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Palawan News December 2017

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How to get the best out of the Malunggay
Moringa (Malungay) leaves compared to common foods
Values per 100gm. edible portion
Nutrient Moringa Leaves Other Foods
Vitamin A 6780 mcg Carrots: 1890 mcg
Vitamin C 220 mg Oranges: 30 mg
Calcium 440 mg Cow's milk: 120 mg
Potassium 259 mg Bananas: 88 mg
Protein 6.7 gm Cow's milk: 3.2 gm
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Undergroud River in Palawan
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Underground river in Pureto Princesa, Palawan
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Baracuda Lake, Coron, Palawan
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A Barangay Clearance is NEEDED in order to get a Business License.
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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

Malaysian tourism ministry supports Kudat-Palawan RO-RO ferry

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- Malaysia’s tourism, culture and environment ministry expressed full support to the PHP125-million Kudat-Palawan roll-on, roll-off ferry service that is expected to open in Buliluyan, Bataraza municipality in February 2018.

Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun of the Ministry of Tourism, Culture, and Environment (MTCE) said Thursday in The Borneo Post that he and his organization are in “full support of the initiative of the Palawan Provincial Governor, Jose Alvarez, to open the new sea link.”

The Borneo Post is an English daily newspaper in East Malaysia.

The assurance was given by Masidi who is positive that the ferry service will “enhance the relationship between Malaysia and the Philippines, particularly the province known as the ‘World’s Best Island’.”

“I am happy to note that the Kudat-Palawan ferry service is now set to start operation in February after a long wait,” Masidi was quoted by the newspaper.

He added that Alvarez’ determination is “a clear testimony of his desire to have a better working relationship with Malaysians, particularly Sabahans,” or residents of Sabah.

In reaction, Gil Acosta Jr., head of the Provincial Information Office of Palawan, welcomed Masidi’s support, saying the province is excited to see the Ro-Ro ferry service finally working next year.

“Actually, the maiden voyage was supposed to happen November this year but our counterpart begged off because their preparation is still ongoing. With its opening, the dream of having a share of our nearest neighboring country’s tourist influx will become a reality,” Acosta said Thursday morning.

He added the new sea link will not only contribute to Palawan’s tourism industry growth but also commerce and trade, as well as create jobs for residents of the province.

In interviews, Alvarez has always projected an influx of three million tourists to Palawan in the next five years via the Ro-Ro ferry service project formed under the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA).

“Kota Kinabalu has only one UNESCO World Heritage Site, and that is its mountain. Palawan, on the other hand, has the Puerto Princesa Underground Rive and the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, and more natural sights -- so, this ferry service will definitely give our tourism industry a boost, and residents could benefit from this,” Acosta added.

The agriculture industry will also benefit, with Del Monte getting the opportunity to ship products to Malaysia, he said.

“Our goat raisers would now have a market because there is a big demand for goat meat there, and also our coconut growers. As you know Malaysia has a big market for coconut and its derivatives,” Acosta stressed.

The expansion project of the Port of Buliluyan specifically involves the construction of a perpendicular platform at the tip of the existing port and a loading/unloading dock for Ro-Ro vessels. Additional facilities will also be installed for efficient port operations.

Eventually, Acosta said the port would also link to various sites in Palawan, all the way to Luzon.

“What is being ironed out right now, as far as I know, is the land ride, where residents or tourists who own cars can travel via the Ro-Ro ferry service,” he said.

8 south Palawan municipalities under state of calamity

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- All the eight municipalities in southern Palawan were placed under state of calamity on Wednesday afternoon by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan for the release of Quick Response Funds (QRF) amounting to PHP35 million.

The state of calamity declaration covers the municipalities of Aborlan, Narra, Brooke’s Point, Sofronio Española, Rizal, Quezon, Bataraza, and Balabac, where Mangsee is located.

Mangsee Island is the hardest hit barangay by Tropical Storm Vinta.

Board Member Leoncio Ola said they convened in a special session to approve the declaration that in turn would authorize Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (PDRRMC) chairman and Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez to utilize the QRF to help the victims of tropical storms Vinta and Urduja.

The declaration came as the number of fatalities and missing persons continue to rise following the arrival of disaster response teams on Mangsee Island Wednesday afternoon.

To date, death toll due to “Vinta” has climbed to around 30 but the number is still being confirmed, said Provincial Information Office (PIO) chief Gil Acosta Jr.

On Tuesday, 8 people were reported killed by the storm.

“The official, verified, and documented casualty count is 11 and 27 missing, per PDRRMO (Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office). However, our sources from the ground, Rescue 165 and other line agencies, are saying casualty numbers going up more or less 22-30 dead, still verifying (the) actual numbers because some were already buried during the first few days of tragedy and were not documented. Our people are doing documentation still plus search and rescue,” Acosta said.

The 11 deaths had been identified by the PDRRMO as Meradz Kanaing, MuzaSahi, and Aliya Abdulmutti, who were in their teens; Daddy Timiong, eight-month old Baby Kasim, Romeo Tarsina, Felix Polingtan, and Nonoh Fraginal.

Three other bodies had been recovered but still unidentified, based on its record.

Richchristopher Magbanua, head of Rescue 165, who flew to Mangsee on Tuesday, stated that what happened to Mangsee was sad as their team immediately proceeded to retrieve several bodies seen floating in the waters off the island barangay.

Meanwhile, the provincial government also launched Wednesday the “Operation Tabang Casimanua” to help the residents of Mangsee. The Cuyunon words mean “to provide help to people in the community.”

The relief project hopes to collect used clothes, food (preferred are those easy to cook like noodles, canned goods, energy bars), water, undergarments, and even spare kitchen utensils from kind-hearted Palaweños.

Reef Fish Juveniles donated by China arrive in Palawan


Some 50,000 fingerlings of coral trout (Plectropomus leopardus) from hatcheries in Hainan, China were delivered in Taytay, Palawan on Friday, December 22, while another set of 50,000 fingerlings arrived in Davao the following Tuesday, December 26.

The delivery of the 5-6 inch fingerlings of the expensive "suno" (local name of coral trout) is part of the first batch of mariculture stock donations for the Philippines culminating from the bilateral Philippine-China Joint Committee on Fisheries.

The fingerling importation will be spread in the next three years, a Philippine government source said.

Fingerlings take eight months in fish cages before achieving "plate size" weight which is marketable in restaurants in Hong Kong, Macau, and Shanghai, a source at the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) which maintains conservation projects in Northern Palawan said.

The high value fish is fed "trash-fish" during this growth period, raising concern among environmentalists and food security advocates. "Trash-fish" is an industry term for second class fish catch that is actually fit for human consumption.

Live Reef Fish Industry

The live reef fish trade generates an annual value of US$810 million, according to a study commissioned by the Asian Development Bank.

Considered a boom-and-bust industry by economists and scientists, the trade which originated in Coron, Palawan in the 1970s has fanned out across equatorial waters in Asia and has reached Northern Australia, according to an extensive report for the United States Agency for International Development.

In the Philippines, the live reef fish trade is regulated by two contrasting laws. The Philippine Fisheries Code allows the export of live reef fish reared from state certified hatcheries, but prohibits the export of live fish caught from the wild.

The Local Government Code however, gives leeway to municipalities to self-regulate fishery in municipal waters and allow inter-regional transshipment of live fish between the provinces and Manila. Some local government units like Puerto Princesa and El Nido have an existing live reef fish trade ban.

Overfished Palawan Seas

To date, there are no viable hatcheries for the highly targeted live fish species in Palawan, Sulu, and Zamboanga.

To prevent a decline in the number and size of live reef fish captured in Palawan, the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD, a national regulatory agency for Palawan's environment) has implemented a seasonal fishing regulation of specific fish species that are experiencing pressure from the trade.

The current regulation provides two seasonal windows for live fish capture (January to June, and September to October) alternating with two no-take periods.

The government measure has drawn criticism from key industry movers and subsistence fisherfolk who have become dependent on the high value transactions for targeted species. Live reef fish commands a value of P2,000 per kilogram in Northern Palawan.

These are sold to high-end consumers at US$100 per kilogram in traditional restaurants in Hong Kong where they are kept alive in display aquariums until they are steamed or poached, table-side.

The donation of juvenile stocks from Hainan is expected to ease pressure on natural spawning grounds of live reef fish species and assure continuity of livelihood activities of fisherfolk involved in the trade at grassroots level, a PCSD official said.

On hand to welcome the donation at Santa Cruz Port in Taytay, Palawan were officials of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR MIMAROPA), Palawan Council for Sustainable Development, Provincial Government of Palawan, and local governments of Taytay and San Vicente municipalities in northern Palawan.

The shipment left Hainan, China on December 14, but was reportedly delayed by rough seas due to typhoon Urduja (international code "Kai-Tak).

10 rebel returnees in Palawan get livelihood aid

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- Ten members of the New People’s Army (NPA), who surrendered in Palawan, received PHP25,000 each in livelihood assistance under the provincial government’s Local Social Integration Program (LSIP).

Governor Jose Alvarez and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Western Command (WESCOM) awarded the assistance to the surrenderers in a simple ceremony at the Governor’s Office at the capitol last Dec. 21, said Capt. Cherry Tindog, WESCOM spokesperson on Tuesday.

Of the 10 beneficiaries, three were women. Most of the former rebels surrendered last September, following the conduct of focused civil and military operations, particularly in southern Palawan.

“I left the revolutionary movement for quite some time now. I surrendered as I want to clear my name because I was told I am in the military’s order of battle. Without surrendering, I still feel I am not free to roam around. I constantly worry about my safety,” said Rico Libuna, a former NPA fighter who surrendered last July 28.

A total of 26 more rebel returnees are being processed by the WESCOM and the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office and will receive livelihood assistance, Tindog added.

Relief on its way to devastated Mangsee Island in Palawan

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- Relief mission of the provincial government sailed from this city Tuesday morning to the heavily affected islands of Mangsee, Balabac town, which was badly battered by tropical storm “Vinta” on Christmas Eve.

Palawan Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (PDRRMO) officer-in-charge Cruzaldy Ablaña told local media that the relief missions are carrying food and non-food items to Mangsee in the far south west portion of Palawan, which is home to more than 10,000 residents.

Medical personnel also joined the relief mission.

The medical team and the relief goods boarded BRP Andres Bonifacio (FF-17) of the Philippine Navy going to Balabac.

“Mga 6:30 a.m. sila nakaalis sa pier kanina kasi kagabi hindi natapos iyong loading ng mga goods. They are expected to arrive in Mangsee around 6 p.m. today (They were unable to finish loading the items last night that is why they decided to leave this morning instead),” Ablaña said. Estimated travel time will be six to eight hours, he added.

The mission is headed by Western Command (WESCOM) commander, Lt. General Rozzano Briguez, Vice Governor Dennis Socrates, and Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez.

Alvarez has ordered the distribution of one sack of rice per affected family, as well as liters of drinking water, and canned goods enough to last for over a week, Ablaña said.

With communication lines down in Mangsee, relief authorities have mostly relied on WESCOM for updates using satellite phones to contact military troops stationed in the area, he said.

“Per aerial survey by WESCOM, you will really see the devastation brought about by ‘Vinta’. An estimated 100 homes were destroyed and without roofs, and debris are everywhere,” he said.

Based on a PDRRMO update, 11 municipalities were affected by “Vinta” in Palawan. Around 2,178 families or 7,289 individuals were evacuated and most are residents of Balabac. Of the 30 reported missing, 11 have been accounted for as of Tuesday.

China donates 100,000 ‘suno’ fingerlings for Palawan, Davao

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- Around 50,000 of the 100,000 leopard trout (suno) fingerlings, which Palawan and Davao will share as donation from the People’s Republic of China’s Ministry of Agriculture, are expected to arrive on Friday in Taytay, northern Palawan.

Palawan’s share will be transported to Taytay via MV Good View 18 that will dock in the port of Sta. Cruz.

“Davao’s share, which is also 50,000 red grouper fingerlings, will also be transported there. I am just not aware when this will be,” Glenda Cadigal of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff (PCSDS) said Wednesday afternoon.

Palawan’s share will be distributed between the municipalities of Taytay that will receive 30,000 fingerlings, and San Vicente that will get 20,000.

To institutionalize the donation, a memorandum of agreement will be signed among the provincial government of Palawan headed by Governor Jose Alvarez, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), Coron PH-CH Aquaculture Corporation and private sector representatives, she said.

“This is also an offshoot of President Rodrigo Duterte’s China visit, where various forms of bilateral agreements such as fisheries and marine resources cooperation were forged through a memorandum of understanding,” Cadigal added.

The move is an assistance to Filipino fishermen, which is expected to ease pressure on “suno” being caught from the wild.

Palawan ready to be divided into 3 provinces

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- Members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) here have agreed it is the right time to begin the process of dividing Palawan into three provinces to open more tourism opportunities and speed up delivery of basic social services to the people.

The resolution, final version of four merged proposals and was approved by the SP on December 12, awaits the signature of Governor Jose Alvarez next year, said Board Member Cherry Pie Acosta on Wednesday morning.

“There were actually four proposals that included mine. It was about clustering the municipalities to establish three provinces, and it was united with the rest and was approved unanimously,” Acosta said.

Under the resolution, the three provinces would be called Northern, Southern, and East Central Palawan.

The municipalities of Aborlan, Narra, Brooke’s Point, Sofronio Española, Quezon, Rizal, Balabac, and Bataraza will not be broken down, and will remain as part of Southern Palawan.

Kalayaan in the West Philippines Sea, which is near Southern Palawan, will also be included in the proposed Southern Palawan province.

“Since Kalayaan officials said they are nearer the town of Quezon in the south, we’re opting to include it in the Southern Palawan cluster,” Acosta said.

Northern Palawan, on the other hand, will be composed of Taytay, El Nido, Coron, Linapacan and Busuanga.

The towns of Roxas, San Vicente, Dumaran, Cuyo, Agutaya, Magsaysay, and Cagayancillo, which used to be part of Northern Palawan, are being proposed to comprise the East Central Palawan province.

“These municipalities have tourism and agriculture potentials, and bringing them together in one province would be beneficial in the long run,” Acosta added.

Acosta said once the governor signed the approved SP measure, it would be forwarded to the three House representatives of Palawan - Reps. Gil Acosta Sr., Eric Abueg, and Franz Chicoy Alvarez.

“It’s still going to involve a lot of process, a lot of work – more consultations will be done; there will be a referendum maybe in 2019 or 2022 – but we’re ready to work hard for this,” she said.

She said the division is also being eyed to ensure that government leadership would be much closer to the people living in small and isolated areas.

“Imagine, there is an area in Coron called Tara that is already near Mindoro and I cannot even go there sometimes as it’s far. Sometimes, I also don’t want to go because what will I do? Just shake hands with them and give them nothing as funds are limited?” she said.

With more public officials to lead, services will be brought nearer to residents living in distant areas. At least three governors, three vice governors and 30 board members would share in bringing economic growth to the clustered areas, she said.

It will be destined too, for Federalism, which is being backed by “no other than President Rodrigo Duterte.”

“Instead of joining the proposed MIMAROPA state, we can be one federal state, and, hopefully by then, we are already three provinces,” she said.

Relief, clearing ops ongoing in Puerto Princesa

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan – Relief and clearing operations are ongoing here in the wake of tropical depression “Urduja”, said the head of the City Disaster Risk Reduction Managemen Office (CDRRMO) on Tuesday morning.

CDRRMO head Earl Timbancaya said both operations would continue until evacuated families are all able to go back to their homes, and roads and waterways had been emptied of rubble.

At the height of “Urduja” onslaught Monday morning, 152 families were displaced, 13 barangays were under floodwaters, roads were rendered impassable, and classes were cancelled.

Of the total number of relocated families, 100 were evacuated from low-lying areas of Barangay Tiniguiban, a university community in Puerto Princesa and 40 from Barangay Sicsican, a known vegetable-growing area.

As of press time, only 20 families from Tiniguiban remain in the temporary shelters. The evacuees were brought to the city coliseum and their barangay halls.

Puerto Princesa Mayor Lucilo Bayron had ordered the CDRRMO through the City Social Welfare and Development Office to take care of the food needs of the evacuees, said Timbancaya.

The CDRRMO situation report also logged two landslides in Barangays Napsan and Langogan, but Timbancanya said no one was reported trapped nor injured.

A bridge in Sitio Busngol, Barangay Sta. Lourdes was also washed out by the flood. The said bridge connects the small village to Sta. Lourdes main, he said.

The City Engineering Office had sent a team to the area to assess the situation and see how villagers can be helped, said the CDRRMO chief.

As of 9:40 a.m. Tuesday, Urduja’s heavy rains hit southern Palawan, where the provincial office of the Department of Education (DepEd) already cancelled classes in all levels.

“Classes in all levels are now suspended in Aborlan, Balabac, Narra, Brooke’s Point, and Sofronio Española,” said DepEd-Palawan spokesperson Daisy Anne Atrero.

In Bataraza, the last mainland municipality in the southern area of the province, Capt. Wanel Ansa, environment unit and civil affairs officer of the Marine Battalion Landing Team 4, said the Barangay Sumbiling Road going to Barangay Buliluyan is inaccessible.

Buliluyan is where the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) is currently rehabilitating and expanding port facilities for the trade route between Palawan and Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia under the BIMP-EAGA.

In northern Palawan, Provincial Information Officer Gil Acosta Jr. said Governor Jose Alvarez already ordered Monday afternoon the delivery of food support to affected homes in Barangays Caramay and Aporawan in the flood-prone town of Roxas.

Acosta added the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (PDRRMO) has been conducting relief operations since Monday in the Calamianes Islands Group and Cuyo Islands.

Comelec to set up more special poll places for IPs

By Ferdinand Patinio (PNA)

MANILA – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is planning to put up more special polling places for indigenous people (IPs), particularly in Bulacan and Puerto Princesa, for the May 2018 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections.

Comelec Commissioner Luie Guia said they are looking at establishing polling places for IPs in some barangays in the cities of San Jose del Monte in Bulacan and Puerto Princesa in Palawan.

"We are expanding the coverage of accessible polling places sa Mindoro and we will also be doing that in other provinces as well, particularly a number of barangays in Bulacan and Puerto Princesa," said Guia, head of Comelec Committee on Accessible Voting for Vulnerable Sectors.

Guia added that the areas were selected because of the large number of IP population qualified to become registered voters.

"We asked around which areas have recorded substantial numbers of IPs," he said.

The poll body official added that the additional polling places for IPs are apart from the places used in the pilot testing in Mindoro Occidental and Oriental during the May 2016 national and local elections.

"We want to make sure that the electoral processes will be accessible to as many qualified Filipinos as we can as there will be more accessible polling places," Guia said.

He added, "One of the biggest problems (of IPs) is their access to elections, especially those naturally living in far-flung communities. So we are the ones going to them."

In the last national polls, the Comelec has created 18 separate polling places (SPPs) and five accessible voting centers (AVCs) in 21 barangays in Mindoro Occidental and Oriental, where there are a total of 2,884 registered IP voters.

SPPs refer to the polling places established in existing voting centers, where qualified IP voters shall cast their votes.

On the other hand, AVCs are the newly-established voting centers located nearer to the communities of the qualified voters, where they shall cast their votes.

Poll body records show that there are about 100,000 registered IP voters nationwide.

AFP beefs up security in Palawan ahead of CPP anniversary

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- The Armed Forces of the Philippines here has reinforced its security preparedness and readiness ahead of the December 26 anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

“It’s standard operating procedure, but in southern Palawan, we will be focusing on the municipality of Brooke’s Point. Right now, this town seems to be where the NPA (New People’s Army) rebels are seeking shelter from their supporters in the communities,” said Lt. Col. Danilo Facundo, commanding officer of the Marine Battalion Landing Team and head of the Joint Task Group South, on Monday morning.

The NPA is the armed wing of the CPP.

From the town of Bataraza, where run-ins with the NPAs happened since last March, the insurgents are now hiding in the precipitous areas of Brooke’s Point, Facundo told the Philippine News Agency.

“There will be a meeting with Mayor Mary Jean Feliciano and the members of the Municipal Peace and Order Council (MPOC) for us to update them on the lingering presence of the NPA in Brooke’s Point,” he added.

Facundo stressed that if left unresolved, the insurgency problem in the municipality can "turn really serious to slow down its development."

Brooke's Point is a developing first-class municipality located 219.5 kilometers via the Puerto Princesa South Road.

Lt. Col. Bill Pasia, commanding officer of the Marine Battalion Landing Team 12, also expressed preparedness and readiness against the NPAs in northern Palawan.

“Our security alertness against the NPA is always heightened, especially because their anniversary is approaching,” Pasia said.

Both ranking officials of the Marines in Palawan said joint military forces are always on alert even before the government tagged the NPA as a terrorist organization following the collapse of the peace talks.

Beached whale rescued, herded back to sea in Palawan

By Ruth Rodriguez (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- A 15-foot whale was eventually pulled back into the sea Saturday afternoon after a team of environment, maritime, and coast guard authorities spent several hours to rescue it in Honda Bay here.

The large whale, suspected to be either a Bryde’s or Omura’s, was trapped on the sandy beach of Luli Island, a popular island spot in the said bay in Barangay Sta. Lourdes.

Vivian Obligar-Soriano, senior ecosystems management specialist of the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office, said joint teams from the PNP-Maritime Special Operations Unit, Philippine Coast Guard, local Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff safely herded the whale back to a deeper part of the waters of the bay shortly before 2:30 p.m.

“We successfully released it back to the deeper part of the bay, and we didn’t see it again. We requested these authorities to keep a close watch on the marine mammal so, that when it comes back we can do something,” Soriano told the Philippine News Agency (PNA).

The shallow area on Luli Island, where it was shoved by waves and trapped, was cordoned off to keep away people from the place during the rescue.

She added that the wounds that were spotted on the tail of the whale were not serious and that it was strong enough to swim away after its rescue.

“Its wounds were superficial; it probably got them when its tail hit the sands and some rocks on the island due to low-tide,” she said, adding they are now clarifying the species of the whale to the Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines.

The latest stranding was the fifth recorded in Palawan this year. The first one said to be a 7-footer pygmy sperm whale was stranded in the northern municipality of Roxas in April.

PAL to charter flights from Xiamen, China to Palawan in 2018

By Keith Anthony Fabro (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- Flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) will start chartering passengers from Xiamen, China to Palawan via the Puerto Princesa City International Airport in February 2018, Mayor Lucilo Bayron announced Monday.

Bayron said PAL would bring 187 tourists from Xiamen, a coastal city in Fujian Province in China, on February 10, 14, and 18 next year.

“It falls under their celebration of Chinese New Year. Probably, we’ll tie up with the Chinese community here to make their stay worthwhile,” the mayor added.

Only last week, the Puerto Princesa mayor said Philippine consulate officials invited travel agency representatives from China to visit for business matching.

“There were three groups: the two visited Boracay and Bohol, while the other one with the largest number of contingent of travel agency representatives came over here,” he said.

The mayor added that the visit would hopefully bring more chartered flights from China.

Data from the Department of Tourism show that Chinese nationals placed fourth in the top 20 countries, who visited Puerto Princesa in 2015. American, Taiwanese and Korean came first, second and third, respectively.

239 complete veggie program in Puerto Princesa

By Rio N. Araja

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY—Vegetables farmers, 4Ps beneficiaries and college students from 29 barangays in Puerto Princesa and the municipalities of Aborlan and Roxas, 239 beneficiaries in total, recently completed their training under SM Foundation’s Kabalikat sa Kabuhayan rural farming program here.

The culminating activity started with the Harvest Festival, where the fresh produce was sold to interested buyers. Activities that showcased the talents of the participants, a cooking contest featuring the vegetables harvested, and games were also held.

The KSK Farmers’ Training Program is a social responsibility program of SM that aims to provide sufficient vegetables for marginalized farmers and an alternative means of livelihood. After the training, participants are more knowledgeable with the latest technologies in farming, and equipped with basic skills to help them become entrepreneurs.

Present during the graduation ceremony were SM Puerto Princesa supermarket store managers Jhungie Analista and Adlyn Gonzalo; Palawan Research and Experimental Station OIC Librada Fuertes; head of provincial links Gray Bediores of the provincial social welfare office; City Councilor Victor Oliveros; and Provincial Coordinator for Sustainable Livelihood Amado Arce.

The KSK program was previously in Balo-I, Lanao del Norte, which saw 236 attendees and guests during its launching at Barangay Nangka, hoping to give alternative livelihood to residents who have evacuated from Marawi City during the recent six-month siege there.

Present at the launch were Rep. Abdullah Dimaporo, 2nd District of Lanao del Norte, and Hon. Mapantas Mala, Barangay Nangka Chairman, together with the Balo-i Municipal Agriculturist, Provincial Social Welfare staff, and the Provincial Government staff of Lanao del Norte.

HarBest Agribusiness Corp. President Arsenio “Toto” Barcelona was also present to brief the participants of the training they received, with program partners from SM CDO Uptown and Downtown Premiere.

China donation to light up Antique, Palawan communities with solar-street lamps

By Jonathan L. Mayuga

CHINA is donating close to 3,000 units of solar-powered LED street light and a home solar-power system to communities in the province of Antique and the town of El Nido in the province of Palawan, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said.

Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu and China’s Zhang Young, vice chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the grant of solar-energy devices to Antique and El Nido, Palawan.

The MOU signing was held in Malacañan Palace during the recent visit of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to the Philippines.

In a statement, Cimatu said the signing of the MOU strengthens mutual trust and cooperation between the Philippines and China, particularly in the area of climate-change adaptation and mitigation.

The project is expected to benefit “off-the-grid” communities not reached by electricity or those with no street-lighting facility.

At the same time, the donation from the Chinese government will help promote the use of renewable energy in local communities to mitigate climate-change impacts, Cimatu added.

“We hope that through this agreement, we will be able to promote renewable energy in the far-flung areas in the Philippines and reduce carbon emissions,” Cimatu said.

Under the MOU, the DENR is tasked to oversee the delivery of 2,117 units of solar-powered street light and 769 units of a household solar-power system to the beneficiaries.

In Antique a total of 100 barangays, or 116,080 individuals, will benefit from 1,562 units of solar LED street light, while 151 barangays, or 179,848 individuals, will gain from 769 units. A total of 555 units of solar LED street light will be distributed to six barangays in El Nido, with 7,025 residents expected to benefit from the donation.

The DENR agreed to assume all the taxes and other cost arising for the goods entering Philippine territory, and for clearance, delivery and transportation of goods once they arrive. The agency will also supervise the installation of the devices and provide training for technical staff.

Palawan's chainsaw Christmas tree tells a story

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- In an unobtrusive extent of Barangay Bancao-Bancao in this city, where almost every home and building structure remains green with grass and rich vegetation, a rare two-storey high Christmas tree stands waiting to be decked with indigenous kerosene lamps will come alive on December 19.

Standing more than 25-feet tall over rusting impounded tricycles and corroding fishing vessels used to transport illegally cut lumbers and logs, and other scrap metals, the Christmas tree is special as it is made up of 86 chainsaws out of nearly a thousand that were confiscated by the Palawan NGO Network, Inc. (PNNI) over a course of 10 years.

The seemingly petrifying installation, mounted on the ground and reinforced with safety braces, never fails to catch the eye of the passersby and pique their curiosity for the last ten years since it was put up.

And this is a good thing as the Christmas tree tells a story.

“The chainsaws just got too many. They got so many, they were taking up so much space. Every year, we put up a Christmas tree made up of chainsaws and eventually, it got tedious to take down every January then put it up again every December,” said lawyer Bobby Chan, head of the PNNI, to the Philippines News Agency (PNA) Wednesday morning.

Chan said that at first, putting the giant chainsaw Christmas tree has no special reason except the fact that many are devout Catholics among the PNNI staff, who thought it was a great idea to save space.

“Eventually, it became the best information, education, and communications campaign material that we have in Palawan. It may not be perfect, it may not be a pretty picture to have but it’s the best storyteller of what goes on in our forest,” he said.

When people go to the PNNI office, which also serves as a “museum” of all confiscated items employed to abuse the environment, they always ask what the Christmas tree symbolizes.

Chan tells them: “It symbolizes a paradox that we are the last frontier and yet, illegal logging is unhampered in our forests.”

Even with the Chainsaw Act of 2002, which strictly prohibits the use of unregistered chainsaws, he said illegal logging in Palawan is still unstoppable.

“It’s not making a dent. Outside the city, there are around 3,000 chainsaws running loose. I only have a thousand, maybe there are 2,000 more unregistered,” he added.

For Gilbert Padul, PNNI’s para-enforcer for the Taytay-El Nido-Linapacan area, seeing the Christmas tree made up of confiscated chainsaws spells “hope” for Palawan’s forests not only during Christmas time.

Because it is never taken down, and is always there all year-round, it continues to jog his memory that people in Palawan should be passionate in guarding their forests for the next generations to come.

“Ang simbolo niyan sa aking iyong tagumpay sa paghuli namin sa gubat sa mga nag-iillegal logging. Nasasayahan ako na nababawasan ang mga ginagamit nilang chainsaw para putulin ang mga puno at may pag-asa pa ang ating mga gubat (It symbolizes our triumph against those who were cutting trees illegally. It makes me feel happy that we’re able to diminish the numbers of chainsaws that they are using to cut trees and that there is hope for our forests),” Padul explained.

On December 19 at 5 p.m., the PNNI that was formed by mainstream NGOs and people’s organizations (PO) in the city and province will illuminate the chainsaw Christmas tree with native kerosene lamps in celebration of the Yuletide Season and another year of success of helping protect Palawan’s environment.

The event will also feature a press conference where the PNNI is expected to make a report about the state of Palawan’s environment.

Puerto Princesa hotel helps promote Palawan culture, nature

By Jamaine Punzalan (ABS-CBN News)

PUERTO PRINCESA -- Hue Hotels and Resorts Palawan, the latest addition to Puerto Princesa City’s tourism landscape, has partnered with the local community to promote natural and cultural attractions while providing top-grade amenities to guests.

Dubbed “City of the Living God,” Puerto Princesa boasts of untouched forests, white sand beaches and diverse wildlife -- all of which are reflected in the hotel's interiors.

Run by Hospitality Innovators, Inc., Hue welcomes visitors at an open-air lobby that sits beside a garden, where the twitter of birds echo.

Wood carvings of the endemic “balinsasayaw” bird decorate the lobby’s walls while the floor feature a pattern symbolizing the mangroves abundant in the city.

Hue’s 122 rooms are also splashed with local touches like vibrant mats handwoven by Palaweño single parents and students; baskets filled with calamansi juice, rice coffee, cashew and tamarind candy; and gifts of pearls, sungkaan and straw hats for VIP guests.

Boasting an unobstructed of the city, the hotel’s roof deck pool, meanwhile, is a riot of color inspired by fiestas.

Hue owner-developers, brothers Dennis and Dexter Lee, envisioned the hotel’s “glocal” architecture, which merges a modern vibe with local elements, general manager Chris Guballa told ABS-CBN News.

The glocal roots of Hue, Guballa added, extend to its efforts to foster the livelihood of locals and protect the environment.

Majority of the hotel staff are Palaweños. Hue has also partnered with the Trade department to hold weekend bazaars for local crafts. It has also refrained from serving bottled water, relying instead on a reverse osmosis system that purifies water.

“We are continuously trying to innovate, trying to embed ourselves in the local community. That's one of our advocacies here,” said Guballa.


Hue also assists guests in visiting tourist spots that are more accessible compared to the famous underground river, which is about an hour and a half’s drive away from the city center.

During a tour with the media, Hue brought ABS-CBN News to an evening boat cruise along Iwahig River.

There, the only illumination come from stars, and the flocks of fireflies that light up when hit by the flashlight of tourist guides rowing the boats. The boatmen also treat guests to lessons on constellations and the glowing bugs.

Initially developed by the ABS-CBN Foundation, the Iwahig firefly watching station eventually became a joint project with the local government.

On the way there, tourists can drive by a chain of majestic mountain ranges open to hikers, as well as the Iwahig Penal Colony, a “prison without bars” where convicted offenders roam freely.


Hue's tour also included a picnic at Pandan Island, one of 16 islands at Honda Bay.

Managed by Legend Hotels, Pandan Island offers tourists snorkeling and diving activities that can be capped with a buffet of fresh seafood.

Thrillseekers can also drop by the nearby Splash islet, home to the Blob, an inflated giant pillow that catapults visitors up in the air and onto the sea.

If they are lucky, visitors can also catch a rare sight of the horseshoe crab, which can live for several decades and is known for its medicinal properties.


Puerto Princesa will also satisfy foodies.

Hue’s own Matiz Restaurant and Tapas Bar, operated by chef Gabby Prats, delights with its three-generation recipe of paella, thrice-cooked bagnet, boneless crispy pata, and ginataang santol, among others.

Tourists craving for noodles, crusty baguettes and coffee, meanwhile, can head to Viet Ville, a former Vietnamese refugee camp-turned-restaurant that is some 15 minutes away from Hue.

Also a short drive from the hotel is Baker’s Hill, a theme park sprinkled with snack houses and pens of peacocks. A bakery here sells tuyo pastillas and ube hopia while a small stall offers tamilok or woodworm in vinegar.

Travelers in Puerto Princesa also shouldn’t miss visiting the Palawan wildlife rescue and conservation center; the stunning hilltop view and zipline adventure at Mitra’s Ranch; the City Baywalk; and the famed Underground River, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

5 things you shouldn't miss when in Puerto Princesa

By Trishia Billones (ABS-CBN News)

Palawan is home to one of the 7 Wonders of Nature, the Puerto Princesa Underground River, whose limestone or karst landscape was described as "spectacular" by the UNESCO.

But during bad weather, tours to the undergound river are usually cancelled due to the big waves and strong winds.

Luckily, the adventures in the city is not limited to this ecotourism site, and here are a few of the things you can do while in Puerto Princesa.

1. Go island-hopping in Honda Bay

A 45-minute drive up north of the city would bring you to a small pier that can take you to the islets of Honda Bay, which boast of clear water and white sand beaches.

You can take a dip in the sea, snorkel and feed the fish, or even go scuba diving in these islands.

2. Visit the World War II Museum

History buffs will get their fix here, with photos and memorabilia from the time when Filipinos and Americans joined forces against the Japanese Army.

3. Try out exotic food

A trip to Palawan is never complete without feasting on local delicacies, such as tamilok (woodworm) and crocodile. Restaurants serve them grilled, fried, and made into sisig. Sounds icky, you say? Hold off judgment before you try it.

4. Refresh with some local beer

Palaweño Brewery, founded by the first female craft brewers in the country, makes the only craft beer in the entire province.

Ayahay beers, sold in local bars and available at tastings in their microbrewery, will quench your thirst with their selection that will have you craving for more when you return home.

5. Be awed by the fireflies and the tranquility of the Iwahig River

If you still feel overwhelmed by the busy city, take a step back and go on a boat ride and relish in the quietness of Iwahig River.

You'll be amazed by the luscious mangrove and the fireflies, which locals call their year-round Christmas lights, that you might forget to take photos -- like us.


In five years, you may expect the area around the city hall to be filled with thousands of local cherry blossom trees called "balayong." Residents planted about 1,200 seedlings earlier this year and the government said it is also planning to put up water parks, fitness centers, and children's playground in the area.

With these sights to see, it is no wonder a hotel in the Palawan capital would rather you go out and about rather than stay in your room.

Canvas Boutique Hotel, which is a short 2-minute drive from the airport, has everything you would need in an out-of-town accommodation minus the frills to give you the most value for your money.

They do not offer room service and would rather you go down to its restaurant, The Painted Table, to enjoy food with friends and family.

A different mural is painted in every room and every floor, telling the story of the island and enticing guests to enjoy the city outside its walls.

PRC to open field office in Puerto Princesa

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- The Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) is set to open a service center at the Robinsons Place Palawan here early next year.

“I am happy to announce that soon, our PRC-Service Center in Puerto Princesa City will open. I think early next year, there will already be personnel and staff who shall handle daily transactions,” Arnel Gagalac, Professional Regulation Officer III of the PRC, said Saturday.

The service center in Puerto Princesa will speed up transactions for the submission of applications and examination of graduates of courses governed by the PRC.

Gagalac said this would also mean convenience for Palawenyos, who no longer need to travel to Manila to renew their licenses.

The announcement was released following the start of the orientation of 48 individuals serving as room watchers for the Board Licensure Examination for Criminologists this weekend.

A total of 574 examinees are currently taking the licensure exam at the Palawan State University-Senior High School Buliding.

No let down in the fight against malaria in MIMAROPA


MANILA – Department of Health (DOH)-MIMAROPA (Oriental/Occidental Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan) Regional Director Eduardo C. Janairo strongly stated that there will be no let down in the fight for the elimination of Malaria in the region, especially in the province of Palawan during his speech at the 9th Malaria Congress held in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan on November 29, 2017.

“We have to strengthen our strategies and approaches in the elimination of malaria in the region. First, community intervention must be sustained such as regular cleanup drives and information dissemination activities; second, both public and private schools must be protected and fitted with Olyset-treated nets; and third, all individuals must be tested by blood to confirm whether an individual is a malaria carrier or not,” Janairo emphasized.

According to the 2017 Provincial Malaria Data of Palawan, the top five municipalities with the most number of cases are Rizal with 1,294; Balabac with 686; Bataraza, 656; Brooke’s Point, 360; Quezon, 142; and Puerto Princesa City with 91 cases.

From January 1 to November 30, 2017, there are a total of 3,360 positive cases out of the 146,256 patients tested in Palawan. A significant decrease of 45.21% from the 6,132 cases reported for the same period in 2016.

“This figure is a great improvement in our fight against malaria, but then again these are all figures. Data speaks but it does not mean anything unless you go down to the affected communities and personally see to it that there are no existing malaria cases,” Janairo added.

Marinduque in 2008 and Romblon in 2012 were the only two, out of five provinces in MIMAROPA, who were declared Malaria Free. Oriental Mindoro has zero case since 2012 and for assessment at the end of 2017. Palawan and Occidental Mindoro are still malaria endemic provinces but with remarkable decrease in cases noted since 2011.

“We will provide all support to attain our objective of eliminating malaria by 2020 or sooner. We will ensure that every resident of these affected municipalities will be malaria-free. We have all the studies, the data and the resources needed and we have already started implementing these strategies,” Janairo assured.

Palawan guv inks deal for turtle protected area network

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- Governor Jose Alvarez signed here Wednesday afternoon a memorandum of agreement (MOA) establishing the Philippine Marine Turtle Protected Area Network (PMTPAN) in Palawan.

The signing of the agreement was meant to set up a safe haven for marine turtles in the Sulu-Sulawesi Seascape, which is within the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act, said provincial information officer Gil Acosta Jr.

“This aims to have a sheltered sanctuary for marine turtles, which are considered to be endangered,” Acosta said.

The network will include the El Nido-Taytay Managed Resource Protected Area (ENTMRPA) and Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (TRNP) in the province for marine turtle conservation and protection.

According to the Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines (MWWP), five marine turtles are considered endangered and critically endangered in the country, needing utmost protection. Endangered are the green turtle (Chelonia mydas), loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta), olive ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea), and leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea).

The hawksbill sea turtle is the only critically endangered but has been observed to be thriving in the TRNP, according to its management.

“Named after their beak-like mouth that is used for crushing, biting and tearing off their favorite food – the sponges – hawksbills are otherwise highly valued for their shells,” said the TRNP.

“In Tubbataha, hawksbills are protected and happy. Divers observe these charismatic marine animals reaching into crevices of coraf reefs, searching for food and feeding on sponges, algae and marine invertebrates. In so doing, they free up space for settlement of other organisms, such as reef-building corals and support healthy reef growth,” added the TRNP.

The MOA signing was witnessed by Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer Felizardo Cayatoc, Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff Executive Director Nelson Devanadera and representatives of the GIZ-Sulu-Sulawesi Seascape Project and Conservation International.

Sports complex in Puerto Princesa undergoes upgrade

By Keith Anthony Fabro (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- City sports officials here ordered the temporay closure of the Ramon V. Mitra, Sr. Sports Complex (RVMSSC) to give way to its PHP79-million upgrading project.

Assistant City Engineer Aries Grande of the City Engineering Office (CEO) said Tuesday afternoon that the provisional closure came following the project upgrade groundbreaking ceremony held in the area on December 2 by Cebu 7H Technochem Industries, Inc.

He said part of the improvements that would be done in the sports complex is the installation of blue synthetic track oval surface and suspended interlocking flooring for basketball and volleyball courts, the placing of outdoor fitness equipment, rubber flooring, and arch entrance.

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and the International Basketball Federation (IBF) reportedly approved the rubberized track oval and the outdoor basketball flooring.

Grande quoted Mayor Lucilo Bayron during the groundbreaking, saying “the facility will further promote physical fitness among the public while serving as training ground for city athletes.”

“It will encourage the public to exercise and get fit,” he said.

He added that currently, the track oval surface is already flaking, which might cause runners to stumble.

“As you can see during late afternoons, many of our residents are using the facility, especially the track, even if it really needs improvement,” he said.

The City Sports Complex would be closed until the project’s target completion set on August 29, 2018.

However, the engineer said its oval track could be opened much earlier to the public once its improvement is finished.

The facility was last refurbished in 2008.

Puerto Princesa locals asked to explore agri-tourism

By Keith Anthony Fabro (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- The City Tourism Department (CTD) is urging community residents and tourism-related establishments here to take up agricultural tourism in a bid to meet the growing food demand.

Aileen Cynthia Amurao, chief of the CTD, said Monday afternoon that there is limited supply of poultry and other meat products, particularly during the months of December to May.

“We heavily import meat products from Region 6 and Luzon. What if there’s a typhoon or a calamity and ships are prohibited to sail, where will we get our meat products?” Amurao asked.

She said the solution is for locals to set up backyard poultry and swine farms, as well as vegetable gardens in open spaces to make use of their free spaces.

“Grow something you can consume and sell for productivity’s sake,” she said.

Amurao cited in particular the fish cottages in Barangay Tiniguiban as examples of community-based sustainable tourism (CBST) focusing on agri-tourism.

“There’s an added value to it, like tourists can catch and feed fish and I really wanted to replicate it,” she added.

A slice of Africa in Palawan

By Nickie Wang

It was supposed to be a sunny island weekend trip. First day was a city tour to be capped by a therapeutic dip in the salt-water pools of Maquinit Hot Springs. The second day was an island hopping with a visit to Calauit Safari and Game Reserve as the first item in the itinerary. And the last day was a morning trek to Mt. Tapyas to witness the sunrise in Coron before we head back to Manila.

Apparently, Mother Nature wanted to have it her way and we mortals could only do so much about it.

It was in late October when our flight via SkyJet’s 80-seater, four-engine British Aerospace jet got delayed due to air traffic caused by Typhoon Odette. So our early afternoon city tour was replaced by a late lunch, which forced us to adjust our itinerary for the whole day.

It was raining when we left Sophia Garden Hotel, our host for our entire stay in Busuanga. Some 30-minute drive through unpaved dirt road, we reached the Maquinit Hot Springs. At 40 degrees, the water was not that easy to manage given the cold weather at the time of our visit. But once you get in, and your body got used to the temperature, all your troubles would vanish including the body pain caused by the bumpy ride going to the resort.

Maquinit Hot Springs, which is one of the few saltwater hot springs in the world, is a therapeutic bathing establishment with picnic ground facilities surrounded by mangrove trees. The water that flowed from the underground gets heated by a volcano and springs up into the two circular pools at the site. The water from these pools cascades into a bigger pool where visitors can actually swim (that is if they can bear the temperature). The flooring and walls of the pools are covered in pebbles giving it a natural feel.

Though it’s relaxing and therapeutic to soak your body in the warm tubs, staying in the pool longer than 30 minutes is not really advisable according to our guide. Hence, after spending some enough time bathing in the rain soaked in warm water, we left the resort to have dinner at the recently opened Roof Deck, a restaurant that offers local and foreign cuisine specifically adapted to neutral taste buds. The restaurant that offers food and cocktails is also managed by Sophia Garden Hotel.

While having our meal we were told that our call time the next day would be really early. It’s going to be packed breakfast for us because we have to leave the hotel before 6 a.m. to accommodate the itinerary for the entire day. “Don’t forget your rush guards,” reminded our tour guide.

Island safari

Some two-hour drive from our accommodation to the north-western coast of Busuanga, we reached the Calauit Island. We took a ten-minute boat ride from the small jetty port and crossed the calm waters to reach the park. It was already raining but the animals would still be roaming around regardless of the weather, assured our tour guide.

At the reception area, we were briefed on what to do and not to do while we’re with the animals.

“Always stay in a safe distance. They’ve got powerful and heavy legs and can kick you from any direction,” our tour guide said referring to the tallest residents of the safari.

The secluded Calauit Island is popular among tourists as the place where one finds exotic animals brought into the island from Kenya during the Martial Law era. Then President Ferdinand Marcos issued a proclamation that declared the 3,400 hectares of Calauit Island as a Game Preserve and Wildlife Sanctuary.

To “save them from extinction,” 104 feral African animals from eight species were transported to the island. Among them were 12 bushbucks, 11 elands, 11 gazelles, 15 giraffes, 18 impalas, 12 waterbucks, 10 topis, and 15 zebras.

“Most of these animals died out on the island. They were not able to adapt to the new environment. Only the reticulated giraffes, Grevy’s zebras, waterbucks and common elands remained,” said our guide.

Around a 100-meter walk from the island entrance, we were already greeted by some migratory birds from China. And a few steps more, we were already seeing zebras munching on the grass.

We got to feed the animals with leaves provided by our guides. We also observed some Philippine freshwater crocodile, the Philippine porcupine, freshwater turtles, leopard cats, the Palawan bearded pig and the Philippine macaque while they’re in their pens. But the real highlights of the tour were the giants famous for their height and their magnificent, spotted coat – the giraffes.

Today, there are 24 giraffes in the park and most of them are naturally born on the island. They are the third generation offspring of those giraffes that arrived in Calauit some four decades ago.

Although, the population of the animals that remained on the island is thriving, park staff appealed that maintaining the game reserve is getting challenging each year.

“Lack of funds is our biggest challenge. The park doesn’t even have its own veterinarian. We don’t have any trucks or vehicles to use around the area considering its vast size. The previous administration didn’t even know we’re here that’s why we’re hoping that the current president would pay us a visit just like what the other presidents did in the past,” a member of park staff told us.

Island staycation

After our tour around the safari park, we headed to the main port of the province for our island hopping activity. But the heavy rain and strong winds prevented us from even getting off the van we’re in.

“We have to go back to the hotel. It’s zero visibility and it’s too dangerous to sail out to sea,” Chef Francis Ocoma a.ka. Lakwatserong Kusinero.

Chef Ocoma is the Corporate Executive Chef of Sophia Garden Resort, which offered us a private paradise during the rest of our stay in Coron while the province was being battled by the tail end of typhoon Odette.

Right at the hotel resort, we dined boodle-style and al fresco, at one of the poolside cabanas feasting on the food Chef Ocoma prepared for us. And for the rest of our stay, we just lounged in the hotel’s multi-colored outdoor swimming pool and heated jacuzzi.

We didn’t do anything else after our last activity but we still had a grand time just swimming and eating in between. And just like what one of my colleagues said during our flight going to Manila, “This paradise is just 30 minutes away. There will always be a next time. Just don’t let bad weather turn your island paradise trip into the something stressful. “

DOH targets malaria-free Palawan by 2020

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- The Department of Health (DOH)-MIMAROPA is optimistic that the province of Palawan can attain its target of being malaria-free by 2020, said Regional Director Dr. Eduardo Janairo.

Janairo, who is in this city for the National Malaria Awareness Day-9th Malaria Congress, said Wednesday morning the province might already be malaria-free by next year because the DOH-MIMAROPA is certain to give “all out support” to attain the target.

“Yes, we hope we can achieve that. There is a possibility that it might be achieved, especially next year because we will give all the support. We don’t care whether fund is from foreign-assisted project or local-assisted project but MIMAROPA Region will do something about that. We will put funds into it,” Janairo told the Philippine News Agency.

The regional health director added it is about time “everybody should be worried about malaria” as the Philippines has experienced it for so many years.

“We have malaria for so many years… generations… hundreds of years… and until now, the focus that is given still seem minimal. The simple way to get rid of it is for people to mobilize themselves, and to maintain a clean environment,” he added.

It also has to be understood that malaria’s eradication can be partly caused by development or urbanization, he said.

“But we have to understand that malaria… its elimination is development, or urbanization. All areas in Manila used to have malaria in the past. But now it has almost zero malaria because the breeding areas are no longer conducive for them. Change of environment can cause removal of malaria,” he explained.

However, he said that in MIMAROPA, particularly in Palawan, there is no need to change the environment. The only need is for residents to keep them clean.

Janairo said malaria prevention methods that are due for implementation by the regional health office are the fitting of all public and private school windows with screens, and the regular conduct of airborne spraying of insect repellent compounds to control mosquito population.

The other prevention method is the conduct of blood testing or smearing for malaria parasite on all population to ensure they are disease-free, he furthered.

“You cannot say that a person has no malaria unless he/she is tested. Here in Palawan, if you think that a person has no malaria because he/she is not showing symptoms, you can still be wrong as there are asymptomatic cases,” Janairo stated, adding they have proven it.

“We have to test each and every inhabitant in Palawan for malaria, and the other provinces in MIMAROPA,” he stated.

According to Palawan’s control program Kilusan Ligtas Malaria (KLM), an estimated 53,451 cases of malaria with 85 deaths were recorded in 1999.

By 2014, the figure downgraded to 4,206 cases with five mortalities, but increased again to 7,437 in 2015 with 13 deaths. All would amount to 86 percent decrease in cases, and the same percentage in deaths.

From January to November this year, the KLM recorded again a 41 percent decrease or 3,400 cases out of 146,256 tested compared to the same period in 2016 that logged 6,136 cases.

The top five municipalities with the highest cases of malaria this year are Rizal with 1,294; Balabac with 686; Bataraza with 656; Brooke’s Point with 360 and Quezon with 142 – all in southern Palawan. In Puerto Princesa, 91 cases were still recorded.

No case has been documented in the municipalities of Busuanga, Culion, Coron, and Linapacan in the Calamianes Islands Group in the northern part of the province.

“Despite this, we still cannot say these towns are malaria-free. We need to validate,” Janairo said.

For the province’s malaria control program, eradication will no longer be a problem if residents stop health-seeking behavior or belief in traditional healers, poor compliance to diagnosis and treatment protocol, and self-medication.

Something must be done too, on language barrier, on the belief that malaria is a natural phenomenon and is God’s plan, and using different names during case surveillance.

PhilHealth to penalize delinquent employers in Palawan

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- The Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) in Palawan is set to penalize erring business establishments for delinquency in the mandatory enrollment of their workers, and under remitting and non-payment of contributions.

Marian Carlos, PhilHealth-Palawan member services officer and spokesperson, said Wednesday morning in a PIA-hosted “Kapihan” that these business employers were discovered by their mapping activities to be negligent of their obligations.

“We will now sanction those who are delinquent or non-compliant. We found out there were many, and there were also inactive accounts, or those that really closed. What we will do is just ask the City Licensing Office (CLO) for closure so we can tag them in our system,” Carlos said.

She added that the number of delinquent employers had actually decreased in Palawan, but those who remain delinquent had been identified and would be placed under dispute. “Last July, we had a forum, and there were really employers who have not remitted payments for years. Some were able to settle, but some actually refused to comply,” she said.

“Based on the guidance of our collection office in the region, we will now give sanction to delinquent employers. In those I am handling, there is one in Coron, and for legal action, around seven employers. In my estimate, they’re less than 50,” she added.

Seeking legal action means the blundering business establishments will be called by PhilHealth to explain their failure to comply. After this, a period will be agreed on when they can settle their arrears.

“If they do not settle within the agreed period of time, then there will be fines and penalties that PhilHealth will impose,” Carlos said. She also confirmed that PhilHealth is poised to increase its monthly premium in January 2018 to scale up its health programs.

The increase is based on the government health insurance company’s Circular No. ‎2017-0024 dated last September 11. Carlos said an increase of 2.75 percent would be imposed, or from PHP250 to PHP275 for employees receiving a PHP10,000 basic salary.

The increase will be shared by both employer and employee.