found in Mt. Parker (also known as Mt. Melebingoy) in T’boli, South Cotabato. The very summit of this mountain can be completed as a long dayhike or overnight hike, but there is the easier option to just hike up Lake Holon. Held by the local T’boli to be a celestial portal, the lake possesses some of its spellbinding qualities, not least of which are the tranquility of its waters and the majesty of the peaks that surround it.

Starting point: Brgy. Salacafe, T’Boli, South Cotabato

Hours to complete: 6-8 hours

Difficulty: Moderate

Anyone can climb the above mountains, but be sure to be physically and mentally prepared for any hike. Also, make sure you practice responsible outdoor recreation by coordinating with the local authorities, taking your trash with you, and respecting the local communities. See you on the trails.

Puerto Princesa vows to conserve Philippine cockatoo

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- Penal authorities, village leaders, and conservationists renewed here Friday a memorandum of agreement designed to protect the critically endangered Philippine cockatoo inside the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm (IPPF).

The covenant covers the conservation, protection, management, and preservation of the bird species’ known nesting and foraging grounds in 10 barangays in Puerto Princesa City.

Indira Dayang Lacerna-Widmann, chief operations officer of the Katala Foundation, Inc. (KFI), explained the annually renewed agreement signing with the IPPF since 2016 is for the common goal of protecting and preserving the territories, where flocks of the Philippine cockatoo or “katala” (Cacatua haematuropygia) go to look for food and breed.

The memorandum of agreement (MOA) for the Iwahig Biodiversity Conservation Program (IBCP) was signed among the KFI, IPPF Superintendent Arturo Sabadisto, Palawan Council for Sustainable Development’s (PCSD) operations department officer-in-charge Merly Hilario, the city government of Puerto Princesa, and the chairmen of the 10 barangays.

The penal farm, she said, is very important in the biodiversity conservation of the protected bird because it has diverse ecosystems that serve their purpose.

“Marahil lingid sa ating kaalaman, ang lowland forest o mababang kagubatan ng IPPF ay pangatlo sa buong mundo na pinaka-importanteng tirahan ng mga katala (Perhaps, unknown to our knowledge, the lowland forest of Iwahig is the third most important habitat of the katala),” Widmann said.

The first important dwelling ground is Rasa Island in the southern Palawan town of Narra, the second is Balabac municipality, and the IPPF in the city in Barangay Iwahig.

She said about 60-70 of the critically endangered bird, which is also known as the red-vented cockatoo, are dwelling in the IPPF’s lowland forests.

“Maaaring isipin na maliit lang ‘yan at hindi importante, pero sa buong mundo, humigit kumulang na lang sa 1,200 individuals ang katala. Dito lang sa Pilipinas matatagpuan ang katala kaya importante talaga ang Palawan sa cockatoo conservation (We might think that’s a small number and not important, but in the whole world, there are only now more or less 1,200 katala. They are only found in the Philippines and this is why Palawan is very important in cockatoo conservation),” she pointed out.

Widmann stressed that 90 percent of the remaining world population of the katala is in Palawan, and if their habitats are not protected, their number might seriously decline.

She said barangay leaders were included in the signing of the protection treaty because the katala are nesting in the villages of Montible, Sta. Lucia, and Inagawan near the IPPF.

“Umaabot sila sa ibang barangays sa Puerto Princesa mula sa mga buwan ng July hanggang December kasi tapos na ang breeding season. Lalabas na ang mga inakay at manginginain (They reach other barangays in Puerto Princesa from July to December because the breeding season is over. The nestlings will already go out to feed),” she said.

Mary Chris Nierves, KFI’s program development officer, said since 1998 when the conservation program started with 23 katala on Rasa Island, the population of the bird has grown to more than 300.

In Puerto Princesa, this success can also happen with the help of the village leaders who hold the authority over the territories where the katala nests and forages.

In three years of conservation efforts in the IPPF, four active nest trees that were marked successfully hatched eight nestlings out of 10 eggs, she said.

“Noong 2017, meron tayong nine active pugaran and then ngayong 2018, pataas ‘yan ng pataas (In 2017, we have nine active nests and then in 2018, the number has been really growing),” she said.

Nierves said 10 barangays in this city have now recorded katala sightings that did not happen in a long time.

Since August 2018, she said, the number of katala birds that have been sighted in Puerto Princesa has reached 66 individuals, especially in Barangay Bancao-Bancao.

The only problem is that there remains “confiscation” of the birds by children who use slingshots to catch them, adult residents who shoot them with air guns, tree cuttings in Iwahig by illegal settlers, and land conversions.

“These are the reasons why we need the cooperation of the barangay leaders because they are the ones in the area, they know what is happening,” she said.

For his part, Sabadisto said the penal farm, is committed to protecting and conserving the katala which he also sees foraging outside the window of his office on fruits of the Narra tree.

He said their concern right now is how to stop the encroachment of illegal settlers inside the IPPF, who illegally cut trees to build their homes.

Sabadisto said based on their inspection, some 50 illegal settlers are attempting to set up a community within the jurisdiction of their penal facility.

“May mga illegal settlers at sila ay mga Tagbanua. Ibinibenta pa nila ang lupa ng mga PHP80,000 per hectare. Kapag may nakikita kaming mga poste na itinatayo nila, binubunot na namin dahil gusto rin natin na makatulong sa pangangala nitong ibon (There are Tagbanua illegal settlers. They sell the lands at PHP80,000 per hectare. If we see posts sticking out, we take them out immediately since we want to help protect the birds),” Sabadisto claimed.

He said they have now referred this to the City Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) for the filing of cases.

Sabadisto said the KFI can rest assured that even the inmates in the minimum penal facility will help ensure the Philippine cockatoos are protected.

Philippine Navy officials tour US submarine in Palawan

By Patricia Lourdes Viray (

MANILA, Philippines — Philippine Navy officials went aboard a US Navy submarine and a submarine tender during the latter's port visit to Puerto Princesa City, Palawan earlier this week.

The crews of Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine USS Greeneville and submarine tender USS Emory S. Land hosted Armed Forces of the Phillippines officials for a tour and a meeting with submarine force crew members on December 10.

Capt. Carlos Sabarre—Naval Forces West deputy commander—and Capt. Edwin Nera of the Navy's Submarine Group were among the officers who took a tour of the submarine and met its crew, the US Pacific Fleet said in a report.

US Navy Cmdr. Terry Nemec, USS Greeneville commanding officer, noted that the American and Filipino navies have worked together in the past and continue to participate in bilateral and multilateral exercises.

The Philippine Navy officials also toured Emory S. Land, where some of the 139 active duty and civilian crewmen are of Filipino descent.

"The crews of the Greeneville and Land continue to impress our regional partners with their dedication and professionalism during recent visits," Capt. Michael Luckett, Land commanding officer, said.

USS Emory S. Land is deployed in the US 7th Fleet's area of operations and conductc maintenance and support for US Navy ships in the Indo-Pacific region.

Greeneville measures 360 feet long and weighs more than 6,900 tons, according to the US Pacific Fleet. It was commissioned in February 1996 and arrived at its current homeport at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in March 1997.

US military ships regularly conduct port visits in Puerto Princesa City, where the AFP's Naval Forces West is stationed.

In June, Spearhead-class joint high speed vessel USNS Millinocket docked in Puerto Princesa for bilateral training with Philippine marines.

El Nido's 'island hopping' has new rates

By Orlan C. Jabagat (OCJ/PIA-MIMAROPA/Palawan)

PUERTO PRINCESA, Palawan, Dec. 12 (PIA) --- The Sangguniang Bayan of El Nido recently passed an ordinance amending Section 5 of Ordinance No. 010 series of 2013 entitled "An ordinance regulating all boat owners/operators servicing island hopping at the Municipality of El Nido, Palawan."

The said section 5 pertains to the El Nido's new island hopping rates.

The new ordinance was approved on November 27, 2018, which indicates the following rates:

Tour A - P1,200 per person and islands to be visited are Big lagoon, Simizu Island, Payong-payong, Secret Lagoon, and Seven Commandos.

Tour B - P1,300 per person and islands to be visited are Pangulasian Island, Cudognon Cave, Cathedral Cave, Snake Islandand Pinagbuyutan Island.

Tour C - P1,400 per person and islands to be visited are Secret Beach, Hidden Beach, Matinloc Shrine, Tapiutan Island and Helicopter Island.

Tour D - P1,200 per person and island to be visited are Small Lagoon, Nat-nat Beach, Cadlao Lagoon, Pasandigan Cove, Paradise Beach, and Ipil Beach.

Tour guides, food items and purified water are included in all tour packages while the tours without food shall be less by P200.

Children ages 2-12 years old are given 50 percent discount, while 20 percent discount is given to senior citizens and students.

Also in the new ordinance, Small Lagoon and Big Lagoon can no longer be availed in one tour package. Big Lagoon remained in Tour A while Small Lagoon is transferred to Tour D.

The separation of two lagoons in one tour package is an effort of the Local Government Unit (LGU) of El Nido to address the issue of overcrowding and to regulate its carrying capacity.

Implementation of the said ordinance shall take effect after 15 days of posting in conspicuous places in the municipality of El Nido, Palawan.

DOH urges Mimaropa to regulate firecrackers use

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- The Department of Health - Center for Health Development (DOH-CHD) has urged the provinces covered by the Mimaropa region to pass ordinances that would regulate and control the use of firecrackers for safe New Year celebrations.

Dr. Ma. Vilma Diez, assistant director of the DOH-CHD 4-B (Mimaropa), during the “Oplan Iwas Paputok” media conference here Thursday night, said this is aimed at ensuring zero fireworks-related injury (FWRI) every year.

Mimaropa consists of the provinces of Occidental and Oriental Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, and Palawan.

Diez said barangay leaders, municipal and provincial legislative members, and other local government officials in these provinces can help curb the “behavioral culture” that favors firecrackers in welcoming the New Year.

“Inaasahan po natin na mawala na ang kultura nang pag-ingay sa pamamagitan ng paputok. We hope magkaroon na ng change in attitude on this. If hindi magawa ‘yung mga batas on a national level, sana sa local level magawa natin (We expect an end to the culture of making noise using firecrackers. We also hope for a change in attitude on this to happen soon. If laws cannot be passed at the national level, we will seek the help of the local level),” she said.

Instead of using firecrackers in their homes, Diez suggested that families can opt to watch community fireworks displays, organize street dancing parties, beat pots that are no longer being used, blow plastic hornpipes (torotot), and use other safe noisemakers and methods.

“Walang dapat masaktan sa panahon ng kasiyahan (Nobody should be hurt during happy celebrations),” she said.

Diez said Mimaropa had 21 cases of FWRI from Dec. 21, 2017 to Jan. 5, 2018. She said the figure is lower by 17 incidents compared to 2016’s 38 cases recorded from Dec. 21 to January 5.

Some 33 percent of the FWRI cases, she said, were caused by kwitis or sparklers; 29 percent by the powder-filled cylindrical stick called Piccolo, and 14 percent by Whistle Bombs.

In Palawan, Diez said no FWRI case was recorded in 2017.

What was recorded at the Ospital ng Palawan (ONP) was the case of a patient, whose throat was impaled by a plastic hornpipe when he accidentally stumbled.

“Bagama’t bumaba na po kaso sa buong Mimaropa, hindi tayo dapat titigil sa kampanya. Gusto natin zero-injury sa pagsapit ngayon ng Bagong Taon (Athough the number of cases in Mimaropa decreased, we should not stop campaigning. What we want is zero injury in the coming New Year),” Diez said.

With the theme “Oplan: Iwas Paputok, Fireworks Display ang Patok! Makiisa sa Inyong Lugar”, she said another goal of their campaign is ensuring the readiness of public and private hospitals to respond to FWRI cases during the season.

Diez said she was glad to have seen during her earlier hospital visits that the ONP, the Medical Mission Group and Health Services Cooperative-Puerto Princesa City, and the Palawan Adventist Hospital are prepared to receive fireworks-related injuries.

“Sa Palawan, natutuwa kami dahil isa ito sa mga probinsya na mahigpit na binabantayan at talagang walang insidente ng FWRI. Nagsadya kami sa mga ospital at ipinakita nila sa amin ang kanilang kahandaan sa mga gamit na meron sila para sa mga kaso ng FWRI (We are happy to note that Palawan has no FWRI because ordinances are strictly enforced here. We went around hospitals and they showed us their readiness through tools and devices needed to respond to FWRI),” she added.

Meanwhile, Palawan Provincial Health Office (PHO) chief Dr. Mary Ann Navarro said the municipal hospitals in the province are ready in case of FWRIs during the New Year celebration.

She said emergency rooms, wound-cleaning agents, amputation tools, oral and injectable medicines, vaccines, surgeons, and ambulances have been prepared earlier.

“Yes, our hospitals are prepared. In the southern and northern Palawan provincial hospitals, they have surgeons who can perform surgical procedures and have blood stations for transfusion. So, we are ready,” she said.

Senior Police Officer 1 Rey Albert Goh, assistant team leader of the city police's Explosive Ordnance Division, said they are strictly implementing Executive Order No. 28 signed in 2017 by President Rodrigo Duterte.

The EO provides for the regulation and control of the use of firecrackers and other pyrotechnic devices.

“Since the EO was issued by President Duterte, we have been steadfast in its implementation by always reminding barangay leaders of their responsibilities against the use of firecrackers, especially the very dangerous ones,” Goh said.

The EO, he said, is pursuant to Republic Act No. 7183, which regulates the use, sale, manufacture, and distribution of firecrackers and other pyrotechnics.

He said the prohibited firecrackers are Super Lolo, Whistlebomb, Goodbye Earth or Philippines, Atomic Big Triangulo, Piccolo, Judas’ Belt and other powerful fireworks imported from other countries.

Fire Officer 1 Barrister Carl L. Conde of the Puerto Princesa City Fire Protection - Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), said they are ready to respond to any fire incident during the New Year. However, they hope that no such incident would happen just because people are celebrating the New Year.

“Nakahanda rin po tayo sa BFP para sa ano mang insidente ng sunog. Pero syempre inaasahan natin na walang mangyayaring ganito. Umiwas tayo sa mga bagay na maaaring mag-cause ng sunog (The BFP is also prepared for any untoward incident. But of course, we don’t want this. Let us avoid things that can cause fire),” Conde said.

The DOH-CHD also brought the Iwas Paputok campaign to the Palawan National School, where it disseminated information regarding the use of firecrackers to 15-year old students.

Diez said this is because records show that most FWRIs involved teens in that age range.

2,500 reams of smuggled cigarettes seized in Palawan

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- Assorted boxes of smuggled cigarettes worth half a million pesos were seized recently by maritime police personnel along the shores of Balabac island municipality, southern Palawan.

Senior Supt. Greg Togonon, 2nd Special Operations Unit-Maritime Group (2nd SOU-MG) director, on Thursday said their operatives in Bataraza municipality seized 50 boxes of smuggled Fort and Bravo cigarettes last Sunday.

They were confiscated by the team of SPO3 Richard Rodriguez from two suspects along the shoreline of Dalahican Island, Barangay Pandanan in Balabac.

Togonon said the smuggled cigarettes were onboard an unmarked motorboat skippered by Karim Innoh, 34; and Jiya Doro, 56, who are residents of Sitio Marabon, Barangay Bancalaan, also in Balabac.

“The cigarettes were supposed to be transported to Bataraza but our team intercepted them,” he said.

Based on their initial investigation, the smuggled cigarettes are owned by a certain Harul Ismael, also a resident of Bataraza.

Togonon said Innoh and Doro will be charged with violating Republic Act 10863, or the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act. Ismael will also be invited for questioning.

He said the seized 14 boxes of Bravo cigarettes contain 700 reams, while the 36 boxes of Fort cigarettes have 1,800 reams.

The arrested persons are now under the custody of the 2nd SOU-MG in its Rio Tuba detachment, he added. Related Stories

Davao, Palawan bets shine in EAGA Friendship Games

(The Philippine Star)

BRUNEI – Davao continued its surge in swimming even as Palawan reaped the dividends of an athletic program as the Philippines shone in the 10th-East Asia Growth Area (EAGA) Friendship Games yesterday at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium here.

Fritz Jun Rodriguez became the Philippines’ first double-gold medalist as he topped the 100 meter breaststroke in 1:09.59. The lanky 17-year-old swimmer, who will see action for San Beda in the NCAA swimming competitions this season, earlier won the 50 meter breaststroke.

Eirron Seth Vibar added a gold medal in the 200 meter butterfly in 2:16.

Palawan’s Jessel Lumapas and John Lloyd Cabalo, both natives of San Vicente, Palawan, ruled the women’s and men’s 400 meters.

Lumapas had a winning time of 57.47 seconds, while Cabalo, the smallest among the finalists, earned thunderous applause with a personal best 50.14 seconds.

Palawan beach tops ‘Asia’s Top 50 Beaches’ list, ranks 3rd best beach worldwide

By Deni Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo (

PALAWAN, Philippines — For its protruding limestone cliffs “shooting out of the turquoise-blue lagoon straight to the sky,” Hidden Beach in El Nido, Palawan has been voted as the number one beach in Asia and the third best beach in the world by over 1,000 journalists, editors, travel bloggers and agencies that reportedly participated in a recently completed survey.

According to the poll conducted by Canada-based online travel company Flight Network, Hidden Beach is the only Philippine beach that made it to the survey’s World’s Top 50 Beaches list voted by travel experts and enthusiasts, reportedly including journalists and editors from Lonely Planet, Forbes, Daily Mail, BBC News, LA Times, Conde Nast Traveler, and National Geographic Traveler.

“Flight Network consulted these travel professionals to rank the best beaches in the world, based on their personal and professional experiences. We received unparalleled insight into the most spectacular beaches on earth,” the online travel company said in its website.

The company has listed on its website the names and social media accounts of everyone who allegedly participated in its survey, including at least one Filipino travel blogger and a Philippine Airlines representative.

Upon completion of the voting process, the network’s in-house travel experts analyzed and categorized the results.

“We created several official lists, including the top 50 beaches around the globe, as well as separate lists showcasing the top 50 beaches in several regions of the world, such as Africa, North America, South America, Central America and the Caribbean, Australia and the South Pacific and Asia. Even further, we ranked the top 50 beaches within or near cities and the top 50 most remote, or untouched, beaches.”

Based on the poll results, El Nido’s Hidden Beach has been ranked as the best beach in Asia for 2018 as this “tropical, white sand, postcard-perfect beach” has “unmistakable” limestone cliffs “that draw your eyes away from the magnificent reefs and palm-lined shores.”

“The wild, vegetation-covered rock formations and crystal clear waters of Hidden Beach will make you feel as if you’ve been dropped into a movie,” said one of the poll’s participants, Sachin Aggarwal of Carlson Wagonlit Travel.

“Until somewhat recently, the only ones flocking to the remote El Nido island were the swiftlets who nest in the cliffs — hence the name El Nido, which means beach in Spanish. Now, all those who visit enjoy breathtaking views and world-class diving by day and luxurious resorts by night,” a description of the beach’s location said in the website.

Apart from Hidden Beach, other Philippine beaches included in ‘Asia’s Top 50 Beaches’ list include:

• Guyam White Sand Beach in Siargao at no. 13
• Palaui Beach in Cagayan Valley at no. 22
• Caramoan in Camarines Sur at no. 29
• Dahican Beach in Mati, Davao Oriental at no. 41
• Gumasa Beach in Sarangani at no. 45
• Alona Beach, Panglao, Bohol at no. 46
• Kalanggaman Island, Cebu at no. 49
• Paliton Beach, Siquijor at no. 50

According to the network, the globally-recognized list aims to showcase a collection of off-the-beaten-path slices of paradise from every corner of the planet.

Captured croc now in Puerto Princesa wildlife center

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- The 15.6-foot male saltwater crocodile captured over the weekend in Balabac, southern Palawan is now in a wildlife conservation center here.

It was transported to the facility in Barangay Irawan from Barangay Rio Tuba, Bataraza using a boom truck that was borrowed from the provincial government, at about 8 a.m. and arrived at 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Temporarily named “Singko”, Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center (PWRCC) director Ronie B. Gandeza said the reptile will be kept inside a large pen enclosure in their facility’s “breeder area”.

He said it will join 82 saltwater (Crocodylus porosus) and 173 freshwater (Crocodylus mindorensis) breeder crocodiles in a specially prepared enclosure in the southern portion of the large facility.

“Tinanggalan muna natin ng laman ‘yong isang pen para ma-accommodate siya doon. Para talaga sa malalaking buwaya ‘yong area (We emptied one pen to accommodate him there. The area is really for large crocodiles),” Gandeza said.

He said “Singko” will no longer return to the area where it was captured as its life is already under threat from residents who are wary of another attack.

Ganeza said its health will be checked by veterinarian Terry Aquino, who will also administer the gastric lavage or stomach flushing procedure.

“I-qua-quarantine agad siya then i-ga-gastric lavage para dire-diretso na. ’Yong mga tao kasi talagang galit na. Ang sabi nga nila kung hindi natin i-extract bubumbungin na nila (We will quarantine it and then it will undergo gastric lavage, so it can rest already. The people there are really angry now. They said if it is not extracted, they will kill it with dynamite),” he said.

He said in the next few months, they will assess if “Singko” can be a breeder of the PWRCC.

Ganeza said “Singko” was lured and captured by their PWRCC team that used goat meat in a trapping device. The team was led by crocodile specialist Salvador Guion.

Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff (PCSDS) spokesperson Jovic Fabello said the information, if it is the “problem crocodile”, will be disclosed Wednesday in an early morning press conference that will be called by PCSDS.

Getting tourism management better in El Nido

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan (SPECIAL REPORT) -- The municipal government of El Nido is preparing to amend its tourism code in a bid to be more environmental law-compliant and properly guided in the correct manner of conducting tourism operations and activities.

Mayor Nieves Rosento said their tourism code needs to be updated, noting that times have changed, and a lot of developments have already happened in their town.

But while proposed amendments are still being prepared, Rosento said they have started passing resolutions and ordinances that would ensure the long-term commitment and development of El Nido's tourism industry.

"Yes, it's included. It's already being prepared for the amendment because a lot has changed in El Nido. It is no longer relevant in this present time. So, about the tourism code amendment, it's now in progress," she said in the local vernacular.

Splitting tours

Rosento said one of the new policies is the boat management, splitting of tours, and their rates under Municipal Ordinance No. 101, Series of 2018, amending Section 5 of Municipal Ordinance No. 010, Series of 2013.

"What we amended recently is the boat management, the splitting of tours, and the rates. The Big and Small Lagoons used to be together in Tour A, but now we have separated them under the boat management ordinance," she said.

The two lagoons and the secret lagoon, which used to be offered as tours under Tour A, have now been separated under the ordinance that was approved in a special session of the municipal council on Nov. 27 led by Vice Mayor Leonor Corral.

Section 5 said Tour A which costs PHP1,200 per person with a tour guide, food, and purified water, will now bring visitors to Big Lagoon, Shimizu Island, Payong-Payong, Secret Lagoon, and Seven Commando Island.

The Small Lagoon has been transferred to Tour D along with Bacuit Bay sites like Nat-nat Beach, Cadlao Lagoon, Pasandigan Cove, Paradise Beach, and Ipil Beach. The tour used to include Bukal Beach.

"We separated them to address the issue of carrying capacity. We need to split them, and what we're waiting for is to adopt the carrying capacity. If the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has confirmed this and it has done its assessment, we will be able to move already," Rosento said.

She said they are waiting for what the DENR will say about the carrying capacity because they fear they will increase the influx in other tour sites in the bay.

"This is our worry that's why we first amended the ordinance on regulating boat management. We separated the two most visited lagoons," she added.

The new ordinance took effect on Saturday, Dec. 1, said Carolyn Esmenda, the assistant protected area superintendent (PASu) in El Nido.

She said splitting the two lagoons into different tour packages means they can no longer be visited on the same day to avoid overcrowding.

“Tour operators, tour boats and tour guides who will be proven to have deliberately violated the policies within the protected area will be denied dispatch by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) until their cases have been resolved/cleared with the protected area office (PAO),” Esmenda said.

A PHP200 environmental user fee (EUF) each will be imposed on visitors going to Big Lagoon and Small Lagoon which will go to the Integrated Protected Area Fund (IPAF) and will be utilized solely for the conservation and management activities of the El Nido-Taytay Managed Resource Protected Area (ENTMRPA) in Bacuit Bay.

“The environmental user fee is non-refundable except on force majeure situations like the cancellation of tours by the Philippine Coast Guard due to the inclement weather," Esmenda said.

In addition, the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) will be strict too "on the wearing of life jackets on tours; no loud sounds and no cliff jumping in the lagoon tours; no grilling, no throwing of food scraps/leftovers in the water, no stepping on corrals in Bacuit Bay; and no smoking, no alcohol drinks, no vendors in the vicinity of the lagoons, among others."

Crowd control

Rosento said one of the guidelines that the Department of Tourism (DOT) wants to be imposed in El Nido is limiting the number of visitors and tour boats that enter the Big Lagoon to prevent the destruction of its ecosystem.

On Nov. 8, the first dry run for crowd control was done with the help of the DENR's Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO), other line agencies, and stakeholders, she said.

Only 60 visitors and 30 kayaks per hour (480 pax per eight hours/240 kayaks) were allowed to gain entry in the Big Lagoon from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

In the Small Lagoon, only 30 visitors and 15 kayaks (240 pax per eight hours/120 kayaks) were permitted to enter also from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Pablo Cruz, chief of the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) in the town and the designated protected area superintendent of the El Nido-Taytay Managed Resource Protected Area (ENTMRPA), said no tour boat was allowed to drop anchor near the entrances of the Big and Small Lagoons.

“Wala ng papayagang tour boats na mag-aangkla malapit sa Small Lagoon kasi maliit nga ang area. Sa Big Lagoon naman, hindi papayagan na pumasok ang mga tour boats para hindi overcrowded sa loob (No tour boat will be allowed to drop anchor outside the entrance of the Small Lagoon because the area is small. In the Big Lagoon, tour boats will no longer be allowed entry inside to prevent it from overcrowding),” he said earlier.

Cruz further said the results of the dry run have been promising to address the issue of "overcrowding" that DOT Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat had observed during a visit in September.

He noted that even the tourists who participated in the dry run favored the smooth operation of entry in the lagoons.

“So far ay maganda naman ang mga naging resulta. Maayos ang flow nang touring sa loob at nakita na maluwag lalo na sa Big Lagoon noong di muna pinayagang pumasok ang mga bangka (So far, the results are good. The flow of touring inside is no longer problematic especially in the Big Lagoon when the tour boats were banned from entering),” he said.

Cruz further said the PAMB already has a resolution on this which needs the backing of an ordinance from the municipal council.

As of Nov. 27, 2018, an estimated 59,227 foreign and 44,074 domestic travelers (103,301 total) have already visited El Nido, according to a record provided by its municipal tourism office (MTO).

Of the total figure, the most number of travelers, or 26,454, are from Europe with France contributing the highest at 5,116. This was followed by the United Kingdom with 3,629; Spain with 3,525; and Germany with 2,269.

The second highest tourist arrival is from Asia at 11,952, with China contributing the largest number of visitors at 3,573 followed by Japan with 1,812 and South Korea with 1,643.

In 2017, El Nido posted a tourist arrival of 144,257.

No ECC, no business permit

Rosento said another policy that will now be implemented in El Nido to ensure environmental law compliance is the "no environmental clearance certificate (ECC), no business permit", which infuriates business owners in the town.

She said the matter had been discussed with DENR regional director Henry Adornado who will send a team to El Nido to help explain to business owners how the procedure will go.

"The DENR said the holders of the certificate of non-coverage will not go through the regular process... It's like conversion from CNC to ECC and they have to also comply parameters on wastewater analysis, clean water act, and also the easement," Rosento said.

Rosento explained further this will already be the new policy on the issuance of business permits set forth on them by the DENR.

"Imposing this is now our concern in El Nido. But they will not go through the regular ECC process like other big investments -- this is a conversion from CNC to ECC. It's really going to be the policy now -- no ECC, no business permit," she said.

Last week, DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año, and Puyat went to El Nido to conduct a site inspection.

Cimatu said there will be "no closure" of the town's tourism operations, but a six-month immediate rehabilitation should be done compliant to environmental laws on wastewater management, clean air act, and easement zone.

One of the areas where the rehabilitation will focus on is Barangay Buena Suerte, where the municipality's main outfall is located to empty sewer contents in Bacuit Bay. The area's beach will be closed for swimming.

Thousands attend Christmas tree lighting in Puerto Princesa


PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- Thousands of residents and city government leaders gathered at the bay walk here Saturday night to officially welcome the holiday season with the annual lighting of a 100-foot tall community Christmas tree.

Adorned with over 100 pieces of “parol” (lantern) wrapped in white rain-proof material and colorful Christmas lights, the giant tree calls to mind the Filipino tradition of celebrating the season.

Mayor Lucilo Bayron and members of the Puerto Princesa City Council, who led the event opening, said this year’s design theme highlights the parol as an iconic symbol of how Filipinos celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

“This Christmas tree was designed not only to look bright and attractive at night but also in the daytime,” Bayron said in the local vernacular.

He said the bay walk area is not the only place that would remind residents about the Christmas spirit but also strategic city locations that have been decorated with colorful lights and ornaments.

Two of these are Junction 1 where the Provincial Capitol Building is situated and Junction 2 where bright lights now hang on centuries-old Acacia and other trees.

In his speech, Bayron also addressed the issue of the city government’s failure to receive the Department of the Interior and Local Government’s (DILG) Seal of Good Local Governance (SGLG).

“Christmas is not only about being happy. More importantly, it is also the time of the year where we need to reflect why the city failed to receive the SGLG award which could have been our third consecutive year of being consistently recognized,” he said.

Bayron explained the failure was due to “underspending” caused by the problem in political leadership that encumbered the implementation of many projects.

He pointed out that before the end of the year, the city will be able to bid out remaining 2018 projects and proposals for 2019.

Bayron said the Christmas tree is dedicated to them under the Bible verse John 3:16, which speaks about the summary of the central theme of Christianity.

The event was highlighted by the singing of different city choirs during the opening and a firework display that lasted several minutes at the closing.

Mariculture can increase milkfish production in Palawan

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- A Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC) expert said milkfish (bangus) production in Palawan is low despite the province having potential brackish water ponds that could help develop the industry.

Dr. Evelyn Grace de Jesus-Ayson of SEAFDEC said Thursday that the low production of milkfish can actually be helped by mariculture.

Mariculture is a branch of aquaculture that cultivates fish and other products for food in the open sea, which the province can try in the farming of “bangus”.

“Maraming areas na brackish water ponds na puwedeng either i-develop or redevelop para ma-improve ‘yong production ng bangus (There are many brackish water ponds that can either be developed and redeveloped for the production of bangus),” Ayson said.

She said fish cages can be set up in coves to increase the production of “bangus” and build for it a solid industry. One of the advantages of the cage culture, she added, is its “stocking density” that can be achieved.

“Kung meron kang 10x10x4-meter deep kunwari na cage pwede kang mag-stock ng up to 15,000 fish per cage and ‘yung isang cage mo ay makaka-produce ng seven tons. So way higher than the production sa brackish water ponds (If you have a 10x10x4-meter deep cage, you can stock up 15,000 fish per cage, and one cage can produce seven tons. This is way higher than the production in brackish water ponds),” Ayson said.

She said “bangus” from cages tastes even better because of the salt present in seawater.

If hatchery and feed production facilities are improved in Palawan, they can help in developing the aquaculture industry fast, she added.

Based on records of the Philippine Statistics Authority, the production of “bangus” in the province went down to 4,000 metric tons in 2017 from 10,000 metric tons in 2014-2016.

Ayson was one of the speakers invited to speak to 40 milkfish farmers, who participated in the aquaculture training on November 27-29 that was spearheaded by the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist - in partnership with the Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Training Institute.

Construction of Air Force base in Palawan to start in 2019

By Celeste Anna Formoso (With reports from Aira Genesa Magdayao/PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- The proposed Philippine Air Force (PAF) base in Balabac, southern Palawan, is expected to begin construction in the first quarter of 2019, a local government official said here Thursday afternoon.

Atty. Teodoro Jose Matta, legal officer of the Palawan provincial government, said in an “Air Power Forum” that the groundwork for the new 300-hectare air base can start as land clearing is almost complete. The forum was held at the provincial capitol here.

The first-ever forum was led by the PAF’s Tactical Operations Wing West (TOWW) to inform the public about how Palawan’s security and safety is maintained using the country’s air assets.

Matta said the area, being unblocked in the site in Barangay Catagupan, mainland Balabac, is for the base’s three-kilometer runway and four-kilometer

“At the moment we are already conducting ground-clearing. The target is that by first quarter of 2019, the area should have been cleared of obstructions and secured,” Matta said.

He noted the site was purchased by the provincial government for said purpose, and its management and possession had already been turned over to the PAF earlier.

Among those present in the forum were Lt. Gen. Rozzano D. Briguez AFP, Commander of WESCOM; Maj. Gen. Restituto F. Padilla Jr., AFP, deputy chief of staff for Plans J-5; and Maj. Gen. Jose Tanjuan Jr., who represented Kintanar.

In July 2018, Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez signed a memorandum of agreement with Lt. General Galileo Gerard Kintanar Jr., the PAF commanding general, for the establishment of the base that would take care of security in the southern border.

Alvarez said the area might also possibly serve as the location of a proposed airport to be constructed in southern Palawan to increase tourism influx.

Palawan, DOE sign ‘DREAMS’ program on renewable energy

By Celeste Anna Formoso (with reports from Aira Genesa Magdayao/PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- The Palawan government has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) here with the Department of Energy (DOE) for the “DREAMS” program, which seeks the mainstreaming and market sustainability of renewable energy.

DREAMS stands for “Development of a Renewable Energy Applications Mainstreaming and Market Sustainability.”

Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez signed the MOU on Wednesday with DOE Undersecretary Felix William Fuentebella, DOE DREAMS national project director Mylene Capongcol, and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) country director Titon Mitra.

Fuentebella said DREAMS is a partnership project among the DOE, UNDP, the Global Environment Facility (GEF), and five Palawan municipalities to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through the promotion and facilitation of commercialization of renewable energy (RE) markets.

“This is a way on how we can integrate responses to answer the energy needs of the province. What we have observed before in the past forums was that everyone has individual plans that were not integrated together. We should understand that we only need efficiency in energization. Let’s not waste our resources because this is for you,” he said in the local vernacular.

In Palawan, the DREAMS will be implemented in the towns of Cagayancillo, Aborlan, San Vicente, Brooke’s Point and Balabac. In the Philippines, its pilot sites are Palawan and Iloilo.

Fuentebella said the program is expected to help local government units (LGUs) provide power to 20,000 Filipinos, including Palawan residents, who live in off-grid areas in the country.

This will be achieved through four components: enforcement of a supportive policy and regulatory environment for leveraging investments in RE development and applications at the local level; strengthened institutional capacity that can lead to stepped-up RE investment; an increased share of RE-based power capacity; and enhanced RE projects and successful replication of proven and emerging technologies.

Fuentebella added that the DREAMS will assist the LGUs in planning their local energy initiatives so investors will visit their municipalities that have available power resources.

For his part, Governor Alvarez thanked the DOE and its partners for including Palawan and the five municipalities in the DREAMS program.

“We are very happy that Palawan is included in the implementation of this program. We have to capture energy to support the areas in the province. This is very promising and it will be able to increase the power capacity all over. No province will succeed without 24/7 power supply,” Alvarez said.

The program had been allocated the amount of USD44 million by the partners to be used to reduce the GHG with the commercialization of RE markets.

It started in 2017 and will be implemented until 2022 by linking the LGUs to RE developers, investors from the public and private sectors, and technical experts.

Palawan farmers raise yield using hybrid rice seeds

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- Farmers in Palawan increased their yields between March and September under the provincial government’s Productivity Rice Enhancement Development (PRED) program using hybrid rice seeds.

PRED rice program focal person Ma. Mayla Rebusada said Thursday they have recorded higher yield from 84 farmers, who received financial loans from the provincial government to use the mestizo 20 hybrid seeds.

Based on their study, Rebusada said the average yield of 5.6 metric tons per hectare had been recorded during the wet season between March 16 and September 15.

It was higher by 2.1 metric tons compared to the previous average yield of 3.5 metric tons per hectare, using certified seeds.

“During the first wet season, ‘yon ‘yung March 16 to September 15 planting ay mayroon na tayong nabigyan na (tayo ng hybrid rice seeds na) 200 farmers (During the first wet season between March 16 and September 15 planting, we have given hybrid rice seeds to 200 farmers),” she said.

The other farmers, he explained, have not yet harvested their palay.

The first batch of farmer beneficiaries is from Narra, Aborlan, Bataraza, Brooke’s Point, Rizal, Quezon, Roxas, and Sofronio Espanola, where it is feasible to plant the hybrid rice seeds.

“’Yong inbreed certified seeds nasa 70 cavans per hectare. Pero ngayong gumamit sila ng hybrid seeds, nadagdagan ng 30 cavans ‘yung kanilang ani kasi 100 cavans na ‘yan (The inbreed certified seeds yield 70 cavans per hectare for them. But when they used the hybrid seeds, 30 cavans were added, they now harvest 100 cavans),” Rebusada said.

She added that a new batch of 200 farmers is now planting the hybrid rice seeds for the September 16 to March 15, 2019 dry season.

PRED is a program of the province that is focused on giving loans to farmers for farm inputs, complete fertilizers, and hybrid rice seeds.

Gatchalian: PALECO takeover needed to solve Palawan power supply woes


Senator Win Gatchalian on Monday backed the plan of the government to take over the beleaguered Palawan Electric Cooperative (PALECO) to solve the province’s worsening power supply problem.

Gatchalian made the call after President Rodrigo Duterte recently gave PALECO a stern warning that the national government would be compelled to take over the power distributor’s facilities should frequent blackouts in Palawan persist until the end of the year.

The senator lamented that exasperated Palaweños have long complained about the lengthy rotational brownouts they have experienced in their province, and PALECO’s seemingly chronic inefficiency in coming up with solutions to the problem.

As chair of the Senate energy committee, Gatchalian facilitated a dialogue and held a committee hearing with stakeholders of the PALECO power situation more than a year ago to determine the cause of the long brownouts in the province.

The senator said he has been urging the National Electrification Administration (NEA) to take over PALECO since his committee conducted a formal dialogue in August 2017 with representatives from the Department of Energy, the Energy Regulatory Commission, NEA, the National Power Corporation, PALECO, Delta P, DMCI Power, and affected local government units.

“Matagal na natin naririnig ang mga reklamo ng ating mga kababayan sa Palawan tungkol sa mga mahahabang brownout na nararanasan nila mula nung ako’y pumasok sa Senado. Bilang chairman ng Senate Committee on Energy, palagi nating pinupukpok ang PALECO na solusyunan na itong problema, pero puro pangako na lang ang naririnig natin sa kanila,” Gatchalian said.

PALECO, which has the second largest franchise area in the country, provides power to 18 municipalities and Puerto Princesa City, serving a total of 135,284 consumers as of April 2018.

Citing data from NEA, Gatchalian pointed out that each PALECO consumer experienced an average of 126 power interruptions in 2017, which he said was beyond the NEA standard of 25 interruptions per consumer per year.

This resulted in an average of 16 hours of power interruption every month or a total of 187 hours in 2017, according to Gatchalian.

Based on the NEA standard, the acceptable frequency of power interruption is 45 hours per consumer per year.

Gatchalian noted that in July 2017 alone, power consumers had to endure 31 hours of blackouts due to unreliable power providers which had failed to fulfill their obligations.

Palawan traders warned: Follow the rules, keep province clean

By Nathaniel Mariano

In a bid to prevent a Boracay-type environmental disaster, President Rodrigo Duterte urged local officials and concerned citizens of Palawan to observe the tourist influx in the island, calling on hotels and business establishments to simply “follow the rules.”

Duterte said he would not want to see Palawan suffer the same fate as that of the famed Boracay island.

“Just clean it. Do not overload. You will be the guards here. Boracay is a classic case of overloading. It can carry only so many people,” the President said in his speech during the 1st Subaraw Biodiversity Festival in Palawan.

“If you fill it up with all the waste, it will tumble down. That’s why it’s [needs to be] controlled. You have to control the number [of tourists here],” he added, reminding local officials to keep a watchful eye on the arrivals of tourists.

The President also stressed that owners of hotels and establishments in Palawan need to play a role in preserving the province’s environment.

“Do not allow the hotels near the easement. They should stay away. Tell them to really move far,” he said, noting that hotels, as seen in the case of Boracay, throw their toilet wastes directly to the ocean.

Stressing that the national government has jurisdiction over the country’s beachfronts, Duterte said it is his administration’s duty to protect it from violators as he decided to place all hotels in the island on “notice.”

“So, I’m giving notice to all hotels that are operating near the sea. Do not connect your tubes directly to it. If you want to build a hotel, add another many million to have a water treatment,” Duterte said, maintaining that hotels must have proper toilet management system as he observed how Canada turns its wastes into something useful by turning urine into clean drinking water.

“You protect your crown jewel of the Palawan, which is really the beautiful sceneries. And avoid overcrowding,” Duterte said. “For the hotels and the resorts, follow rules. You will not have a problem with me.”

“Let us work together in protecting the environment so that the government’s action to close Boracay Island will not be repeated elsewhere in the country,” he added.

Disgusted over the environmental issues of Boracay, which he previously labeled as “cesspool,” the President had closed Boracay for six months to give way for its rehabilitation and reopened the world-famous island resort to the public last month.

‘Local players’ warned to fix Palawan power woes till yearend

By Azer Parrocha and Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

MANILA -- President Rodrigo R. Duterte urged the energy distribution cooperative in Palawan to improve the province’s power situation or else he would expropriate its franchise and sell it to “major players” who can do it.

The President gave the ultimatum Saturday to the Palawan Electric Cooperative (Paleco) and provincial government officials led by Mayor Lucilo Bayron and Governor Jose Alvarez during a visit here to join the Subaraw Biodiversity Festival 2018, in line with the commemoration of the “Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR) Day.”

“I hold nothing against cooperatives, they are pioneering spirits. But on the extreme, maybe, I will give you about towards the end of the year [to have] a new set up that would provide enough energy so that it can operate and it can move. You have to upgrade your source of energy. Kung hindi, ang gagawin ko maghahanap ako ng may pera talaga – China, nangangati ang kamay nyan just to get hold of developments here (If not, what I will do is I will look for a [power player] with money – China, its hands are just itching to get hold of developments here),” he said.

Duterte made this remark while lamenting Palawan’s power supply crisis causing frequent power outages.

“Yung inyong sitwasyon dito, yung inyong ilaw dito (Your situation here, your lights here) at this late of the date of development in the country, may brownout kayo na (you experience brownouts) six to eight hours--that is not acceptable to me,” Duterte said.

“Kung walang power, walang gumagalaw, walang produkto (If there’s no power, there’s no one working, there’s no products). That is the problem. I will simplify it for you,” he added.

Duterte said he would buy out cooperatives and allow major players to improve the province’s power situation, noting that the long-term power outages can be very critical to the progress and growth of the whole province and the everyday lives of occupants.

“I will expropriate your franchise. Bilihin ko ‘yan at a valuation that is fair – just compensation. Kung ganoon [lagi] dito… to end this impasse, i-expropriate ko yan, pabayaran ‘yang cooperative then ipabigay ko sa mag-o-operate na bago. If you want, may mga major players. I don’t care kung sino. Marami ‘yan sila, may [mga] partners. Gusto ninyo? (I will buy it at a valuation that is fair – just compensation. If it’s always like this her… to end this impasse, I will expropriate it, I will have the cooperative paid then I will have it be given to a new operator. If you want, there are major players. I don’t care who. There are many there, they have partners. Would you like it?),” he said.

He added that he will not seize Paleco just to grab hold of it as a business, but the city and the province need to develop with the help of reliable power service.

If it can provide the energy requirement that is needed before the end of the year, then he will not interfere.

“Either you do it or I will do it for you. I will expropriate. There are basic powers of government - police power, the power of taxation… power of eminent domain. If there is not enough money, you have to bring in help. If there is no relief in sight, better begin to talk to the people who can help us,” President Duterte pointed out.

He told Bayron and Alvarez that he wants to sit with them in Malacañang to talk about the problem and help them find a solution.

Puerto Princesa City and the whole province have been dealing with persistent power outages since early last year.

Paleco, the distribution franchisee, has blamed the prolonged electricity disruptions on the failure of its independent power producers (IPPs) to upgrade their facilities to deliver reliable energy supply when the demand peaks.

Based on the demand and supply for the Palawan main grid, the actual peak in the province as of October is 52.22 megawatts (MWs) opposed to the actual peak for the year in May which is 53.85 MWs and the forecasted 50.97 MWs.

A PWD’s guide to enjoying Palawan

By Elizabeth Lolarga (CONTRIBUTED, Philippine Daily Inquirer)

Hobbling on a cane didn’t stop her from enjoying a holiday, from island-hopping to a dip in therapeutic pool

Whoever said fun times for a senior with disability are over will eat her words and get dunked in Kayangan Lake by me who remains still tan after four days in Palawan.

Persons with disability (PWD) need not be marginalized, and deserve as much as courteous assistance from the tourism industry.

I bless elder cousin Beng Valdellon, a balikbayan from Burke, Virginia, who always spends her holiday money in the Philippines, and invites our gang of panganay cousins to share her loot.

In 2015, we went to Puerto Princesa where we were awestruck by the underground river’s wealth, and sunburned while dawdling on a dune with the finest sand in the middle of the sea.

But things were different this most recent trip. I was hobbling on a practically deformed-by-osteoarthritis knee joint and depended on a cane to get around.

Beng’s invitation stood firm—we were going to have what could be a last hurrah before all our knees give way to aging’s inevitable curse.

Thus, the request to La Natura Resort on Mabintangen Rd., Barangay 6, Coron, to billet us in a ground-level room.

Was there air-conditioning? Nope, but we had a large ceiling fan that did the wonders of ventilating the room.

From the get-go, the staff of Cebu Pacific prepared a wheelchair for me and an aide pushed me around and helped me to my seat in the departure area.

Climbing the short staircase to the plane was a cinch with a security guard assisting me from behind to break any misstep, just in case.

The flight attendants were as solicitous, helping me store my cane and carry-on bag in the luggage bin. They ensured that there was a wheelchair awaiting me when it was time to disembark at Francisco B. Reyes Airport in Busuanga.

The PWD toilet in the airport was neat and equipped with handrails and tissue paper.

The highway leading to Coron was generally smooth, except for a few rail bumps that are meant for cattle crossing.

When the van took a left to Mabintangen Road leading to the resort, it was a rough ride over crater-wide potholes. Barangay funds still need to be poured into that dirt road, but come to think of it, other holiday seekers, especially those foreigners, may find the road with the surrounding flora and rustic views of nipa huts tres exotique.

At the hotel

Waiting for us at La Natura’s front desk were cool towels to wipe away the weariness of early-morning travel and tall glasses of fresh calamansi juice with organic bamboo straws.

We ordered an early lunch from a mixed menu that offered Filipino, Italian, American and other popular dishes. The chicken curry in thick coconut sauce came highly recommended.

While waiting for our room to be cleared, we had occasion to admire the garden where butterflies as large as our hands flitted among the flowers, particularly the blooming kamuning, our first time to see one, familiar as we are only with the name of a Quezon City district.

The architecture of the rooms is inspired by the nipa hut with palm fronds for the roofing. We entered through glass and screen sliding doors to a cool place.

Partly because of the unpolluted rural setting, the air wasn’t humid even if the fan was still turned off.

The resort arranged tours with the tour operators in the town proper. Everyone met at the pantalan or pier. We got there through the resort’s suki tricycle driven by Jayron, who believed in going ecology-wise with his electric vehicle. Sure, it may not move as fast as the ones fueled by gas, but it doesn’t harm the environment.

For the city tour, one can have the van exclusively to one’s group or one can have “joiners.” The latter meant that one had strangers sharing the ride and tour, and following the itinerary.

We were with two Taiwanese girls who insisted on catching the sunset at the top of Mt. Tapyas, which could be reached through 721 steps. Naturally, we sat that one out. It was too early for sunset.

The driver said the girls could be dropped off toward that hour later, after we finished our itinerary which included stops in a souvenir shop for the usual bags of cashew nuts, a visit to St. Agustin’s Church where we would have wanted to light candles for our beloveds, but no one was selling candles.

Last stop as the afternoon moved to evening was Maquinit Hot Spring in Sitio Maquinit, Barangay Tagumpay, accessible through paved and unpaved roads.

Again there were gentlemen-guides who volunteered to assist me gingerly get down for more than an hour’s soak in the 30°C pool. There were concrete seats surrounding the pool so one could sit and relax and let the therapeutic waters do their healing, while we watched the full moon rise over the trees.

By the time I emerged from the waters, I could feel the heaviness from my aching joints dissipate. Why, I could almost walk straight without a cane! This must be how pilgrims felt after visiting Lourdes, France.

The next day was set aside for what was called The Ultimate Adventure. This involved island-hopping to several destinations in one full day. At least four able-bodied men helped me board the motorboat.

The same number of men also kept me secure and safe as I climbed down the ladder to the sea while wearing a life jacket. They were there to give my buttocks a push when it was time to leave the waters. Coron’s waters are temperate and perfect for just swimming around or cycling one’s gravity-free legs.

The third day of our stay we were rained in. Outdoor play was ruled out. I settled down with a book, Rachel Friedman’s “A Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost.”

When it was time to return home, it was back to the wheelchair to board, one hour of flying time, then getting off the plane to another wheelchair.

Smile! I just crossed another trip off a bucket list. But until when?

El Nido set to limit number of tourists in island destinations

By Jervis Manahan (ABS-CBN News)

EL NIDO, Palawan- One of the country's top tourist destinations will soon limit tourists in its key attractions.

Tourists visiting key island destinations in El Nido will soon be limited to preserve the area, El Nido municipal administrator RJ Dela Calzada told ABS-CBN News Friday.

"We do not want to follow the footsteps of Boracay," Dela Calzada said, noting that tourist arrival in El Nido has reached 200,000 in 2017. He said the figure is much higher in 2018.

The local government has set the tourist limit at the island's Big Lagoon to 60 per hour with kayak trips at 30 per hour. For the Small Lagoon, only 30 tourists and 15 kayak trips are allowed per hour.

Dela Calzada said they may also redesign their tour packages to regulate the number of tourists.

As of now, El Nido offers 4 standard tour packages, consisting of 5 to 6 attractions per package.

Tour packages may soon be expanded to 7 with fewer destinations per package.

The number might seem small compared to other tourist spots, but it's already big for a "secluded" beach destination like El Nido, Dela Calzada said.

To visit El Nido, one must fly to Puerto Princesa and then travel for around 6 to 7 hours by land to El Nido. Boat trips to the beaches meanwhile usually take an hour or 2.


Unlike Boracay, tourists in El Nido aren't concentrated in a single strip of a shoreline. Tourists go island hopping, but most of them stay downtown, which has several hotels, inns, and pension houses.

"One has to see the serenity, listen to the chirping of the birds, and enjoy the view. How can you do that if El Nido is crowded with people?" Dela Calzada said.

With the increasing number of tourists, El Nido banned earlier this year single use plastics in its tour packages, particularly water bottles. Coast guard personnel inspect boats and confiscate plastic bottles before they are allowed to sail.

The local government has also intensified its crackdown on illegal tour operators, and have started apprehending boat tour operators with no proper documents.

The local government admitted they imposed stricter rules when Boracay was closed down.

Ninety-eight percent of the planned demolition on the town's main shoreline has been completed, to comply with the easement rule while the remaining 2 percent of demolition is already underway.

Restaurants are also only allowed to put tables on the beach from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m., and these must not block tourists' walkway.

‘Dugong’ netted accidentally released back to sea in Palawan

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- A 200-kilogram live female “dugong” (sea cow) that was accidentally caught recently by fishermen in the municipal waters of Brooke’s Point, was released back into the wilds by last Monday.

Richen Mission Bajar, administrative aide of the Office of Municipal Agriculturist of Brooke’s Point, said the “dugong” was freed on the shores of Barangay Maasin, Brooke’s Point, on Nov. 5, the same day fishermen unintentionally caught it with the use of a beach seine (sinsoro) gear.

“Thank you, dear responsible fishermen, dahil pinakawalan ninyo siya! Sana dumami pa sila sa lugar natin, especially sa MPA (because you release it! I hope they increase in population in our place, especially in the Marine Protected Area),” she said on Wednesday in a Facebook post.

According to the Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines (MWWP), “the dugong stands out as the largest and only sea-living mammal which grazes on seagrass.”

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List has described the dugong as “vulnerable”.

Puerto Princesa celebrates Underground River Day

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- The city government and the management of the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park (PPSRNP) here are inviting the public to celebrate “Underground River Day” through the Subaraw Biodiversity Festival.

Jan Elmer Badilla, PPSRNP management information officer, said Tuesday the festival opened on Nov. 2 and will end on November 11.

Nov. 11 of every year was declared as “Puerto Princesa Underground River Day” based on Proclamation No. 816.

The Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR) has been added to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites and affirmed as the New Seven Wonders of Nature of the World on 11.11.11.

Badilla said Palaweños will enjoy the Subaraw, which has a lot of activities on biodiversity, as well as entertainment events. The word Subaraw comes from the words, suba (river) and taraw (limestone cliff).

“We are inviting everyone to join the Subaraw. This festival is not only for the benefit of a few people. It is for the benefit of our tourism industry, which is our primary livelihood, and the conservation and protection of the PPUR,” he said.

Badilla said it was made grand on its fifth year of celebration, just like the Sinulog of Cebu, Masskara of Bacolod, and Panagbenga of Baguio City.

He noted that the festival’s theme, “Keeping the Balance of Transformative Tourism and Ecological Integrity”, is one of the internal key messages of the PPUR.

“This theme is like our mantra -- in everything that we do, we always keep the balance between sustainable tourism and ecological integrity,” he explained.

Subaraw will be the country’s first celebration of the rich biodiversity of the underground river, which helps build up Palawan’s already outstanding image as “Best Island in the World.”

Badilla said the public can access the official Facebook pages of the Puerto Princesa City Information Office, the PPSRNP, and the Subaraw Biodiversity Festival 2018 to get more information regarding the schedule of events.

ITCZ affects Palawan, Visayas, Mindanao

By Lily Ramos (PNA)

MANILA -- An intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) is affecting Palawan, Visayas and Mindanao Tuesday, according to the weather bureau.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), in its latest weather bulletin, said Visayas, Zamboanga, Caraga, Northern Mindanao and Palawan will have cloudy skies with scattered rain showers and thunderstorms caused by the ITCZ.

PAGASA said Metro Manila and the rest of the country will be partly cloudy to cloudy with isolated rain showers due to localized thunderstorms.

Flashfloods or landslides are possible in these areas due to thunderstorms.

Northern Luzon, the eastern sections of Central and Southern Luzon and Visayas will have moderate to occasionally strong winds coming from the northeast with moderate to occasionally rough coastal waters.

Temperature in Metro Manila ranges from 24-33 degrees Celsius; Tuguegarao City 23-32 degrees Celsius; Baguio City 15-25 degrees Celsius; Angeles City 24-33 degrees Celsius; Lipa City 22-29 degrees Celsius; Metro Cebu 25-31 degrees Celsius and Metro Davao 25-34 degrees Celsius.

Palawan judge fined for using court as residence

By Evelyn Macairan (The Philippine Star)

MANILA, Philippines — Courtrooms cannot be used for residential or commercial purposes.

The Supreme Court’s First Division stressed this in a recent ruling as it fined a judge in Palawan for using her sala as her house in the past seven years.

Evelyn Cañete of the Brookes’s Point-Sofronio Española-Bataraza Municipal Circuit Trial Court was ordered to pay a fine of P11,000 after she was found guilty of violating Administrative Circular 3-92 issued by the high tribunal.

In a seven-page ruling penned by Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo, the SC also warned Cañete of a more severe penalty if the same or a similar offense is committed.

“There is always a price to pay for tainted offerings, however innocuous or harmless they may appear... The price is almost always loss of integrity or at the very least compromised independence... That is a stiff price to pay, especially by a member of the judiciary, whose basic, irreducible qualification is unimpeachable integrity,” the SC ruling read.

Court stenographer Edgar Abiog filed a complaint against Cañete for serious misconduct, dishonesty, conduct unbecoming of a judge and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of service.

Records showed that Cañete started using the courtroom, which was also reportedly extended upon her supervision, as her living quarters in August 2011. The SC also cited instances when the family members and friends of the judge used the courtroom, with the municipal government paying for their water and electricity bills.

Cañete denied the allegations, saying the complainant was referring to the space previously occupied by the prosecutor, public attorney and clerk of court. She said the municipal government repaired the area to express its gratitude for her contribution to the community.

Cañete said it was convenient for her to stay in her office because she often work overtime.

The Office of the Court Administrator said it found sufficient evidence that Cañete “exploited” her title to enjoy the privileges accorded to her by the municipal government of Brooke’s Point.

The SC also cited a supposed agreement between Cañete and Mayor Mary Jean Feliciano that instead of giving the judge an additional representation and transportation allowance (RATA), the local government is allowing her to use her office as her residence.

The high tribunal said it is not the obligation of the local government to pay Cañete’s RATA.

“If we give weight to respondent judge’s explanation... all judges might as well reside within the premises of the Halls of Justice,” the SC said.

CENRO vows to go after illegal loggers in north Palawan

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- Environment authorities in the northern Palawan town of Taytay vowed to step up their patrol and monitoring operations against illegal loggers as they turned over another batch of 23 unregistered chainsaws to the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD).

Voltaire delos Angeles, Community Environment and Natural Resources Office-Quick Response Team (CENRO-QRT) team leader in Taytay, said Thursday they turned over the chainsaws to the PCSD’s Environmental Critical Areas Network-Regulatory Enforcement Division (ECAN-RED).

“Second batch na ito ng mga tinurn-over na unregistered, tampered, at assembled chainsaws. Noong una pa may nauna na din kaming na-turn over na 15 units (This is the second batch of unregistered, tampered, and assembled chainsaws that we’ve turned over. We have also turned over 15 units before),” he said.

Delos Angeles added that most of the owners of the first batch of 15 units have already undergone judicial inquiries for the filing of illegal logging cases in the municipality of Taytay.

The turnover of the chainsaws, he said, symbolizes the commitment of CENRO in Taytay to run after owners, who use their chainsaws to devastate the forests.

“Hindi kami titigil sa responsibility namin na pangalagaan ang kalikasan sa Taytay. Bawal sa Chain Saw Act of 2002 ang pagkakaroon ng ganitong gamit na hindi nire-rehistro (We will not stop to protect the forest lands of Taytay. Under the Chainsaw Act of 2002, it is prohibited to have unregistered chainsaws),” he added.

Under the Act, possessing a chainsaw without the proper permit and is used for illegal logging and forest destruction shall be meted four to six years imprisonment, and a fine of not less than PHP15,000 but not more than PHP30,000.

TIEZA formally opens TEZ Office and Tourist Information Center in San Vicente, Palawan

(Balikbayan Media Center)

SAN VICENTE, PALAWAN – The Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) inaugurated on October 28, 2018 the TIEZA Tourism Enterprise Zone (TEZ) Office and the Tourist Information Center (TIC) located in the Municipality of San Vicente, Palawan, one of TIEZA’s Flagship Tourism Enterprise Zones.

The markers for the newly inaugurated buildings were unveiled, followed by the formal turn-over of the TIC to the Municipality of San Vicente. The event was attended by the Provincial Government of Palawan, the Municipal Government of San Vicente, various national government agencies (NGAs), tourism enterprise owners, and other stakeholders.

“This (San Vicente Flagship TEZ) will be the model of sustainability and inclusiveness”, said TIEZA Chief Operating Officer Pocholo Paragas, who led the inauguration and turn-over ceremony.

The construction of the TEZ Office and TIC began in 2016. Now, the two buildings are officially open to tourists and visitors.

Both located in Barangay New Agutaya, the TEZ Office and TIC are among the support infrastructure projects of TIEZA for the San Vicente Flagship TEZ. The TEZ Office will serve as TIEZA’s on-site office and as link between and among the Municipal Government of San Vicente, the Department of Tourism (DOT), property owners and operators of private enterprises, and other stakeholders. The TIC will be the first stop for tourists and visitors where vital information will be provided for their stay in San Vicente, such as the accessible facilities, stations, establishments, and activities within the Flagship TEZ.

“Five years ago, it was very difficult to get here. You had to take a private plane or fly to Puerto Princesa and drive for five hours,” said Atty. Joy Bulauitan in closing the event. TIEZA Officer-In-Charge – Assistant Chief Operating Officer for Administration and Finance Atty. Joy Bulauitan was nostalgic as she reminisced how five years ago the San Vicente Flagship TEZ was just an idea and how the local and national governments worked together to implement the vision.

The San Vicente Flagship TEZ, known for its 14.7-kilometer long unbroken stretch of pristine beach, is the newest eco-town in the Philippines. It is envisioned to be an environmentally and socially sustainable tourist destination that will be a catalyst for inclusive economic growth through public and private partnership.

3 coops get P1.3-M loan from Palawan gov’t

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- Three cooperatives in Palawan have received a total of PHP1.3 million loan from the provincial government to support their growth.

Victoria Ladica, Provincial Cooperative Development Office (PCDO) chief, said Monday the loans without interests were sourced from the Upgrading Support for the Advancement and Development of Entrepreneurs in Cooperatives (USAD) and the Sustained Livelihood Opportunities and Growth for Cooperatives (SULONG) programs of the provincial government.

Under SULONG, Sofronio Española Farmers Multi-Purpose Cooperative (SEFMPC) and Coron School of Fisheries Multi-Purpose Cooperative (CSFMPC) each received a loan of PHP500,000.

The Agricultural Cooperative of Sofronio Española (ACSE), on the other hand, received PHP300,000 under USAD.

Officials of the three cooperatives received the loans on Oct. 25 during the 10th Provincial Cooperative Convention held in Puerto Princesa City.

Ladica said the loans are offered to active cooperatives without interest for their development and growth, and as poverty alleviation initiative.

“Binibigyan natin ng four months grace period at pinababayaran natin ito sa kanila for 12 to 24 months para hindi sila mahirapan (We give them a four-month grace period and we ask them to pay in 12 to 24 months, so they won’t have a hard time),” she said.

To make sure the loans are handled well, she said officials and members of the cooperatives regularly undergo training-workshops to expand their financial skills and knowledge to manage their growth.

Cooperative conventions and conferences are also held for the cooperatives in the province to get acquainted with new developments in “cooperativism” that they may use in daily activities in their areas.

Puerto Princesa deploys more than 400 cops for ‘Undas’

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- Over 400 police personnel were deployed here Wednesday to secure the safety of the public during the commemoration of All Souls’ Day and All Saints’ Day.

They officially received their deployment orders to different cemeteries, churches, tourism sites, terminals, and other crowded areas in a send-off ceremony held at the Puerto Princesa City Police Office (PPCPO) in Barangay San Pedro.

PPCPO director Senior Supt. Ronnie Francis Cariaga said they were sent out under Oplan Kaluluwa and Ligtas Undas 2018 to ensure public security until 8 p.m. on November 2.

“This is a traditional celebration and we know what to do. We just hope we’ll continue to maintain a secure environment for the public. It’s difficult if one untoward incident happens, so we have to be vigilant,” he said.

Cariaga further said the police personnel will provide a 12-hour service that may extend to 18 hours when the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) declare a red alert throughout the week.

He stressed it is important that they stay alert and cooperate with residents on the reporting of information that would threaten peace and order.

“We don’t want you to relax because if you do and a bombing incident happens, Puerto Princesa City will be similar to other big cities where people might live in fear. This is a city that has not experienced that and we certainly don’t want this kind of incident,” he said.

Earlier, Cariaga reminded residents to secure and lock their homes before they leave for the cemeteries; bring enough food, water, and their own trash bags; and unplug appliances and turn off liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) tanks to prevent house fires.

He also warned them against bringing bladed weapons and other sharp objects, playing cards, loud speakers, and liquor as these items are prohibited.

Palawan cops ready for ‘Undas’ 2018

By Celeste Anna Formoso

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- Police authorities here will launch Wednesday “Oplan Kaluluwa” dedicated to the safe and secure commemoration of All Saints’ and Souls’ days.

Puerto Princesa City Police Office (PPCPO) director Senior Supt. Ronnie Francis Cariaga said Monday the Oplan will be in operation from October 31 to November 2.

Cariaga said it will secure not only the cemeteries, but also resorts, popular tourist destinations, bus terminals, other entry and exit points, and frequented public areas.

“Our intention is to secure not only the cemeteries but also the areas where they take their vacations. The cemeteries are not our security limits because most of us also use this time to go on holidays,” he said.

He noted the maximum number of policemen of the PPCPO will be used to make sure the crowd will get the protection they need.

Cariaga did not specify their number, but he assured all of them will participate in securing the city.

“So far, mula noon, ay wala pa kaming naranasan na kaguluhan sa Undas (All Saints’ Day) at gusto naming mapanatili ito (So far, we’ve not encountered any serious problem during Undas and we want to maintain that),” he added.

Cariaga further said they have already discussed traffic rerouting, cleaning of cemeteries with their administrators, and other issues concerning Undas with specific offices of the city government, and other line agencies.

He said there are materials that are not allowed to be brought inside the cemeteries such as knives and other bladed or sharp objects, liquor, playing cards, and gadgets that create loud noises.

In the province, Palawan Provincial Police Office (PPO) director Senior Supt. Gabriel Lopez, said Tuesday that his policemen are also prepared to secure all cemeteries in 23 municipalities in the province.

Lopez said all municipalities have enough policemen to secure cemeteries and other strategic sites.

“For the smooth flow of security, we advise the families to avoid bringing materials that are not allowed in the cemeteries like blades or sharp objects,” he added. (PNA)

SoKor airline operates first flight from Incheon to Palawan

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- South Korea’s low-cost airline Eastar Jet marked the operation of its five-month daily flights in this city early Monday morning, with a Boeing 737-800 maiden flight filled with 150 tourists.

The aircraft navigated by Eastar Jet pilot Joo Jae-Do arrived at the Puerto Princesa City International Airport (PPCIA) at 12:07 a.m. on Oct. 29 from the Incheon International Airport (IIA) in the Seoul City’s Jung District.

Joo said the flight took four hours and 15 minutes from IIA to the PPCIA.

“We’re very happy to have the inaugural flight from (IIA in) Seoul to Palawan. En route, the flight (has been) bumpy today. I hope South Korea and the Philippines expand their visitors and that more Koreans visit the Philippines and more Filipinos visit Korea,” Jae-Do said.

Eastar Jet has its headquarters in Banghwa-dong in Gangseo-gu in Seoul, South Korea. The airline operates in 14 destinations in the country, including Palawan through the PPCIA.

Eastar Jet station manager in Palawan, Lee Gangjin, said the province is currently their headquarters in the Philippines.

He added they are now eyeing the construction of their own airport to service their aircraft and passengers.

“We are weighing to make an airport for our passengers to this beautiful Palawan," said Gangjin.

Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) area manager for PPCIA Engr. Percy Malonesio, who led in welcoming the Eastar Jet maiden flight, said the daily direct flights to Palawan from October 29 to March 30, 2019, are expected to bring around 26,350 visitors.

“We are happy that all passengers are safe because of the successful landing. The passengers enjoyed and were happy to arrive here. We wish more flights to come here in Puerto Princesa City from South Korea,” he said.

Earlier, assistant Puerto Princesa City tourism officer Demetrio Alvior said that in 2017, Taiwanese visitors topped the list of foreign guests, followed by Americans, Chinese, Koreans, and British.

However, this trend might change towards the end of 2018 with "either Koreans or Chinese nationals dominating foreign arrivals" because of the direct international flights from their countries, he said.

"The Chinese and the Koreans might top this year's list of the number of arrivals in the city because of the direct international flights we're having now," he added.

North Palawan, Davao airports welcome two new routes

By Eric B. Apolonio

Starting today, two airports—the San Vicente Airport in Palawan and the Francisco Bangoy International Airport in Davao City—will welcome new flights to and from Clark and Hong Kong, respectively.

Cathay Dragon will launch its Hong Kong-Davao-Hong Kong route that will fly four times weekly every Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays utilizing an Airbus A-320 aircraft.

The historic inaugural flight from Hong Kong is expected to arrive at 3:50 in the afternoon at the Davao Airport and will be welcomed by Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio.

The aircraft of Cathay Dragon, the premium, full-service regional airline of the Cathay Pacific Group, will be feted with a traditional water cannon salute.

Meanwhile, Northern Palawan’s San Vicente Airport will open regular flights from Clark via Philippine Airlines.

The new 86-seater Q400s—fitted with six Economy Plus seats and 80 Economy Class seats in a roomy cabin layout—will be utilized on these routes.

PAL’s increased operations at Clark aim to significantly enhance travel convenience and connectivity for domestic travelers, while decongesting Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

Miss Earth 2017 favors single-use plastic ban to save oceans

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- Reigning Miss Earth 2017 Karen Ibasco is amenable to banning single-use plastics to save the world’s oceans and to protect marine wildlife.

In a security briefing for the Miss Earth 2018 events in Palawan, Ibasco said Thursday that reducing single-use food and beverage containers and cutleries, which account for a notable amount of trash every year, will also be beneficial to the environment and the health of the people.

“Yong mga plastic, kailangan mong matutunan na i-recycle o i-segregate kasi pwede pa natin siya magamit for another purpose pero medyo malayo pa tayo doon. (We have to learn how to recycle or segregate to use them for another purpose, but we are still far from there),” she said.

Ibasco said it is important that waste segregation at home is practiced to reduce the volume of garbage that goes to the landfills.

She noted that when people are careless with their garbage, these would reach the oceans and break down into smaller particles called “microplastics” that are harmful to aquatic life and even to humans.

Ibasco cited studies indicating that microplastics are a problem in the marine environment, and human health too since they can be ingested by fish and crustaceans that are sources of protein.

Ibasco, who was crowned in 2017, said that being Miss Earth enabled her to know the realities about the environment, including the conservation of oceans and aquatic life.

Meanwhile, some 59 candidates of the Miss Earth this year are in the northern municipality of San Vicente Friday to witness the signing of an ordinance that will protect the sea turtles (pawikan).

They represent the fire and water group of the international pageant that has a total of 90 beautiful candidates from all over the world.

On Oct. 27, the candidates will have the chance to personally appreciate the sea turtles in their natural habitat in the waters of San Vicente.

They will be in Puerto Princesa City at the Coliseum on Oct. 28 to join the 31 other candidates of the Miss Earth for the Talent and Long Gown competitions.

BVR El Nido leg fires off Saturday


MANILA, Philippines – A slew of provincial teams will have their opportunity to strut their wares against the country's best sand court players in the Beach Volleyball Republic On Tour, which opens Saturday at Lio Beach in El Nido, Palawan.

Talents from Lio, El Nido and Puerto Princesa from Palawan, Cebu from Visayas and DAF-ARMM of Davao from Mindanao are among the eight women's and men's pairs competing in the two-day spikefest in the one of the country's finest beaches.

Action-packed beach volleyball will start via pool play at 8 a.m.

Also, the BVR is partnering with Lio Beach El Nido on a development that focuses on sustainability, which is the same principle that the group is guided with — creating a sports program that’s self-sustaining and making Philippines bigger on the map.

The women's cast is led by Perlas 1's Charo Soriano and Bea Tan, Perlas 2's Dzi Gervacio and Roma Doromal, Air Force 1's Mariel Legaspi and Mae Crisostomo, and Air Force 2's Coyah Abanto and Jen Acain.

Soriano and Tan, who ruled the Puerto Galera leg last January, are reunited for the El Nido leg — the eighth for the year.

The crack men's field includes former UAAP champion KR Guzman and Ian Yee, Air Force's Philip Nunez and Mike Abria, Army's Joshua Barrica and Randy Flores, Manila Unicorns' Neil Flores and Justin Santos, and Wildcard's Mikhail Shavrak and James Buytrago.

The quarterfinals, semifinals and Finals is set Sunday, as the champions in the women's and men's division will receive P50,000.

Palawan’s ‘hidden tourism gems’ yet to be uncovered by many

By Analou de Vera

The Palawan Island is known as one of the country’s world-class tourist destinations because of its rich biodiversity. While many tourists flock to the main highlights of the island, there are still some ‘hidden tourism gems’ that are yet to be uncovered by many.

Tagged as the Philippine’s ‘last ecological frontier,’ the island of Palawan frequently makes it to the list of “best islands of the world” by international travel magazines due to its exceptional scenic views. Recently, Palawan was named as one of “Asia’s five best islands” in 2018 by Conde Nast Traveler, a US- based lifestyle and travel magazine.

Just one hour away by plane from the Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport, the Palawan island is the home of the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park and the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, which are both included in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. But aside from these ‘big names,’ there are budding tourism sites that now help uplift the lives of some of its communities, especially the indigenous people.

Among the lesser-known tourism sites in Palawan that are now aiming at unleashing their rich culture and biodiversity are the Batak Tribe Visitors Center in Barangay Concepcion, Maoyon River Cruise in Barangay Maoyon, the Mangrove Paddle Boat Tour in Barangay Sabang, and Hundred Caves in Barangay Tagabinet. These budding tourism attractions are all located in Puerto Princesa, Palawan. These sites are being supported by the Pilipinas Shell Foundation Inc. (PSFI) that aimed at harnessing the potential of these communities with the help of the local government.

The PSFI has established two programs that promotes environmental sustainability; the TANDIKAN (Turismo at Negosyo Dulot ng Ingat Kalikasan) and ISIP (Integrated Support for Indigenous People). These programs are aimed at mobilizing community involvement, creating alternative income opportunities for the locals, and protecting and conserving the island’s biodiversity. It provides livelihood trainings and other projects that help improve the community members’ quality of life. Alternative livelihood seminars such as handicraft-making as well as integrated bio-farming system were also being conducted.

“The projects empower the beneficiaries to have better lives in terms of being able to earn a living while understanding the ecosystem and why we need to protect the environment. Indigenous People communities are taught to how to read and write, learn other skills to make a living, learn the tenets of healthy living including back yard gardening to ensure they have food on the table instead of just forest gathering,” PSFI rogram manager Marvi Trudeau told the Manila Bulletin.

Trudeau said the communities are organized to ensure that the natural resources of the area are preserved and “make environmental conservation a way of life.”

“For these communities, they do not only gain employment from taking care of their natural resources but they are also taught how to enhance it further through reforestation of mangroves and other terrestrial areas,” Trudeau said.

Conquering a ‘new’ world, building confidence

During the visit at the Batak Tribe Visitors Center, the members of the said tribe, who were then wearing a red woven clothes, offered a native dance for their guests. They energetically showed their moves as other tribe members produce music using their traditional instruments. The women tribe members meanwhile showed their skills in making handicrafts on the other side of the center.

Erlinda Delos Angeles, one of the Batak tribal leaders, said they are not used to conversing with other people because they feel shy about their condition—being members of the indigenous community.

“Our community is very poor. We do not know what really is our condition. We do not know how to manage a business, also we do not have enough capital… If a disease spreads in our community, surely some will die. We lack knowledge regarding these aspects,” said Delos Angeles in Tagalog.

Currently, there are 47 families or more or less 200 individuals who belong to the Batak tribe. Delos Angeles said they do not have permanent jobs before. They just wander in the mountain forest in search for their food.

“When the Shell Foundation came, we realized that we can change our way of living,” she said. Delos Angeles said their tribe is slowly building their confidence to communicate with other people. Through the livelihood trainings set by the PSFI, Batak community now learn how to plant vegetables like string beans, eggplants and pineapples. The women were also taught how to make handicrafts such as baskets, beaded bracelets and necklaces and sell them to tourists.

“Honestly in our tradition, we are really shy in selling our own products. We are trying to improve ourselves and eventually get accustom on how to manage a business for our community to progress even more,” said Delos Angeles.

Ernesto Dagsalyo, 66, a former tribal leader said they somehow overcome their shyness and learned the value of being a member of their tribe.

“Our shyness begins to fade away through the trainings and seminars. That is when I learned that even though I’m a Batak, I will be respected by others if I’m not shy and if I will learn how to converse with them. Our own culture will not vanish just because of these changes… It will remain because we are still Batak after all,” he said.

Coping with changes

Some members of the communities, however, find it hard to cope with the livelihood and environmental changes.

Celestino Santander, president of the Mangrove Paddle Boat Association in Barangay Sabang said that before the PSFI came in to help their community, selling charcoal is the main source of income of the different households in their area. Currently, some of them are now tour guides who introduce the importance of mangroves.

“Some of us who previously sell charcoals find it hard to accept this change in our livelihood. When Shell Foundation promoted this kind of livelihood and some of us saw that there is enough income for our families, we eventually stop selling charcoals… besides it is more clean,” said Santander.

Santander, meanwhile, said that their very own attraction is not yet well-known to the tourists. He said that at least 60 people a day visit their area to ride the 45-minute boat tour. Through their trainings, Santander and his co-workers are able to provide interesting facts in the area while they paddle down the river surrounded by mangroves and wildlife animals such as monitor lizards, monkeys, squirrels and snakes. He then recommended that it is best to ride the paddle boat tour at 6 a.m. because one can spot a number of native birds and can hear their melodious tone.

‘Take courage to stand alone’

The residents of Barangay Tagabinet strive to learn how to stand on their own as this is their way to give back from all the learning they are receiving. The barangay’s caving destination–the Hundred Caves is also being supported by the PSFI. “One of their advocacies is for you to learn how to stand alone,” said Bong Yatco, the head guide of Hundred Caves.

Yatco said the maze-like cave began operations two years-ago. Before entering the cave, tourists are required to wear helmets and gloves for safety. The more than two-hours of exploration inside the cave reveal the unique stalagmite and stalactite formations that are named after some animals and objects due to its resemblance.

To further boost their budding tourism industry, the residents also rolled out their sleeves as they ventured on soap-making and t-shirt design printing.

An appeal to tourists

Safeguarding the natural areas, meanwhile, is among the priorities of the members of the Maoyon River Cruise Association. Maribel Binas, the president of the association said they need to maintain the cleanliness of their area to further drive growth and profitability among its members.

Binas said the 45-minute cruise attraction, which highlights lush green landscapes and a visit to a century-old giant Dao tree, has improved their lives.

“To our potential tourists, we appeal that when they visit us here they should avoid littering. Our area is of great help to our community because this is our source of livelihood. We should help each other take good care of our natural resources that God has given us,” said Binas.

Solon: PH-China partnership crucial to develop West Palawan natural gas field

By Meanne Rosales

Developing the Sampaguita natural gas field as an energy source for the Philippines will need the support of both the government and China.

This was the sentiment of House Senior Deputy Minority Leader Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza when he talked to Manila Bulletin reporters.

“The Sampaguita gas discovery is vital to our future energy security. It has become absolutely imperative for us to quickly develop Sampaguita, before Malampaya’s gas production starts to fall off in 2024,” Atienza was quoted as saying.

“We really wish that the Philippines and China, through effective diplomacy, can arrive at a mutually acceptable arrangement that would expedite the resumption of all work around Sampaguita,” he added.

The Malampaya deepwater gas-to-power project still provides up to 3,400 MW of power for the Luzon grid.

However, Energy officials predicted that by 2024, Malampaya would decrease its output to just one-third of its current capacity.

This will result in just 1,100 MW of electricity for Luzon, according to Atienza.

“Clearly, if we are unable to harness the gas from Sampaguita in time, Metro Manila and its surrounding provinces might reel from considerably higher electricity rates,” Atienza said.

According to assessment done by Weatherford Petroleum Consultants, the Sampaguita gas field “is estimated to contain 2.6 trillion cubic feet of in-place contingent resources and 5.5 trillion cubic feet of in-place prospective resources.”

Sampaguita is part of Service Contract 72 Recto Bank in offshore West palawan, a part of territorial waters challenged by China.

The Aquino administration in December 2014 ordered a cease of operations to the private consortium operating SC 72 in deference to the maritime case that the Philippines filed against China before The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration.

The PCA eventually ruled in 2016 in favor of the Philippines and recognized the Recto Bank, where SC 72 lies, as part of the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone, as defined under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

However, despite the favorable PCA ruling, the Energy department has not lifted the suspension of all work on SC 72.

10 pangolins rescued from illegal wildlife trader in Palawan

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- A fisherman was arrested Friday by environmental authorities for illegal collection and possession of some 10 critically endangered scaly anteaters or pangolins in the northern town of Taytay.

Voltaire delos Angeles, forest technician and team leader of the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office Quick Response Team (CENRO QRT) in Taytay, identified the fisherman as Danilo Demolar, 49, resident of Purok Masagana, Barangay Liminangcong.

He was arrested at 4 p.m. in Sitio Panikian, also in Liminangcong, for violation of Section 27 (f) of Republic Act 9147, or Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act of 2001.

The particular section in the Act states about the illegality of “collecting, hunting or possessing wildlife, their by-products, and derivatives.”

“Itong si Demolar ay matagal na naming minamanmanan dahil siya ay namimili ng balintong na siya naman niyang ibinibenta sa kamag-anak ng kanyang asawa na taga-Mindoro (We have been monitoring Demolar for quite sometime now because he is the buyer of the pangolins, which he will later sell to a relative of his wife who is from Mindoro),” delos Angeles told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) in an interview.

Demolar said a Mindoro buyer allegedly peddles the pangolins, locally known as “balintong,” to Chinese buyers.

He said he buys from collectors the pangolins weighing 4.2 kilos for PHP1,000 to PHP1,200 a kilo and sells them at PHP1,500.

“Binibili din niya sa mga nagkokolekta ‘yong mga pangolin tapos pinatataba niya at pinakakain ng anay sa may bundok kung saan siya may kubo-kubong bahay. Itinatago niya ang mga pangolin sa drum at saka ibebenta kapag napataba na. (He buys them from pangolin collectors and then he will farm them for a while in a mountainous area where he has a hut by feeding them with termites. He will sell them after he has fattened them up),” delos Angeles said.

Delos Angeles said Demolar has been engaged in the illegal wildlife trade for three months already before his arrest and has, in fact, made a lot of shipments.

“Kapag binibili iyong mga balintong parang iniikutan na lang noong buyer sa Liminangcong kasi marami daw sila na bumibili sa mga kolektor. Ang bangka niya kumpleto sa gamit, may timbangan pa. (When it’s already time to sell, it’s like the buyer just goes around Liminangcong because there are many of them who buy from collectors. His boat is complete and even has a weighing scale),” he added.

Delos Angeles said Demolar’s arrest was due to the CENRO’s stepped up campaign against illegal wildlife trading in Taytay where there is a good population of pangolins, particularly on Barangay Tubod Island, Taytay.

The arrest, which was assisted by forest protection officers (FPO), has made them more alert in Taytay now against illegal wildlife trafficking, he said.

“Talagang palalakasin ang monitoring at pagbabantay lalo na dito sa Taytay kung saan nangongolekta sila ng balintong (We will really step up our monitoring, especially here in Taytay where they collect balintong),” he added.

Why the banh mi in Puerto Princesa is flavored with history

By Paolo Vergara

Not pan de sal nor goto, but a Filipino spin on two Vietnamese dishes make everyday fare for this city’s residents.

The scene at the main gate as class hours end at Palawan State University, Puerto Princesa, is like that of any campus in the Philippines today: tricycle drivers rev their engines after a lazy afternoon waiting for passengers now just arriving; the sound of basketballs dribbled on concrete punctures the din of chattering students as teachers swap uniforms for jogging clothes. And then there's the smell of myriad frying foods wafting from a row of stalls and eateries amidst the background odor of burning petrol and midsummer sweat. Amidst the usual fare – kwek-kwek, siomai, siopao, and isaw, as well as halal snacks (the city has a sizeable Muslim population)—there is one peculiar dish that stands out to the non-local: banh mi, or Vietnamese bread.

It’s been Filipinized, and rightfully so. Across Puerto Princesa’s neighborhoods, banh mi, at least the localized version of it, is as ubiquitous as pan de sal in Metro Manila and the rest of the Philippines. The banh mi sold back in Manila’s Vietnamese joints combines the fresh flavors of vegetables and herbs like wansoy, lettuce, and carrots with the savory taste of meat and pâté. Meanwhile, in Puerto Princesa, our sweet-and-savory tooth unabashedly comes out to feast on hotdogs, mayonnaise, ketchup, and garlic sitting on the bread.

Served plain and freshly baked, Puerto Princesa’s banh mi has a distinctly less “bready” flavor than pan de sal, owing to the latter's main ingredient: rice flour. Palawan is also an exporter of rice to other provinces, and rice grown in the area could be the reason behind the unique notes of Puerto Princesa banh mi. The bread's appearance is of a whiter, smaller cousin of the beige-brown baguette. Banh mi sold at bakeshops here is not often baked to brownness though customers may request for toasted banh mi.

Perfect pair

As it is with the limited appearance of pan de sal amidst the prevalence of banh mi, there is also a surprising – at least for the newcomer – lack of mami and goto shops, which are widely known as staple Filipino comfort food. In their stead, public transport drivers, office workers, and students converge at a “chaolongan,” or eatery specializing in “chao long,” the local name for pho, or Vietnamese noodle soup.

This is somewhat of a misnomer, as chao long in Vietnam is closer to our goto: rice porridge seasoned in ground pepper with pork offal and a garnish of scallions. For better or worse, the name has stuck, and the Vietnamese diaspora in Puerto Princesa seems to ride with it. Like in Vietnam, Puerto Princesa pho is anchored in rice noodles cooked in beef or chicken broth, with bean sprouts and basil on the side. Instead of lemons, however, local calamansi offers a citron kick. The soup stock also uses less herbs.

Walk into any chaolongan and it’s highly likely you’ll find banh mi in the menu. Banh mi served plain, toasted banh mi with garlic and margarine, a banh mi sandwich with hotdogs or longganisa with mustard optional. For around a hundred pesos, one can get a hearty carb fix with a steaming bowl of rice noodle soup paired with rice flour bread.

Missing Saigon

One can trace the presence of Vietnamese fare in Puerto Prinsesa to a migration of Vietnamese locals to the Philippines in the mid-1970s. In 1975, the Vietnam war was reaching its violent conclusion. Escaping the shelling, many South Vietnamese citizens chose the open water over Communist “re-education camps” and haphazardly boarded boats to cross the South China Sea. The exodus continued well after the war years and peaked in 1979. Refugees continued landing across South East Asia, a good number reaching Bataan. In 1990, many were subsequently transferred to Palawan as the exodus continued into the middle of the decade.

One of the pioneer Vietnamese hubs in Puerto Princesa was the Viet Ville restaurant at the Vietnamese Village refugee facility on the city’s northern outskirts. Vietnamese refugees opened the restaurant and introduced what would be the city’s comfort food.

Viet Ville as well as the rest of the camp was closed to visitors for the duration of my month-long stay at Puerto Princesa. Nonetheless, online reviews coming out this year indicate that Viet Ville continues to serve Vietnamese favorites.

Today, most of the 2000 refugees who moved to Puerto Princesa from Bataan have since returned home to Vietnam or migrated to the United States, where a lot of South Vietnamese settled after the fall of Saigon. Still, a good number of refugees intermarried with locals and moved deeper into the city, bringing their cooking to a wider Filipino audience.

Rene’s Saigon

Rene Sabio is a second-generation Vietnamese-Filipino. He speaks fluent Tagalog, but photos with Vietnamese diplomats and military officials in his restaurant hint at familiarity with his heritage. His Rene’s Saigon is conveniently a seven-minute walk from the Puerto Princesa International Airport. Despite being at a direction away from the city center, people welcome the detour to dine here as the restaurant is known for its homemade banh mi.

Sabio apprenticed as a teenager under a Vietnamese baker based in the city, together with three other young men. In the end, it was he who was selected to learn the banh mi recipe. Today, Rene’s Saigon is a popular destination for those looking for authentic Vietnamese fare in Puerto Princesa. Whereas most chaolongan serve only pho and banh mi, Rene’s also has a “secret menu,” where goi cuon (spring rolls,) fresh or fried, are served upon request.

A few kilometers north, the banh mi, goi cuon, and pho recipes at Pho Saigon, situated at the city center and run by a Vietnamese woman, corroborates the flavor profile found at Rene’s Saigon. The price, ingredients used, and expressions of bread, soup, and spring rolls served at these two establishments have similar flavors.

A meal shared

As I boarded the plane bound for Manila, the customs officers seemed amused as they let me through, seeing me carry two grocery bags worth of frozen banh mi, enough to last our household a month with enough to spare for pasalubong to a good number of friends. Perhaps for these officers, this was a sight they never tire of: tourists touting what for them was everyday fare.

The prevalence of banh mi in this corner of the Philippines only proves that cultural exchange often finds its anchor in the tangible, the edible, in the visceral immediacy of a hot meal shared between tired citizens after a day’s work, as demonstrated in the works and travels of epicures like Doreen Fernandez and Anthony Bourdain. Vietnamese refugees sought a new home and life away from war, and in the process, pioneered a dialogue between flavors: between our sweet tooth and their love for herbal notes. Puerto Princesa’s banh mi and pho, across its incarnations, show that definitions like “authentic” or “genuine” are better as descriptors of origin, or closeness to origin and tradition--rather than as value judgments of a certain cuisine or the people enjoying it.

PAL's San Vicente route begins Oct. 30

By Ma. Cristina Arayata (PNA)

MANILA -- Flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) will start offering flights to and from San Vicente, Palawan on Oct. 30, its spokesperson announced on Friday.

"PAL is the first commercial airline to launch services to San Vicente. This will be a milestone service," Cielo Villaluna told the Philippine News Agency (PNA).

San Vicente Airport (SVA) officially opened for commercial flights last May. Previously, the airport only catered to light aircraft, as well as Air Juan's chartered flights. "In terms of commercial operations, PAL is the first to bring tourists in San Vicente," Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) spokesperson Eric Apolonio said.

He added that World Vision and Air Juan used to be the only ones offering services to and from SVA. The two companies use seaplane and general aviation aircraft, Apolonio added.

Villaluna said PAL has considered having the San Vicente route since the SVA is envisioned to be a gateway to El Nido, which is two hours away from the airport.

Days after the SVA's inauguration last May, Apolonio said San Vicente could be an alternative destination to Boracay.

The SVA would serve as the alternative destination's main gateway, he added.

PAL's weekly flights are scheduled every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Villaluna said daily flights will be offered starting December 18. The airline will initially offer services between San Vicente and Clark.

"There's no plan to have a Manila-San Vicente route at the moment. The priority is to build passenger traffic between Clark and San Vicente," Villaluna said.

New bridge opens in southern Palawan town

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- A new reinforced concrete deck girder bridge, which can accommodate heavy equipment and other bigger vehicles, has been inaugurated in Aborlan town, southern Palawan.

The PHP7.8 million Apis Bridge, which replaces the ordinary wood overpass that connects barangays Plaridel and Cabigaan, was inaugurated by Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez last Oct. 17 with acting Aborlan Mayor Lito Tito.

Tito said Friday they are thankful to the provincial government for implementing the construction of the new bridge that can help improve trade and commerce in Aborlan and keep its residents safe while plying the route.

“Maraming issue ang tulay na ito, laging may nahuhulog na sasasakyan at maging ang mga batang tumatawid dito ay hindi ligtas. Kaya nagpapasalamat kami dahil ngayon ay ligtas nang madaraanan ito ng mga residente, lalo na ang mga nasa barangay ng Apoc-Apoc at Cabigaan (This bridge has a lot of issues. Vehicles often meet accidents here, and children are not safe when they cross it. Now, it’s safe to pass on the bridge, especially those living in Apoc-Apoc and Cabigaan),” he said.

Alvarez, in a separate interview, said the provincial government has a lot of infrastructure development plans for Aborlan, including the provision of anti-poverty livelihood initiatives.

Alvarez said nothing is impossible in development if Aborlan works with the provincial government.

“Marami pa akong plano sa bayan ng Aborlan lalo na ang magpalago ng hanap-buhay o livelihood ng mamamayan. Nauna na natin ang ospital, patubig at mga kalsada at marami pa tayong gagawin (I have so many plans for Aborlan, especially in the uplifting of livelihood opportunities for its residents. We have constructed the hospital, water system, and bridges and roads, and we have a lot more to do),” he said.

Palawan’s new tourism gems

By Antonio Delos Reyes

PALAWAN has been a perennial favorite for tourists who want to explore nature. Over the years, it has made a name for itself as one of the country’s top destinations due to the numerous activities that can be done in the province.

Places like the Puerto Princesa Underground River and the Tubbataha Reef Marine Park – both designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites – or the beaches and dive sites in El Nido and Coron are the ones that come to mind when Palawan is mentioned.

However, the province has more to offer than these popular destinations.

Much like the Cordilleras, Palawan is also home to several indigenous tribes.

The Batak is one of these tribes but unlike the more populous Tagbanwas, the Bataks are in real danger of disappearing entirely.

Today, estimates of the Batak population put them at less than 300 individuals.

The Batak Cultural Center is located about an hour’s drive from the city proper. Here, guests can visit the Batak museum which shows the Batak’s way of life, from their attires, to customs, to different handicrafts that the tribe produces.

Pilipinas Shell Foundation Inc. (PSFI), as part of its outreach program, is helping the community form a cooperative in which they could sell products that they create.

The project was initiated by PSFI through its Integrated Support to Indigenous People Program for the Indigenous Peoples in Palawan, Philippines and in partnership with Department of Social Welfare and Development-Sustainable Livelihood Program.

The result was the TatakBatak handicrafts which offer products such as bamboo straws, woven baskets, necklaces and bracelets as well as other environment-friendly products.

Currently, the items can be bought at the Batak Cultural Center, but a stand-alone store is nearing completion and when this opens, the Bataks hope to share their products to a larger audience.

Several provinces offer river cruises and Palawan is no exception.

Patterned after the famous Loboc River Cruise in Bohol, the Maoyon river cruise offers travelers a chance to enjoy the scenic ride while feasting on crabs caught in the river as well as other local seafood.

This new tourist attraction is a Community-Based Sustainable Tourism (CBST) Project supported by PFSI through its Turismo at Negosyo Dulot ng Ingat Kalikasan (TANDIKAN) program, which aims to give livelihood opportunities to the residents of Brgy. Maoyon.

The 45-minute river cruise’s main destination is the Dao tree located in the middle of the forest surrounding the river.

The tree is said to be centuries old, with a tree trunk that dwarfs humans in size and tree roots that snake to and fro.

For those who prefer to get up close and personal with nature, Sabang has a mangrove paddle boat tour.

Guests are taken through the river by knowledgeable guides who point out several animals that might appear as they row through the surroundings.

If one is lucky, birds such as kingfishers, herons and the like may fly by or reptiles such as monitor lizards and snakes can be seen.

Since there is no motor involved, visitors can fully immerse themselves in their surroundings and get lost at the sight of rows of mangroves as far as the eye can see, and the chirp and calls of the insects and animals living in the area.

For those who prefer an adrenaline rush and some physical exercise, the Hundred Caves is one such destination.

It is the first caving destination in Palawan and also a CBST project supported by PSFI through its TANDIKAN arm.

The entrance of the cave is roughly 80 meters above sea level and a short but strenuous hike will bring visitors into the unassuming entrance of the cave.

The cave gets its name from the multiple areas that that guests pass through as they explore this multi-level cave. There would be areas where guests would walk down stairs and ladders, or even crawl on all fours to get to the next chamber.

All throughout, there are interesting stalagmite and stalactite formations with whimsical names such as the cow’s head, fish mouth and many more.

Tourism has always been a big part of Palawan.

These new attractions allow the province to offer something new to travelers, whether first-timers or returning guests.

5 reasons Culion in Palawan deserves your attention

By Kara Santos

It may be the last quarter of the year before the busy Christmas season, but the weather lately feels more like summer is in full swing. The months of October and November are some of the best to enjoy beach vacations in the country.

With tourists flocking to the most popular spots, it can be hard to find a beach where you can enjoy peace and serenity, especially in Palawan.

For those looking for an off-beat destination, here are some reasons why Culion, dubbed Palawan’s Last Frontier, should be on your bucketlist.

1. Fascinating history

Culion is part of the Calamian group of islands situated at the northern part of Palawan. Long overshadowed by popular tourist hotspots like Coron and El Nido, Culion offers a different kind of destination.

Formerly a leprosarium, Culion remained isolated to the outside world for over a century. The leper colony was established in 1906 and patients from different parts of the Philippines and hospital staff were brought to the island and placed under quarantine. The cure for leprosy was developed in the 1980s and the island has been declared leprosy-free by the World Health Organization (WHO) since 2006.

Culion has several historical sites of interest, including the Culion Museum & Archives which provides a glimpse of the painful yet hopeful history of the island and its people, 17th-century La Inmaculada Concepcion Church and the remains of Fort Culion, which offers an excellent vantage point of the town and surrounding islands.

With the island’s rich history and raw, natural beauty that has remained untouched for decades, Culion is ready to emerge from its dark past. This mysterious island will appeal to curious travelers looking for a memorable destination.

2. Underwater paradise

One good thing that came out of the island's long period of isolation is that natural sites in Culion have remained pristine and unexploited. Culion offers some of the most surreal and remarkably preserved underwater landscapes for snorkelers and divers.

Three ecosystems sustain the rich marine life of Culion including mangroves, seagrass, and corals. Culion offers some of the most spectacular snorkeling sites in the country. Culion’s marine parks including Buyang Lutang, Punta Dinamita and Crowning Glory Reefs are among the best in the country.

Crowning Glory Reef is a Marine Protected Area (MPA) with amazingly clear and shallow water leading to rainbow colored corals and schools of fish. Sea turtles and dolphins also have been spotted in the area. From Culion, boat trips to wreck diving sites that popularly associated with Coron like Lusong shipwreck are easily accessible.

3. Beach camping

When going on day trip island-hopping tours, the time you actually spend on the beach usually gets limited because of the number of islands you need to visit and the long boat travel time in between. Tours from Culion allow visitors to access some remote islands which are not usually included in package tours and stay longer or camp out overnight.

Instead of heading back to the poblacion for the night, overnight beach camping trips can be arranged making your visit more relaxing. Imagine falling asleep with just the sound of the waves and waking up to gorgeous sunrises.

4. Peace and serenity

In an increasingly fast-paced world, Culion still offers that feeling of remoteness, isolation, peace and the back-to-basics island life that everyone craves for once in a while. City folk can go off-the-grid, learn how to fish the traditional way, reflect and just recharge from the urban grind.

5. Meaningful journey

Aside from than the place itself, what makes Culion special is the genuine community spirit and hospitality of the people. I’ve found that in more remote and rarely visited places, it’s where visitors are genuinely welcomed by locals. Many of the island’s older inhabitants were cast off by their families onto the island and have lived most of their lives on the island so they welcome interactions with visitors.

[Kawil Tours] (The Coron-Culion Palawan Expeditions), the only Culion-based tour operator, works with locals from the island in operating historical, cultural and island-hopping tours there.

Kawil Tours is managed by young and dynamic operators and partners who believe that promoting tourism on the island will help provide livelihood and progress for the island and its people.

For those who looking for a truly memorable journey before the year ends, Kawil Tours is offering a special 5D-4N live on-board expedition around Culion and Coron from October 25-29, covering everything that will be needed for the trip (including fees, meals, etc.).

This includes a 2-night accommodation in Hotel Maya a night before and after the trip on a room-sharing arrangement and roundtrip service between Coron and Culion a day before and after the trip.

Palawan thankful for inclusion in ‘2018 Best Islands in the World’

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan – The Palawan provincial government on Monday expressed gratitude for being voted as the “3rd Best Island in the World” in the Condé Nast Traveler's Readers' Choice Awards, despite lacking in infrastructure development.

Provincial information officer Gil Acosta Jr. said the Palawan government is also thankful for the inclusion of El Nido Resorts on Pangulasian Island in El Nido and Amanpulo on Pamalican Island in Cuyo on the list of “Top Resorts in Asia.”

“Masayang-masaya tayo sa naging resulta na muling naisama ang Palawan at ibang mga spots sa pinakamagandang lugar sa mundo (We are very happy with the result that Palawan and some of its island spots have been included in the list of the most beautiful vacation spots in the world),” Acosta said.

For this year, Palawan was voted as the third best island after Boracay (2nd place) and Siargao (1st place) by more than 429,000 avid readers of the US-based luxury and lifestyle travel magazine.

El Nido Resorts’ Pangulasian Island, which ranked ninth, was selected for being an environment-friendly vacation place that offers a pristine view of the waters and a serene tropical forest backdrop.

Amanpulo, which ranked 25th, was chosen for its miles of white sands that are embraced by calm turquoise waters that teem with rich marine life.

"Isa itong testamento na kahit hindi pa tayo 100-percent developed lalo na sa infrastracture, talagang dinarayo pa rin tayo (It is a testament that although we are not yet 100 percent developed in infrastructure, people still come here to visit)," he added.

Palawan highlights products in Mimaropa agri-trade fair 2018

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- The Palawan provincial government will again highlight in the Mimaropa Naturally Agri-Trade Tourism Fair this year its cashew products and wood artisan crafts.

Bethel Wyeth Asag, a representative of the Provincial Economic Enterprise Development Office (PEEDO), said Friday the agri-trade tourism fair will be held on October 17-21 at the SM Mega Mall, Mandaluyong City.

Other Palawan products that will be showcased in the event are rice coffee, peanuts, lamayo (dried fish), suman sa bulo (sticky rice in bamboo), honey, coco jam, sampalok (tamarind) candy, banana chips, tablea, rattan baskets.

Asag said there will also be a regional consumer quiz bee and a Zumba hour during the event.

“Muling ibibida ng Palawan ang mga natatanging produkto, kultura at atraksyon nito sa event (Palawan will again bring the spotlight to its local products, culture, and attractions in the event),” she said.

The agri-trade tourism fair is an annual activity to give the region the opportunity to showcase its products and attractions in Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan which compose the Mimaropa.

“Layon rin nito na mapalakas ang mga micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME’s) upang mas dayuhin ito ng mga nais na mamuhunan (It also aims to strengthen the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) so investors will take interests),” she said.

Asag said they expect around 86 exhibitors to participate in the trade fair to display their products.

A Negosyo Center will also be set up, which will open from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Palawan tourism sector urged to scale up crisis management foresight

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- A security and business continuity expert is urging Palawan's tourism sector to get trained on crisis management to ward off threats of natural and manmade calamities and terrorism.

"Dapat mayroong (There should be) proactive planning. We are not reactive. We have to plan ahead, come up with concepts on how to avoid this crisis or risk that may happen. If we cannot avoid those things, at least we might be able to mitigate the impact," said Henry Teodoro Hernia, security and business continuity manager of Fluor Philippines, during the Tourism Crisis Management Symposium of Department of Tourism (DOT) here on Tuesday.

Hernia said there should be a proactive plan with local government units (LGUs) against threats of terrorism and the unrelenting power outages to sustain the tourism industry.

The proactive plan, he said, should have focused concern for municipalities in Palawan that have tourist spots and regularly get the largest share of visitors.

Hernia said terrorism is a factor that both tourists and investors consider whenever they go to a place or make investments.

"Dito sa (Here in) Palawan, I think power [is one of the crisis] and as far as I know, there have been incidents of kidnapping. Palawan has a lot of beautiful places, but you have to ensure the security and safety of everyone. What if investors find out that this province doesn't have a security plan, then they will have a second thought to invest," Hernia said.

Sheila Marie Reyes of the Office of the Civil Defense (OCD) in Region 4-B (Mimaropa), which covers the island-provinces of Occidental and Oriental Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, and Palawan, said tourism industry players should upgrade their capacities too, to handle other natural and manmade disasters.

This is because Palawan is no longer free from experiencing weather disturbances, such as storm surges, flooding, landslides, and human-induced calamities like fire, and others.

"Kaya ang tourism sector, dapat alam nila kung paano mag-responde sa mga calamities. Pagdating naman sa mga armed conflicts, dapat kung mayroon suspicious activities or tao, dapat i-report kaagad, since sila ang frontliners. Dapat mayroon at patuloy ang kanilang mga trainings (That is why the tourism sector should know when or how to respond to calamities. When it comes to armed conflicts, if there are suspicious activities, they should help report immediately, since they are the frontliners. Training on these should continue)," Reyes said.

Waste management training held to protect Palawan waters

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- Village leaders in this city attended an ecological solid waste management (ESWM) training session to prevent garbage from polluting marine protected areas.

Bonifacio Tobias, project manager of the Candis 3 Marketing Cooperative (C3MC), told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) on Saturday that the implementation of the ESWM at the barangay level is essential to prevent the destruction of marine areas due to accumulated plastic waste.

The first session was held in Barangay Maryugon on Sept. 18, covering 50 participants from eight barangays in Puerto Princesa City, Tobias said.

Two more training sessions covering 12 more barangays with 175 participants were held in Barangays Santa Monica and Napsan on Sept. 19 and 20, respectively.

The training was organized by C3MC as part of a biodiversity conservation project to control and manage “plastics introduction in marine environment” or PINE.

It is supported by the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Municipal Waste Recycling Program (MWRP) that is aimed at “identifying and scaling innovations to improve municipal waste recycling in Asian countries that generate that largest amounts of ecological solid waste – Sri, Lanka, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand.”

Tobias added the training program is in collaboration with the Quezon City-based EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental health group that advocates zero waste and toxics-free society.

“We have gathered our community leaders in the hope of assisting them in identifying gaps, as well as solutions in the way discards are currently managed by our barangays,” he said.

Tobias said it is part of the C3MC’s project on “Mitigating Threats to Marine Protected Areas through Reducing and Recycling Solid Waste Materials.”

He said through the strengthened implementation of ESWM at the barangay level, they hope to prevent garbage, particularly plastic waste, from being carelessly dumped into rivers and seas and causing harm to the marine ecosystems.

Aileen Lucero, national coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition, said in a separate interview that the ESWM training is relevant amid the plan of the city government to erect a waste-to-energy (WTE) incineration facility in Barangay Sta. Lourdes, where Puerto Princesa’s landfill is also located.

She said the energetic enforcement of ESWM at the barangay level will result in greater environmental awareness and responsibility among residents and will lead to the decreased generation of garbage through enhanced segregation of waste materials at the source, recycling and composting.

“With the least amount of garbage being generated by households, institutions and business establishments, who would need a quick-fix incineration-based disposal technology?” she asked.

Rey Palacio, also of the EcoWaste Coalition, underscored the need for barangays to constitute functional Barangay Solid Waste Management Committees and for them to have adequate Barangay Solid Waste Management Plans to achieve “zero waste” under Republic Act No. 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.

“Simply put, zero waste means materials get reused, recycled and composted instead of being thrown away, dumped, burned or wasted,” he said in the statement.

Small group discussions helped the participants reflect on gaps in current waste management policies, practices and to identify solutions that will avoid the generation of waste at the point of generation while improving waste diversion.

Waste diversion, as defined in RA 9003, refers to activities that reduce or eliminate the number of solid wastes sent to waste disposal facilities, such as landfills and incinerators.

Activities contributing to a higher percentage of waste diversion include segregation at source, “no segregation, no collection,” reusing, recycling, re-purposing, composting, and other waste prevention and reduction regulations and techniques, including clean production, Palacio said.

Astoria Palawan offers luxurious amenities, curated tours

(Philippine Daily Inquirer)

Palawan is home to two Unesco World Heritage sites: the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park and Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park.

Astoria Palawan is a resort strategically located midway between the popular tourist sites in the northern and western portions of the province, but conveniently within the city of Puerto Princesa. Originally an eight-hectare mango orchard fronting the Sulu Sea, it was transformed into a tranquil escape for urbanites and travel junkies.

Guests can use the hotel as a jump-off point to tick items off their Palawan bucket list.

Explore the Underground River on the western side of the island.

Head north to El Nido for island-hopping and snorkeling in saltwater lagoons.

Hop on to the northwestern side for Astoria Palawan’s curated Port Barton Tour.

Companies planning a company outing, seminar or workshop will find everything they need in the resort.

Amenities include the luxurious beach and pool area, a bar, restaurants, comfortable and beautifully designed rooms, and the eclectic ambiance of the common areas that make the resort a perfect base for most Palawan adventures.

The Palawan Waterpark, located next door from the Astoria hotel, features giant slides, a wave pool, a lazy river ride and splash pods. Guests billeted at the resort can avail of a free one-time entrance to the waterpark during their stay.

The Port Barton Tour includes island-hopping, snorkeling and sightseeing, plus a kayak ride amid fireflies.

Scattered rains over VisMin, Palawan

By Ma. Cristina Arayata (PNA)

MANILA -- Cloudy skies with scattered rain showers and thunderstorms will prevail over Visayas, Mindanao and Palawan on Sunday due to the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) that continuously affects southern Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon will experience partly cloudy to cloudy skies with isolated rain showers due to localized thunderstorms.

Meanwhile, moderate to strong winds will blow over the eastern section of the archipelago. Coastal waters along this area will be moderate to rough.

Elsewhere, winds will be light to moderate with slight to moderate seas, PAGASA said.

5 Vietnamese poachers nabbed near Tubbataha marine park

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- Five Vietnamese poachers were nabbed Wednesday near the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (TRNP) in Cagayancillo, northern Palawan by a patrolling multi-role response vessel (MRRV) of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).

Ensign Allison Tindog of the Coast Guard District Palawan (CGDP) said Thursday night that the crew of the fishing vessel with bow number “RD 97623TS” were arrested by BRP Cabra (MRRV-4409) at 11:55 p.m. on September 19.

The arrested Vietnamese fishermen are Cao Van Linh, 30, the boat captain; Phon Van Tae, 51; Truong Van Lac, 38; Dinh Cong An, 41; and a 15-year old, who was not named.

“They were apprehended in the vicinity of Bancuran Island. The Coast Guard in Palawan received an intelligence report and to verify the veracity of the report, it directed BRP Cabra (MRRV-4409) to conduct patrols in the area,” Tindog said.

He said the fishermen were nabbed after a 30-minute chase east of Bancuran Island in the Sulu Sea, where the TRNP is located.

The Vietnamese fishing vessel has an assortment of sharks and other marine species that might have been poached in the Bancuran Island area, he added.

Tindog said Bancuran Island is in southwest Palawan, where green sea turtles have always been sighted and is a rich fishing ground.

“When we launched the anti-terrorism boat, Commodore Allen Toribio of the CGDP also announced that another white patrol ship will be sent to Palawan by Admiral Elson Hermogino of the PCG,that is BRP Cabra, which has already made an accomplishment by apprehending the Vietnamese fishing vessel. We are thankful to Admiral Hermogino for keeping this promise so we can better guard Tubbataha, and generally, Palawan’s marine environment,” he added.

He said the BRP Cabra was particularly sent to Palawan by Hermogino to support the Western Command and the provincial government in “security, safety, and environmental protection.”

Tubbataha Reefs is a World Heritage Site of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Lawyer Lovely Rose Catayen, legal officer of the CGDP, said cases for violation of Republic Act 8550 or the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998, Republic Act 7611 or the Strategic Environmental Plan (SEP) law, and illegal entry may be filed against the foreign fishing crew.

The content of the Vietnamese fishing vessel is still being inventoried by environmental authorities as of this writing.

Last May, 20 Vietnamese poachers using two large commercial fishing vessels were also arrested off Mangsee Island in Balabac by the Philippine Navy’s Patrol Craft 375.

The boat contained over 175 assorted species of sharks and manta rays. The 20 Vietnamese poachers are currently detained at the Palawan Provincial Jail.

Solar, hydro power, suitable for Palawan: environment official

By Gerardo Reyes, Jr. (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- Solar and hydropower are alternative sources of energy that are suitable for Palawan's need for reliable, cheaper, and environment-friendly power supply, a ranking official of the local environment office said Thursday.

Provincial environment and natural resources officer Felizardo Cayatoc said in an interview that both solar and hydro projects are suitable, especially in remote villages on the mainland and in the island-municipalities.

"Ang kailangan natin dito sa Palawan ay itong solar and hydropower, which are renewable energies. Sa solar farm ay kailangan mo nyan ng malaking space talaga na mapaglalagyan ng solar panels at syempre yung mga batteries or generators nyan sa pag-capture nyan o storage ng energy. Sa solar farm ay wala pang nag-operate pero sana magkaroon tayo (What we need here are solar and hydropower, which are renewable energies. In a solar farm, we need a big space to put up the solar panels and for the batteries or generators to capture or (which can serve) storage for energy. There is no operator of a solar farm here yet. That's why, I hope we can have one)," he said.

Cayatoc noted that the rising cost of fuel used in other modes of power generation makes renewable energy projects viable and acceptable in the province.

"Ang krudo natin ay mahal. Kung genset naman ay gumagamit din ng krudo. Sa renewable energy kasi ay mas mura ang kuryente dahil sa araw lang kukunin (Crude oil is so expensive. If we use generator sets, they also use crude oil. In renewable energy, power is cheap since it is sourced from the sun)," he said.

Cayatoc explained that solar power projects will help fill in the needs of the residents in the island-towns.

“Itong solar ay akma ito doon sa mga island municipalities, sa isla ng Cuyo, Cagayancillo, at maging dito sa mainland. Kung ma-in place ang solar mas maganda ito kaysa sa diesel (This solar energy is suitable for island municipalities and also in the mainland. If we can put it in place, it is better than diesel)," he said.

Cayatoc further said that another renewable energy power prospect in Palawan is the 6.8-megawatt mini-hydro power project of Langogan Power Corp. (LPC) in Langogan River, Barangay Langogan, Puerto Princesa City.

He said all the documents of the LPC have already been approved at their level and forwarded to the regional environment office for approval. The LPC has also entered a Forest Land Use Agreement with DENR for its project site.

It has already forged a power supply agreement with the Palawan Electric Cooperative (PALECO), making it the first renewable energy technology in Palawan.

Drone captures fishing vessels dumping suspected used oil in Palawan

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- Drone photos captured by a foreign lawyer and videographer showing two large commercial fishing vessels and three smaller boats dumping suspected used oil near a hot spring and a marine protected area (MPA) in Coron have gone viral.

Atty. Sergei Tokmakov’s photos posted on the Facebook page of the Philippine Tourism Commission Group last September 15, indicated the vessels were ditching what seems to be used oil near Siete Pecados marine protected area.

Tokmakov, a lawyer from San Diego, California, said his drone captured the scene around 500 meters from Maquinit Hot Spring, “one of the very few natural saltwater springs in the world”.

“I was just shooting a video about the hot spring and nearby stuff. But after I got home and looked at the footage on a big screen, I realized that… (expletives), this looks like oil,” he said in his post.

One drone photo shows a commercial fishing vessel tugging a rubber boat behind and discharging a large amount of “used oil” within the 15-kilometer municipal waters of Coron, northern Palawan.

Reacting to this, Coron Mayor Jerry Barracoso on Wednesday told the local media the incident had been reported to the Coast Guard Substation (CGSS) in their town.

He said it was an “isolated case,” and the vessels just took shelter in Coron to avoid being caught by strong winds and waves due to Typhoon Ompong.

Large fishing vessels are prohibited within municipal waters per Philippine Fisheries Code. The smaller fishing boats, accompanying the bigger vessels, are responsible to haul the fish and return to the mother ships with their catch.

“Parang nagtago lang sila doon (They just probably hid in the area),” he said.

Barracoso said his office is waiting for the incident’s full report from CGSS Coron.

“Sa initial na report, na-identify na nila yong pangalan ng fishing company. Yon pa lang, wala pa silang final report (In their initial report, they have identified the fishing company. That’s all, no final report yet),” he said.

Felizardo Cayatoc, provincial environment and natural resources officer of the local Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), in a separate interview said no large oil discharge was found in the area by the investigating team of CGSS and Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) in Coron.

“Kung merong oil spill ay hindi naman yan mag-se-settle, makikita ‘yan. Very visible ang mga ganyan. Makikita mo rin ang signs sa mangrove areas pero dito ay it turned out na negative (If oil was spilled in the area, it will not settle and it will be seen. They are very visible. You will also see signs in the mangrove areas, but here it turned negative),” Cayatoc said

Meanwhile, Coron CENRO chief Eriberto Saños reminded the CGSS and the local government to be vigilant to prevent any similar incident.

He said they should strengthen efforts to ensure that strict monitoring is implemented within the municipal waters.

“Ang dapat diyan talagang maging attentive ‘yong Coast Guard at saka ‘yong local government unit (What should be done is for the Coast Guard and the local government unit to be attentive all the time),” said Saños.

Tokmakov’s photos have been shared more than 350 times and liked by over 660 followers.

Puerto Princesa commits to ending AIDS by 2030

By Gerardo Reyes, Jr. (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- The city government signed Monday a declaration of commitment to end the human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) epidemic in the here by 2030, and to step up the delivery of services to patients afflicted with the lentivirus.

The Paris Declaration on “Fast-Track Cities: Ending the AIDS Epidemic by 2030” commitment being advocated by the United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) was signed among Miss Universe-Philippines 2018 Catriona Elisa Gray, UNAIDS Country Director for the Philippines Dr. Louie Ocampo, Mayor Lucilo Bayron, and other partners.

Bayron said the signing of the declaration means the city government is pledging to put Puerto Princesa City in the mainstream of the world initiative to fast-track the elimination of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

The commitment is a strategy by the UNAIDS that targets the reduction of the annual number of new annual HIV infections to 500,000 by 2020 and to less than 200,000 by 2030.

To this end, Bayron said the city government will increase the PHP3 million current budget for the year 2019 for strengthening of the implementation of the City HIV/AIDS Council programs and activities.

“Sa buong MIMAROPA (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan) ay tayo ang topnotcher [sa HIV cases] kasi tayo rin naman ang pinaka-progresibo. Meron tayong programa at gusto natin magkaroon ng mas masigasig na detection services (In the whole MIMAROPA we are the topnotcher in HIV cases because our development is aggressive. We have a program and we want it to have a stepped-up detection services),” he said during the event.

His statement is based on the report of Regina Villapa, the coordinator for the local health office’s Sexually Transmitted Infections Human Immunodeficiency Virus Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (STI HIV AIDS) Prevention and Control Program, which indicates that half or 295 of the total 590 HIV cases in MIMAROPA are from Palawan, with the city contributing the highest.

Villapa said their records show that as of August this year, 198 patients are enrolled in the treatment hub and 139 of them are from Puerto Princesa City.

She did not name the barangays where the HIV patients are currently residing to protect their identities.

UNAIDS’ Ocampo said the strategy aims to increase the support of patients with HIV/AIDS.

“Meron na tayong retroviral therapy na maiinom na gamot at within three to six months ay manumnumbalik na ang pasyente sa kanyang normal at healthy life (We now have retroviral therapy that is patients can take the medicine and within three to six months, their health will become normal and they will have a healthy life),” he said.

He added that HIV patients prefer not to seek available treatment services fearing “workplace discrimination, public humiliation and being stigmatized.”

“Marami ang hindi nag-a-access ng treatment dahil sa stigma at discrimination. Ang ating ginagawa ngayon ay to fastc-track and scale up ang mga serbisyo at mas iIapit sa mga communities (A lot of patients are not accessing the treatment services because of fear of the stigma and discrimination.

“What we’re doing right now is to fast-track and scale up the delivery of treatment services to communities),” Ocampo pointed out. He expressed optimism that by 2030, “the country’s major cities, including Puerto Princesa City, will eliminate the feared disease.”

“Ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the Philippines by 2030 is achievable if major cities like Puerto Princesa [will] act immediately to fast-track case responses,” he added.

Ocampo further said the commitment signing will hopefully establish the services delivery network with the help of different partners.

The initiative is a multi-sectoral approach, where the city government should formulate a Local Investment Plan for HIV/AIDS that will have an allocation for five straight years to ensure the sustainability of programs and services, he said.

Part of the commitment is the city government’s absorption of the community outreach workers hired by the Global Fund to help in speeding up the delivery of treatment services to HIV patients.

Gray underscored the need to support and help the institutions and organizations that work to eliminate the HIV challenge.

“It is an amazing step that we are making today. I can help the city by promoting to remove the barriers because there is medication available that will lead us to healthy and normal lives. We will slowly break down the stigma. (HIV) is just like diabetes and can be treated,” she said.

Gray said every individual should not fear routinely subjecting himself/herself to HIV/AIDS testing, just like checking their blood sugar and blood pressure as early prevention and detection.

Meanwhile, the other partners are Save the Children, Global Fund, Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc., Love Yourself, Roots of Health, Ospital ng Palawan, and Project 4H Tandikan.

NFA guarantees enough rice supply in Palawan during ‘Ompong’

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- The office of the National Food Authority (NFA) in Palawan province assured Friday there is enough rice supply to meet the needs of local government units affected by Typhoon Ompong in the province.

Ma. Lewina Tolentino, NFA-Palawan manager, said they have set aside 5,000 bags of rice for Puerto Princesa City and the mainland municipalities of Palawan in case of calamities and emergencies.

She said their buffer stock at the NFA warehouse in the city was from the first shipment of 20,000 imported bags of rice.

"May available kaming stock sa warehouses for calamities or emergencies, tapos sa Coron meron tayong ample stock (We have available stocks in our warehouses for calamities or emergencies and in Coron we have ample stocks too)," Tolentino said.

She said just recently, a mainland municipality withdrew 80 bags of rice from them. They are open 24/7 when there are weather disturbances and other emergencies.

Tolentino said they should have a buffer stock of 3,000 rice bags during calamities.

In island municipalities, the NFA allowed the towns of Coron, Busuanga, Cuyo, and Culion to withdraw 40 bags of rice each as additional allocation for their 55 accredited retailing outlets.

She said the second shipment of Thailand rice imported by the NFA central office will arrive this Sunday to supply the province's mainland area.

It was supposed to arrive earlier, but the vessel with the shipment to Palawan was prohibited from leaving the port of Batangas due to the typhoon.

Tolentino said if the weather condition turns better, the vessel will resume the loading of rice bags within four days and might arrive in the city in the third week of September.

An update from the Palawan Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) as of Saturday morning said the Busuanga island-municipality in the Calamianes Islands Group was already experiencing strong winds.

Linapacan was experiencing heavy rains, while light rains and strong winds were occurring in Culion. Coron, surprisingly, has good weather, according to the update.

PDRRMO chief Jerry Alili said no untoward incident has been reported from the municipalities.

Out of nine municipalities in southern Palawan, only Balabac and Bataraza were experiencing heavy rains and strong winds.

Balabac is where Barangay Mangsee is located, which experienced Typhoon Vinta’s wrath in December 2017.

Aborlan, Narra, Quezon, Brooke’s Point, Rizal, Sofronio Española, and Kalayaan have good weather condition.

In the northern part of the province, Agutaya, Cuyo, and Magsaysay were experiencing strong winds, while Araceli, Cagayancillo, Dumaran, El Nido, Roxas, Taytay, and San Vicente were experiencing good weather if not light rains.

Alili said no preemptive evacuation has been implemented so far in any of the municipalities.

Countryside: A hidden gem in El Nido, Palawan

By Frank Cimatu (

Once upon a time, an overnight stay in El Nido cost a mere P20

El Nido is the ultimate diving resort but the price is anything but – a stay in the posh resorts in the islands can be had for as much as P26,000 per night.

But as early as 1985, when the resort town was known to only a few people, the price for a room in the first lodging area was cheaper than a cup of instant coffee.

“Twenty pesos a night,” Teodora Marcelino Austria sheepishly told us.

That was in 1986 when El Nido was virtually unknown.

"But that was when tourists started trickling in," she said.

Austria knew only one foreign traveler at that time, an Australian named Murray, who was so mesmerized at the place that he just wandered around.

Today, about 2,750 tourists, mostly foreigners, come to El Nido and try the different tour packages to the islands and islets off the town.

There are hundreds of inns and hotels for them to stay, with more and more being built today.

Austria, together with her late husband Prospero, started Countryside in 1985. They only had 5 rooms then and a full view of the beach.

Countryside has since become Austria’s Place. It is still a quaint place, favored by foreign backpackers and dwarfed by taller structures along Real Street, which had become the second road parallel to the beachfront.

Even as the neighborhood has become rowdy, Austria’s Place has a notice for those staying there to keep the videoke until 10 pm in respect to the elders in the place.

Austria was 20 years old when she first came to Palawan in 1959. She was born in Bacarra, Ilocos Norte and came to Palawan to look for the family of her cousin whose boat sank in the area and drowned the whole family.

Teodora met Prospero and stayed in El Nido. Her husband belonged to the pioneer of the place, Jose Rios, who brought three boatloads of people from San Jose, Antique in 1900 in this place called Cabigsing.

The town was then known as Bacuit until it was changed to El Nido in 1955.

Andres said that the chief income of El Nido came from copra, beeswax, sea cucumber, lumber, marine products and, of course, el nido, the nest of swiftlets (balinsasayaw) which they wove by regurgitating their saliva into strands.

“My husband decided not to go into the business because it was so dangerous,” she said.

The gatherers known as bociadores would gather the nests on the side of the limestone caves sometimes a kilometer up.

She remembered when those nests were sold for P200 a kilo. Now they sell for almost P200,000.

She said that her husband would often trade dried squid which he then sold for two pesos a kilo back then, although he sold them by the tons to Manila.

Prospero died in 2010, but he kept his family to live within their compound in El Nido. One of his sons has since become a noted realtor in the town.

But Teodora hardly left her home, caring for her apos and watching her old town grow much faster than her memories.

Taking a closer look at the Green, Green, Green Program

By Ragene Andrea L. Palma (Philippine Daily Inquirer)

We always hear about the government’s “Build Build Build” drive, but did you know there’s also a “Green Green Green” Program?

According to the Department of Budget and Management, the Green, Green, Green Program is a “unique assistance program that aims to make cities more livable and sustainable through the development of public open spaces.” It was given a P2.58-billion funding under the 2018 national budget.

Balayong Nature Park
Puerto Princesa, Palawan

Named after the Palawan cherry blossoms, which will be a main attraction and feature of the project, the Balayong Nature Park will be the biggest among the program’s parks and open spaces. At 897,518 sqm, it will be located within the Puerto Princesa City Government Centre and Nature Park.

Balayong Nature Park is designed for sustainability and biodiversity resource. It is foreseen to provide ecological services to the government center, and to serve as a refuge for insects and birds, as well as exotic forest flora and native plants.

Its design encourages passive and recreational activities, as complemented by green infrastructure that is integrated with a high-quality aesthetic landscape. The park is also strategically placed to create a greenbelt in the area.

Gora Lane in Quezon City

Wittily embodying the essence of mobility in slang talk is Quezon City’s Gora Lane, which in Filipino means “Let’s Go.” This is a pedestrian corridor that will connect three transportation hubs—the MRT GMA Kamuning station, MRT Quezon Avenue station and LRT Gilmore stations —through the go-to streets of Dona Hemady, Mother Ignacia, Scout Tobias, Scout Chuatoco and Scout Madrinan.

Utilizing a walkability radius strategy, the Gora Lane will create better sidewalks; install parklets and way-finding features; establish pedestrian crossings and intersection treatments; and add shade elements and public art installations to the streets.

Quezon City will also develop a program for Gora Festival, which aims to feature artists through street painting and art demos. The program will generate revenues to sustain the street features of Gora Lane.

Public Park
Lamitan City, Basilan

Open spaces play a great role in creating both identity and safety for the environment, and this is something that Lamitan City in Basilan wants to incorporate in its proposed public park.

The city government aims to recreate a 3,092-sqm institutional space into a green park that is estimated to serve at least 3,000 commuters and passersby who walk along the government complex.

The public park is seen to help promote peace, safety and a sense of security within an area of conflict, thus helping improve the image of the city. Its features aim to improve social and cultural connectivity among citizens as well.

The Public Park of Lamitan, Basilan aims to promote peace, safety, and security within an area of conflict. —Design (c) City Government of Lamitan

Plaza Lucero
Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija

Since “Heneral Luna” became a critically successful film in 2015, there has been a growing interest to visit the location where Gen. Antonio Luna was betrayed and killed

But when tourists go to the exact site in Cabanatuan City, they are left with a disappointing experience. What they find instead are parked cars.

This is why the Cabanatuan City Government plans to redevelop Plaza Lucero, where that important historical site is located. To give proper respect to our hero, designs for the plaza improvement will include landscaping, creation of walkways, a grotto with a pond and installation of lights.

The Mangrovetum Extension
Masbate City

The Mangrovetum of Barangay Nursery is a mangrove area with an elevated walkway located along JM Robredo Boulevard, Masbate City.

To increase the appreciation of the environmental benefits of mangroves, including the proliferation of species that use mangroves as their habitat, the city government aims to strengthen the wooden walkway by replacing it with concrete, and to strategically place benches along the stretch as part of the Mangrovetum extension.

The project also aims to connect locals with the space, encouraging them to use that area more often.

Franklin Bridge
Dagupan City, Pangasinan

Once a connector of Dagupan and Lingayen, the Franklin Bridge stood strong until the World War II, and was destroyed in 1935. But the people of Dagupan City value its history and heritage value, and have left the remnants since.

Dagupan aims to redevelop the parking space surrounding the Franklin Bridge into an integrated area consisting of an esplanade, a plaza and a boat terminal. The open space will also promote coastal resource management, and address climate issues experienced in the locality: urban heat and greenhouse gas emissions.

The 4,610-sqm space will not only help shift the space from being car-centric, but will also help boost tourism in the province.

City governments are expected to begin implementing projects upon receiving funding from DBM. A website will be put up for all the cities’ design concepts and proposals, and for progress tracking.

The author is an environmental planner and an advocate for better public open spaces in cities.

‘Ompong’ forces suspension of classes in 3 Palawan towns

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- Three towns in Palawan suspended their classes Friday due to possible effects of Typhoon Ompong, which is expected to aggravate the southwest monsoon.

San Vicente and Balabac towns have suspended classes in all levels while Taytay declared no classes only at the elementary level, said Grace Estefano, information officer of the Department of Education (DepEd) Schools Division Office in Palawan.

Estefano said the suspension of classes in the three towns was declared by their municipal chief executives.

A DepEd memorandum order she sent to the media from their regional office did not suggest any cancellation but only “precautionary measures to be undertaken” regarding “Ompong”.

Signed by Benjamin Paragas, DepEd director III and officer-in-charge regional director, the memorandum is addressed to schools division superintendents, information officers, and disaster risk reduction focal persons.

It identified precautionary measures, such as the safekeeping of school books, pertinent files and other important materials; securing weak parts and electrical wirings of their schools; monitoring schools in landslide-prone areas; and closely coordinating with local government units (LGUs).

In the province, Palawan Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (PDRRMO) chief Jerry Alili said so far, “no municipality has implemented any preemptive evacuation."

“Ang report sa atin ng sitwasyon ay cloudy with light rains lang sa mga mino-monitor na municipalities (The situational reports we are getting said the skies are cloudy with only light rains),” he said.

In Calamianes, composed of the island towns of Coron, Culion, Busuanga, and Linapacan, he said the weather has been observed to be "cloudy with no untoward incident so far."

In southern Palawan's nine municipalities, the weather is "cloudy with light rains."

In the northern area, he said it is "sunny" in the municipality of Roxas, but cloudy with light rains in nine others.

A statement released Wednesday by the Provincial Information Office said the PDRRMO and the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office (PSWDO) have prepared 5,430 food packs; 256 rice bags; 523 gallons of mineral water; and other non-food relief items.

Kalayaan island town in the disputed West Philippine Sea waters, where “Ompong” is expected to traverse, has not suspended classes, said Joy Gabinete, assistant in the municipal DRRMO.

“Wala pong suspension ng classes kasi di naman ganoon kalakas ang ulan. Occasional rainfalls lang at yong dagat moderate-to-rough na occasional lang din (There is no suspension of classes because the rains are not that strong. Only occasional rainfalls and the sea waves are moderate to rough, which are also occasional),” Gabinete said.

She said there are currently 47 households in the island municipality composed of less than a hundred residents who can "immediately evacuate to their training center just in case."

Gabinete noted they also have enough rice and other food supply stocks.

“We prepared early in the municipal DRRMO in case Ompong will bring us strong winds and waves,” she added.

Palawan braces for ‘Ompong’

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- The provincial government of Palawan said Thursday it has readied food and other relief goods to respond to the needs of its residents who may be affected by Typhoon Ompong.

Palawan provincial information officer Gil Acosta Jr. said they distributed food supplies and relief goods to the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (MDRRMO) as early as last week.

Acosta noted they do not want a repeat of what happened in December 2017, when severe Tropical Storm Vinta hit the province and they had difficulty transporting supplies and goods to Mangsee Island in Balabac town, southern Palawan.

He said it is still better for the province “to always be prepared than sorry”, as “Ompong” is seen moving toward central and northern Luzon.

“Ang pinaka epekto sa atin nitong bagyo ay yong pag-intensify ng hanging habagat dito sa bandang western ng ating lalawigan (The effect of the typhoon is the intensification of the southwest monsoon in the western part of the province),” he said.

Acosta also assured that rescuers and front-liners are prepared for “Ompong”, particularly in the towns along the west coast of Palawan.

“Ang tinitignan natin ngayon at binabantayan No. 1 is yung storm surge, second is yung landslide, at saka yung malakas na pag-ulan (What we are monitoring right now, first is the storm surge, second is landslide, and then strong and heavy rains),” he said.

Acosta said they have increased their monitoring in all municipalities facing west of the province, such as Rizal, Bataraza, Brooke’s Point, San Vicente, Taytay, and El Nido.

“Ompong” is now moving west northwest at a speed of 25 km. per hour (kph).

As of this posting, the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office has not recommended any area for preemptive evacuation, he said.

Meanwhile, the DRRMO of Puerto Princesa City has activated “Oplan Listo”, the city government’s incident monitoring system, in line with the directive of Mayor Lucilo Bayron and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

"Ito ang sinusunod natin na protocol pag-may bagyo, ang Oplan Listo (This the protocol we follow when there are typhoons, the Oplan Listo),” CDRRMO chief Earl Timbancaya said.

Chaired by Bayron, the CDRRMC is composed of city key officials; offices like health, planning, agriculture, environment, social welfare and engineering; national agencies like the Philippine Red Cross, Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines, DILG, and others, as well as civic groups and first responders.

DOH urges LGUs to replicate Palawan’s CELP to help drug dependents

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- The Department of Health (DOH) urged local government units (LGUs) in the country to emulate Palawan’s implementation of the Community Enhancement and Livelihood Program (CELP) to support President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-illegal drugs campaign and to help recovering drug dependents. Dr. Ma. Vilma Diez, DOH director of the Dangerous Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment Program (DDAPTP), said Wednesday the province’s CELP was hailed by the Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP) as the “best model” in community-based treatment and rehabilitation program for persons who use drugs (PWUDs).

The other best model in Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan) is in the municipality of Gasan in Marinduque, she said during a Health Summit press conference in this city.

Diez said CELP is among the community-based treatment and recovery programs they are promoting to other provinces and municipalities, providing immediate and accessible interventions for PWUDs, particularly those who submit themselves voluntarily.

“Nandoon na siya sa ini-exhibit natin na isa siya sa best practices. Kaya in-exhibit natin yong CELP para tularan ng ibang LGUs. Sinasabi natin na ito na yong magandang programa para sa mga komunidad na base na sa pag-aaral, evidence-based, and may research. May rason tayo na tularan siya. CELP is very good (We are already exhibiting it as one of the best practices. The reason is so that other LGUs will copy the program. What we’re saying is that this is it, this is the most applicable program in your communities because it underwent studies, it’s evidence-based, and it was researched. We now have a reason to emulate it),” she added.

Palawan’s CELP was born out of the provincial government’s compassion for more than 4,200 drug users and pushers who voluntarily surrendered at the onset of the administration’s “Oplan Tokhang” and “Double Barrel Reloaded.”

It is a 16-week community-based outpatient recovery program that would provide the essential support for recovering drug addicts to get back to mainstream society.

Program team leader, Ma. Teresa Acda, said CELP aims to channel help to them to allow their re-entry into the mainstream of society.

"The number of those who surrendered was one of the reasons for the creation of CELP. But for Governor Jose Alvarez, when he gave us the order in July 2016 to come up with this, it was also compassion and sympathy for the families of those who surrendered voluntarily and understanding them. The governor's simple instruction was for us to help," Acda said in a previous interview.

As part of Duterte’s overall response to the ongoing drug abuse prevention initiatives, the DOH started in Puerto Princesa a four-day summit to share experiences and best models on the effectiveness of community-based drug abuse treatment and rehabilitation centers called “recovery clinics.”

The recovery clinic, which began in Pasay, is also one of the best models of community-based support to PWUDs.

The DOH hopes the recovery clinic model would be implemented soon on a nationwide scale.

Meanwhile, the summit slated to be held on Sept. 11-15 serves as the dissemination forum of the guidelines, as it also showcases the other best models in community-based treatment and rehabilitation program that were developed in other LGUs.

The initiative is guided by Republic Act No. 9165, or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, that mandates the state’s policy to provide sustainable mechanisms to reintegrate into the society the individuals who have fallen victim to drug abuse and dependency.

Dr. Ivanhoe Escartin, program manager of DDAPTP, said the setting up of recovery clinics signifies “political will” to support the nationwide campaign against drugs and help the PWUDs.

“If we pull together all our experiences, we will be able to fight the scourge of illegal drugs that is affecting people in our communities,” he said.

BFAR maintains red tide alert for Eastern Samar, Bohol, Palawan

(BM, GMA News)

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) on Monday said that paralytic shellfish poison is detected in waters off Eastern Samar, Bohol, and Palawan.

The BFAR shellfish bulletin covered the coastal waters of Dauis and Tagbilaran City in Bohol, and Puerto Princesa and Honda Bays in Puerta Princesa City, Palawan.

The public is prevented from harvesting, selling, buying, or eating any shellfish caught in these areas.

"All types of shellfish and Acetes sp. or alamang gathered from the area are not safe for human consumption. Fish, squids, shrimps and crabs are safe for human consumption provided that they are fresh and washed thoroughly, and internal organs such as gills and intestines are removed before cooking," the BFAR said.

On the other hand, the BFAR declared the Lianga Bay in Surigao del Sur free of red tide.

250 Bilibid inmates transferred to Palawan detention

By Llanesca T. Panti and Mariz Umali (BM, GMA News)

At least 250 inmates from New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa have been safely transferred to Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm in Palawan, Bureau of Corrections Director General Ronald dela Rosa said Monday.

The inmates arrived in Iwahig on Sunday, September 9.

“This is part of the ongoing effort of the present leadership to decongest the Bilibid in Muntinlupa City which is heavily congested and lacking in facilities for ideal security and effective implementation of the reformation program [for inmates],” dela Rosa said in a statement.

In June, the BuCor transferred 500 Bilibid inmates in five batches to Sablayan Prison and Penal Farm.

The BuCor described the transfer of the medium security category inmates to Sablayan a successful and a boost to BuCor's work and livelihood program for the detainees.

SAP Go leads launch of ‘Malasakit Center’ in Palawan

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan – A one-stop-shop health facility called “Malasakit Center” was inaugurated Sunday at the Ospital ng Palawan (ONP) to provide medical and financial assistance to poor Palaweños.

Special Assistant to the President (SAP) Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, who said he would see how he can help speed up the modernization of health and medical facilities and services in local government hospitals, led the unveiling of the center and turned over a cheque for PHP5 million as an initial fund.

Go said once the amount has been consumed, it will be replenished by funds that will be drawn from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), PhilHealth, Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) and Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR).

"Programa ito para mapabilis ang proseso ng mga medical services hanggang maging zero balance billing sila [mga pasyente]. Tuloy-tuloy ang pondo nito at kapag naubos ay replenishable. Pera ninyo ito ibinabalik lang namin (This is a program to speed up the delivery of medical services to the patient until his bill becomes zero balance. This will continue and when it is consumed, it will be replenishable. This is the money of the people, we are just returning it)," he said.

Go said the center is a national government initiative to make all health agencies accessible to patients confined in government-run hospitals.

Private hospitals can also request to have the same center but Go said the priority to have the Malasakit Centers are government-owned hospitals.

“We will speak to hospital authorities on how we can help modernize the hospital itself so patients here don’t need to go to private hospitals,” he said.

The financial assistance was received for the ONP Malasakit Center by 47 patients in the male medical ward.

Go said the center will be “immediately operational,” adding that the memorandum of agreement had been signed earlier with the concerned agencies.

He said it “ought to relieve indigent patients of the hassle of providing and submitting the documentary requirements in order for them to access various medical assistance and services at the provincial hospital.”

Go said altogether, the departments can help lessen the medical bill of a patient to a price he can afford, and even up to zero bills.

The main priorities of Malasakit Center are Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) and senior citizens.

“Especially po, prayoridad din namin ‘yong mga PWDs, ‘yong mga disabled, at ‘yong mga senior citizens. Kailangan ang mga senior citizen, dito na pumapasok ‘yong mga sakit at ayaw na natin bigyan ng mga burden ‘yong mga anak nila (Our priorities are the PWDs, those who are disabled, and the senior citizens. This should be relevant to our senior citizens to lessen the burden of their families),” Go said.

There are five Malasakit Centers in the Philippines: one in Manila, one in Davao, and three in Visayas.

Dr. Melecio Dy, ONP chief, said they will implement all the mandated Malasakit Center policies, including the “No Balance Bill.”

"Pipilitin natin na ma-implement lahat ng mga policies hanggang mawalan ng balance lahat ng mag-a-avail na patients. 'Yong pondo naman [na five million] ili-liquidate lang namin tapos ire-replenish ng national government. Kaya kailangan lang mabilis kami sa liquidation (We will try to implement all the policies until patients here leave without balances. We will liquidate the fund so it can be replenished. What we need to do is just to speed up our liquidation processing)," Dy said.

He added that the center will temporarily operate for eight hours until such time they have enough personnel to manage a 24-hour operation.

Go arrived here on Saturday night and was welcomed at the Puerto Princesa City International Airport by Vice Governor Dennis Socrates, Mayor Lucilo Bayron, members of the City Council, heads of other public and private offices, and his supporters.

He met with Sangguniang Kabataan leaders at the Provincial Capitol, where he had a dialogue with them on current issues.

Experience the soul of El Nido at Lagùn

By Tessa Prieto-Valdes (Columnist / @Inq_Lifestyle, Philippine Daily Inquirer)

Lagùn Hotel, strategically located at the heart of El Nido in Palawan, is a premier boutique hotel with its distinct style, first-class amenities, and warm Filipino service.

According to the hotel’s interior designer Cecil Ravelas, the inspiration for the interiors of the Lagùn evolved from the concept of “The Nest,” which is the English translation of El Nido. Nido is the Spanish word for the nests of the swiftlets which are found in the limestone crevices of the town. Nest harvesting in El Nido, Palawan, has been recorded as far back as pre-Spanish colonization time.

She explained that the nest, as a visual handle, was maintained in the Lagùn Hotel design development. Nests are built in different shapes and forms in various materials depending on what’s available to the bird. Hence, all throughout the hotel, one would find a nest in various forms of lamp and furniture pieces in wire, metal or rattan skin, Ravelas further noted.

As soon as one enters the lobby of Lagùn, one will find a reception desk shaped like a bowl nest but done in layers of cut-out light colored wood. In some parts of the hotel, one can find the weaving texture of the nest and created hand railings of woven metals in linear patterns. Most lamps were woven, too, while the lounge chairs showed varying weave patterns.

To create visual variation for each area of the hotel, Ravelas said bright accent colors were used, derived from the undersea palette that one experiences during snorkeling. This was applied in the dining area and one of the guest rooms.

One of Palawan’s treasures is its rich marine environment and hence, in some rooms, Ravelas introduced bright yellow and turquoise colors and the pattern of the Palawan peacock. It was adapted in a graphic accent wall covering. In another guest room, they introduced shades of red, purple and orange.

Ravelas said these colors depict the woven mats found in Palawan and is also reminiscent of the town fiesta banderitas. The idea, she explained, was to reintroduce to the guest the adventure they experienced in Palawan by memory triggers from colors and patterns they see inside the hotel. Ravelas felt it was important for the guest to experience the soul of the town.

To balance out all the elements, patterns and textures, the floors, walls and ceilings were done in muted tones. The floors were kept beige similar to the colors of the beach sand, muted greys on the walls like the limestone cave walls, white ceilings to neutralize the canvas.

The Lagùn Hotel features 37 spacious and well-appointed rooms, with three themes namely the Coral Room, Fiesta Room and the Peacock room.

Guests can dine at an all day dining restaurant called Habi, which offers an intercontinental menu. Guests can likewise relax on the roof deck where one can find the infinity pool, the spa and the Talusi bar overlooking the limestone mountain and sweeping view of the sea. While lounging by the poolside, one may even chance upon the Talusi (Palawan hornbill) which flies to and from its home.

Lagùn Hotel is strategically located at the heart of El Nido—conveniently close to the town’s hubs and shoreline, yet just the right distance from the busy downtown street.

With service that speaks of authentic family hospitality, you can come home to the comfort and style at the Lagùn Hotel again and again.

10 Palaweño scholars now in China

By Teri Acda

Hainan Normal University in the City of Haikou, Hainan, China is now the new home of the 10 Palaweños who were granted full scholarship by the Provincial Government of Hainan, China and whose scholarships were made possible by the Provincial Government of Palawan.

The ten scholars, on the first Monday of September, formally started their studies. The first subject the ten scholars have to attend is the Chinese language which will last for one year. The scholars were given books and other materials as part of their Chinese subject curriculum.

Gabriel Obrique, one of the scholars from the Municipality of San Vicente said, “I was surprised that there are so many foreign students here. There are different nationalities mostly from Asia – Laos, Indonesia, Pakistan, and there are some Caucasians, as well. It inspires me to study more and be proud that I am from Palawan, Philippines.”

According to Dave Servanez, another scholar from the Municipality of Brooke’s Point said, “We, Filipinos, having a hospitable nature allows us to get along well with other nationalities. We already have friends and so far we are doing okay here.”

When asked on how they communicate with their relatives in Palawan, Kate Adrianne Sy, another scholar from the Municipality of Narra said “Wechat is life”. Wechat is an application similar to that of messenger and Facebook however developed and widely used in China.

Prior to the ten scholars going to China, Vice Governor Victorino Dennis M. Socrates and Board Member Marivic Roxas met the ten scholars with their parents and guardians. In the gathering, the Chairman for the Hainan Scholarship of the Province of Palawan, Ma. Teresa A. Acda, presented an 80-page compendium containing information on the scholars and their journey to the scholarship. A video prepared by the Province was also shown to the parents. The Governor Jose Ch. Alvarez also provided pocket money for the ten scholars.

With the overflowing concern and love of the parents to the scholars, the gathering has become emotional. Vice Governor Socrates and BM Roxas assured the parents that the Province will have constant communication with the Government of Hainan to ensure the wellbeing of the ten scholars. To further assure the parents of the safety of the scholars, Vice Governor Socrates and the Chief of Staff of the Province Ceasar Sammy A. Magbanua accompanied the scholars to Hainan, China.

Upon arrival in Hainan, China, the scholars with the Officials from Palawan were met by the Officials from the Hainan Normal University. Immediately, the scholars were given dorm accommodation where they will be staying for the entire duration of their studies in China.

The formal endorsement of the ten scholars to the Government of Hainan happened on the 30th of August 2018 where a ceremony was prepared by the Hainan Provincial Government.

The event was attended by Vice Director of International Cooperation and Exchange Section of Hainan Provincial Education Department Mr. Huang Lianping; Vice Head of Hainan Provincial Foreign Affairs and Overseas Chinese Affairs Office Mr. Kang Baiying; Director of Sisterhood City Department of Hainan Provincial Foreign Affairs and Overseas Chinese Affairs Office Mr. Han Jinglei; Director for the Academic Affairs Office of Hainan Normal University Mr. Liang Guang; Deputy Director of International Cooperation and Exchange Department from HNU, Geng Juan; the Secretary of Party Committee of International Education School from HNU, Chen Yundi; and Dean of School of International Education Mr. Chen Jiang. During the endorsement, Vice Governor Socrates expressed the Province appreciation to the scholarship provided by Hainan Province and iterating that this is but a beginning as 40 more Palaweños will be able to avail of the scholarship in the following years. Mr. Han Jinglei of Hainan also expressed their desire to forge a sisterhood agreement with the City of Puerto Princesa.

Probe sought on quarrying in Puerto Princesa tribal community

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- A City Council member here has called for an investigation of questionable quarrying and extraction of mountain resources and construction aggregates for road widening projects.

Councilor Nesario Awat, chairman of the City Council’s legal matters committee, called the inquiry Tuesday against Ivy Michelle Construction (IMC), which has been hauling gravel and sand in Barangay Napsan, a village where Tagbanua indigenous peoples (IPs) dwell.

The construction aggregates are allegedly being supplied by IMC to road widening and riprapping projects in Barangays Irawan and Iwahig.

Awat said the Tagbanua IPs in Napsan have complained against the quarrying activities, which they said have already caused irreparable damages to the environment in the area.

"Ito ay lumalabas na quarrying at dapat na ipahinto kaagad para malagay sa tama. (This appears to be quarrying that should be stopped and corrected immediately). We should investigate this," he said.

Tagbanua IP leaders in the Napsan area are crying foul, claiming they were not consulted when quarrying was allowed in their area.

Napsan residents John Mark Salunday, Sinto Torse, Rodulfo Pulages, and Armand Ganancial told the City Council the degree of environmental destruction in their place has become alarming due to the uprooting of important trees and what seems to be an uncontrolled extraction of aggregates.

"Maraming puno ang natumba, nasira at patuloy na kumukuha ng aggregates mula sa taas ng bundok ang mga equipment. Ito ay hindi dumaan sa barangay, at kaming mga katutubo ay dapat meron kaming malaya at naunawaang pag-sang ayon tungkol dito (A lot of trees have been felled, and the heavy equipment continues to get aggregates on top of the mountain. This did not pass through the barangay, and there was no conduct of free and prior informed consent)," Salunday said.

Salunday also lamented the fact that the IPs in the area, who only collect pails of gravel and sand, are being arrested but large construction companies like IMC are allowed to quarry by the truckloads.

"Sino ngayon ang mananagot sa mga pinuputol na kahoy? Kaming mga katutubo kung balde-balde lang kinukuha namin (na graba) ay hindi pwede, huhulihin kami tapos ito ngayon ay ilang trak na at maramihan na. Bakit ganito? (Who will be accountable for the trees that were cut? IP residents here who only collect buckets of gravel and sand are being arrested, but look at this they’re hauling them by trucks. Why has it become like this?)," he asked.

Councilor Peter Maristela, who supports Awat’s call for an investigation in Napsan, said an ocular inspection regarding the report should be immediately made by the City Council’s indigenous peoples, legal matters, and environment protection committees.

They should be joined by representatives from the City Environment and Natural Resources Office (City ENRO) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

The IPs are not convinced the quarrying in their place is for their “best interest” because it has become more frequent and more trees are being cut, leaving destruction behind.

They said they do not believe that some of the gravel and sand being hauled is going to be used to riprap an eroding gradient in their area.

"Kung e-riprap nila bakit hinuhukay at sinisira sa taas ng bundok? Kung ito ay para sa pag-improve ay hindi natin ito tinututulan pero ang nangyayari ay hindi na po ito para sa rehabilitation kundi ay pagsira na ito. Sinisira pa lalo (If the intention is to riprap, then why are they destroying the top of the mountain. If this is for improvement, we will not disagree, but what’s happening is no longer for rehabilitation; it’s destruction. They’re causing more destruction)," said Pugales, another IP leader.

IMC representative Maricel Hermoso, on the other hand, defended their quarrying projects in Napsan at the City Council.

Appearing during the session, she said IMC has been granted quarrying rights after applying at the City ENRO and paying PHP301,000 for around 10,000 cubic meters of gravel and sand aggregates.

She said the aggregates are for ongoing road widening and slope protection projects in Napsan, while some are transported to Irawan and Iwahig.

The area in Napsan where they are quarrying is an identified landslide prone zone that also needs slope protection.

Both the City Mining Regulatory Board and City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office certified that the construction of safety walls will stabilize the slopes and will avert any loss of lives in Napsan.

Councilor Modesto Rodriguez II is supportive of the move to suspend the activities until the issue is resolved.

He said quarry resources and aggregates are sold at PHP6,000 per truck, yet only PHP30 pesos is paid to the city per cubic meter. He said that irregularities like this should be stopped.

"Ito ay naging hanapbuhay na at dapat mapatigil. Pati bundok ay masyado nang sinisira dahil dito. Effective today dapat ay ipatigil na ang lahat ng iyan. Hangga't maari ay magkaroon muna ng pag-uusap (This is becoming a livelihood that should be stopped. Even the mountain is destroyed. Effective immediately, the quarrying should be stopped. There should be dialogue first)," he said.

Palawan ‘turtle sanctuary’: Nominee in ‘World Luxury Hotel’ awards

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- The Arena Island Turtle Sanctuary (AITS) in the municipality of Narra in southern Palawan has been nominated again for the 12th Annual World Luxury Hotel Awards 2018.

The international luxury hotel search gives awards and celebrates service excellence, bringing confidence and status to industry players, which are voted for by the public across 99 different categories.

The turtle sanctuary resort is located on a four-hectare island area in Narra, which is home to more than 16,000 hatchlings that have been released into the sea, said campaigner Carmelo Cortes.

Arena is nominated under the category of Luxury Private Island Resort.

“Arena Island Turtle Sanctuary Resort ensures a safe place, turtle hatchling survival has increased from 5 to 90 percent, it is a resort that educates the guests by allowing them to release turtles into the sea with supervision,” Cortes said.

Designed as an eco-tourism destination in southern Palawan by the Narra municipal tourism office, Arena contributes to the “green print” through its commitment to preserve and conserve the sea turtles (pawikan).

It espouses sustainable practices, providing modern amenities made with careful thought for the environment.

Last year, the turtle sanctuary island was also nominated in the Luxury Private Island Resort (regional level) and Luxury Honeymoon Resort (country level) categories.

World Luxury Hotel Awards was established in 2006 and has more than 90 award categories, which over 300,000 international travelers are voting for each year.

Arena Island Turtle Sanctuary Resort won the Luxury Honeymoon Resort and Luxury Private Island Resort awards in 2017.

DENR-Palawan collects 140 sacks of trash in El Nido beach

(Politiko Bicol)

The local office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Palawan has collected a total of 140 sacks of garbage during a joint clean up operations in El Nido.

The cleanup drive was held last August 20.

According to DENR-MIMAROPA Director Henry Adornado, the pile of garbage, believed to have originated from other countries based on the markings on the plastic bottles, was reportedly seen drifting at the Secret Lagoon in Miniloc Island, and was washed up to the shores of El Nido by the strong current amid heavy rains in the province recently.

“A waste classification report issued by the El Nido-Taytay Managed Resource Protected Area (ENTMRPA) indicated that majority of the garbage or 70% consisted of plastic bottles while 30% were a mix of Styrofoam, rubber scraps, plastic wrappers, nylon and other trash,” the Department said in a statement.

Adornado mobilized additional teams to scour the beaches of Big Lagoon and Small Lagoon in Miniloc island, Natnat Beach in Cadlao Island, including the farther islands of Matinloc and Tapiutan during the joint operations.

“Since it is already rainy season, let us expect the accumulation of marine debris in the shorelines of Palawan and its islands. This should remind us that whatever we dumped in the oceans, will come back to us,” the DENR executive said.

Adornado also called on the public to diligently practice the 3Rs of ecological waste management or reduce, reuse, and recycle.

Adornado said that the success of the clean-up operations was due to the cooperation extended by representatives of other government offices and the private sector, notably the Philippine Coast Guard, the local government unit of El Nido, the El Nido Chamber of Commerce, El Nido Resorts, El Nido Travel and Tours Association and other private organizations.

NCIP in Palawan to build new office

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- The local office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) here will soon have a bigger office at the government center in Barangay Sta. Monica.

Engr. Roldan Parangue, the provincial head of the NCIP, said Monday though they have a 48-square meter two-story building office, it is no longer enough to provide accommodation to their indigenous peoples (IP) guests from far-flung barangays and to service their other clients.

He said the transfer to the government center, which is also in Sta. Monica, was encouraged by the PHP1 million fund provided by 2nd Palawan District Rep. Eric Abueg.

The construction of the new office building, targeted to start within this year, will be managed by the Department of Public Works and Highways, but the problem is that the proposed area given by the city government has not been prepared yet.

“What we are worried about is that we cannot implement the construction yet because the area is not yet ready. When the city gave us the area, its processing was not completed,” Parangue said.

Parangue said in 2016, Mayor Lucilo Bayron granted his request for the use of a 500-square meter lot property at the government center, allowing them to process a contract of usufruct or the right to enjoy the use and advantages of another’s property.

However, the processing of the agreement was halted due to the problem the city government faced when Bayron was suspended by the Ombudsman’s Office and an acting mayor was placed.

He admitted not returning to complete the contract process as he was afraid it might get invalidated in the long run and if the decision against Bayron is overturned.

"Hindi ko binalikan ang usufruct noong merong acting mayor, baka mas maging mahirap ang proseso at isa pa baka ma-invalid, magka-problema pagdating ng panahon. Pero noong nakabalik na si Mayor Bayron, I was informed na may nabago sa rules and regulations ng city sa pag-grant ng lupa sa government center, (I did not return for the usufruct when there was an acting mayor, thinking processing would be more difficult and it would be invalid, and it would become a problem in the future. But when Mayor Bayron came back, I was informed there were changes in the city’s rules and regulation in the granting of land at the government center) " he said.

One of these conditions was the granted property must be utilized and developed within a period of one year, he said.

"Ang mag-de-desisyon nito ay si Mayor Bayron at hihilingin ko muna na e-exempt kami sa bagong policy para mapadali ang proseso, (The decision will be up to the mayor and I will ask for us to be exemplted from the new policy so the processing (of the usufruct) will be expedited) " he said.

Solar Philippines eyes mini grids in 12 towns

By Victor V. Saulon

TWELVE remote towns in the Philippines, including four municipalities in popular tourist destination Palawan, are the possible sites for mini grids to be developed by Solar Philippines Power Project Holdings, Inc.

In a statement on Monday, Solar Philippines said its “Solar Para Sa Bayan” project is bringing 24/7 power to 12 towns “for the first time in their history” in response to the government’s call for the private sector to contribute to ending “energy poverty” in the country.

“Our aim is not to make the most profit, but to help the greatest number of our fellow Filipinos,” said Solar Philippines President Leandro L. Leviste.

He identified six towns in the statement, namely: Paluan and Lubang in Occidental Mindoro province; Dumaran in Palawan; Claveria in Masbate; Calayan in Cagayan; and Dingalan in Aurora.

He did not enumerate the other six, but in a Senate hearing earlier this month, he identified 12 towns, including Busuanga, Coron and El Nido in Palawan; Divilacan and Maconacon in Isabela; and San Pascual in Masbate.

Sought to validate the names of the 12 towns, Mr. Leviste said via e-mail: “For others on your list, I can confirm these are also on our list.”

He added the 12 towns indicated in his statement “have already energized or will energize within the next 30 days (weather permitting).”

Around 200,000 residents are expected to benefit from these projects, the first time a private company will energize a big number of households at zero cost to the government, he said.

“In terms of what will be completed by end of 2018, however, we [are] targeting at least double as many towns to benefit a total of 500,000 Filipinos, which is much more than existing rural electrification efforts, and at zero cost to government,” Mr. Leviste said via e-mail.

In March 2018, “Solar Para Sa Bayan” installed a solar-battery mini grid for Paluan, Mindoro to bring 24-hour power to the town for the first time. The company described the project as Southeast Asia’s largest using the technology and the first in Asia to feature Powerpacks from Tesla, a leading supplier of batteries and electric vehicles.

Solar Philippines said it was building hybrid mini grids in line with a plan by the Office of the President to issue an executive order to encourage private investment in rural electrification.

Mr. Leviste said he was hopeful that other stakeholders would also support such initiatives and help the Department of Energy achieve total electrification target by 2022.

The entry of private entities in some remote areas is a contentious issue for electric cooperatives that hold the legislative franchise to serve them.

The Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association, Inc. did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the planned mini grids, or small-scale power grids that can be operated independently from the country’s interconnected network of power transmission facilities.

Fishing ban around Snake Island in Palawan pushed

By Jonathan L. Mayuga

The Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (ERDB) is pushing to declare a fishing ban in certain areas around Snake Island in Palawan to allow the marine ecosystem to recover and the important fish species to repopulate the area and replenish the fish stock.

The ERDB, an attached agency of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), believes that declaring a fishing ban around the Snake Island is necessary even as an effort to rehabilitate the area hit by coral bleaching have shown an initial success.

The fishing ban “in identified areas” will save the coral reefs in the fringing and winding 7.5-hectare island, the ERDB believes.

Closed in 2012 from the public, the Snake Island is found in a cluster of islands around top tourist destinations El Nido and Puerto Princesa City.

Coral bleaching

The DENR has ordered the closure of Snake Island after finding evidence of coral bleaching—or the turning the color of corals to white as they lose the greenish-brownish color of organisms called Zooxanthellae of the Alveolata group that reside in coral surfaces.

These photosynthetic organisms are destroyed as a result of global warming, or the increase in temperature of oceans, sea-level rise and acidification, overfishing and destructive fishing, such as of dynamites.

After the 2012 closure, a 2016 review of DENR-ERDB discovered that significant portions of the reef have started to provide spaces for settlement of young coral colonies.

More bleaching effects

In May of the same year, another team of experts doing orientation and photo documentation on Snake Island, locally known as Kalumpang, in Honda Bay, Palawan, however, were alarmed by the massive coral bleaching in the area.

The massive coral bleaching was reported in a BusinessMirror exclusive in June 2016, when the Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) revealed that as much as 90 percent of the corals in three different sites around Snake Island were severely affected.

Ironically, the discovery of the dying corals came after Snake Island was declared as the national marine research station of the DENR.

Specifically, the activity conducted from May 10 to 13, aimed to showcase the three major coastal ecosystems in the area, including coral reef, seagrass beds and mangroves.

The team—composed of representatives from the DENR-BMB through the Coastal and Marine Division, DENR-Palawan Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (Penro), Palawan Council for Sustainable Development, Studio H2O and the UP Marine Science Institute—dived in the three sites around Snake Islands to take photos, but was surprised to see the bad condition of the corals.

The coral bleaching, according to the report, could be an effect of El Niño.

The same sites were assessed by another team from the DENR-ERDB just two weeks before the DENR-BMB team went to dive in the sites, and found the corals to be still in good condition.

Algal bloom

The ERDB’s findings, meanwhile, revealed that some parts have been found to have a high algal cover (algal bloom) which is known to hinder the recovery of affected corals.

According to ERDB experts, algal-feeding fish, such as the parrotfishes, siganids, acanthurids and wrasses, among others, were observed. But they must be constantly protected from fishing to increase their meager numbers.

The rapid succession of algae on reef structures might be caused by the reduced population of herbivors or plant-eating fish species, coupled with an influx of excess nutrients from nearby tributaries, according to Jose Isidro Michael Padin, ERDB supervising science research specialist.


The assessment found out that exhaustive fishing in the area resulted in the decline of algae-feeding fish, leaving no natural control measure for the increasing algal bloom.

Delineating “no-fishing zones” on the island will help coral-reef rehabilitation, the ERDB expert concluded.

“In order to protect the island and to help in the recovery of the corals in the area, there is a need to delineate areas for fishing and nonfishing. This will allow the coral reefs to recover,” said ERDB Director Dr. Sofio B. Quintana in a statement released through Growth Publishing.

Padin explained that ERDB’s effort to restore corals on Snake Island is worth it.

“Hard corals can survive a bleaching event and return to their normal state unless the unfavorable conditions continue for a prolonged period,” he said. Sea star infestation

According to the ERDB, another factor which can hinder the recovery of the coral reef is the growing population of sea stars.

Sea stars belong to a species which feed on healthy coral polyps leading to the bleaching of some Acroporid corals. The outbreak of sea stars may be caused by increased nutrients in the water or the removal of its predators, or both.

The ERDB research team is continuously monitoring the sea stars’ population and is looking at the possibility of resorting to necessary control methods, such as manual removal or induced death.

Preliminary findings of the ERDB team have been presented in January to concerned stakeholders, which included the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), DENR-City Environment and Natural Resources Office of Puerto Princesa City, DENR-Penro Palawan, Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD), Puerto Princesa City Tourism Office, and the Puerto Princesa City Environment and Natural Resource Office. Science-based solutions

Among the solutions proposed were science-based coral transplantation, restocking of herbivorous fingerlings and the continuous monitoring of water and other marine resources of the island.

A fishing moratorium to increase fish population on Snake Island has been raised. This is also seen as a long-term solution for the reported decline of fish stocks in Honda Bay.

Quintana gave assurance that ERDB will continue to provide science-based information in order to help protect the natural beauty of Snake Island.

Popular tourist spot

Snake Island has been among the most popular tourist spots in El Nido due to its S-shaped sandbar, where adventurers walk on low tide, as they appear to “walk on water.”

The sandbar connects Snake Island to other islands in Palawan.

Snake Island has been envisioned to become an exhibition area for three ecosystems—coral reef, sea grass beds (from monocotyledon plant group of grasses, lilies and palms that form underwater meadows) and mangroves.

With the DENR’s rehabilitation, the Snake Island has been replanted with 17 hectares of nine species of mangroves.

Fishery stocks, including caesionid (dalagang bukid) and jacks (talakitok), have been restored as surface fishes, and groupers (lapu-lapu), acanthurids (labahita), siganids (danggit) and damsel fish (palata) as bottom dwellers.

The rehabilitation of Snake Island is part of a larger program of the DENR to restore the health of natural resources in degraded ecotourism sites, including the entire El Nido.

The DENR also ordered in April the closure of almost 80 establishments in El Nido that were violating the 30-meter “no-store” area from shoreline policy.

Palaweños learn ‘fair and sustainable tourism’

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan – A tourism capacity building workshop was held here Friday (August 25) to familiarize Palaweño travel and tour operators about the Korean travel market and understanding “fair and sustainable tourism.”

With the theme “Discovering Palawan as an Attractive Natural Heritage Destination,” the workshop was in partnership with the Department of Tourism (DOT), the Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN), local governments, and stakeholders.

ASEAN Korea Centre Secretary General Lee Hyuk said the goal of the capacity building workshop is based on the Association of Southeast Asian Nation’s Tourism Strategy 2015-2025, which states that “human resources development is central to enhancing tourism competitiveness.”

“ASEAN Korea Centre has been conducting tourism capacity building workshop since 2009 to be of some help in enhancing the capabilities of tourism professionals all over ASEAN and deepening their understanding of Korean tourism,” Lee said.

The workshop, he said, is focused on the sustainable preservation and conservation of Palawan’s amazing natural heritage sites to promote them as attractive destinations for tourism and learning about Koreans.

These sites in the province are the Underground River at the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park (PPSRNP) at Sitio Sabang, Brgy. Cabayugan, and the Tubbataha Reef Natural Park (TRNP) in Cagayancillo municipality.

Lee said tourism is becoming an increasingly important and vibrant industry in the Philippines, which accounts for more than 21 percent of the gross net domestic product.

Furthermore, the country has long enjoyed the title of being one of the most favorite tourism destinations of Koreans, which has been increasing every year.

He said “it amounted to 1.6 million visitors or one fourth of the total number of international travelers” to the Philippines. In Palawan, Korean travelers have numbered to 20,000 to date out of 550,000, which he thinks is still “too few.”

“With the exceptional beauty and hospitality of the Palaweños, I think… I strongly believe that Palawan has a great potential as one of the most favored tourism destinations not only for Koreans but also for all international travelers,” he said.

The tourism capacity building program, Lee added, is their help to increase Palawan’s competitiveness in the international tourism industry, emphasizing the importance of its attractive natural heritage destinations.

“At the end of the workshop, you will gain useful information and knowledge about Korean travelers. You will be given insights on how you can promote your province as a tourism destination such as about Korean tourism market trends, business opportunities, and strategic partnerships. I hope you take advantage of this opportunity,” he said.

He said in addition to capability building workshops, the ASEAN-Korea Centre has been making efforts to strengthen the mutually beneficial partnership between the Philippines and their country.

In October, he said they will be hosting the ASEAN-Korea Tourism Development Workshop on Sustainable Tourism for Natural Heritage Destinations in Jeju Island with 10 ASEAN countries.

He said Elizabeth Maclang, park supervisor of the PPSRNP, has been invited to be one of the presenters.

Maclang’s presentation will be about “The Sustainable Tourism Development: Using and Preserving UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) Natural Heritage.”

She said her talk will benefit the PPUR and Palawan province because of the wide scope of the audience from different countries.

“This overwhelming on my part and the PPUR management because it is encouraging that our efforts have been recognized to represent the country. We will not be recommended if they didn’t know what we’re doing for the sustainable preservation of the underground river as a World Heritage Site,” she said.

Meanwhile, Kang Mi Hee, director of the Asia Pacific Global Sustainable Tourism Council, said “sustainable tourism” for national heritage sites matters because “unchecked tourism growth can lead to negative impacts, such as loss of local identity and values through commodification of cultures and unwanted changes to meet tourist demands.”

Natural heritage sites to Korean travelers are interesting due to the preservation of the oddity of culture and their outstanding universal value.

Kang said tourism should not be treated as a “mere commodity” if the locality wants it to contribute to economic development.

Among the negative impacts of tourism that should be watched out for is the exhaustion of resources, pollution (on land and in water), and physical impacts that can degrade the ecosystem in the name of infrastructure development.

She said Palawan should manage “standards for sustainable tourism” by having a set of criteria that would be complied with by hotels and tour operators, and as a destination.

Palawan to ‘climate-proof’ all infra dev’t projects


PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan – The infrastructure projects of the provincial government of Palawan will have to undergo strict climate resilience proofing, in line with the prescribed guidelines approved through a Provincial Board ordinance.

Engineer Gilda Garibay, implementation officer of the Climate Resilient Green Growth (CRGG) project, said Wednesday this will happen after they have completed the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of Provincial Ordinance No. 1865.

The measure prescribing the Climate Resilience and Green Growth Framework (CRGGF) for the province was signed by Governor Jose Alvarez on December 6, 2017.

Garibay said the ordinance urges all agencies of the national, provincial, and municipal governments, as well as the private sector, to strictly adhere to the CRGG framework on “climate-proofing” their infrastructure plans.

She said it also mandates that all regulatory agencies inspect and assess infrastructure projects under the framework before they are issued licenses, clearances, and other necessary permits.

“Ang IRR natin ay parang checklist yan ng mga projects. Papasok ba sya sa ganito at kung hindi ay hindi sya aaprubahan (Our IRRs are like a checklist of all project requirements. Is the project climate resilient before it is approved? If not, then it will not be approved),” Garibay said.

Garibay said with the CRGG framework, proposed infrastructure projects should always consider green growth and resiliency to avoid climate change impacts.

The provincial ordinance, she said, is due to the CRGG project that is jointly implemented by the Climate Change Commission, Global Green Growth Institute, and the Palawan government.

“We already made it a policy that all programs and projects of the province should undergo climate-proofing so when the administration changes, the process will not be affected,” she said.

Garibay cited as example the municipality of Brooke’s Point, which should become a “green city” once its urbanization pushes through.

“The power source we are promoting is solar so there should be an identified location for it. We are now making a proposed funding proposal for this,” she explained.

The ordinance was authored by Board Member Albert Rama.

Tubbataha: Reefs for keeps in Palawan

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- Back in 1981 when diver Angelique Songco first went to the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (TRNP), she was mesmerized by its beauty but was also worried by the rampant use of illegal fishing methods that were destroying its marine environment.

In an interview with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Global in 2015, Songco said in the years she was going back and forth to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, she had observed fishermen using dynamite and cyanide, and poaching turtles and birds and their eggs.

Some of the fishermen came from as far as Quezon province, which is 600 km. away from Palawan.

“It was a sad state of affairs because there was no enforcement to speak of,” Songco said. She was convinced that the marine area needed protection despite not understanding its ecological value.

In 2001, Songco applied to the Tubbataha Management Board (TMB) to become park manager. She was employed by the WWF to hold the position because the board had no fund to pay her salary and establish an office.

Last Saturday, the Tubbataha Management Office (TMO) that Songco heads commemorated the 30th year anniversary of the establishment of the world famous reefs as a marine protected area with a photo exhibit at the SM City Puerto Princesa.

“Since we cannot bring everyone to Tubbataha, we are bringing it to them here to show what it’s like through these photos that were taken by Filipino photographers,” she said.

New park ranger station

During the event, a representative of the Palawan government reiterated the plan to construct a new PHP220-million state-of-the-art ranger station in Tubbataha, which is within the municipal jurisdiction of Cagayancillo municipality.

Songco said the provincial government is just waiting to complete the fund, which still requires about PHP50 million, to begin construction “hopefully next year.”

“The construction of the park ranger station is a project of the provincial government. They will be the ones to determine when they will start. About PHP50 million is still needed. But we have to understand that it’s difficult to construct because Tubbataha is far and no one wants to accept the project,” she said.

The TMO is expecting that next summer, the construction of the new park ranger station will already materialize and that the provincial government can help transport the construction materials.

The proposed park ranger station is hexagon-shaped and will feature a glass dome, a helipad, a 360-degree view of Tubbataha, overhanging rain troughs, a visitor’s center, a mini-museum, and stepladder planters for vegetable production. It was designed by WWF consultant Dylan James Melgazo.

Songco said it will increase the rangers’ capacity to safeguard the marine park in the Sulu Sea, which has already suffered from destruction due to two ship groundings in previous years.

Dominic Fresnillo of the Provincial Information Office (PIO), who represented the provincial government in the event, said Governor Jose Alvarez is resolute in constructing the new park ranger station.

“It will push through and it’s worth PHP220 million. We’ve seen the design, and it would be something pre-fabricated so when it gets there, it will just be assembled. I think the governor has seen its design,” he said.

His reiteration of the provincial government’s commitment to construct the park ranger station was welcomed by ranger Noel Bundal, who has been taking care of the 97,030-hectare reef area for 18 years.

“Kahit malayo kami sa pamilya namin at malungkot kadalasan, ito na ang pinili namin na propesyon yong alagaan ang Tubbataha. Kung magkakaroon ng bagong park ranger station, magiging masaya kami dahil mas mapapabuti namin ang serbisyo pa (Even if we are far from our families and we are often sad, it is our profession’s duty to take care of Tubbataha. We would be glad to get a new park ranger station as this would help us do our jobs better),” Bundal said.

Tubbataha Big Five

The vibrancy of life in Tubbataha, which was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993, is said to be the marine version of the rich African savannas.

Former WWF-Philippines president, Lory Tan, suggested years ago that the park comes up with a marine version of this that will be called the “Tubbataha Big Five.”

They are iconic species of the sea in Tubbataha that will symbolize the robust and balanced marine ecosystem in the area.

“Their continuing presence will tell that there is adequate food to support them and that the reef is healthy,” Songco said.

These species are the Tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier), an apex predator used to be common in Philippine waters but is now mostly seen in Tubbataha; the Dogtooth tuna (Gymnosarda unicolor), also an apex predator that is a commercially-important species; the Giant manta ray (Mobula birostris), a vulnerable-to-extinction ray that is magnificent to watch when gliding through the water; the Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), a critically endangered and world protected marine turtle; and the Napoleon wrasse (Cheilinus undulates), a coral reef dweller fish that is now in danger of extinction.

“When you see these five species in Tubbataha, that means the marine ecosystem in the area is well-balanced, and that it has enough food to take care of them and keep them safe,” she said.

No plastic bottle allowed

Songco said that after 30 years of marine protection, Tubbataha is now one of the best-managed marine protected areas in the world after being awarded last year by the Global Refuge Ocean Refuge System (GLORES).

“What else do we want? What we want is to keep it (Tubbataha) there, to maintain it there. But we cannot maintain it by just relaxing, we have to continue our work,” she said.

Right now, Songco said Tubbataha is also feeling the brunt of too many plastic wastes drifting and being collected even underwater by park rangers.

Plastic water bottles and other kinds are no longer allowed in Tubbataha, an advice they have communicated earlier to dive boats that bring guests to the area as everything “turns out in the ocean in the end.”

“We have banned plastic bottles and straws in Tubbataha with diver operators. They said they will support because, certainly, nobody wants to see wastes in Tubbataha,” she said.

The exhibit at SM City Puerto Princesa is offering the use of 360-degree virtual goggles, courtesy of the 2016 visit of Prince Albert II of Monaco, who commissioned the development of a video of his trip in the format for the Oceanographic Institute of Monaco and for donation to Tubbataha.

It also paved the way for Tubbataha to recognize the invaluable contribution of various personalities, groups, and organizations, through the “The Tubbataha Big Five Awards”.

The recipients of the awards are Marvi Trudeau, program director of Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc. (PSFI) in Palawan; videographers and photographers Marissa Floriendo and Ma. Teresa Lara; Patricia Zobel de Ayala, Honorary Consul to Monaco; David Huang of Digichive, one of the country's successful advertising agencies holding major contracts in major airports for mounting photos of Tubbataha; photographer and Discover Fleet operations manager Yvette Lee; and former 1st Palawan House representative Antonio Alvarez, who was vital in the enactment of Republic Act No. 10067, or the TRNP Act of 2009.

The Tubbataha Act won the 2012 Future Policy Award as an “example of successful coral reef conservation and a mode for action.”

Military hospital in Palawan gets makeover

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan — A newly-refurbished hospital was turned over to the armed forces’ Western Command (Wescom) here on Friday by the SM Foundation for the use of military personnel, their dependents, and authorized civilians.

The turnover of the renovated Camp General Artemio Ricarte Station Hospital (CGARSH) was led by Connie Angeles, SM Foundation’s senior assistant vice president and executive director for health and medical programs, to Wescom commander Lt. General Rozzano Briguez and other military officers, personnel, and invited guests.

Wescom spokesperson and Public Affairs Office chief, Capt. Cherryl Tindog, said Monday it is the only 20-bed capacity hospital of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that provides treatment, surgery, and nursing care to over 6,000 soldiers and their dependents in Puerto Princesa and Palawan.

Located within the headquarters of Wescom in Barangay San Miguel, the CGARSH can accommodate around 60 to 80 patients.

“The renovation is a welcome improvement in the hospital as its fresh environment will serve our soldiers who are also taking care of the province. There dependents will also benefit from the use of the newly-refurbished CGARSH," Tindog said.

Meanwhile, Angeles said the renovation of the military hospital is part of the SM Foundation’s health and wellness program initiative to sustain medical care to military personnel and civilians.

“For several years now, SM Foundation has been renovating and improving military health facilities not only to enhance their capacities and capabilities by way of improvement and donation of equipment but to make them more responsive and conducive to our country’s uniformed men,” Angeles said.

Tindog said Briguez expressed Wescom’s gratitude to the SM Foundation, which has been the AFP’s partner in providing the health care needs of military personnel and their families.

"Thank you for supporting our peacekeepers by committing to help in the improvement of the AFP health service facility. On behalf of the AFP, we extend our heartfelt gratitude to the SM Foundation for choosing CGARSH as one of the recipients of this project and for the completion of the newly renovated and enhanced hospital," she quoted Briguez as saying.

The SM Foundation funded the improvements of the nurses’ station, treatment room, officers’ ward, military ward, pediatric ward, female or OB ward, physical rehabilitation area, recovery room, Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and operating room (OR)/delivery room (DR) complex.

Aside from this, it added a patient’s waiting lounge, a changing room and a breastfeeding area for mothers, and renovated the pharmacy and the central supply room.

CGARSH provides outpatient care, physical therapy, physical examination, family planning, emergency room services, NP screening, preventive medicine activities and aero medical services – including search and rescue operations and medical mission in Palawan.

It is licensed by the Department of Health and accredited by Philhealth to provide Level 1 services in general medicine, general surgery, general pediatrics OB-Gyne, Anesthesia and EENT (eye, ear, nose, and throat).

The hospital is being managed by the AFP Health Service Command and is the 27th health facility given a makeover by SM Foundation.

Comelec records 10,256 voter-related registrations in Palawan

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- The continuing filing of applications and other voter-related registrations of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in Palawan have received a total of 10,256 requests from those who want to participate in the May 2019 national and local elections.

Jomel Ordas, the spokesperson of the local Comelec, said Thursday the figure was from only five weeks, or from July 2 to August 4, of ongoing acceptance of applications.

There are 4,116 applications from new registrants; 2,944 for transfer from other cities and municipalities; and 1,373 for transfer within the city and municipalities of Palawan. There were 1,194 requests for reactivation; and correction of entries like change of names and others numbered 629.

“So far, everything is going smooth and easy. We believe this number will increase since the deadline is still on September 29,” he said.

Ordas said 5,432 of the total number are females and 4,824 are males.

By legislative districts, 4,081 applicants are from the 3rd Palawan District composed of Puerto Princesa City and Aborlan town, followed by 3,345 from the 1st Palawan District, and 2,830 from the 2nd Palawan District.

He reminded new voter-applicants to make sure their requirements are already complete before they go to the provincial Comelec to avoid wasting time.

“There are requirements that the applicants must bring with them for registration as new voters and other related concerns,” he added.

These can be found under Section 9 of Republic Act 8189, or The Voter’s Registration Act of 1996, stated by the Comelec in Section 3 of Resolution No. 10214.

In the 2016 elections, the combined records of the provincial and city Comelec offices show there were 583,057 registered voters in the province. The 1st Palawan District had the most number of voters at 229,920.

The City of Puerto Princesa has 127,664 registered voters, while the municipality with the highest number of voters was Taytay in northern Palawan with 38,697.

BFAR puts up more community fish landing centers in Palawan

By Gerardo Reyes, Jr. (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- The Department of Agriculture's (DA) Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) will be constructing 11 more community fish landing centers in strategic coastal areas here and 10 municipalities in Palawan to reduce post-harvest losses.

Alvin De Sena, fisheries information and management center officer of BFAR in Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan), announced this on Thursday, after two community fish landing centers were previously turned over to fisherfolk associations in Coron and El Nido towns in northern Palawan.

De Sena said that BFAR has allocated a total of PHP39 million for the establishment of 13 fish landing centers in the entire province.

Fish landings equipped with cold storage facilities and eight stainless stalls are now under construction in Linapacan, Agutaya, Cuyo, Roxas, Cagayancillo, Kalayaan, Brooke’s Point, and Sofronio Española.

Construction for the towns of Quezon, San Vicente, and Puerto Princesa are still in the site identification stage.

“The main purpose of these projects is to centralize fish landings due to the existence of cold storage and handling facilities to minimize wastage because fish is perishable,” he said.

In Puerto Princesa, the community fish landing center will be constructed in Honda Bay, Barangay Sta. Lourdes, on a 1,000-square-meter site owned by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

De Sena said the facilities will also help in the gathering of important information on fisheries and in monitoring the presence of illegal activities within municipal waters and beyond.

“If there are illegal fishing activities, they can be easily monitored because of the fish landing centers. BFAR can be easily accessed also,” he said.

Former Marine battalion chief in Palawan wins Metrobank award

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- The former commanding officer of a Philippine Marine Corps (PMC) battalion here has received one of the 10 Outstanding Filipinos awards from the Metrobank Foundation (MF).

Lieutenant Colonel Danilo Facundo, former commander of the Marine Battalion Landing Team 4 (MBLT 4), was chosen as one of the recipients of the MF’s career-service award for championing joint and inter-agency campaigns against terrorism and insurgency.

During his stint in Palawan, Facundo’s battalion leadership saw the employment of the inter-agency approach, which brought all government and non-government agencies in sharing the responsibility of resolving interdependent issues about radicalism and rebellion.

“Through joint and inter-agency approach, the outlook was to bring all agencies in Palawan with different interests and functions, but with commonalities, to identify and share one responsibility and get to the bottom of it,,” he said Thursday.

He added that violent extremism and insurgency can only be worked out in the province if all agencies – government and non-government– maximize their resources and common resolve against existing difficult issues and circumstances.

Part of the method, he explained, was establishing the concept of SMART, or Sustained Multi-agency Assistance in Resort and Tourist areas, to exchange valuable information against threats to communities.

“The approach foresees a crisis management scheme that facilitates inter-agency cooperation and minimizes competition and conflicts among all that want one end state, which is to keep Palawan safe,” Facundo said.

He said the inter-agency method, which is now being sustained by the 3rd Marine Brigade (MBde) and the Western Command (Wescom), resulted “in zero incident of kidnapping and insurgency” in Palawan.

As part of his award, Facundo will be receiving PHP1 million from the Metrobank Foundation.

After leaving Palawan early this year as commander of the MBLT 4, Facundo was assigned as the director of the Mobile Training and Exercise Unit of the PMC in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig.

He is one of only three members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) awarded this year.

The others are Philippine Army Major Francis Señoron, an explosives engineer; and Philippine Air Force warfighter Lt. Colonel Thomas Ryan Seguin.

The seven other awardees in different categories are Mary Jane Ramos of Misami Oriental, who is a culture and environment heroine; literacy crusader Alma Jaganap, EdD; first female geophysical expert Carla Dimalanta, PhD; science education innovator Aimee Marie Gragasin; Camp Crame’s operations game changer Senior Supt. Pascual Muñoz; horse-mounted cop Senior Insp. Dennis Ebsolo, PhD.; and enforcer-educator Senior Police Officer 1 Aida Awitin.

CCTV cameras in Palawan public schools sought

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- A resolution that seeks the installation of surveillance cameras in public school entrances and exits, to keep students safe in Palawan, was proposed Tuesday at the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (Provincial Board).

Ex-officio board member Clarito Demaala IV said the resolution is specifically addressed to Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez for inclusion in the education component of the Infrastructure, Health, Education, Livelihood, and Protection of the Environment (IHELP) development agenda.

He said equipping all public schools in the province with closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras will help ensure the safety of students while they are away from their homes.

Demaala noted that he has been receiving a lot of requests from schools for funding of broken window panes.

He added that most public schools located in distant municipalities have no security guards to constantly monitor their premises because they do not have funds to pay for security personnel.

In his resolution, Demaala said CCTV cameras are aimed at preventing crimes that might be committed against students, teachers, and the schools, where important learning facilities should be taken care of.

“If something bad happens to them, CCTV cameras can help determine what happened and who the responsible individuals are. If an incident happens within the school premises, CCTV footages can be readily secured to tell the story. It will also help authorities solve traffic accidents, bullying, and fighting among students,” Demaala said.

The resolution has been referred to the committee on appropriations of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan for further discussion.

Premiere Horizon taps Leechiu for Puerto Princesa hub

(ABS-CBN News)

MANILA - Premiere Horizon Alliance Corp on Monday said its subsidiary signed an agreement with consultancy firm Leechiu Property Consultants for its tourism hub in Puerto Princesa.

Under the memorandum of agreement, the Leechiu will be the exclusive marketing agent of West Palawan Premiere Development Corp's 850-hectare development, Premiere Horizon told the stock exchange.

Tourism opportunities in Palawan are not fully tapped given increasing arrivals at the newly renovated international airport that has been receiving direct flights from Taiwan, China and Korea, it said.

Global hotel brands are interested in Western Palawan's beach front property in Nagtabon, 30 minutes from the Puerto Princesa International Airport.

West Palawan is expected to generate more than P500 million in revenue next year from lot sales and development, Premiere Horizon said.

Palaweño wins in world championship of performing arts

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- When Arjay Espartero went to Long Beach, California on July 4 to join the World Championship of Performing Arts (WCOPA), all he had was trust in his ability as a vocal soloist and the longing to bring honor to his country and the province of Palawan.

WCOPA is no joke. It is touted to be an Olympic-style international competition for aspiring performers and entertainers. Every year, more than 2,500 singers, musicians, dancers, variety artists, actors, and models from at least 63 countries compete against one another to win medals in various categories.

Espartero, 33, who in his youth had to deal with making charcoal out of abandoned wood trunks to earn a living with his poor family in Narra town in the southern part of the province, is the first Palaweño to take home four medals and a plaque from the WCOPA international meet held on July 6-15 in California.

He won a silver medal for his contemporary rendition of the song “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, another silver for Josh Groban’s Latin song “Un Giorno Per Noi”, and gold for his version of the country song “Home” by Michael Buble. He also received a plaque as WCOPA Contemporary Division Winner for singing.

Espartero likewise took home a bronze for captivating judges in the formal modeling category.

He said he was introduced to the WCOPA by a friend who thought he has a chance to be selected to join the Philippine team and represent Palawan.

“Nagkaroon ng audition last September 2017 na sinalihan ko. So ‘yon, I’m so happy dahil sa dami ng nag-audition, isa ako sa mga nakapasa. More than 5,000 ang nag-audition all over the Philippines para sa WCOPA at 500 lang ang nakapasa (There was an audition in September 2017. I joined, and I’m so happy because out of all those who auditioned, I passed. More than 5,000 auditioned all over the Philippines for the WCOPA and only 500 were selected),” he said Thursday.

Espartero did not expect to win any medal in the worldwide competition. Though kind and ready to make friends with competitors, every contender in the WCOPA desired nothing except to win, no matter what.

“Lahat ng nandoon talagang magagaling. Kung baga yong pinakamagaling na ata sa mga bansa nila. Pero masayang-masaya ako kasi nakapagdala ako ng karangalan sa bansa natin, dito sa Palawan, at sa hometown ko sa Narra (Everyone who was there were all talented. They’re their countries’ best. But I am very happy that I was able to bring honor to our country, to Palawan, and to my hometown Narra),” he said.

“Ang gusto ko lang, maiahon ang pamilya ko sa kahirapan sa pamamagitan ng talento ko. Kahit paano, gusto ko mabigyan ko sila ng magandang buhay kasi talagang lumaki kami sa hirap. Gusto ko rin makapag-inspire ng ibang mga Palaweño na hindi hadlang ang kahirapan para maabot mo ang gusto mong marating (What I really long for is to lift my family out of poverty through my talent. As much as possible, I want to give them a good life because we grew up really poor. I also want to inspire other Palaweños that poverty is not a limitation, that it is not a hindrance to what they want to achieve in life),” he said.

Espartero’s singing career, coupled with good looks and height, has already attracted talent scouts who are willing to help him break into the showbiz industry. A record producer has also expressed interest for him to make an album.

In the following days, he would be preparing to join artist Jed Madela, the first Filipino to be inducted into the Hall of Fame of the WCOPA, in his out-of-town shows and concerts.

"Nagpapasalamat ako sa mga tumulong sa akin para makapunta sa competition sa California. Malaki ang tulong niyo sa pag-abot ko ng aking pangarap (I am thankful to the people who helped me get to California. Your help for me to reach my dream is so great)," the Narra artist said.

Hope for Palawan forest turtle conservation

(Panay News With a report from PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA – Hope springs for the critically endangered Palawan forest turtle after conservationists successfully hatched a single egg following about 10 years of hard work.

An extremely sought-after species in the illegal wildlife trade, the Palawan forest turtle (Siebenrockiella leytensis) is an endemic freshwater turtle that has faced threats, mainly due to the brazen collection.

Dr. Sabine Schoppe, director of the Palawan Freshwater Turtle Conservation Program under the Katala Foundation, Inc., said they have hatched the first recorded egg from captive parents of the freshwater turtle with support from the Wildlife Reserve Singapore (WRS).

The hatchling that emerged from its egg on June 24 was named “Sonja,” and it is from parents that have been dwelling for years in their “assurance colony” facilities in Palawan.

“Five years ago, with support from WRS, we intensified research on the Palawan forest turtle, and now have a better understanding of their food preferences, incubation requirements like humidity and temperature, incubation time, nesting prerequisites, enclosure and furniture design, and necessary environmental conditions to trigger reproduction,” Schoppe said.

Schoppe, who has been studying and researching the species for the past 15 years, explained that assurance colonies are usually established for species that are facing threats and might go extinct in the wild.

Any Palawan forest turtle that will be raised in captivity will be part of this colony for release later in areas where its population has seriously declined due to poaching.

Tapat na Pinoy! Palawan airport security guard returns luggage with P1.5 million

(Politiko Bicol)

A security guard at the Puerto Princesa International Airport returned a luggage containing P1.5 million.

At about 8 a.m. on July 31, Jovani Yumen noticed a blue luggage beside a flower box at the arrival area of the airport.

Yumen called the attention of the airport security assistant on duty, Jel Anthony Cervantes, who then immediately sought K9 IED (improvised explosive device) inspection from the Philippine National Police’s Aviation Security Unit.

After the K9 inspection yielded a negative result, tourist police examined the contents of the luggage, which contained a black jacket, a wallet with identification cards belonging to a certain Danilo Dequito, and an envelope containing 15 bundles of PHP100,000 totaling P1.5 million.

More than an hour later, Dequito went to the arrival area looking for his luggage. Upon presenting proof of identification, he claimed his luggage and examined its contents. Dequito counted his money and found everything intact and complete.

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade commended the airport employees for their honesty and professionalism and for following aviation security and police procedures.

“Even small acts of honesty and just by simply following the proper procedures are important in showing the integrity of our offices,” Tugade said.

“Salute to CAAP and the employees of Puerto Princesa International Airport. They set the bar high, and this should be the norm for all of us public servants,” he added.

El Nido cited as ‘ultimate beach destination’

By Catherine Talavera (The Philippine Star)

MANILA, Philippines — A Philippine island has been cited by a California-based travel website as among the top places to visit this year.

The Venue Report urged its readers to visit El Nido in Palawan, adding that it is an alternative to the popular Bali in Indonesia.

“The beaches of the Philippines are at the top of our explore list for 2018,” the Venue Report said.

“With incredible rock formations, stunning reefs and white sandy beaches, this is the ultimate beach destination,” it added.

El Nido was among the destinations cited by the travel website in its 18 Places That Are Seriously Trending for 2018 (& Where to Go Instead) list.

The travel website named destinations that offer the same breathtaking views as classic tourist spots, but with less crowds.

Other less-crowded destinations cited on the list are Sri Lanka as an alternative to Thailand and Seychelles instead of Maldives, among others.

Palawan was earlier recognized by readers of international magazine Travel+Leisure as the sixth best island in the world this year.

While Palawan is no stranger to the list, having been named the best island in the world in 2013 and 2017, it was overtaken by a number of surprise entries this year.

“It remains in fine company, voted in along with its sister island Cebu,” Travel+Leisure said, adding that Cebu placed eight on this year’s list.

Travel+Leisure earlier included El Nido in its list of 15 Best Beach Destinations to visit in January.

The travel magazine cited that Palawan offers the same stunningly beautiful scenery as other popular Southeast Asia destinations, but with just a fraction of the crowds.

“Join a boat tour in El Nido to hop around the Bacuit archipelago. You’ll sail through crystal-clear blue lagoons flanked by emerald karst cliffs, then kayak to secluded powdery white beaches,” Travel+ Leisure earlier said.

“In January, the seas are clear and calm: perfect for snorkeling and diving around coral reefs,” it added.

The magazine also cited Palawan as one of the 13 places to see the bluest water in the world.

Wild Expeditions Palawan: Promoting ‘Leave No Trace Tourism’

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan – The number of travel and tour retailers in this capital city of Palawan, now at more than 100, continues to increase -- undeniably, because tourism is a major contributor to the province’s economy.

Travel and tour operators have mushroomed in the city, but more so in the global computer network, including fraudulent ones, offering a multiplicity of information about what could be an itinerant’s dream travel in Puerto Princesa and the province.

A lot of them, but not all, offer matchmaking tour services to let travelers express what they truly want to do, for instance, explore the unbeaten tracks, or for the elderly, simply enjoy a day near the river, which does not require much walking.

This is where the eco-tour agency, Wild Expeditions Palawan (WEP), comes in. The WEP, owned by local travel operator and entrepreneur Rommel Cruz, focuses on nature-themed activities -- from the easy treks to the more enthusing sea-to-summit journeys and wildlife documentaries.

The agency’s kind of tour is so far unparalleled in that it strictly follows the “Leave No Trace” principles in the conduct of its business.

Cruz said with the rising influx of visitors in this city and the municipalities of Palawan, it is now essential to highlight the “leave no trace” principles to guests to let them know they have a shared responsibility in taking care of the natural and cultural sites they visit.

“Tourism is good, but if not well managed, has the possibility to cause negative impacts in the balance in our environment. All kinds of tourism activities, if poorly supervised, can result in a range of damage to our environment – the wildlife -- and eventually, the people that live in it,” he said.

The “leave no trace” principles are “no sweat,” he said, noting that they depend a lot on the travelers’ awareness, more than rules and regulations. These principles include planning ahead and not rushing tours in an effort to gain higher income; not stamping on sensitive vegetation and weak surfaces; bringing trash back home; leaving what you find alone; zero tolerance for having campfires; keeping noise down to respect wildlife; and being a considerate travel retailer by maintaining group numbers in manageable sizes.

“Leaving no trace is a responsibility that should be shared between the travel managers and the guests. It should be stressed enough so nobody forgets or they will be causing the degradation of the natural environment they’re visiting. Just think about their numbers multiplying,” Cruz said.

Birds and the birth of WEP

Cruz’s knowledge and passion about the environment began 12 years ago at the Katala Foundation, Inc. (KFI), which works on the conservation of the Philippine cockatoo (katala), and other wildlife species, such as the pangolin (balintong) and the endemic and critically-endangered Palawan forest turtle.

One of his assignments was to be a bird guide for enthusiasts who want to see the Philippine cockatoos in their habitat on Rasa Island, Narra in southern Palawan.

“Halos lahat ng experiences ko sa environment, sa biodiversity, doon nag-start. Once in a while, nagle-lead ako ng birding tour as a freelance guide. One of my assignments is to assist bird watchers in going to Rasa Island. Doon ako natuto na, okay, may potential pala itong ginagawa ko (Almost all my experiences regarding environment, biodiversity, began there. Once in a while, I led birding tours as a freelance guide. One of my assignments was to assist bird watchers in going to Rasa Island, and I learned that, okay, what I’m doing has a potential),” he said.

From KFI, Cruz transferred to work with other non-government organizations, and his last was with the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff, which is tasked to provide machinery and synchronize the policy and functions and implement programs of the Council.

While there, he realized that the bird watching tours he was doing on the side have the potential to earn him profits.

“WEP really started as that kind of outfit. We focused on offering bird watching tours in Palawan, and the value that we strictly implement in our business leaves no trace,” he said.

Cruz can legitimately claim that in the province, he is an authority on birds. To date, he holds the knowledge on where to observe 24 endemic bird species in the forests of the province.

During the 2016 Big Year, an international challenge among birders to find many bird species that they could identify, Cruz’s company handled the Palawan leg for Dutch national Arjan Dwarshuis, who owns the world record for spotting 6,852 species in a single year.

“I’ve seen all the endemic birds depending on taxonomy, and the hardest to see are those in the mountains. There is one bird that is restricted to high elevation in Victoria’s Peak and Mt. Mantalingahan at 1,000 meters up. It’s where you can see it. It’s called (the) Palawan striped babbler,” he said.

Cruz holds too, the record in the Philippines for the first sighting of the migratory bird grasshopper warbler at the Puerto Princesa Underground River last year.

This was far from the past when bird tour companies had to go to the Philippines and to Palawan themselves to guide hobbyists.

“We started from there, we thought we can do this, and then we asked two companies outside the country if they want to buy packages from us, which is cheaper and with local knowledge where birds can be found,” he said.

In 2015, when he established WEP with half-a-million-peso capital, it was challenging as it was new in the field of travel and tourism, but over time, international birding tour agencies began to trust his venture.

Birds are sensitive to human disturbance, therefore, they are ecological indicators. Cruz said they are sensitive to changes in the environment that is why in his bird tours, he often tells first-timers not to wear colorful outfits to blend into the habitat they would be exploring.

Although many birds are used to loud natural sounds, they do not like noises caused by humans and their machines.

“We always maintain a minimum amount of people in the group (in) the bird tours we do because as much as possible, we want to maintain overall habitat quality. In a group, there’d be around six to eight people only,” he said.

Traveling and environment conservation

The yearning to travel and see places that people have not seen before is a challenge in balancing the preservation of the environment, Cruz said.

Travelers from developed nations, he said, are more experienced than those who come from evolving nations, whose awareness of environmental protection, of valuing the resources of the places they visit, is low.

Environmental protection is a “no-brainer” for Palaweños, but Cruz acknowledged that there are still those who simply do not care and do not have values in preserving tourism sites, which leads to pollution and damage in famed destinations.

If this situation continues, he said, these important settings might be lost as no tourist would visit polluted sites to enjoy their holidays.

In WEP’s travel and tours, Cruz said they always bring in Palawan’s efforts and initiatives to protect its environment and its wildlife since they can be balanced with traveling.

“We don’t go too technical or scientific. That’s boring. We discuss them using simple language, especially to first-time travelers, who have no background about environmental conservation,” said Cruz.

When they do river and wilderness camps, they do not allow guests to wash in the river using soap and shampoo as most rivers are drinking water sources for communities downstream.

They go as far as providing their guests with biodegradable wash kits that have minimum impact on the environment, and they dig “cat holes” in wooded areas in case nature calls.

“No campfire is allowed during our beach camps because they stain the sand, and generally, we consider the soil characteristics. In forests, they’re a no-no because they can create wildfires and irreparable damages,” he added.

Cruz, whose WEP is the first local tour company to be allowed to bring guests for bird watching at the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, said “zero tolerance is zero tolerance” when it comes to promoting tourism and environmental protection to shelter important sea and summit habitats.

“In Tubbataha, there is an islet that is so beautiful with so many birds, but the management does not allow people to step on it. So, we do not allow our guests as well. We observe the birds on the dinghy only. There are newly hatching bird eggs on the sand, and if people step on it, they might step on the little birds,” he said.

Christopher Conde, WEP’s travel outfitter and tour leader, said he could not go mountain climbing without first telling guests that they follow “zero tolerance” when it comes to environmental protection.

Mountaineers and river camp trekkers are not allowed to dispose of their chewing gum or candy wrappers in stone corners or bushes because that would leave a waste trace.

“Ultimo wrapper ng candy o chewing gum, hindi puwedeng itatapon lang kung saan sa bundok, or singit-singit sa mga bato. Lagi namin pinapaalalahanan na zero tolerance kami at sumusunod naman sila bilang respeto (Even candy or chewing gum wrappers, they cannot just throw them away in the mountain or stick them between grits. They are always reminded that we strictly adhere to the ‘leave no trace’ as respect for the environment),” he said.

Conde said every time he scales Victoria’s Peak in Narra, and Mt. Cleopatra’s Needle, Mt. Beaufort, Mt. Thumb Peak, and Mt. Salakot in Puerto Princesa, he never gets tired of repeating the same environment conservation initiatives WEP has.

Bringing trash bags are common in WEP’s travel practice, particularly in mountain treks and climbing because they use them to collect any trash they find along the way.

“Kung may madaanan na basura sa bundok, pinupulot namin. Sanay na iyong mga returning clients namin sa practice (If we pass by any trash, we pick them up. Our returning clients are used to this),” he said.

Travel and tour responsibilities

Puerto Princesa City Councilor Matthew Mendoza, chair of the committee on tourism, said there is a compelling need to ensure that all travel and tours operators know about how to promote tourism and environmental protection together.

Everyone, he said, even tourists visiting the city, have to be urged to participate in schemes to protect the environment. If they are not aware, they must be made conscious to preserve the places where they travel.

Travel and tour companies in Puerto Princesa are aware of this, Mendoza said. However, he is not aware yet if they frequently bring the “leave no trace” principles into the consciousness of touring groups due to the number of guests.

“It is important in the balance in our ecology that travelers are aware of how they should conduct themselves when they are in our natural sites. I am considering filing a resolution regarding this ‘leave no trace’ tourism to ensure that the practice among our stakeholders is not just for marketing and promotions, but that they are actually doing it,” he said.

John Stephen Tuboc, who has been working as a freelance travel guide with tour agencies and has worked with Cruz a number of times, said as far as he is aware, every accredited and certified tour guide like him in Puerto Princesa knows about it.

However, there are also those who never underwent any seminar on tour guiding being given by the Department of Tourism (DOT). Tuboc said he is not sure how they brief their guests.

“Kami alam namin iyan kasi part iyan ng certification namin as tour guides. Sini-set namin na example lagi ang mga efforts to save the environment pero di namin alam sa iba na di accredited kasi may mga nag-ga-guide din naman nag-exam (We know it because it is part of our certification as tour guides. We set an example of the efforts to save the environment, but we don’t know about those who are not accredited because there are some who did not take their exams),” he said.

As a travel and tour retailer, Cruz wants Wild Expeditions Palawan to be different when it comes to helping guests who want to explore the city’s and province’s natural sites.

“It would be nice for our tourism industry if every travel and tour is bringing the ‘leave no trace’ awareness in doing business. There should be zero tolerance in bringing guests to natural sites. It’s like letting us not compromise the environment just because we want to earn so much income because if we lose it, we will have nothing in the first place,” he said.

Currently, Cruz is studying the probability of offering cultural immersion tours in indigenous cultural communities to promote Palawan’s unique customs and traditions.

He added they are sensitive in studying the possibility since they do not want to create a demand for the indigenous peoples (IPs), all because there are guests to please.

“If you want to see them, you live with the tribe, you learn from them. Again, responsible tourism because we don’t want them going down just to be seen by our guests. They have to be appreciated in the environment where they live,” Cruz said.

BOI approves P1.7-billion Seda Lio Resort in Palawan as 1st business model project under rolling priority plan

By Elijah Felice Rosales

SEDA Lio Resort in Palawan can now avail itself of five years of income tax holiday (ITH), after receiving approval to become the first inclusive business model project under the government’s rolling priority plan.

In a news release on Wednesday, the Board of Investments (BOI) reported it authorized Seda Lio’s application to adopt an inclusive business model for its operations. The P1.7-billion resort in El Nido, Palawan, was constructed and is managed by Econorth Resort Ventures Inc., a subsidiary of Ayala Land Hotel and Resorts Corp.

With the approval, Seda Lio is now qualified for pioneer status with up to half a decade of ITH subject to certain conditions as indicated under the current Investment Priorities Plan. The IPP criteria for inclusive business models require at least 25 percent of total costs of services to be sourced from micro and small enterprises (MSEs).

The project should also generate at least 25 direct jobs intended for the marginalized sector, with at least 30 percent of it allotted to women. Target income must be the minimum wage or baseline income plus a 20-percent increase, whichever is higher.

Econorth projects amount to about P243.8 million annually, with services acquired from MSEs valued at P60 million by the third year of its operation.

The firm also committed to support staff development to allow more opportunities for workers to obtain new skills in the service industry. Its employees will also take courses on managing local suppliers, tax and proper documentation, seminars on hazard and the environment, among others.

“This development is a boost to Palawan not only as one of the country’s top tourist destinations, but also as being at the forefront of promoting a healthier environment and having an inclusive business model, wherein the community is engaged in a sustainable manner,” Trade Undersecretary Ceferino S. Rodolfo Jr. said.

Seda Lio, he added, integrates the low-income community in its value chain through employment and sourcing of goods and services; thus, creating an inclusive impact within El Nido.

Seda Lio is situated within the 325-hectare Lio Tourism Estate in El Nido, which is Ayala Land Inc.’s (ALI) first ecologically sustainable tourism estate. The estate is administered by Ten Knots Development Corp. that combines business with long-term environmental conservation.

The resort is penciled to start operations by the third quarter of this year.

Seda Lio is part of ALI’s plan to spend about P11 billion until 2022 to develop Lio Tourism Estate.

PAF fighter jets join military exercise in Palawan


PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan – Three FA-50 fighter jets of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) arrived in this city Monday to participate in the DAGIT (Dagat, Langit, Lupa) joint field training exercise (FTX) to step up the interoperability of all branches of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

They will be participating in the FTX phase of DAGIT, which will be staged on the eastern part of Palawan until August 3, Western Command (Wescom) commander Lt. Gen. Rozzano Briguez said.

Briguez said the phase of the military exercise, which started on the third week July, trains participants on Contingency and Crisis Action Planning and Command and Control of joint forces.

"We are thrilled to have our fighter jets joining the FTX phase of this year's AJEX in Wescom's Area of Operations, along with our naval assets and ground troopers, because this will give us the opportunity to test our interoperability doctrine, jointness, and readiness as One AFP," he said.

He added that it is significant the Philippine forces and assets train together to enhance their capacity and capability to respond to any future contingency.

"It is highly significant that our forces and assets train together in the spirit of jointness in order to enhance our ability to respond to any contingency in the future. This DAGIT provided us with such important training," he added.

The AJEX DAGIT-PA, on its 4th iteration this year, is a unilateral exercise that focuses on the development of the AFP's capacity on joint operations and enhancing the interoperability of its forces from the Navy, Air Force and Army.

The military exercise will also enhance the individual capacity of personnel and unit capabilities to enable them to be readily deployable to address contingencies in all mission areas.

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