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Palawan News August 2015

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Moringa (Malungay) leaves compared to common foods
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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

Contents

WESCOM backs youth movement’s plan to do patriotic voyage in West Philippines Sea

By Archie T. Barone [(PNA), RMA/CARF/ATB/SSC]

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Aug. 31 (PNA) -- The Western Command (WESCOM) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) here supports any activity that aims to raise the awareness of Filipinos about the West Philippines Sea.

This is according to WESCOM Vice Admiral Alexander Lopez, who was interviewed by the Philippine News Agency (PNA) regarding plans of the “Kalayaan Atin Ito Movement!” (KAIM) to bring young people to the disputed region for a month-long patriotic voyage sometime soon.

Lopez said any advocacy to raise people’s awareness about the contested region is welcome as long as they are coordinated properly with the right agencies.

Asked if the WESCOM is bound to support the plan, the highest ranking military official in Palawan said there was nothing wrong since the goal was to raise the awareness of the youth regarding the Philippine-claimed area so they might also pass on what they knew to others.

Praising the movement’s plan, Lopez however, said it could only happen if appropriate consents were requested from government institutions and authorities that and who had command of the current situation in the chain of islands.

“Nakakatuwa kasi sa pamamagitan ng kanilang ginagawang aktibidad ay marami na ang nakakaalam at concerned sa isyu ng West Philippines Sea. Pagdating naman sa plano nilang pagbisita sa mga isla sa Kalayaan, kailangan dumaan muna ito sa pag-uusap para sa ibibigay na assistance ng mga sundalo para sa kanilang magiging seguridad (It is nice because what they are doing is an activity that enriches knowledge and concern about issues regarding the West Philippines Sea. On their plan to visit the islands in Kalayaan, they should undergo talks and coordination for assistance to be given to them for their safety and security),” Lopez said.

The KAIM was organized with an aim to basically increase the awareness of the youth regarding the disputed region.

Lopez said that many young people were unaware about the West Philippines Sea and why was the country opting to diplomatically resolve issues that currently concern it.

Early in August, the movement staged a summit in Puerto Princesa that was attended by 10,000 students from all colleges and universities in Palawan at the city coliseum with a goal to show “unity” for the West Philippines Sea to the international community.

Palawan is only one of the 82 other provinces that the movement plans to visit for information dissemination regarding the contested region. From each province, 30 volunteers will be recruited to join the patriotic voyage.

Indigent seniors receive monthly pension in Mimaropa

(Philippines News Agency)

ABOUT 36,502 poor senior citizens are receiving monthly cash grants in Mimaropa, according to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Social Pension (SocPen) Program.

In the recent SocPen regionwide Project Implementation Review (PIR) shows that the DSWD Mimaropa has disbursed more than P22.1 million to 14,749 beneficiaries for the first and second quarters of 2015. Pay-outs of cash grants to senior citizens are ongoing for the said two quarters.

SocPen is a social-protection program of the DSWD that provides P500 monthly cash grant to indigent senior citizens 60 years old and above stipulated in the Republic Act 9994, or the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010.

Beneficiaries of SocPen are determined by the DSWD in coordination with the local government units, local Office of Senior Citizens Affairs and Federation of Senior Citizens Association of the Philippines. The DSWD prioritizes indigent, frail, sickly or with disability, and without pension or permanent source of income senior citizens.

To date, Oriental Mindoro has 11,759 social pensioners; Palawan with 10,333; Romblon with 5,992; Occidental Mindoro with 5,444; and Marinduque 2,974.

Petilla joins Mimaropa health summit in Palawan

(AU)

More than a hundred provincial health officers from the Mindoro-Marinduque-Romblon-Palawan (MIMAROPA) region converged in Puerto Princesa to discuss universal health care strategies.

With the theme “Universal health care high impact five strategy,” the conference was organized by the Department of Health and hosted by DOH MIMAROPA. Main focus is on the five priority areas of reducing maternal, infant, and under five mortality; reducing the burden of HIV/AIDS; and establishing service delivery networks.

Former energy secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla was guest of honor and speaker, together with Palawan Governor Jose Ch Alvarez, Puerto Princesa vice mayor Luis Marcaida III and DOH assistant secretary Dr. Nestor Santiago.

Representing Liberal Party standard-bearer and interior secretary Mar Roxas, Petilla said provincial hospitals were the most important government institutions that provide vital health services in the countryside.

“Health innovation follows a system. A sustainable hospital system should not be affected by the change of government leaders or elected officials like governors or mayors,” he stressed.

Citing his Leyte Health model while he was still provincial governor, Petilla said physicians were entitled to decent pay. He urged provincial health officers to help create a system that would motivate doctors and hospital staff to serve the public well.

Apart from energy issues, Information Technology (IT) and livelihood creation, Petilla is passionate about health care delivery especially in the country’s poorest areas.

Bicol regional most wanted person nabbed in Palawan

(PNA), FFC/FGS/EMC/CBD/PJN

CAMP GEN. SIMEON A. OLA, Legazpi City, Aug. 28 (PNA) -- Combined elements of the Palawan Police Provincial Office (PPO), Ligao City Police Office and Albay PPO arrested Bicol's regional most wanted person in an operation on Thursday afternoon at Sitio Isumbo, Barangay Pulot Interior, Sofronio Espanola, Palawan.

Arrested was Jesse Ray A. Otanez, also known as Malawi Ampatuan, 33, single and resident of Ligao City who had settled in Palawan.

Police Senior Supt. Marlo S. Meneses, Albay PPO director, said Otanez was collared at about 1:57 p.m. while busy attending to his business.

The suspect had been in hiding after he was accused of robbery with homicide.

The law enforcers were armed with a warrant of arrest issued by Judge Ignacio Barcellano Jr. of the Regional Trial Court Branch 13, Ligao City, for robbery with homicide where the victim was a dentist in 2002.

Otanez and his mother were also suspects in the murder case involving an Australian national couple.

The two suspects went in hiding since then.

The Department of Interior and Local Government offered a reward of PHP300,000 each for their capture.

The Ligao City Police Office and the Albay PPO had received information that Otanez was hiding in Sofronio Española town.

The two police offices conducted a surveillance of the area and immediately set up a dragnet for his capture.

According to Otanez, he and his mother had not seen each for a long time now.

Personnel of the two police offices are still locating Otanez's mother.

The mother-and-son tandem have been tagged as serial killers after the deaths of the dentist and the Australian couple in 2002.

The police had been tracking them down in the entire Bicol Region, Samar and even as far as Mindanao until they got an information that Otanez was in Palawan.

Otanez is now detained at the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology in Ligao City.

Palawan environment office leads waste analysis, characterization study in Bataraza

By Celeste Anna R. Formoso [(PNA), RMA/CARF/EBP]

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Aug. 27 (PNA) -- In line with the goals of the Waste Management Act of 2000 for local government units (LGUs) to craft their solid waste management plans to present times, the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) of Palawan organized a Waste Analysis & Characterization Study (WACS) in Bataraza recently.

The Provincial Information Office (PIO) in a press statement said the WACS was done in the said mining town in cooperation with its Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Office (MENRO) from Aug. 18-20.

The study came following MENRO Rey Rivera’s request for PENRO Atty. Noel Aquino to send representatives that would teach them on the conduct of the WACS for waste management.

The participants who attended were employees of the MENRO, Solid Waste Management Unit, Public Market Administration, other local business establishments, and the four representatives of the Brooke’s Point Municipal ENRO.

WACS is composed of actual collection of wastes from homes, market, private and government establishments, and the segregation of wastes, including their weighing.

The data that will be collected from the WACS training will serve as initial information for the crafting of a 10-year Municipal Solid Waste Management Plan that will be submitted to the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC).

The commission, according to the PIO, had set March 2016 as deadline of submission of all Municipal SWM plans in the country based on Republic Act 9003, or the Ecological Waste Management Act.

US Pacific Command chief to visit Palawan

By Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star)

MANILA, Philippines - US Pacific Command chief Adm. Harry Harris was expected to arrive last night to meet with Armed Forces chief Gen. Hernando Iriberri and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin at Camp Aguinaldo today.

Harris is also scheduled to meet with Armed Forces Western Command chief Vice Adm. Alexander Lopez in Palawan, the province nearest the disputed Spratlys in the West Philippine Sea.

“The purpose of the visit is to discuss bilateral security concerns with the Philippines and gain local perspective on the security situation in the Pacific, where his troops are deployed,” Armed Forces public affairs chief Col. Noel Detoyato said.

The military, however, is tight-lipped on whether the West Philippine Sea row will be tackled during the meetings.

Officials are also mum on whether Harris will join an aerial surveillance mission over the West Philippine Sea.

“He (Harris) will also be going to Palawan but the topic is just bilateral security concerns,” Detoyato said.

“We are a disaster-prone area and most of the time, they (US) are the first ones to come and aid us. Interoperability is very important for communication and joint operations.”

Harris’ visit comes just a month after US Pacific Fleet commander Adm. Scott Swift visited the Philippines and made a seven-hour surveillance mission over the West Philippine Sea.

Swift joined US Navy pilots on board a P-8A Poseidon spy plane to monitor the situation in the Spratlys.

“There is a growing security concern that is why we have to also coordinate with each other,” Detoyato said when asked why the visits of US military officials are becoming frequent.

“Even without the China issue, there is already a regular exchange of visits by the chiefs of staff (of the Philippines and the US).”

China’s neighbors are wary of its military buildup in the region, as well as its massive land reclamation in seven disputed reefs in the West Philippine Sea.

DOH-MIMAROPA inspires PHOs towards closing the remaining health gaps

(PNA), FFC/LSJ

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan, Aug. 26 (PNA) -- The Department of Health (DOH)-MIMAROPA on Tuesday spearheaded the efforts of inspiring Provincial Health Officers (PHOs) nationwide capacity to improve its health service delivery to the people in closing some of the remaining health gaps in fully achieving Universal Health Care UHC agenda of the Aquino administration.

MIMAROPA consists of island provinces of Mindoro (Oriental and Occidental), Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan.

Through a three-day National Convention (Aug. 25-27) among PHOs, DOH-MIMAROPA Regional Director Eduardo C. Janairo pointed out the importance of adopting appropriate and sustainable health models that can be replicated, and can result to tapping of “creativity” to adopt “good practices” which will be helpful in providing appropriate solutions to the existing health gaps that needs to be addressed among hospitals.

The convention was held at Hotel Centro, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan.

“We want to consolidate efforts in spreading them and make them known or be better understood by PHOs so that from there they can be creative and committed with compassion to achieve them and attain sustainability at the same time,” said Dr. Janairo.

According to Janairo, the efforts in dealing with the goal under the High-Five Impact Program which is being rolled-out to benefit or reach-out the poorest population can better create a more trickling down effect if done with massive and united efforts.

He said that under the health model presented by former Leyte governor and former Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla, the PHOs can learn from it so that they can better utilized the reimbursement from PhilHealth (Philippine Health Insurance Corp.) in improving the health service delivery while at the same time answering the problem of providing sustainable income among doctors and other health workers in the hospital.

The said health model was developed in 2004 and good effects were significantly seen based on the statistics Petilla presented in 2010, 2013 and 2015.

“The heart and soul of a hospital is a doctor--the problem of the hospital exist they don’t have a doctor,” said Petilla as he emphasized the need to compensate well the doctors so that they can earn decently enough.

He added that doctors should be earning a minimum PHP100,000 per month and even higher.

He said this is possible by giving incentives not coming from the governor’s office but simply from getting full time doctors and proper doctors.

“Once you get the proper doctors you can move on to many other points in the hospital,” he explained, citing how that formula can influence the solutions to other problems of a provincial public hospital, rural health units and improving further its health services as it gets the confidence of the people of its capability in treating or caring for them.

In a message, DOH Secretary Janette L. Garin, who was represented by Assistant Secretary Nestor F. Santiago Jr., reiterated that as the department works toward bringing the trickling down effects of its health service down to the poorest population needing them most, which is being rolled through the High 5 Impact program, could be best achieved with collective effort of everyone.

Secretary Garin had always said health is a collective duty that rest on the shoulder of each and everyone, stressing that the PHO’s contribution through, commitment, compassion and innovative solutions are vital in achieving them well in order to make the promise of Universal Health Care initiative or Kalusugang Pangkalahatan, a reality for all Filipinos.

DOH-MIMAROPA leads conduct of 3-day National Convention of Prov'l Health Officers in Puerto Princesa City

By Leilani S. Junio [(PNA), SCS/LSJ]

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan, Aug. 24 (PNA) -- The Department of Health (DOH)-MIMAROPA leads the conduct this week of a three-day National Convention of Provincial Health Officers (PHOs) here focusing on the Universal Health Care High Five Impact Breakthrough Strategies.

The convention begins on Tuesday and ends of Thursday at Hotel Centro in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan.

It aims to provide PHOs nationwide an overview of the essence of UHC Hi-5 program which the DOH has been pushing forward to fulfills its goal of making health delivery effective to the poorest sector of the population and hard-to-reach communities in the country to ensure that nobody is left behind under the Kalusugang Pangkalahatan (KP) or Health Care Agenda of the Aquino administration.

The DOH-MIMAROPA Region -- consisting of the island provinces of Mindoro Oriental/Occidental, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan -- is headed by Regional Director Eduardo C. Janairo.

The convention is also aimed at uniting the PHOs with the DOH partners and advocates in reducing health care barriers, social exclusion, as they bring together effective and continuous healthcare delivery to the people, especially to the vulnerable population wherein the impact would be truly felt to fulfill what President Benigno S. Aquino III has promised when he began his term in 2010.

Also during the convention, various good practices of selected PHOs will be presented to inspire replications among other provincial health offices.

It may be recalled that the DOH launched the High-Impact Five (Hi-5) Strategies in May 2015, which focuses on the reduction of infant mortality rate by 20 percent; lowering under-five mortality rate by 22 percent; reducing maternal mortality rate by 57 percent; halting Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS) by 40 percent; and increasing the service delivery networks in poor communities.

The strategy also intends to produce the greatest improvement in health outcomes as the DOH works closely with various partners like the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Local Government Units (LGUs), Department of Interior and Local government (DILG) and civil society organizations in achieving to close the remaining health gaps that still need to be addressed, especially in the areas where the fruits of good governance should be felt more.

(Feature) CEST: Empowering the poorest communities through S&T

By Ma. Cristina C. Arayata [(PNA), CTB/MCCA/SGP]

MANILA, Aug. 20 (PNA) – - CEST (Community Empowerment through Science and Technology), a program of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), may indeed alleviate poverty in the country.

The program aims to empower the poorest and most depressed communities communities through science and technology (S&T) interventions in health and nutrition, water and sanitation, disaster-risk reduction, climate change adaptation. It also targets to introduce to communities the S&T interventions on basic education and livelihood development.

ABS-CBN Lingkod Kapamilya Foundation managing director, Gina Lopez, was among those who showed confidence in CEST, citing she believes it’s possible to eradicate poverty in the Philippines.

Lopez emphasized that she needs DOST’s help. In one of the agency’s event, she shared the story of how the ABS-CBN Lingkod Kapamilya Foundation invested on and developed Ugong Rock, a site in Brgy. Tagabinet, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan which, according to her, features a spectacular 18 million year-old rock formation. She said the foundation developed it into a tourist attraction, with a zipline and caving adventure that boosted the place as one of the must-see destinations in the city.

She continued, citing that those developments turned what was once a poor community into a major tourist attraction. Thus, it has brought livelihood opportunities to the people, and helped in improving quality of life. Lopez also shared that from an annual income of Php 133,800 in 2009, it has reached to 30 million by 2014.

The managing director said that the people’s goal was to eliminate poverty in the entire barangay and the whole municipality. She noted that she’s going to make it possible, through DOST’s help.

They’re going to venture in agriculture, and she acknowledge that they cannot do it alone. “We need S&T if we want to go into it, into processing,” she said.

The DOST said providing equipment for food processing is just one of the many activities offered under CEST.

The other activities include supplementary food feeding program, distribution and utilization of clay water filters, deployment of Orvicidal/Larvicidal (OL) traps for dengue prevention, establishment of municipal-based weather forecasting system and early warning system through the installation of LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) and automated rain gauge, water hyacinth production development, installation of STARBOOKS (Science and Technology Research-Based Openly-Operated Kiosk System) in schools, assistance to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) through SETUP (Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program), packaging and labelling, and various trainings.

DOST Secretary Mario Montejo noted that every CEST model community is a work in progress in the entire country. As of July, there are 79 CEST communities. Through CEST, the agency will be capable of building a more active, sustainable and smarter communities. The DOST also assured that appropriate, timely and reliable S&T intervention would serve as an avenue in improving the lives of people in the communities.

1,500 European tourists now in Puerto Princesa via Legend of the Seas cruise ship

By Celeste Anna R. Formoso [(PNA), RMA/CARF/SSC]

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Aug. 22 (PNA) -- About 1,500 European tourists arrived in this city Saturday morning aboard the M/S Legend of the Seas.

City Tourism Department (CTD) Officer Aileen Cynthia Amurao told local interviews that the European tourists arrived past 7:00 a.m. after sailing through destinations in Europe, Taiwan, and Metro Manila.

To stay for nine hours, some of the European tourists will be visiting the Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR) at Sitio Sabang, Barangay Cabayugan if the weather permits.

Amurao added that Puerto Princesa remains on the top of the list of cruise ship tourism compared to other cities in the Philippines.

Six more cruise ships are being expected before December 2015 ends, she said.

Palawan rejects offer to settle row on gas share

By Redempto D. Anda (Inquirer Southern Luzon)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY—The national government has expressed willingness to settle a case pending at Supreme Court over Palawan’s demand for a share of royalty from the Malampaya natural gas project, offering to give to the province 10 percent of the total Malampaya royalty.

The position was expressed in a brief submitted recently by Philippine National Oil Co.-Exploration Corp. (PNOC-EC) to the high court, which is set to rule on Palawan’s petition for recognition of jurisdiction over the Camago Malampaya gas deposits off the province’s northern region in the West Philippine Sea.

The provincial board of Palawan, at a session on Tuesday, rejected the PNOC stand and is set to submit its opposition to the high court.

From 40 to 10

The PNOC-EC, while maintaining the government’s position that the offshore energy deposit is outside the territorial jurisdiction of Palawan, has proposed that Palawan receive only 10 percent of the Malampaya royalty, instead of 40 percent which the province has been demanding based on the Local Government Code’s provision on royalty sharing.

The fund, according to the compromise proposal, shall be kept in an Energy Investment Trust but will be administered only the PNOC-EC and may be used only for energy-related projects in the province.

“We believe that the province of Palawan is not entitled to receive a portion of the royalty from the Malampaya fund because the natural gas platform is some 85 kilometers from the nearest town of Palawan,” said Pedro A. Aquino Jr., PNOC-EC president and chief executive officer, in the letter to the high court dated July 6, 2015.

‘Insensible’

The PNOC-EC offer was flatly rejected by the civil society group Kilusang Love Malampaya, led by Palawan Bishop Pedro Arigo, that filed the motion pending at the high court.

Bishop Arigo described the government proposal as “hideously disadvantageous and insensible to the people of Palawan.”

“Palawan has long been deprived of its share from the Malampaya project because of dissenting opinions and positions raised by the national government,” Arigo said.

The Inquirer also learned that several Cabinet officials were earlier instructed by President Aquino to meet with Palawan officials, led by Gov. Jose Alvarez, to discuss a possible compromise deal.

The provincial government is seeking the release of the fund, primarily to finance a P53 billion energy master plan it had recently formulated.

A Cabinet source involved in the negotiation, however, said Malacañang has backtracked from the talks and may simply allow the high court to rule on the petition.

DOH-MIMAROPA strengthens health workers' skills on poison management

By Leilani S. Junio [(PNA), SCS/LSJ]

MANILA, Aug. 20 (PNA) -- The Department of Health (DOH)–MIMAROPA concluded on Thursday a three-day seminar for the first batch of trainees on Acute Poison Management starting with health workers from Palawan.

The activity was conducted at the Libis Bayview Hotel in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan from August 18 to 20.

MIMAROPA consists of the island provinces of Mindoro Oriental/Occidental, Marinduque, Romblon, and Palawan.

DOH Regional Director Eduardo C. Janairo said the training activity is part of the effort in strengthening the capability of emergency medical doctors, nurses and municipal health officers of MIMAROPA to respond to poisoning emergencies and for the proper treatment and management of poisoned patients.

“The early recognition and management of these patients will minimize the morbidity and mortality related to poisoning,” Dr. Janairo added.

Based on the records of the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital's National Poison Management Control Center (NPMCC), the most common causes of poisoning are exposure to alcohol, kerosene, methamphetamine, sodium hypochlorite and household pesticides.

New toxicants include dancing firecrackers (watusi) and jatropha seeds (tuba-tuba).

Alcoholic beverages remain among the top five commonly encountered toxicants. Sixty percent or majority of cases are non-accidental and these include suicide attempts and substance abuse while 35 percent involve accidental exposures of children who have ingested household chemicals and therapeutic agents.

Dr. Janairo noted that in the province of Palawan, the two leading causes of poisoning are kerosene and pesticide ingestion. There were seven kerosene and three pesticide- related poisoning incidents admitted in 2014 at the Ospital ng Palawan.

“These were the only recorded incidents of poisoning in the province, but there were more unreported cases... This is why we will be establishing a poison center in the region to monitor and manage such incidents,” Dr. Janairo said.

The training participants were taught general principles in emergency management of poisoned patients, pre-hospital decontamination/emergency measures, and how to become familiar with specific poisons and management of these cases, become aware of linkages/networks in the management of poisoning cases through telephone referrals to recognized institutions and be able to improve data gathering and recording for a functional reporting system.

“It is very important for health workers to have a continuing competency training on acute poison management to address emergency critical situations. Early risk assessment is essential in the care of a poisoned patient to ensure the quality and consistency of treatment and management,” Dr. Janairo stressed.

Stone fish killed tourist in Coron, Palawan?

By Raphael Bosano (ABS-CBN News)

MANILA -- A 25-year-old man died after he allegedly stepped on a poisonous sea creature, possibly a stone fish, while on vacation in Coron, Palawan last Friday.

The victim, Miguel Ruiz, was on vacation with his boyfriend, Travis Millard, in Palawan last week when the incident occurred.

Millard, 24, said he and Ruiz booked a guided tour of the island, where they were supposed to visit several destinations.

"When we got on the boat, they offered us life jackets but didn't mandate them. They offered us some snorkeling gear but they told us, you know, it would really be a necessary thing for us. We really didn't know what we were getting into because we just expected that we were just gonna go from place to place and just really observe the beauty of Coron and do a couple of activities," he said.

"At no point was any risk or dangers mentioned to us concerning anything we will be exposed to, except for a casual mention of jelly fish. But outside of that, there was no precaution given to us with regards to where we should avoid, or what we should do or not do," Millard added.

They were on their last destination in Siete Pecados, where they were informed that they can go snorkeling, when Ruiz suddenly shouted in alarm.

"At some point, me and Miguel separated, about maybe five meters or so, and out of nowhere, he gasped, 'Travis!" and then I turned back and he removed his mask and said, 'I stepped on something and I'm having trouble breathing.' Those were his exact words," Millard said.

'NO ASSISTANCE'

Millard said he immediately went over to where Ruiz was, and asked their tour guide for assistance. He was then told that they were probably just tired from snorkeling the whole day.

"We called the tour guide over to us, and we asked for some assistance, and he told us, 'Oh, you're just exhausted, you know, we've been snorkeling all day. Just lay down.'," he added.

A "frothy" substance started coming out of Ruiz' mouth, and Millard then insisted to their tour guide that they need to go back.

"I can no longer hear the deep breaths. It seemed as if he was kind of being quiet, and then I noticed that his face was starting to change colors. At this point, the tour guides distanced themselves from us."

It was also Millard himself who performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on Ruiz, as the tour guides and other members of the group watched.

"At that point I was furious because there was nobody assisting us, and I screamed, "Help me! Help me, don't just watch, help me!' Finally, the tour guide came and helped his head, and every time I would blow air, he would be the one to help expel the vomit from his mouth," Millard said.

He added that there was no one in the group who had enough phone credits to make a call.

"There was no assistance at all. It was my phone they used to call, it was me that was doing what little training I remember from health class in 7th grade... I was in a total shock that it was like they were just watching this horrific scene with no assistance at all," Millard said.

Ruiz was taken away on an ambulance as soon as they arrived on shore.

"In my experience, ambulance with paramedics, when you get the victim to the vehicle, they should immediately administer aid, but at this point, it was like a taxi of his death, because they just put him on the back, and they didn't do anything. They just began to drive," Millard said.

The door of the ambulance was also jammed, making it difficult for them to get out of the vehicle as soon as they arrived at the hospital.

"I banged, almost broke the glass. They didn't know what to do. They tried opening it from the inside, from the outside. It was me, then I said, 'Just take him from the front," Millard narrated, adding that Ruiz was carried out of the ambulance on a cushion, as there was no stretcher.

Ruiz was declared dead on arrival at the hospital, with the doctor informing Millard that he has been dead for several minutes.

"I had never... bedside manner, the lack of care. It was like the person who I loved, he saved all his money to invest into the tourism of Coron so we can enjoy this time together. I took time off work to come here to the Philippines to enjoy this beautiful scenery, this place that people claim as one of the most beautiful places in the world, yet they don't have those basic things as hospital, or protocol to react to something like this," Millard lamented, adding that Ruiz did not drown.

ABS-CBN tried to get the statement from the hotel where Ruiz and Millard stayed but the management refused to comment on the incident.

Based on the official report from the local police station in Palawan, Ruiz drowned. However, they are also looking at other possible reasons, including that of the victim stepping on a stone fish.

"Lahat naman po pag nag-iimbestiga tayo, tinitingnan ang lahat ng posibilidad. Kung totoo man na stone fish ang dahilan hindi po natin tini-take for granted po yun," said Police Senior Insp. Aldrin Atienza, spokesperson of Palawan Provincial Police Office.

TRAINING FOR TOUR GUIDES

Meanwhile, Chin Fernandez, president of Calamian Association of Tourism Establishments, tour guides should also know how to perform basic first aid as it is part of their training.

Due to the incident, Fernandez said they will conduct a first aid refresher course for all their tour guides.

"We are doing our best to standardize and make sure that the stays of our tourists pleasant. I'm sure no one wanted this to happen. We will continue to improve our services," she added.

The Tourism Office of Coron, Palawan, in a text message, said they are still waiting for the results of the autopsy on Ruiz before they can release an official statement.

The autopsy results are expected to come out in two weeks. A copy of the result will also be given to the local government of Coron for appropriate action.

BPO firms welcome in Puerto Princesa, says mayor

(PNA), FFC/BNB/CARF/EBP

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Aug. 18 (PNA) -- Palawan Mayor Lucilo Bayron expressed delight over the influx of companies from the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry in the province.

Bayron made the statement Monday at a press conference held during the handover of the Learning English Application for Pinoy (LEAP), launching of the MIMAROPA STAR, and turnover of the DREAM LIDAR Project in Puerto Princesa which was spearheaded by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

The LEAP is the DOST’s computer-based training program which contains sample lessons and exercises for Filipino users who want to improve their English language.

Dr. Rowena Cristina Guevara, the project's proponent, said the program aims to enhance the English proficiency of BPO applicants in the province.

“One part of the LEAP is vocabulary and grammar – so, all the common mistakes of Filipinos, who speak English are incorporated in our self-guided training program,” Guevara said.

In fact, the city government's plans on the matter include a study regarding the construction of a BPO center in a sizable land located at the back of the Puerto Princesa City Coliseum in Barangay San Miguel.

“So, for now, we have an agreement with a firm, I forgot what its name; they are training call center employees here and then they bring them to Cebu, and other places. They want to return those they have trained here once a BPO center has been set up,” Bayron said.

Bayron described the coliseum site as a perfect BPO hub because this is where fiber optics traverse. This makes the area viable for the establishment of a possible outsourcing center that comprises the contracting of the operations and responsibilities of a specific business process to a third-party service provider.

With this, the local government eyes the relocation of several families who were temporarily sheltered in the area after a fire destroyed their houses in the province's bay area.

“The families that have sought shelter there temporarily have stayed over 10 years, we are in the process of relocating them because that area is what we are processing to make as a BPO center since the fiber optics is there,” he said.

Should the project push through, Bayron said the local government is also planning to build homes near the area for the benefit of the BPO hub's future employees.

“There is actually no quality time for both work and rest. They earn good, but they run out of time – traveling through traffic depletes them,” Mayor Bayron said.

Palawan gov't implements water projects to ensure safe water for residents

(PNA), FFC/BNB/RCK/CARF/EBP

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Aug. 18 (PNA) -- The Palawan government is implementing various water projects to ensure safe water for residents in the province.

Provincial Information Officer Gil Acosta said Monday that among these efforts include the Bubusawin Water Supply System which is currently under construction in Aborlan town.

The program is being implemented under the infrastructure, health, education, livelihood and protection of the environment (IHELP) development agenda of the province's leadership.

“The governor’s dream is for every family in Palawan to have access to clean drinking water that directly flows into their homes,” Acosta said.

Rafael Peria, one of the workers in the water project in Barangay Bubusawin, said the implementation is doing well despite strong rains over southern Palawan.

“We thank Governor Alvarez and the provincial government because they let us have work, and later we will also benefit from the project,” he said.

The Bubusawin water project has a total budget of PHP4-million under the Bottom Up Budgeting (BUB) program of several government agencies.

The construction of the facility started in April this year and is set to be completed before end of August. A total of 500 homes are expected to benefit from this project.

Palawan show to mark pawnshop’s 30th year

(Philippine Daily Inquirer)

Palawan is abuzz with news of a free concert on Saturday at the Puerto Princesa Coliseum with the stage performances of Paulo Avelino and TV comedian Pooh heading a cast of talents mimicking sensational local and international celebrities.

Billed “Bonggang Handog Pasasalamat,” the three-hour live event forms part of the multi-event celebration of Palawan Pawnshop’s 30th anniversary. The show will dramatize in song and dance milestones of Palawan Pawnshop.

Joining the troupe of performers are Palawan Express Pera Padala comic endorsers Jack Falcis, Mao Leongson and Lan Diana, who are featured as ongoing characters in the money remittance brand’s television commercials.

Preceeding the free show was last Sunday’s “Takbo Palaweño” comprising 10K, 5K, and 3K benefit running events in Puerto Princesa. The anniversary event series will be capped by a gala night on Aug. 17 to recognize employees who have made vital contributions to the success of the company.

Palawan Pawnshop was founded in 1985 by spouses Bobby and Angie Castro to help cash-strapped folks who need to pay bills.

It started as a lone pawnshop along Puerto Princesa’s Malvar St. In succeeding years, however, the number of outlets grew beyond Palawan. The service is now available in over 3,000 outlets nationwide.

Palawan gov challenges mining foe to fistfight

(Philippines Daily Inquirer)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY—The plan of a mining company to expand operations in untouched virgin forest areas of southern Palawan has sparked a heated exchange between local officials, led by Governor Jose Chavez Alvarez, and environmental groups opposed to mining in the province.

Alvarez, who was presiding over a meeting on Thursday of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) to discuss the proposed expansion of Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corp. into Mount Bolanjao in Bataraza, objected to a position paper submitted by environmental group Palawan NGO Network Inc. (PNNI) and challenged its head, lawyer Robert Chan, to a fistfight.

Chan, executive director of PNNI, had written the PCSD objecting to the reclassification of areas covered by the mining expansion plan. The letter, Alvarez claimed, was disrespectful to the PCSD.

Environmental groups had questioned the PCSD’s issuance of a clearance to the mining project and a separate clearance to a plan to build a coal power plant in the province.

“What does he want, war? If he wants, we can square off, the two of us,” Alvarez said in an outburst that silenced the plenary body during the meeting.

Alvarez accused PNNI of “unfairly blaming” the PCSD secretariat.

“He (Chan) was unfairly criticizing the secretariat without addressing the issue to me. We only want to help the poor,” he said.

Civil society groups, reacting to the governor’s outburst, have demanded that he apologize.

Palawan gov’t mulls putting up Nihongo language school

By Celeste Anna R. Formoso [(PNA), LAP/CARF/SGP]

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Aug. 14 (PNA) –- The provincial government of Palawan is pondering on the idea of putting up a Nihongo language school following the visit of five legislators from Japan.

A press statement from the Provincial Information Office (PIO) Thursday said this came after August 9, when five legislators from Japan paid Governor Jose Alvarez a visit.

Hirofomu Yoshimura led the group that also visited the Western Command Headquarters and Ulugan Bay, where the Naval Forces Northwest main headquarters is located.

In the PIO release, the group reportedly met with Alvarez, Vice Governor Dennis Socrates, and Board Member Leoncio Ola, and also Puerto Princesa Mayor Lucilo Bayron.

Alvarez presented to the Japanese guests current developments in Palawan, and other plans and programs that are for implementation under infrastructure, health, education, livelihood and protection of the environment (IHELP).

The governor shared to his guests the possibility of putting up a Nihongo language school in the province to provide employment opportunities for Palaweño skilled workers, who might want to work in Japan.

Foremost in the requirements Japanese employers are looking for are applicants who know how to speak Nihongo.

To this, Yoshimura reportedly replied on a positive note, saying the Filipino people are hardworking, and that Japanese people admire them.

Palawan’s Coron: Paradise under construction

By Pola Esguerra del Monte (High Life Staff Writer)

THE TRACK to the wharf, from where boats ferry tourists to Coron’s fine white sands, is an eternity of rough road. After the sari-sari stores and houses, an unimaginably lengthy stretch of uneven earth runs to the woods, passing rows upon rows of trees and nothingness. The only signs of life are the laborers, brown-skinned and sweaty from toiling all day in the hot sun and dry air, as they occupy half of the two-way road with their bulldozers.

The end of it all is resurrection, where the pearly gates of heaven are docks with boats in waiting. From different points across Busuanga and Coron town, motorboats, in all shapes, sizes, and colors, take flocks of tourists from humble grounds onto emerald green and deep blue waters. On a boat, the river graciously opens to the ocean, exposing a world of lush green islands and limestone cliffs, with stretches of pristine white sand at their feet. They seem limitless, these playgrounds for mythical creatures, and varied, beckoning any mortal to sing at the top of his lungs. The sun sheds its golden rays onto the clear waters, whose waves slap and foam at the boat’s bottom.

Thirty minutes or so later, when the islets begin to look identical and the seemingly endless ride becomes quite a drag, one realizes that there is nothing speedy about boats, as there is nothing fast and frantic about Northern Palawan.

There’s barely any mobile connection, even at the four-star resort where the boat docks. At the El Rio y Mar resort, electricity, which comes from a generator, shuts off from time to time, a familiar situation in the provinces. Wi-Fi is intermittent. People don’t read the papers. Even in the more populated town of Coron, it’s the same. There are no 24-hour convenience stores, McDonald’s or Jollibee.

But this may not be the case for long. Busuanga and its neighboring islands, including one also named Coron, are a paradise under development, and a destination which the provincial and national governments are diligently transforming as they anticipate more, many more tourist arrivals.

THIS WAY

“Ayoko sa Maynila [I don’t like Manila],” an employee at El Rio y Mar said frankly, as he toasted marshmallows by the seaside bonfire under the blanket of stars that evening. A local of Coron, he had once set forth to the bustling Philippine capital for about a month to find work. His affair with the city was short-lived -- he couldn’t take the grime, the noise, and the threat of criminality. It’s quite understandable that he finds Palawan a refuge he can’t leave. Today he is one of hundreds of employees, surrounded by beauty 24 hours a day, as they attend to the whims of visitors. By the Coron Information Office’s count, there were 114,000 arrivals last year.

A simple Google News search will show that much of what’s written about Coron are by foreigners, and this may be attributed to the destination’s growing international popularity. Last year, Condé Nast Traveler readers voted Palawan the No. 1 island in the world -- high praise that may have brought pressure to the local government to speed up development.

Joining Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines, Skyjet Airlines has also included Busuanga in its list of holiday destinations, offering 35-minute flights from Manila with free-flowing champagne. According to Jassel King, Skyjet Airlines’ sales and marketing manager, the choice to land in Busuanga, among Palawan’s other destinations, is due in part to the fact that flights to El Nido are monopolized by Ayala Capital Corp.’s International Transvoyager, Inc.

“We’re not a budget or low-cost airline,” Ms. King said. The airline sets itself apart from competitors by being a “boutique leisure airline,” serving snacks on board, offering wider leg space, and shorter travel time. At the moment, “it’s really a niche market,” she said of their clientele of honeymooners and barkadas (group of friends), but the possibility looms of more flights amid rising demand.

By the end of the year, the Busuanga Airport will have been upgraded, after having received a P4.2-billion budget. Lyle Coruña of the Coron Information Office said the airport may soon have direct flights from Korea, Taiwan, and Malaysia.

Along with this anticipation of more arrivals is a growing sense of doubt or concern.

“Ngayon, yung pinoproblema namin, paano kung dumagsa na talaga yung mga bisita?” Mr. Coruña said. (“Our problem now is what if we have a throng of visitors.”) But he also sees this as a good sign, especially in the light of developments in the Southeast Asian region. “Pagdating ng ASEAN integration, ready na tayo [We’re ready for ASEAN integration].”

MASTER PLAN

One solution, made obvious by road constructions left and right, is the improvement of infrastructure. This includes a project, under the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority or TIEZA, for a convention center that can accommodate as many as 3,000. Along with this is the anticipated entry of commercial establishments like Puregold and McDonald’s.

Furthermore, a master plan for Busuanga has been designed, but is currently impeded by issues of land ownership. According to Mr. Coruña, administration of almost half of the island has not been transferred to the local government units. This transition should pave the way for housing to residents currently crowding the town proper, and more buildings, government facilities, and even a cemetery are being planned.

In addition, most of the neighboring islands are claimed by the indigenous peoples, including the Tagbanua tribe which is one of the oldest in the Philippines. Mr. Coruña said the local government cannot control pricing in tourist destinations on the watch of these groups. He recalled a dialogue in Coron last July with the House Committee on Indigenous Cultural Communities and Indigenous Peoples, whereupon it was agreed that these communities will obtain a mayor’s permit to be renewed annually, so the municipality can also earn, as well as register with the Bureau of Internal Revenue. By next year, a one-pay system for entry to the different islands will be implemented, Mr. Coruña said.

The provision of water service is also under way, to facilitate access to potable water which, of course, is a crucial need for the island’s resort establishments. Last February saw improvements in power generation, and this is expected to be sustained until the next decade.

Food is another concern, especially for seafood-allergic tourists because fresh crabs, lobsters, and fish are the typical fare here. On occasion, there’s pork -- which is said to be boar -- but vegetables are hard to find, because of the soil’s acidity, and few invest in agriculture even as more restaurants are being built. As for the seafood, there’s the problem of this stock being hoarded by middlemen before they reach the market. According to a resident, cashew, which is a delicacy in Palawan, is taken in bulks to hotels. The local government has sought the Department of Agriculture’s assistance to ensure the food supply.

The municipality of Busuanga, where a number of tourists check in, to jump off to other points, is also building more roads to connect to Buluang, Coron, and Calauit. Another road project to connect the airport to the village of Sagrada, also in Busuanga, is also expected to bring in more tourists.

“That’s why [we’re encouraging] private investors [to provide more in terms of] accommodations,” Busuanga Vice-Mayor Elizabeth M. Cervantes said, adding that the eight lodging houses currently available aren’t enough for the volume of visitors.

There’s also the problem of matching the work force with the growing tourism.

Ms. Cervantes said the locals have been enrolling in hotel and restaurant management courses -- a not-surprising trend, given the booming tourism industry. She pointed out, though, that the schools have been providing only two-year courses, taking out four-year courses from their list of course offerings such as agriculture, mechanics, and, yes, hotel and restaurant management. But there are talks to make the curriculum adaptable to its changing milieu. This is important because, as pointed out by an article published in this magazine on Feb. 19 (“Bringing out the Pinoy GM at Seda Hotels”), formal education in this field is crucial to Filipino hotel staff aspiring to be general managers.

MILLENNIAL MARKET

The Philippine Tour Operators Association or PHILTOA, which mounts the annual trade exhibition Philippine Travel Mart, is including Coron in its so-called “bucket list” destinations -- or less-traveled, low-impact destinations -- alongside the provinces of Batanes, Catanduanes, and Romblon, and Calaguas island in Camarines Norte and the town of Caramoan in Camarines Sur. On its run last year, the association generated P86 million, 90% of it from domestic tour packages. This year, the association is targeting an increase of 20% in sales, through a slew of exhibitors spanning four halls of the SMX Convention Center on September 4-6.

“PHILTOA’s responsibility is to push, and at the moment we feel and see that Coron is now ready,” said Clang M. Garcia, the group’s public relations officer, who’s also managing director of Jeepney Tours. She said the destinations’s profit from tourism will help its economy.

In particular, PHILTOA is targeting the domestic market, which the group’ s president Cesar Cruz said is the leading market for the more successful tourist destinations like Cebu, Boracay, and Puerto Princesa. “If [Coron] would be able to reach that kind of market...then it will be a sustainable destination,” he said.

PHILTOA is also studying the millennial market and has even created packages with a lowered price range of P5,000 to 10,000. A Quick Response (QR) code system will be set up in the upcoming Philippine Travel Mart to allow visitors to easily find the packages offered for their desired destination. It’s the group’s way of promoting “responsible traveling,” as the notoriously impulsive millennials, whose broken hearts are rather quick to hop on buses to Baguio, will now have a chance to plan their vacations ahead. (This writer is herself a millennial.)

This sector has also served to influence travel trends in terms of hotel bookings. Joy Anne Denoga-Bautista, vice-president for sales and marketing of One of Collection, which has Coron’s The Funny Lion Inn in its portfolio, said online selling has made marketing a little less laborious. “[Before, we would bring everything -- all the brochures, [we’d go to] trade shows, [bringing a lot and we’d get] excess luggage fees. Now, we just bring a CD and USB,” she said.

Tours being offered include trips to Calauit Island, which has a park boasting endemic as well as African animals. Since 1977, the Calauit Game Preserve and Wildlife Sanctuary has been home to exotic animals from Kenya, thanks to a petition by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature calling for a sanctuary for endangered African wildlife. Roaming in the property, which is suitable for grazing, are giraffes, zebras, gazelles, topis, elands, impalas, bushbucks, and waterbucks. Tourists walk alongside these African animals as well as endemic wildlife such as the Calamian deer, mouse deer, Palawan bear cat, scaly anteater, and Palawan peacock.

Another interesting spot is the island and surrounding islets of Culion, a former leper colony. From the boat, the landscape resembles Verona or Mykonos, but instead of thematically painted houses, we find humble homes of concrete and wood dotting the hills with rusting roofs. There is no sign at the dock indicating we’ve arrived at Culion -- and upon landing, the mode of transportation is an eight-seater tricycle (that could fit 10 or 12 children).

The tricycle driver we talked to said there are only three rich families in Culion, and he namedropped the family names Mercado, Sulas, and Marasigan. The rest of the population, estimated at 19,543 as of 2010, subsist on farming or fishing, as well as the government’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program.

There are remnants of Culion’s past destination as a leprosarium: former distribution centers, post offices, and hospitals, with their original signage, blackened but not dirty, aging and wrought by mystique. One might be surprised to find the Loyola College of Culion, a school run by Jesuits, who also run the church overlooking the island -- La Immaculada Concepcion, or Culion Church, which gleams with the seashells added to the mix of cement, limestone, and adobe.

Ready or not, Coron is anticipating arrivals of Filipino and overseas tourists who wish to bask in this island paradise. Never mind that it will require repetitive hikes, a more challenging downhill walk, and numerous slaps on the skin (mosquitos abound). The view of lakes hidden behind rock formations is priceless, and snorkeling reveals an otherworld of rich marine biodiversity. Go Pro-equipped tourists will rejoice. Multicolored fish -- electric blue, pink, orange -- swim around rocks and corals undisturbed by us visiting humans. The ocean is infinite and, at least in this part of the world, so are its gifts.

NCCA says Palawan’s rich culture has all potential to contribute to tourism industry

By Celeste Anna R. Formoso [(PNA), LAP/CARF/EBP]

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Aug. 12 (PNA) -- Palawan’s rich culture has all the potential of supporting the province’s tourism industry, according to Estrelita Tamano of the National Committee on Communication of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).

In a press release by the Provincial Information Office (PIO) of the Palawan government sent Tuesday, Tamano stated her belief during a film showing and workshop on August 7 at the VJR Hall that was attended by 300 students from different schools, colleges and universities.

The PIO said Tamano believed that Palawan is blessed because it is in the province, where the bone remains and antique earthenware of the old civilization in Asia can be found.

She also believed that even the traditional lifestyle of the indigenous communities that can be found in Palawan, like the Tagbanua indigenous peoples (IPs) is admirable, and should be preserved and further enriched.

Information officer Gil Acosta said the aim of the NCCA visit to Palawan was to promote a video documentation entitled “Likhang-Yaman ng Palawan” that points to the province’s cultural legacy.

The 20-minute video contains places in Palawan that have rich cultural heritage, like Tabon Caves in Quezon, and the way the indigenous peoples in the province live.

Acosta said further that the NCCA chose to promote the video to the students of Palawan because they are the present generation and could help in the conservancy of traditional legacies; not only the sites and structures, but also the way the IPs live their lives daily.

The NCCA’s stint in Palawan was made possible by the cooperation of the Culture and Arts Office.

‘Great sphinx’ found in Tabon Caves in Palawan

By Keith Anthony Fabro [(PNA), CTB/CARF/KASF/EBP]

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Aug. 11 (PNA) -- An American sailor claims to have found an ancient monumental sculpture, which he said appears to be thousands older than Egypt’s “Great Sphinx of Giza” in Tabon Cave in the municipality of Quezon, southern Palawan.

Philip Maise, a chemical engineer by profession, began exploring the archaeological site in 2013.

He called his find “The Great Sphinx of Palawan.” “It took two years to be sure I could prove The Great Sphinx of Palawan was man-made,” Maise wrote in his Facebook account.

Maise said he believes the sculpture was glued together using sandstone blocks with wet cement that hardened into a waterproof concrete.

He added that after sculpting, more cement was poured on top to protect the soft stone.

“Zoom in on the white sandstone and notice dark lines. That is concrete used to glue slabs together. It is grey because it contains volcanic ash that makes it strong and waterproof,” Maise said, comparing the formula that ancient Romans used “to waterproof” water delivery systems.

Maise took photos at low tide as most of the sculpture’ base is submerged during high tide. This fact, he suggests, indicates that it was made during the Ice Age some 8,000 years or older.

“Evidence in nearby Tabon Caves proves man has lived in Palawan for 50,000 years,” he said.

However, even if they (monumental sculptures) were made during the most recent Ice Age, they are still thousands of years older than Egypt’s Sphinx or pyramids,” he said.

Behind the sphinx, he said, is a 10-meter tall sculpted head – with nose, two eyes, lips and chin among other details – which is still in better condition.

Maise concludes a likely candidate that built these sculptures are seafaring people Saliendra, who were skilled stone carvers and frequently used sandstone.

This was backed up with the images he saw inside the tombs in Tabon, which he all likened to the characters in the Buddhist story “Journey to the West.”

He also found an image that looked like Manjushri, a bodhisattva associated with transcendent wisdom in Mahayana Buddhism.

Saliendras were noted as active promoters of Mahayana Buddhism in the ancient times when it emerged as an influential dynasty in 8th century Java.

“We know Java, Palawan’s main trading partner, became a Buddhist area and the practice migrated to Palawan,” Maise said in a text message.

Using his yacht, Maise will sail mid-August from Puerto Princesa to Tabon Cave in Quezon and down to Balabac to continue tracing the signs of ancient man.

He has an experience with excavation and also did course work in history, philosophy and art. Maise said he also brought the matter to the Palawan Heritage Center and the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff (PCSDS), which implements R.A. 9072 or the “National Caves and Cave Resources Management and Protection Act.”

He also asked the PCSDS to “inspect the possible giant ancient sculpture and burial caves” and confirm its authenticity through carbon dating.

Maise, meanwhile, envisions to set-up an archaeology college focusing on Tabonolgy at the Holy Trinity University (HTU).

Tabonology is the study of the remains of Tabon man which were first discovered by American anthropologist Robert Fox in 1962.

Armed AW-109Es commissioned Monday; 2 Australian donated LCHs blessed

By Priam F. Nepomuceno [(PNA), CTB/PFN]

MANILA, Aug. 10 (PNA) -- The Philippine Navy (PN) formally commissioned into service its two armed AgustaWestland AW-109E "Power" helicopters in simple ceremonies at Naval Station Jose Andrada, on Roxas Boulevard, Manila Monday.

The helicopters are armed with .50 caliber machinegun pods and 2.75 inch rocket launchers.

Cmdr. Lued Lincuna, PN public affairs office chief, said that armed AW-109Es are also equipped with maritime air surveillance capability, amphibious air support operations and weather search radar and forward looking infrared systems that enhances the Navy's maritime air surveillance and close air support for ground troops.

The 8 a.m. commissioning ceremonies were spearheaded by outgoing PN flag-officer-in-command Vice Admiral Jesus C. Millan.

The last two AW-109E airframes arrived in the Philippines last December.

This is part of the five-helicopter deal, worth Php1.33-billion, signed by the Philippines with AgustaWestland early 2013.

Three of the AW-109s were delivered and commissioned in Dec. 22, 2013.

Millan said the acquisition of the armed AW-109Es are part of the PN's efforts in developing a robust island defense force and becoming an effective instrument of national development.

Meanwhile, the two Australian-donated landing craft heavies (LCHs) were also blessed Monday.

The two LCHs vessels were christened as BRP Ivatan (AT-298) and BRP Batak (AT-299) to preserve the distinctiveness of the two ethnic groups of Palawan and Batanes.

These ships were donated by the Australian government last January. They arrived in Sangley Point, Cavite last Aug. 7.

Milan said the addition of these vessels translates into the boosting of the capability of the PN to transport personnel, equipment and aid during humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations. They will also be useful in transporting troops from one operational area to another.

No. 3 nickel miner plumps up for year-round output

By Claire-Ann M. C. Feliciano (Senior Reporter) 10:53:00 pm

GLOBAL Ferronickel Holdings, Inc. -- the Philippines’ third largest nickel producer -- has acquired a mine in Palawan under a $50-million deal, allowing it to produce output all year round, a company official said on Friday.

Dante R. Bravo, newly elected president of Global Ferronickel, announced the miner’s acquisition of Southern Palawan Nickel Ventures, Inc. (SPNVI), which in turn owns at least 90% of Ipilan Nickel Corp. -- operator of a mine site in municipality of Brooke’s Point.

The transaction involves the sale of 500,000 common shares and 6.25 million preferred shares of SPNVI with a combined value of about $50 million.

The two groups earlier signed a memorandum of agreement last year.

“We are very pleased to announce this new acquisition as it forms part of our growth strategy to minimize production downtime throughout the year,” Mr. Bravo told a briefing in Makati City late Friday.

Global Ferronickel currently operates two open-pit deposit sites within its lateritic nickel mine in Cagdianao, Claver in Surigao del Norte.

But those Surigao mines operate between April and October. The newly acquired Palawan mine, the company said, is expected to produce output between the months of November and July.

“We are pushing through with the acquisition and will address the production constraint of Surigao mine,” Mr. Bravo said. “Basically, we will be operating on full year with the addition of the Palawan project.”

The project, Mr. Bravo said, is expected to account for 50% of annual production and for more than 50% of the company’s revenues.

Unlike the Surigao mine which produces medium-to-high grade ore, the newly acquired mine will produce only high-grade minerals.

“We intend to start operating the mine in the first half of next year,” Mr. Bravo said.

FOLLOW-ON OFFER?

The purchase price of $50-million will be paid on a deferred payment basis, he said.

The company has enough cash to pay the initial installment. Asked on how it will fund the next tranches, Mr. Bravo said: “Either we can pay it through the planned follow-on offering or we can do another fund-raising.”

But given a weakening commodities market, Mr. Bravo said “we still have to see” if the share sale can be done this year without discounting chances of adjusting the offer size.

Last May, Mr. Bravo had said Global Ferronickel pushed back anew the timetable for its planned follow-on offering to the second half of the year as the miner has yet to secure the green light from regulators.

The miner cut the size of a planned follow-on share sale to a range of $300 million to $400 million from an initial target of $600 million, but kept the price guidance at a maximum of P4.38 per share, Reuters reported in March.

Global Ferronickel’s shipments mainly go to China and Australia but the company has also plans to export to Japan once the Palawan mine starts operations, said Mr. Bravo.

Global Ferronickel is projecting export volumes to hit another record this year, citing early orders and good weather conditions.

Last year, Platinum Group Metals Corp., a subsidiary of Global Ferronickel, shipped 6.3 million wet metric tons of nickel ore equivalent to 117 vessels to China and Australia.

DOH sends team to combat dengue

By Jerry J. Alcayde

Puerto Princesa City, Palawan — The Department of Health (DOH) regional office has sent a team of doctors and health personnel to help arrest the outbreak of dengue in island municipalities of this province, particularly in Busuanga.

Dr. Eduardo C. Janairo, DOH-MIMAROPA (Mindoro Oriental, Mindoro Occidental, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan) director, said he had dispatched three teams from the Manila-based Regional Epidemiological Surveillance Unit (RESU).

Janairo said the teams had been tasked to investigate the cause of the spread of dengue cases in Busuanga, which has already listed 109 patients.

As of yesterday, Dr. Janairo’s office has recorded a total of 286 dengue cases for the whole Palawan as he warned local populace and officials to become more vigiliant especially when unusual health indicators come to their knowledge.

Local health authorities in Busuanga declared the other day a dengue outbreak after they noted the said number of patients composed mostly of high school students and teenagers.

Coast guard in Palawan suspends island tours in Coron & El Nido towns

(PNA), FFC/CARF/ATB/EDS

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Aug. 7 (PNA) -- The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG)-Palawan District suspended temporarily Thursday all island tours in the towns of El Nido and Coron due to torrential rains, strong winds, and waves brought about by typhoon "Hanna."

Lt. Jay Tarriela, spokesperson of the PCG in Palawan, said island tours in El Nido and Coron are suspended temporarily due to "Hanna" as well as motorboat travels in the town of Roxas – all in the northern part of the province.

He said they issued the ban to keep fishermen safe from any effects of what has been dubbed as the strongest typhoon of 2015.

The temporary ban came following the gale warning ordered by the state weather bureau Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA).

The PCG official said strong winds and waves, and torrential rains have been recorded in these towns since "Hanna" entered the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR).

Typhoon 'Soudelor' enters PAR; renamed 'Hanna'

By Christopher Lloyd T. Caliwan [(PNA), SCS/CLTC/EDS]

MANILA, Aug. 5 (PNA) -- The typhoon east of extreme Northern Luzon (international name: "Soudelor") entered the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR) Wednesday morning and was renamed "Hanna," the eighth tropical cyclone to enter the country this year and first for this month of August, according to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA).

In its latest weather bulletin, PAGASA said that as of 11 a.m., typhoon "Hanna" was located based on all available data at 1,360 kilometers east of Calayan, Cagayan (19.7°N, 134.4°E) packed with maximum sustained winds of 195 kilometers per hour (kph) near the center and gustiness of up to 230 kph.

It is forecast to move west-northwest at 20 kph toward Taiwan.

Weathermen said that if it maintains its speed and movement, typhoon "Hanna" is expected to be at 910 km east- northeast of Calayan, Cagayan or at 850 km east of Itbayat, Batanes by Thursday morning.

By Friday morning, it is forecast to be at 375 km east- northeast of Itbayat, Batanes and at 400 km north-northwest of Itbayat, Batanes by Saturday morning.

By Sunday morning, the typhoon is expected to be outside the PAR or at 770 km northwest of Itbayat, Batanes.

PAGASA weather forecaster Aldczar Aurelio said typhoon "Hanna" will not directly affect the country and is not expected to make landfall in any part of the Philippines but will enhance the southwest monsoon or “hangin habagat.”

The estimated rainfall amount is from moderate to heavy within the 600-km diameter of the typhoon.

Aurelio said no public storm warning signal has been raised in any part of the country.

However, he added that the typhoon will enhance the "habagat" that will bring rains over Mindanao which may trigger flash floods and landslides. Cloudy skies with light to moderate rains and isolated thunderstorms will be experienced over the Visayas and the province of Palawan.

Aurelio said the state-run weather bureau also issued a gale warning due to the effects of the southwest monsoon enhanced by "Hanna" as the sea condition will be rough to very rough due to strong to gale force winds expected to affect the eastern seaboards of the Visayas and Mindanao.

”Fishing boats and other small seacrafts are advised not to venture out into the sea while larger sea vessels are alerted against big waves,” it warned.

Meanwhile, PAGASA issued a rainfall advisory at 12:22 p.m. in some provinces of the Visayas due to the southwest monsoon.

Light to moderate to at times heavy rains are affecting portions of ‪‎southern Cebu‬ and southern Negros‬ and ‪Siquijor‬ which may continue for two to three hours.

The public and the disaster risk reduction and management councils concerned are advised to monitor the weather condition and watch for the next advisory to be issued by PAGASA.

Palawan resort promotes environmental conservation

By Rosette Adel 5:03 pm

MANILA, Philippines - A hotel resort in Palawan has committed itself to upholding environmental conservation and awareness by endorsing the island's natural beauty and wonders as it gears to become the premier ecotourism destination in the world.

Asia Grand View Hotel (AGVH), located in scenic Coron, Palawan has a mission to bring tourists to Palawan where they can enjoy the exceptional beauty of the island province.

"We are an environmentally-friendly hotel and support efforts to conserve natural resources with care and respect and adhere to sensible practices in all areas of our operations. We educate our employees and visitors on the beauty of our environment because we believe that awareness is the key to environmental conservation," hotel management said in a statement.

Aside from being environmental-friendly, Asian Grand View Hotel, which has been operating since August 2011 boasts dining and drinking service as well as offer diving and massage experience.

"We aim to offer distinct, comfortable and elegant accommodation yet reasonably priced to discriminating tourists both local and foreign.We offer impeccable hotel services, fine dining experience, unique recreational activities, ecotours and diving of Coron and nearby towns and municipalities," the management said.

For just a 55 minute-flight away from Manila and a half an hour road trip from Francisco Reyes Busuanga airport, visitors can enjoy the hotel's indoor sports gym, mini-library, pool, dive center and the Bayview Restaurant.

For reservations and inquiries, please call or visit AGVH at Governor's Avenue, Jolo, Barangay 5, Coron, Palawan; mobile number (+63) 0917-5507375/0999-8817848 or their Manila office at Richmonde Plaza, 21, San Miguel Avenue, Ortigas Center, Pasig City; telephone number (+632) 6953078/ 5318377/ 5318380; mobile number (+63) 0917-5507363 and email reservations@asiagrandview.com.

To get the best rates AGVH, book via Agoda.com.

Otto Energy starts drilling at SC 55

By RITCHIE A. HORARIO (REPORTER)

Australian-based Otto Energy Ltd. (Otto) has started its drilling activity at Petroleum Service Contract (SC) 55 off the coast of Palawan.

Otto said the water depth at the Hawkeye-1 exploration well location is 1,788 meters. The programmed total depth for the well now underway is 2,887 meters below sea level, which is expected to take about three weeks to reach.

The well may then be deepened depending on the results of the initial drilling. The drilling will proceed in stages, beginning with a 36-inch bore to 1,906 meters followed by a 26-inch hole that will be drilled to 2,449 meters.

The Hawkeye-1 exploration well will be plugged and abandoned upon completion of drilling and logging.

Service Contract 55 (SC55) contains a number of distinct exploration play types that provide material opportunities, including the carbonate gas/condensate trend that has the potential for an oil charge, and turbidite clastic prospects.

The Hawkeye prospect was identified from 2D seismic studies originally acquired by Otto in 2007 and further defined with the 600 km2 3D seismic acquisition in late 2009. Otto has operated upstream oil and gas exploration and production assets in the Philippines for over 10 years.

Palawan weavers featured at the National Museum

(VSM/LBR/PIA4B/Palawan)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan (PIA) – Palawan mat and basket weavers are this week’s feature in the 2015 Weaving Demonstrations of the National Museum of the Philippines, in partnership with Senator Loren Legarda.

Mat and basket weavers from the Pal’awan and Tagbanua indigenous communities will showcase their weaving techniques to be demonstrated by Celita Salunday, Labin Tiblak, Analia Puntas, and Jinky Alsa on August 1 & 2.

"Through these weaving demonstrations, Filipinos would be more aware of our traditions and I hope we could be more proud of our culture. This is also a chance for citizens to interact with local weavers so they would be familiar with our weaving traditions and realize the importance of preserving our cultural heritage," said Sen. LorenLegarda.

The weaving demonstrations can be viewed from 11:00 am to 12:00 nn, 1:30 pm to 2:30 pm, and 3:30 pm to 4:30 pm, at the Reception Room, 4th Floor, National Museum of Anthropology (formerly Museum of the Filipino People), Old Finance Building, Rizal Park, Manila.

Coast Guard intercepts 1,700 bags of smuggled rice in Palawan

(PNA), JBP/CARF/ATB/PJN

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Aug. 1 (PNA) -- Coast guard authorities intercepted Friday morning 1,700 bags of rice from the crewmen of a motor launch attempting to smuggle them in this city.

Initial reports from the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said the alleged smuggled bags of rice were confiscated from M/L Nathalie within the vicinity of Puerto Princesa.

The PCG report said the cargo came from Mapun, Tawi-Tawi last Wednesday.

The crewmen of M/L Nathalie were unable to show legal shipment papers. What was shown only was barangay clearance issued by a barangay councilor from Mapun, Tawi-Tawi.

The motor launch is currently under the custody of the PCG at the Puerto Princesa City Port (PPCP) while investigation is ongoing.

The PCG in close cooperation with other government agencies remain steadfast in guarding the coast of Palawan against any illegal activity, including rice smuggling.