Palawan News February 2015

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Palawan - Archived News

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How to get the best out of the Malunggay
Moringa (Malungay) leaves compared to common foods
Values per 100gm. edible portion
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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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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

225 pregnant moms attend 1st Buntis Congress in Coron, Palawan

(PNA), RMA/CARF/LBC/PJN

CORON, Palawan, Feb. 28 (PNA) -- The first ever Buntis Congress held in this picturesque island town Friday registered the attendance of 225 pregnant mothers to the surprise of the Municipal Health Office (MHO).

“We were surprised there are many pregnant mothers in Coron. We were caught unaware, but this is a challenge to us and the municipal leadership to push forward their and their babies’ welfare,” said Dr. Marvin Masalunga of the MHO and the activity director.

”We ran out of kits and t-shirts to give away because we only prepared for 100 attendees. Around 225 attended,” Dr. Ivy Santa Cruz, said on the other hand.

Despite the minor problem, both doctors said the MHO and the municipal government are happy that pregnant mothers in Coron are taking time to be self-reliant on their maternal health.

The attendees were given lectures, health talk, and participated in an open forum with Coron ob-gynecologist Dr. Faith Crisostomo.

Most questions were about prenatal health on what contributes to blighted cognitive, motor, and behavioral development.

Crisostomo said that when pregnant women are not in their best health during the time they are expectant, their babies can be exposed to problems that would affect their health and development.

Being healthy, she reminded, is important for the well-being of unborn babies, and also after birth.

The use of prohibited drugs can also seriously affect the baby’s health, including the consumption of alcohol since the mother is doing everything for two.

Meanwhile, the unexpected number of attendees is owed to the hardworking barangay officials, who encouraged pregnant mothers in their areas to attend.

Mayor Clara Reyes said this only shows their great support to the program of the municipal government to protect the welfare of pregnant women.

She said Coron has many programs for expectant mothers, and their babies, and the only thing they should do is to support what is good for them through the MHO headed by Dr. Alan Guintapan.

The MHO, she added, also has a lying-in clinic, where pregnant mothers can be accommodated during delivery, and offers prenatal check-up and consultation to ensure that maternal health care is delivered. There is already a laboratory test unit too, that has a regular medical technician.

“We love all the pregnant mothers in Coron that is why we are doing everything for them. Our goal for 2015 is to reduce the maternal death rate, and we have set aside a fund to ensure that their welfare is not neglected,” Reyes said.

Ranking Japanese naval officer visits PHL Ulugan Bay facilities

(PNA), FPV/PFN

MANILA, Feb. 27 (PNA) -- The Philippine Navy (PN) on Thursday confirmed Friday that Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force chief Admiral Tomohisa Takei visited the Naval Forces West facility in Ulugan Bay, Palawan Wednesday.

Navy public affairs office chief Cmdr. Lued Lincuna said Takei's visit is aimed "strengthening bilateral relations and maritime cooperation in the region."

Ulugan Bay, located in the northwestern portion of Palawan, is where the PN is currently developing a base to better protect Philippine-occupied islands, shoals, and reefs in the disputed Spratly Island Group.

However, he said that the PN, at present, is not asking Japan for any assistance in beefing up the capabilities of its Ulugan Bay facility.

Takei arrived in the Philippines and met with his Filipino counterparts Wednesday for possible Navy-to-Navy interactions.

Such cooperation became possible after the Department of National Defense and Japan Ministry of Defense signed a new Memorandum of Defense Cooperation and Exchanges in January.

This was finalized during the visit of Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin in Japan on Jan. 29 to 31.

"His visit to Philippines is part of the exchange visits for 2015. This is his first visit to Manila and it is his introductory call also as the new chief of JMSDF," PN flag-officer-in-command Vice Admiral Jesus C. Millan earlier said.

Takei also visited the Armed Forces of the Philippines headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City where he was welcomed by AFP deputy-chief-of-staff Lt.Gen. Virgilio Domingo.

Discussed in the meeting was the PN hosting of the biennial Western Pacific Naval Symposium which is slated this April.

"Also discussed was promoting cooperation in maritime security using the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) and how will it be implemented at the tactical level to avoid unusual incidents," he added.

Millan also said possible humanitarian assistance and disaster relief cooperation and training was also tackled along with possible port visits of JMSDF ships.

"I also thanked him of their help and prompt assistance after Typhoon 'Yolanda'," he concluded.

Kalayaan town in West Philippines Sea ready to push forward tourism industry; buy steel boat this year

By Celeste Anna R. Formoso [(PNA), CTB/CARF/EDS]

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Feb. 26 (PNA) -- Although located in the disputed West Philippines Sea region, local government officials of the Kalayaan Island municipality are optimistic that they can successfully set up their tourism industry this year to bring economic growth to their constituents.

Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) during the commemoration of the 39th EDSA People Power Revolution anniversary Wednesday that Governor Jose Alvarez has given them a budget of P2 million for the construction of the Kalayaan Resource Center in Barangay Berong, Quezon in southern Palawan in addition to the budget that they have allocated this year.

“Later on, when our tourism industry begins, everything will take off from Berong because from there, travel to Pag-Asa Island is direct,” Bito-onon said, furthering that construction of the center has now started.

As of the moment, Kalayaan has hired a tourism point person, who is taking care of developing package tour products and services for domestic and foreign travelers.

“We have a hired a staff, who is now taking care of identifying tourism product packages and services that we can promote… for batch or group that wants to come here -- they can choose if they want to go by plane or by boat,” the mayor said, adding that traveling to Pag-Asa Island “by boat” will most likely the first thing they will do.

He disclosed that also this year, Kalayaan is set to buy a steel boat, and the P10 million for this will come from the Bottom-Up Budgeting (BUB) of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).

“We will buy maybe a small steel boat that is reliable, and this will at the same time be a hospital vessel, and can carry passengers to Kalayaan,” he said.

A program of work for lodging houses that can accommodate tourists is also now being prepared. But he did not elaborate.

“It is also okay to camp around here because it is safe on the island even during bad weather conditions,” he said.

On threats posed by the continued incursion of China into claimed territories by the country in the West Philippines Sea, the mayor very outspokenly said he no longer puts mind on them.

“I don’t take notice of them anymore. I don’t take notice of what they’re doing since for sure, no country would want to just threaten the lives of people… or kill them. Everyone wants every person in any country to live a normal life with good livelihood, and a peaceful world. I believe that one day, a solution will be found regarding this problem. While we’re still looking for a resolution, we need to prepare for the economic development of Kalayaan,” Bito-onon said.

He said also that as mayor, he is mandated to work for the development of their town for his constituents, and “developing Kalayaan’s tourism and fishing industries” are what he wants to do.

The design to eventually promote Kalayaan as a tourism destination is “backyard style,” according to Bito-onon.

“There is a group behind us… they are ham radio enthusiasts, and they are present in 120 countries, and they will put up a radio station here, and they plan to donate a repeater station from Puerto Princesa to Pag-Asa so, we will use handsets, and they will promote Pag-Asa to these countries. Every year, they will have an expedition for what they call is a technological competition,” he said.

The expedition means that ham radio enthusiasts will go to Kalayaan, and send out messages to the 120 countries for promotion like a contest on who can do this faster.

The ultimate dream, Bito-onon stated to the PNA, is to turn Pag-Asa Island into a bustling resort. He knows this will be hard, but with the right attitude, he believes that Kalayaan will attain the dream.

“Dreams don’t have timelines, only people have. Here there is an airport, there is a port; tourists can jump from island to island claimed by the Philippines, and we can develop some of our islands as resorts, but Pag-Asa will be the hub,” he added.

He stated sharply that Kalayaan is the territory of the Philippines, it is owned by the country, and as mayor, he has the responsibility to develop it for the residents.

”We have a vision for this place, and I am going to work it out whatever there is we can afford,” he said. Kalayaan has a budget of P58 million and 20% is their development fund, which is about P12 million.

Robinsons Palawan taps solar power

By Alena Mae S. Flores

Solar Philippines, one of the country’s solar power developers, is set to inaugurate a 1.2-megawatt solar power rooftop at Robinsons Place in Palawan next month.

The company said the 5,760 solar panels to be installed at the mall’s rooftop would have the capacity to power light fixtures, escalators and elevators.

It would also represent about 20 percent of the mall’s electric consumption and save around P1 million in electricity bill each month. Solar Philippines said the project would also avoid about 1,100 carbon emissions per year.

Solar Philippines president Leandro Leviste said in a statement the company wanted more businesses to use renewable energy to help save the environment.

“The days of having to choose between business and the environment are over,” Leviste said.

“Solar has gained the reputation of being expensive, not because of the technology, but because previous efforts were too small to benefit from economies of scale. By building the country’s largest projects, we’ve become the first local company to make solar cost-competitive with fossil fuel,” Leviste said.

Robinsons Land Corp. president Frederick Go said teaming up with Solar Philippines was in line with the company’s energy efficiency savings and conservation program.

“We are proactive in advocating the use of solar power not just to cut costs on electricity consumption, but to educate and influence our stakeholders about the long term benefit of solar power, both environmentally and economically,” Go said.

Leviste said by harnessing the sun’s power, the project would help alleviate the looming power crisis which was expected to impact the country this year.

“In the long run, our dream remains the same: to ensure a reliable, clean and reasonably-priced, power supply,” Leviste said.

He said aside from installing commercial projects, Solar Philippines also planned to make solar power available to Metro Manila homeowners by offering residential package rates.

Japan eyes naval exercises with Philippines

(Kyodo News)

MANILA - The commander of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force arrived in the Philippines on Monday for a four-day visit that includes meetings with defense and military officials, and a scheduled tour at a military camp close to the South China Sea, officials said Tuesday.

Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, public affairs officer of the Philippine military, said Adm. Tomohisa Takei first met with Lt. Gen. Virgilio Doming, deputy chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, on Tuesday morning and they "discussed concerns on maritime domain awareness and challenges" in the South China Sea.

Like the Philippines on the South China Sea, Japan is embroiled in territorial disputes with China over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

"They also expressed mutual interests in conducting bilateral naval exercises and disaster response operations in the future," Cabunoc said.

Takei later met with Philippine Defense Undersecretary Honorio Azcueta and with Philippine Navy chief Vice Adm. Jesus Millan.

According to Millan, Takei's visit is aimed at exploring "possible navy-to-navy interactions under the framework of the new memorandum on defense cooperation and exchanges between" the defense ministries of the Philippines and Japan signed in late January.

"What we discussed are more on future interactions to develop our capacity and capability, more on training, ship visits and technical assistance or consultations," Millan said.

They also tackled their participation in the Western Pacific Naval Symposium that the Philippine Navy will host in April 2015 in Manila, as well as their promotion of cooperation in maritime security using the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea.

Millan said he also thanked Takei for the help and prompt assistance of the Japan Self-Defense Forces to the Philippines after it was struck by super typhoon Haiyan in November 2013.

On Wednesday, Takei is scheduled to visit Philippine military camps on the central Philippine island of Palawan close to the South China Sea, where a number of reefs, atolls, shoals and islets are hotly contested by the Philippines and China, as well as Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Sources said Takei will go to the Armed Forces Western Command in the island's Puerto Princesa City, the Philippine Naval Forces Western Command in Ulugan Bay facing the South China Sea, and nearby Oyster Bay where another Navy facility is being developed.

Takei will end his Philippine visit on Thursday.

Japan is one of two strategic partners of the Philippines. The other is the United States.

Infra projects in Palawan gets boost from arrival of more heavy equipment

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

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Feb. 23 (PNA) -- Infrastructure projects in Palawan got another boost with the recent arrival of 78 brand new light and heavy equipment facilities purchased by the provincial government.

Provincial Information Officer Gil Acosta said Monday that the light and heavy equipment facilities were delivered on February 19 by a cargo vessel that directly came from China.

The first batch of 66 heavy equipment arrived in this city on January 6 from Japan, followed by the second with 69 on January 18, and the third with 50 on January 31 from Manila.

The fourth batch, he said, was composed of 18 units of 14T angle dozer for road openings; 23 units of 14T straight dozer for road widening; 10 units of 14T low ground pressure dozer that is perfect road support during the rainy season; and 27 units of 9.5T 6-way dozer for road maintenance and finishing.

Acosta said they expect that in March, 59 units of light-heavy equipment will arrive as fifth batch that will come from Brazil. This will be composed of trucks, graders and compactors.

The last batch of 20 compactors and graders is also expected to arrive before March ends to complete the 341 requirement of the provincial government for infrastructure development.

The last batch will come from India, said Acosta. All light and heavy equipment, he added, will be used too, as part of the disaster preparation and management of the province during times of calamities.

In Palawan, Acosta said road projects are being sped up to provide residents access to be able to bring their products to the center of trade and commerce in their towns.

Infrastructure development is a priority in the IHELP development agenda of Governor Jose Alvarez for economic growth.

Seda targets corporate groups and families with flagship resort

(Manila Bulletin)

Just over two years since it inaugurated its first city hotel, Seda hotel by Ayala Land Hotels and Resorts Corp. (AHRC) unveiled its flagship resort in the 325-hectare Lio Tourism Estate in Palawan. The 150-room Seda Lio will be the first major facility to cater to global and local tourists in the vast community in El Nido town, masterplanned to showcase the biodiversity and natural attractions of surrounding Bacuit Bay.

At its joint groundbreaking ceremony with Ayala Malls’ The Shops at Lio, Junie Jalandoni, group head of AHRC and Ayala Malls, says, “We launched Seda Lio to make the world-famous attractions of El Nido more accessible to both foreign and local travelers.”

Expected to be completed in 2017, the beachfront resort is only a few minutes from the airport and can even be accessed by foot by guests who can take a leisurely stroll along the white sand beach. The resort offers breathtaking views of the Cadlao lagoon and surrounding mountains.

Seda Lio expands the current accommodation options consisting of luxury resorts on the adjacent islands and bed-and-breakfast types in town. The low-rise resort is on the Palawan mainland and offers numerous facilities catering to various markets.

AHRC’s Chief Operating Officer Al Legaspi explains that Seda Lio aims to attract families, corporate clients needing meeting and event facilities, as well as couples planning destination weddings. “We have more than 500 square meters of function space with the largest room able to accommodate 150 guests. This is expandable to over 300 guests with our spacious landscaped decks. At the same time, we understand the need of families for kid-friendly activities such as swimming, and board and video games,” he adds.

Seda Lio covers a four-hectare property that opens out to the Lio Tourism Estate’s main centerpiece: a four-kilometer stretch of beach with fine sand. Like the four other Seda properties in Bonifacio Global City, Cagayan de Oro, Davao City and NUVALI, Seda Lio will also be distinguished by its location within an Ayala Land community, with its easy access to restaurants, retail and other amenities.

A short stroll from the resort is Ayala Mall’s Shops at Lio, a low-rise development that will offer daily essentials, basic services and home-grown dining concepts fronting the beach to serve both tourists and residents of El Nido. It will be completed towards the end of 2015.

Jalandoni adds that Seda Lio will serve as a model for sustainable construction and management to other future locators of the Lio township. The sprawling Seda Lio will only have three floors—deliberately designed not to jut above the coconut treeline. It will also maintain over 75 percent of the site as open area that will be landscaped with Palawan’s endemic plants. These features are in keeping with the sustainable masterplan of the entire Lio estate.

Thanks to the many awards of El Nido Resorts from global advocates of responsible tourism, interest in this part of Palawan has been unprecedented with arrivals now registering at 70,000 and growing by 20 percent year-on-year. Those numbers could surge even more as families, business groups and other travelers discover the wonders of Bacuit Bay and the nearby awe-inspiring lagoons, from the unique perspective of Seda Lio’s facilities, architecture and over-all charm.

Prelate offers to monitor Tubbataha

By Tina G. Santos (Philippine Daily Inquirer)

MANILA, Philippines—Palawan Bishop Pedro Arigo is offering the church’s services in monitoring the repairs at the world-renowned Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, part of which had been damaged by a US warship in January 2013.

“If we would be given an opportunity to participate in the monitoring, like what we have been doing at the UBAS (Ugnayan ng Barangay at Simbahan), the church would welcome it,” Arigo said in an interview over the Church-run Radyo Veritas.

He himself expressed willingness to join the monitoring team, saying he wants to ensure that the P87 million, which the United States paid as compensation for the damages caused by the USS Guardian on the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization World Heritage Site, would not be diverted to some other use.

It should be spent to rebuild the prized corals that were damaged when the US Navy minesweeper USS Guardian ran aground at the Tubbataha Reef in 2013, he said.

“You know very well the system in the Philippines that is why we really need to properly account how the money would be spent. It should be used to really repair the damage, if it is still possible to be repaired,” he added.

Arigo said he was hoping that some of the amount would also be used in exploring the use of technology that would speed up restoration of the affected corals.

“They said that there is a kind of technology that can be used to hasten the revival of the corals. We really need to account how the P87 million would be spent,” he said.

On Jan. 17, 2013, the USS Guardian hit the south atoll of the Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea, damaging at least 2,345 square meters of the coral reef that investigators said would take a generation to regrow.

The incident triggered national anger against the United States, which apologized for the accident and issued a report five months later that blamed the captain and three other officials.

Puerto Princesa succeeds in Philippine Travel Mart participation; wins awards

(PNA), LAP/CARF/RTR/PJN

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Feb. 20 (PNA) -- This city recorded success in its participation this year in the annual Philippine Travel Mart at the SM Mall of Asia by winning the “Best Decorative Booth” award and first runner up in the overall competition.

Mayor Lucilo Bayron said that Puerto Princesa’s participation in the annual and biggest travel trade exhibition in the country from February 13-15 will add more highlights in the campaign to bring more travelers to the city.

Organized by the Philippine Association of Travel Agencies (PATA), Travel Mart is held yearly to promote and market domestic and inbound tourism in the country. It offers business and tourism opportunities to exhibitors from various local government units nationwide.

Bayron said participation in the travel and trade expo hopes to further increase tourist arrival in the city, which has the Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR) as its main tourism attraction.

The best decorative booth award, he said, was won by the city in the Domestic Pavilion Category.

The city’s booth that won showcased the PPUR under the leadership of park superintendent Elizabeth Maclang in cooperation with the Crocodile Farm, City Tourism Council and City Tourism Officer Aileen Cynthia Amurao.

It was designed to feature the famous subterranean river, replicas of Acacia trees illuminated by lights, crocodile conservation, and endemic flora and fauna that can be found in Palawan.

Bayron said what took the interest of people visiting the booth was the two juvenile crocodiles kept in aquarium-like pens, and available for handling at the photo booth.

As part of the delegation, 18 local businesses and establishments participated in the Travel Mart and displayed the services they provide, including the products.

One was Skylight Convention, which reportedly was able to close a convention deal for 1,000 delegates in May this year.

“All of these prove that the city government is not stopping to promote its tourism, and disproves reports that it is declining,” he said.

DFA to offer passport servicing in Coron

(PNA), LAP/CARF/LBC/PJN

CORON, Palawan, Feb. 19 (PNA) -- The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) will be in this town for passport servicing to around 800 individuals in March.

Mayor Clara Reyes said the servicing is for residents, who wish to renew their passports, and for new applicants. It will not only be for residents of Coron, but also for those from Busuanga, Culion, Linapacan, and Cuyo island municipality.

As of press time, over 800 individuals have already requested to be listed at the Community Affairs Office (CAO) of Coron.

“They have to come personally on March 14. We are still accepting applicants, but those who have asked to be on the list earlier must reconfirm again if they are still interested,” said CAO Officer Maria Teresa Juezan Casareno.

Casareno said Coronians should avail of the opportunity since the process is now easy. She advised applicants to prepare their National Statistics Office (NSO)-issued birth certificate in security paper, three valid IDs, and ensure to come on time.

The passport, she said, is important as it certifies the identity and nationality of its holder, and necessary if they want to travel abroad for work or pleasure.

Climate-resilient green growth eyed for two provinces

(PNA), LGI/CJT/PR/EDS

MANILA, Feb. 18 (PNA) -- Technical assistance to mainstream climate resiliency and green growth in two provinces in Southern Luzon shall be provided starting this year as an international organization eyes to widen its project's reach in the country.

Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) met with the Climate Change Commission (CCC) to discuss how to effectively scale up the latter’s Ecotown Framework from the municipal level to the provincial level in Palawan and Oriental Mindoro provinces.

The provinces are sites for GGGI’s project "Climate-Resilient Green Growth Planning at the Provincial Level (CRGG)."

The scaling up activity will serve as second phase of GGGI’s partnership with CCC for the Ecotown Framework that aims to help communities sustainably attain development and resiliency as part of climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Prior to the scaling up, the Commission in collaboration with GGGI piloted its Ecotown Framework in four municipalities of Siargao and in San Vicente, Palawan.

The first phase of the Ecotown Framework was implemented from March 2012 to 2014 and enabled San Vicente, through the support of GGGI, to identify its vulnerability to climate impacts, assess and account its natural resources, determine potential adaptation and mitigationinitiatives and currently explore financing schemes to sustain their climate change programs.

Siargao’s vulnerability assessment was also supported by the international organization.

The meeting was set to facilitate discussion on the work plan, expected outputs and ways forward for the project during its three-year implementation from April 2015 until April 2018.

GGGI, an international organization aiming to support and promote sustainable growth in developing and emerging countries, is among partners of the Commission in implementing its Ecotown Framework.

After seeing positive results it produced in San Vicente, the group decided to extend its existing Memorandum of Understanding with the Philippine government and add another project site.

Since inception of the Ecotown Framework in 2011, GGGI has been supportive of its development goals and assisted the Commission in providing technical assistance to areas with great economic growth potentials.

For the next three years, the Commission and GGGI will work hand in hand with the provincial government, academe, and communities of Palawan and Oriental Mindoro to boost economic growth in those areas while maintaining a healthy environment to help it become resilient to climate impacts.

Both provinces are vulnerable to impacts of climate change based on a scoping study commissioned by CCC.

The CRGG project complements the President’s 2015 directive to the Commission to scale up the Ecotown Framework to equip additional 150 cities and municipalities to cushion climate impacts.

Otto completes sale of Galoc stake

By RITCHIE A. HORARIO

Australian firm Otto Energy Ltd. (Otto) has completed the sale of its interest in the Galoc oil field northwest of Palawan to Nido Petroleum Ltd.

Otto chief executive officer Matthew Allen said the final proceeds were received by the company from Nido on Tuesday.

“Delivering financial close of the GPC sale is a significant milestone for Otto in this environment of depressed oil prices,” said Allen.

He said Otto has a very strong balance sheet and is well advanced on prospective exploration activities in both the Philippines and Tanzania.

Nido Petroleum acquired Otto’s 33 percent working interest in the Galoc oil field for $108 million.

Opportunity seminar tackles investment in rubber tree farming in Palawan

By Celeste Anna R. Formoso [(PNA), FPV/CARF/EDS]

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Feb. 16 (PNA) -- Looking forward to Palawan’s total commitment to take rubber tree farming as an alternative livelihood to Palaweños, the Platinum Rubber Development, Inc. (PRDI) said for better latex production, the province should consider the employment of modern technology.

Alfonso Jack Sandique, chief operations officer of PRDI and owner of a rubber tree farm in Barangay New Cebu, Makilala, Cotabato, said this during the Investment Opportunity Seminar on Modern Rubber Production, Processing and Marketing over the weekend here organized by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) region IVB and the Palawan government.

Sandique told attendees of the opportunity seminar that good latex production can be ensured only if Palaweños apply modern technology in the planting of rubber tree.

He explained that in modern rubber tree farming technology, the location, kind of soil and the condition of wind and rain are important. The use of construction equipment to prepare the land for rubber farming is also vital to speed up planting.

He added that Palaweños who want to invest in rubber tree planting are lucky because Governor Jose Alvarez views it as an imperative alternative livelihood for the marginalized, and that heavy equipment facilities are available.

The regular monitoring of rubber trees, and correct pest and disease control management, pruning of branches and leaves are important to be able to produce good latex.

“However, it is really up to the farmer if he wants to employ the modern or traditional way of farming rubber trees, what is important is he knows what he is doing and he will work hard,” he said.

Meanwhile, Director Sitti Amina M. Jain, Ph.D, DTI National Rubber Coordinator, said that based on prediction of rubber experts in Singapore, the price of rubber this year will increase again.

She said the DTI is prepared to help those who will engage in the production of goods from latex as well as the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) for the improvement of technologies for rubber production.

She also warned investors on rubber to be careful or be in the lookout against choosing consultants to ensure safety and success in the said industry.

Sandique also reiterated that Palawan has a huge potential in rubber production because its climate and soil are favorable to the setting up of plantations.

Philippines becoming more and more of a travel destination, with unspoiled natural wonders and history galore

By Mike Quane (NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)

Check out World Heritage Sites like Banaue Rice Terraces, the Underground River of Palawan, or Tubbataha Reef Marine Park

Over the past three decades, economic and political misfortunes, coupled with some high-profile natural disasters, have kept the Philippines from taking its place among the world’s most popular travel destinations. Pity, when the more than 7,000 green islands here contain some of the best scenery on the planet.

The good news is that now, the Philippines, with growing economic strength (and relative stability), is emerging as a popular spot for travelers seeking an unspoiled tropical paradise. In fact, the negatives that held the Philippines back have contributed to the islands having a multitude of scenic areas that have avoided over-development.

Want to see World Heritage Sites? Set your compass to the Banaue Rice Terraces, the Underground River of Palawan, or Tubbataha Reef Marine Park, all cited by UNESCO as natural wonders. That doesn’t even include such fascinating destinations as the Chocolate Hills of Bohol, the Apo Reef (second largest contiguous coral reef in the world), and the Taal Volcano, a volcano in a lake, that’s within another volcano.

Cultural and historic sites also abound, such as impressive Spanish colonial churches like San Agustin Church in Manila’s Intramuros district, and Corregidor, the island fortress in Manila Bay, where Filipino and American forces defied the might of the Japanese army during World War II.

The Philippines has also become a magnet for the action-oriented traveler, with numerous destinations that are perfect for diving, parasailing and river rafting. Sun worshipers can find perfect white-sand beaches in such resort areas of Puerto Galera, Boracay and Bohol, and the increasingly popular sport of rock climbing is taking hold in mountainous regions like Baguio.

For those who like to shop, the Philippines is indeed your paradise. Mall-crazy Manila has huge shopping emporiums like Megamall, The Mall of Asia and the Glorietta Mall, which draw lots of visitors from Korea, Taiwan and Japan who know where to find good bargains. An advantage for Americans, Brits and Australians is the fact that most Filipinos speak English, and the favorable exchange rate makes commerce even more pleasurable.

Metro Manila has become a progressive, prosperous city with high-rises going up everywhere, to sate the appetite of condo-hunters. A growing number of ex-pat retirees are finding that their nest eggs will last longer in the Philippines than in their home countries.

The city is also home to some of the best hotels in the world, with service that’s better than just about anywhere. Manila is lucky to have two properties of Shangri-La Hotels, my personal favorite chain in Asia. The Edsa Shangri-La is right across from the huge Megamall (and has its own upscale mall besides), and the Makati Shangri-La holds court in Metro Manila’s bustling commercial center. Good restaurants are easy to find, with familiar international chains everywhere, but for a real treat, opt for traditional Filipino cuisine, a delectable blend of Chinese, Spanish and Polynesian cooking.

The most beautiful thing about the Philippines remains the sweetness of its people. The “Good morning, sir” and “Good evening, ma’am” one hears so often are sincere and heartfelt, delivered with a distinctive warmth that will be long-remembered.

If you go...


More info: Visit itsmorefuninthephilippines.com

Stay: In Manila, the Edsa Shangri-La, or the Makati Shangri-La. (shangri-la.com)

156 tourists from Taiwan arrive in Puerto Princesa, to stay 4 nights

(PNA), FPV/CARF/RTR/MEC

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Feb. 13 (PNA) -- This city and the province of Palawan welcomed Friday morning 156 tourists from Taipei City, the capital of Taiwan, who will be staying four nights and five days to visit the Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR) and other tourism destinations.

Aboard a chartered Philippine Airlines (PAL) flight that flew an estimated three hours from Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport (TTIA) in Dayuan District, Taoyuan City, the Taiwanese tourists were personally welcomed at the Puerto Princesa City International Airport (PPCIA) by City Tourism Department (CTD) head Aileen Amurao, Mayor Lucilo Bayron, MIMAROPA-Department of Tourism (DOT) regional director Atty. Minerva Morada, and other tourism stakeholders.

With gleeful sounds coming from indigenous musical instruments and colorful folk dances to welcome them festively, the Taiwanese tourists each lined to process their travel documents in a special section at the airport organized by the local Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

Amurao said the arrival of the PAL flight from Taipei is the beginning of a “four times a month chartered flight” to the city until June to bring Taiwanese tourists, who will be staying nearly a week in Puerto Princesa.

The development is courtesy of the city and provincial governments’ active coordination and cooperation for tourism promotion with Taiwan and the Manila Economic Cooperative Office (MECO).

Contrary to an earlier estimate that 168 tourists will arrive, the Amurao said the chartered flight only transported 156, who will be visiting the PPUR, Honda Bay, and other destination sites in the city.

Morada, on the other hand, said the chartered PAL flight that brought in the Taiwanese tourists is “definitely a positive in President Benigno Aquino III’s and the DOT’s target of 10 million international tourist arrivals by 2016.”

Bayron, on the other hand, is positive that Puerto Princesa can cater to the needs of the Taiwanese visitors as a prime tourist destination in the country.

USAID, PBED turn over human resource development plan to Palawan to foster most superior workforce

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

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Feb. 12 (PNA) -- Palawan, where this city is located, is one of the most studied provinces in the country in terms of human resource development (HRD), and to be able to build up a most superior workforce and employment opportunities, it does not need extra bachelor degree students.

What it needs, according to Dr. Veronica Ramirez, director for operations of the Center for Research and Communication (CRC), are students, who would be interested to enroll in “technical vocational courses to go to work after graduation because there are industries that will hire them” in the city and province.

Speaking to the Philippines News Agency (PNA) Wednesday afternoon following the turnover of the Human Resource Development Plan (HRDP) research for Puerto Princesa and Palawan jointly funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Philippine Business for Education (PBEd), Ramirez stated strongly that to be able to create top-quality workforce that would fill up employment vacancies in many industries, universities and colleges here “must review the programs they are offering to students.”

“For example, Palawan State University (PSU) has 178 programs… when you have these, that means you’ve got to have faculty and staff, it has to have students… there are programs that have very, very few students, and I think they have to review them to be able to create the workforce that would have jobs,” Ramirez said.

Aside from this, she said grades 11 to 12 under the K-12 education program, though not yet in Palawan, must be implemented because they have the technical vocational phases.

“Students, who would be able to finish Grade 12, for example, can already work,” she said.

In her presentation of the HRDP study, which took them a year to complete, Ramirez said they targeted Puerto Princesa’s and Palawan’s manpower needs and required competencies; mapping of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) program offerings in order to provide an insight as to the suitability of the academic programs vis-a-vis the demand for employment; and to propose areas for industry-academe-government engagements in order to address the manpower needs of the local economy.

“This research aims to produce a human resource development plan for Puerto Princesa and Palawan with several components. This takes the assumption that the internal factors, such as poverty level, infrastructure, quality of education, support for education and others,” she said.

Per their findings, she told Vice Governor Dennis Socrates and other attendees from the academe, the media, and the local governments that in the National Statistics Office 2012 data, of the 44,145 employment in the province, 36 percent worked in wholesale and retail trade, and repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles; 22 percent in accommodation and food service activities; 10 percent in manufacturing; mere 4 percent each in mining and quarrying, and agriculture, forestry and fishing; and 24 percent in others.

The distribution of graduates by discipline, on the other hand, was 3,893 for SY 2012-2013, and of the figure, 41 percent are graduates of business administration; 19 percent education, science, and teacher training; 3 percent medical and allied; 3 percent agriculture and related fields; 4 percent arts and humanities; 4 percent information and technology; 6 percent engineering; and 20 percent account for others that pay by the day or irregularly.

“Data shows that while labor force in Palawan had reached 44,145 in 2012, only 3,893 graduates were contributed by HEIs – this is 15 percent of the enrollment of 23,621 in academic year 2009,” she said.

Out of the labor force, those “who participate actively in the labor market accounts for 70 percent in Puerto Princesa, and 65 percent in Palawan based on average past records. Given these figures, the labor force will further decline with an Estimate Labor Force Participation (ELFP) of 301,314 for Palawan in 2014 to 353,542 in 2020, and 118,003 for Puerto Princesa on the same year to 140,901. In total, this was 419,316 in 2014 for both, to 494,444.

Unemployment in Palawan

According to their study, in Palawan, “unemployment is highest in Zone 1, or Cagayancillo, Cuyo and Magsaysay at 10.71 percent; and Zone 3, or El Nido, Roxas, San Vicente, and Taytay at 9.01 percent in 2011.

The town of Cuyo recorded the highest unemployment rate among 23 municipalities with an average of 14.01 percent in 2011.

In Puerto Princesa, its comprehensive development plan for 2011-2013 reported that the evidence of underemployment is the fact that nearly half, or 49 percent of the working population either have indeterminate income sources, or are holding multiple jobs.

The 51 percent, on the other hand, who reported having single income source may not be entirely adequately compensated due to low levels of salaries and wages due to rampant violation of labor laws.

Lack of appropriately skilled workers from among the local population also traces to unemployment, Ramirez said.

It is attributed too, she stated, to “possible mismatch between courses offered in some post-secondary educational institutions and the requirements of the job market, which consequently pushes employers to look for qualified staff elsewhere.

”The biggest number of labor force in Palawan and this city is found in farming, forestry, fishery, labor and unskilled work. However, the problems of unemployment and underemployment are a threat to sustainability,” she presented.

Although overseas work is an option, not very many qualify for international standards. Those who leave on contract work will come back and reintegrate into the Palawan economy.

”Hence, your government has to be able to offer employment or livelihood programs to its labor force,” Ramirez said.

Key drivers of economy

On what drives Palawan’s economy, the study shows that solving poverty problem relies largely on agriculture, tourism, and infrastructure development; and the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines-East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA), which aims to promote trade, investments and tourism in selected priority sectors, namely: agro-industry and natural resources, tourism, transport, infrastructure and ICT.

The Palawan Provincial Tourism Office, in fact, predicts that “tourism as a component of the services sector becomes the second main driver of growth next to agriculture.”

Reportedly, “throughout the years, the number of tourist arrivals in Palawan grew exponentially. As of 2013, the tourist arrivals in Palawan reached 883,019 – a 6 percent growth from 832,595 in 2012.

Tourist arrivals in 2013 still dominantly came from domestic travelers (73 percent of total tourist arrivals) while the remaining 27 percent were foreign tourists.

Ramirez said that for the province and the city to hit increasing employment opportunities and a superior workforce, their steps should be “instead of matching the skills and competencies of workers and fresh graduates with what is available in the labor market, it is better to prepare the individuals’ skills and competencies with what is needed in the local labor market before they enter the labor force.”

The 178 program offerings in 17 campuses of Palawan State University (PSU) should be reviewed in terms of government and industry needs, faculty specialization, teaching, loading, research capability and economics of education.

The HRDP, she furthered, can help the city and the province in what it should do to be able to create employment opportunities, as well as propagate a superior workforce among Palaweños.

The HRDP was received in behalf of Governor Jose Alvarez by Socrates, and personally by Mayor Lucilo Bayron of Puerto Princesa.

Palawan solon lauds House passage of Marpol bill, awaits Senate action

(Office of Rep. Douglas S. Hagedorn)

Local initiatives on climate change mitigation and adaptation has gained momentum anew as the House of Representatives yesterday passed on third reading an act seeking to prevent and control pollution from ships, and providing stiffer penalties for its violation.

House bill 5377, also known as "Prevention of Pollution from Ships Act" and a consolidation of bills filed by numerous authors in the 16th Congress, seeks to protect mankind's largest food source and guarantee its sustainability.

"As a country most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, the Philippines has to beef up its capabilities to adapt to its effects. That is why, it is incumbent upon us to set up safeguards to protect our citizenry," said Rep. Douglas S. Hagedorn, one of the bill's principal authors.

He said that being a party to an international agreement, the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships or Marpol 73/78, the country has an obligation to devise its own laws that would adhere to these agreements.

The solon added further that, to ensure the sustainability of the country's marine resources and guarantee that the resources which will reach the consumer's table will be safe, it is important that the food chain will not be disrupted.

"As I've mentioned before, the planktons, which the basic foundation of our marine resources, are the ones responsible for the food we eat. When they die due to marine pollution, these causes fish kills and red tide which is very harmful to humans and affects their livelihood," he added.

The proposed measure aims to minimize, if not totally prevent, marine pollution covering oily substances, harmful and toxic substances, garbage, sewage and other pollutants coming from ships and floating structures, harmonize institutional arrangements concerning marine pollution, and strengthen and complement enforcement of existing related laws on marine pollution.

This will cover all ships, whether Philippine ship, wherever they may be found, or foreign-flagged ships, whether or not they are registered with state parties to the convention.

It also streamlines the jurisdiction, responsibilities and functions of the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC), the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) and the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), and bestows upon MARINA the right to exercise jurisdiction and regulatory control over Philippine ships to Marina, while the sole and exclusive responsibility to enforce environmental pollution regulations and standards over all ships operating within Philippine waters. Ports and terminal facilities or harbors is vested on the PCG.

It likewise creates the Marine Pollution Adjudication Board which is vested with quasi-judicial powers to adjudicate marine pollution cases, defines all prohibited acts and prescribes the penalties for violation, both administrative and criminal, including the penalty of dismissal from service of conniving government employees.

"Our responsibility in ensuring the overall health of the citizenry, and to the international conventions we are party to as well, is almost complete. We leave it to our counterparts in the Senate to act on this accordingly and swiftly, so the President can sign this into law, and that the country will have a mechanism to respond to emergencies caused by marine pollution," stressed Hagedorn.

Among the recently cited marine pollution incident were the sinking of M/T Solar I in Guimaras, the oil spill off the coast of Cavite which, allegedly, came from M/T Makisig, and the sinking of M/V Sto. Tomas Aquinas off Cebu which destroyed precious marine ecosystem and coral reefs, affected health and livelihood of fisher folks, and caused the death of passengers.

"We hope that through this initiative, our marine resources will further be protected and that, in times of need, a system will automatically and swiftly be initiated to control the damage of such incidents," the solon added.


Palawan athletics team wins overall championship in MIMAROPA RAA Meet

By Celeste Anna R. Formoso [(PNA), CTB/CARF/EDS]

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan, Feb. 10 (PNA) -- Palawan’s athletic team was declared the overall champion of the recently concluded MIMAROPA Regional Athletics Association (RAA) Meet held in the southern town of Narra here.

Provincial Sports Development Coordinator Sunshine Cabiguen said Monday that the Palawan team scored the highest points to take home the overall championship in the February 7 MIMAROPA RAA meet concluded at the Narra Sports Complex in the province’s southern part.

In the elementary level, Palawan recorded 373.5 points. It was followed by Puerto Princesa with 255.5 points; Oriental Mindoro with 202.5 points; Occidental Mindoro with 125 points; Calampan with 96.5; Romblon with 55 points and Marinduque with 50 points.

In the secondary level, Palawan took the lead again with 357 points, followed by Puerto Princesa-332 points; Oriental Mindoro-182; Calapan -155.5; Marinduque 118; Occidental Mindoro-85.5 points; and Romblon-56.

Cabiguen said all-in-all, if points for both levels are combined, the Palawan MIMAROPA RAA Meet team garnered 730.5 points, followed by Puerto Princesa with 587.50.

“We thank all the parents of the athletes, who supported us; the provincial government under Governor Jose Alvarez; the coaches, who guided their teams; everyone, who made the athletics meet successful in Narra,” he said.

The Palarong Pambansa, on the other hand, will be held in Tagum, Davao del Norte, he added.

$1-b Shell gas project on track

By Alena Mae S. Flores

Shell Philippines Exploration B. V., the operator of the Malampaya natural gas field in northwest Palawan, said it is on track on completing the $1-billion Malampaya expansion project that will install a second platform by the middle of 2015.

“We are just completing the Malampaya phase three project. We are on track,” Spex managing director Sebastian Quinones said.

The consortium led by Spex (with 45 percent) is undertaking phase 3 of the Malampaya project, after completing phase 2, to sustain the level of gas production under existing contracts. Other members of the consortium are Chevron Malampaya LLC (with 45 percent) and PNOC Exploration Corp. (10 percent).

Two production wells were successfully installed in 2013, marking the completion of phase 2. Phase 3 involves the design, fabrication and installation of a new depletion compression platform, which is expected to be completed by the middle of the year.

“The depletion compression platform will be towed out to Palawan soon, so in that manner we are along with the plan and we do have our turn around,” Quinones said.

Malampaya’s first glas platform would be shut down on March 15 to April 13 for a scheduled maintenance repair.

The Malampaya deep-water gas-to-power project, completed in 2001 at cost of $4.5 billion, supplies natural gas to power three power plants in Batangas with a combined capacity of 2,700 MW, representing 30 percent of the country’s energy requirements.

Quinones said Spex, one of the country’s most active oil and gas players, was bullish about Malampaya’s operations this year.

“We will complete this year this project. In fact the Malampaya phase three is a $750 million [project], so we really make sure that this will happen,” he said.

“You have to invest in the future, otherwise you will not recover your expenses,” Quinones said.

Shell’s license over service contract 38, covering Malampaya, will expire in February 2024, the same period that the gas reserves are expected to be depleted. Around half of the reserves at the Malampaya gas field have been consumed.

“We have applied for the license extension [with the Energy Department. We are in discussions for the extension,” Quinones said earlier.

Quinones said there were currently seven production wells in the Camago-Malampaya reservoir.

“There are fields nearby, smaller ones. But to be able to extract that, obviously we need to put in more money. There’s also license extension and all those other things that will be required,” he said.

Vietnam-Philippines friendship manifested in rescue of 6 Pinoy fishermen in West Philippines Sea

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

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Feb. 8 (PNA) -– “They fed us, they gave us blankets, and a to place stay. For these, we are very thankful they took care of us,” said Cipriano Durban in tears, one of the six Filipino fishermen, who arrived Sunday afternoon at the Tide Pole Pier in this city after being rescued in the West Philippines Sea (WPS) jointly by the Vietnamese and Philippine navies on January 21.

Durban, who was declared in good health condition with five others by the navy doctor, who checked them, told members of the local press that covered their arrival that they are all thankful for the Vietnamese Navy on Pugad Island, West Philippines Sea that welcomed them when they needed to seek shelter there after their fishing boat suffered serious engine trouble.

They are also equally grateful to the Philippine Navy (PN) on Parola Island, where they stayed next after a Vietnamese Navy patrol boat took them there to be fetched.

Durban narrated that he, Gregorio Anghag, Fernando Ibañes, Manuelito Hisarza, boat captain Veronico Paitan, and Boy Conjelado left Mariveles, Bataan on January 2 on board their fishing boat Princess Maria Antonette en route to the disputed island reefs to catch fish.

However, their boat experienced engine trouble due to the broken transmission gear about 5 nautical miles away from Bataan.

Their boat drifted for 16 days with limited food provisions within the vicinity of Pugad, an island formerly occupied by the Philippines, but now being claimed by Vietnam.

“When we saw the island, and it shone bright with lights at around 10 p.m. on January 18, we hoped that we will be helped to get home so, we can see our families again. The Vietnamese soldiers on the island at first had their guns pointed at us, but we understand because we’re all strangers,” he said.

At first they could not understand what they’re being asked, but later on the night of the said day, a ranking Vietnamese official, who knew English arrived and asked them where they were from.

“The officer asked us what was our mission and nationality; we said we’re Filipino fishermen and very hungry for we had nothing to eat in many days. Then they gave us noodles, and then rice,” he said.

After being helped, Durban said that on January 21, they were loaded to a patrol boat by the Vietnamese Navy and turned over to Philippine troops stationed on nearby Parola Island.

Commodore Manuel Natalio Abinuman, who was at the Tide Pole Pier with other military officers and men, told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) that the act of kindness of the Vietnamese Navy toward the Filipino fishermen was noble one, and should be emulated by other claimant countries of the West Philippines Sea.

“We are happy because the help extended by the Vietnamese Navy will further strengthen our friendship with them. Of course, if the same thing happens to their fishermen, we will do the same and rescue them,” Abinuman said.

WESCOM’s Vice Adm. Alexander Lopez said “We are very grateful to our friends from Vietnamese Navy. We value this very noble act of cooperation and collaboration between Philippines and Vietnam that are after the safety and security of life at sea.”

The six fishermen were turned over Sunday too, to the Palawan Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office (PSWDO) that will assist them to go home to their families in Bataan.

PSWDO Officer Polly David said they will be provided temporary shelter in the city until their tickets have been processed.

Shift focus from plant to farmer – PhilRice exec

(PNA), LAM/CARF-PR/PJN

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Feb. 7 (PNA) -- In more than three years as PhilRice executive director, Dr. Eufemio T. Rasco, Jr. has stood with his conviction to swing rice R&D direction from the rice crop to the rice farmer.

“When you focus on the rice farmer, you begin to realize that the rice environment is not only about rice. There are many things you can do in the rice environment with the rice farmers so that you can extricate them from poverty,” Rasco said.

During the turnover ceremony of PhilRice leadership last February 3, Rasco reiterated the need to start using the rice farming environment as the unit of productivity analysis instead of the rice plant.

Rasco retired from government service as he turned 65 on February 2.

DA Assistant Secretary for Field Operations and Director of the National Rice and Corn Programs Edilberto M. De Luna assumed post as PhilRice officer-in-charge. The search for the new executive director is ongoing.

Summing up his term, Rasco said “PhilRice is probably the easiest organization to manage. With the dedicated and professional manpower you have here, it can run on auto-pilot and not crash.”

Rasco urged PhilRice staff members to pursue “the change that we have trodden together” – to continue advocating for agriculture-based biosystems in the rice farm.

Rasco and research at PhilRice

Rasco dedicated almost 4 decades of his career to public service.

During his stint as executive director, Rasco envisioned to transform rural communities into more productive and sustainable agri-business enterprises. He has always believed in exploring the potentials of the rice lands to augment rice farming income.

He institutionalized five new R&D programs to address the current and future challenges in the rice sector. These are Coping with climate change, High-value products from rice and its environment, Farming without fossil energy, Intensified rice-based agri-bio systems, and FutureRice. Each is geared toward a self-sufficient, sustainable, and competitive rice economy.

To operationalize these programs, Rasco led the creation of various centers that would help develop appropriate technologies for rice-based ecosystem. The Applied Biology Center for the Rice Environment aims to increase outputs and reduce inputs in rice farming and rice-based enterprises through applied biology.

Rasco also supported research studies on other sources of energy such as bioethanol and hybrid energy (e.g. wind/solar, biomass/solar) to develop an energy system for rice-based agriculture that is renewable, decentralized, and diversified.

“To him, farming without fossil energy is the scientific description for what is commonly called but misunderstood organic agriculture,” said PhilRice Deputy Executive Director for Research Dr. Manuel Jose C. Regalado.

NHA signs P639M MOA for initial 2,326 housing units for Yolanda survivors in Palawan

By Celeste Anna R. Formoso [(PNA), LAM/CARF/EDS]

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Feb. 6 (PNA) -- The National Housing Authority (NHA) and Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez signed Thursday a memorandum of agreement (MOA) that would download an initial amount of P639,660,000 for the construction of housing units for super typhoon Yolanda survivors in five municipalities in the province.

The MOA signing was done during the Rehabilitation After Yolanda (RAY) Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Recovery Plan (CRRP) Implementation and Monitoring, and Validation Forum at the VJR Hall of the Provincial Capitol with Sen. Panfilo Lacson, Office of the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery (OPARR) rehab czar, and representatives from various government agencies, civic groups, and other stakeholders.

Architect Susan Nonato, NHA manager for Southern Luzon and Bicol Region, said that the initial amount is for the construction of 2,326 housing units for super typhoon Yolanda survivors in the municipalities of Coron, Culion, Linapacan, Busuanga and Agutaya.

The commencement of the housing project starts with the MOA signing, Nonato said, and should be completed in 10 months.

She added that the number of housing units is part of the 8,760 that the NHA will be constructing for super typhoon Yolanda survivors in Palawan with a budget of P1 billion.

To get the carpet rolling on the housing projects, she said the NHA is ready to download 15% of the initial fund for mobilization in the said areas.

The release of the balance, on the other hand, is dependent on how fast the local government units (LGUs), the provincial government, and other stakeholders can make progresses, or “accomplishments.”

The remaining 6,434 housing units will follow, but no specific date was given during the MOA signing.

Each housing unit will have an area of 40 square meters, out of which 22 square meters will be the living space for family beneficiaries. They will also come with livelihood projects to be determined.

“Palawan is very lucky to have a governor who has a lot of will, has a lot of heart and has a lot of wealth. He’s kind of attitude is what we need in the rehabilitation effort,” Lacson said as he lauded Alvarez for the extra effort to ensure that Yolanda survivors in the province are not left behind in the implementation of the CRRP.

During the forum, Lacson was asked about observations that rebuilding efforts in Yolanda-affected areas seem sluggish. He explained in context that the task of the OPARR was to coordinate implementations but it does not control the handling of the budget.

“Let me put the answer in the proper context. It’s probably slow in the sense that implementations just started under the CRRP after the President’s approval,” he said, with it coming from the Local Government Rehabilitation and Recovery Plan (LRRP), or submissions by LGUs that were aligned and reconciled with the action plans of the infrastructure, livelihood, resettlement, social services and support clusters.

“We must remember… I’d like to remind everyone that our job is coordination. We do not have a role in the implementation; we do not have a role in the handling of the budget. As a matter of fact, even my office has no budget… having said that, that is the right context,” Lacson responded.

After President Benigno Aquino III approved the CRRP on October 29, he said P50 billion was approved for 2014 and downloaded to implementing agencies, such as NHA for the resettlement cluster, Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) for the infrastructure cluster, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) for livelihood, and Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for social services cluster.

“Right now, the release of funds continues to these implementing agencies, in fact, there are areas that are ahead, there are areas that have not been forgotten, but have been far below the priorities,” he said.

Lacson went on to say that if there is anything he will regret after he fades away from the rebuilding efforts since he is resigning February 5, is that they focused in Tacloban, Leyte, and Guiuan, and gave less attention to other regions due to the magnitude of destruction in these areas “where many properties were destroyed, where many deaths were recorded.”

He furthered that in the “Yolanda corridor,” six regions were actually devastated.

“This is actually the purpose of the monitoring and validation forum. This is a series of fora; we’ve been going around to surface all issues and concerns that mayors and all stakeholders want to raise that we want to address,” he stated, adding they do not want to hide from the issues.

”There are areas that implementations are slow, why? Because there are more issues in those areas than in the other areas,” Lacson said, citing that in the resettlement cluster, sometimes no suitable relocation site can be found immediately.

Suitable sites are reportedly those that are not in the geo-hazard map – free from storm surges, free from floods, free from landslides, even free from soil erosion, drought, and others.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), he added, has limited the requirement to three to be able to find a site, but no titled land area can be found in some areas.

“The DENR also does not allow resettlement for Yolanda survivors in forest reserves. So, there are so many issues; it is not that easy,” the rehab czar said.

He also disclosed that in areas in the Yolanda corridor, they encountered all sorts of characters in the LGUs.

“There are mayors, who complain but are doing; there LGU executives, who do not complain but are doing; there are LGU executives, who complain a lot and who are not doing – all of these characters we’ve encountered when we went around,” he said.

The province of Palawan, he reiterated, is very lucky because it has a governor, that has a “will, wealth and heart.”

Lacson said that on his own, Alvarez did what he can do and did not wait for the national government, or his constituents would suffer.

”That’s the kind of attitude of a local chief executive that we need. It’s all about leadership… because if the leader is good, there will be a good response. If the leader is a problem leader, the people will suffer,” Lacson stated.

DOH grants accreditation to five dialysis centers in MIMAROPA

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

MANILA, Feb. 5 (PNA) -- The Department of Health (DOH) regional office in MIMAROPA or Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan has granted accreditation to five dialysis centers in the region so that patients with renal problems will not need to seek treatment in Metro Manila hospitals or at the National Kidney Transplant Institute (NKTI) in Quezon City.

According to DOH-MIMAROPA Regional Director Eduardo C. Janairo, the said dialysis centers will primarily cater to those with renal diseases, considered as the seventh leading cause of death in the country.

“These dialysis centers are essential in treating patients with kidney and renal diseases in the MIMAROPA provinces as they will no longer need to go to Manila or NKTI for treatment,” Dr. Janairo said.

He said that two of the dialysis centers are located in Oriental Mindoro while the three others are in Palawan.

The two dialysis centers in Oriental Mindoro are in Maria Estrella General Hospital Dialysis Unit and the Dialysis Unit of Medical Mission Group Hospital and Health Service Cooperative which are both located in Barangay Tawiran, Calapan City.

The three dialysis centers in Palawan are at the Medical Mission Group Cooperative Hospital located at the Medical Arts Building, Burgos and Mabini Streets, Puerto Princesa City; Palawan Dialysis Center of Palawan Adventist Hospital in San Pedro, Puerto Princesa; and Medical Care Institute of the Philippines Foundation Inc. along the National Highway, Brgy. San Pedro, Puerto Princesa.

“We have a need for more dialysis centers in the country to treat the growing number of patients with renal problems and needing hemodialysis treatment. I am encouraging private hospitals to establish one if they have the means and we will support them in this initiative,” Director Janairo said.

Dialysis is the treatment used when the kidneys do not work well. It involves the removal of harmful substances from the blood through a procedure which damaged kidneys cannot do.

Dialysis purifies the blood and returns it to the vein after it is cleansed. It also helps to control blood pressure.

According to the Philippine Network for Organ Sharing, close to 23,000 patients had undergone dialysis treatment in 2013, and 12,000 Filipinos developed kidney failures, requiring crucial transplants or expensive dialysis.

It is estimated that one Filipino develops chronic renal failure every hour, or about 120 Filipinos per million people annually.

The cost of dialysis treatment in the country ranges from PhP3,000 to PhP45,000, quite expensive for most patients and this is the reason why renal disease is one of the top 10 causes of death in the Philippines.

According to the DOH-MIMAROPA director, renal disease results from unhealthy lifestyle that can be prevented or can be avoided.

Janairo said that through “healthy lifestyle,” which can be done by engaging in regular exercise, healthy diet, drinking lots of water, maintaining ideal body weight, avoiding excessive salt intake and smoking, renal ailments and other lifestyle diseases can be pushed away from the body.

He added that it is important that those who are aware that they have family history of hypertension, diabetes or renal failure must take caution or initiate actions in taking good care of their health with regular visit to the doctor as prevention is better than cure.

He noted that in MIMAROPA, even the barangay health workers are being trained to promote healthy lifestyle, wherein they help in spreading awareness or giving advice to patients that by following the "do’s and don’ts" and regular consultation are among the ways to have healthy, productive and longer life to enjoy.

Puerto Princesa creates ‘Task Force Walis-Sagasa’ to strengthen campaign vs illegal drugs

By Ruth T. Rodriguez [(PNA), FPV/CARF/RTR/EBP]

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Feb. 4 (PNA) -- Mayor Lucilo Bayron has ordered the creation of “Task Force Walis-Sagasa” to strengthen the city's campaign against illegal drugs trafficking and use, and extend the campaign to the nooks and crannies of 66 barangays.

The newly-created task force will be headed by retired police colonel Rolando Amurao, who reportedly has “a long experience in crime solving” in Puerto Princesa.

In a statement released Wednesday by the City Information Office (CIO), it said Bayron’s move was not done because he is doubtful of Task Force BANAT (Bayan Against Narcotics and Trafficking), which he first created in 2014, that is currently being led by Vice Mayor Luis Marcaida.

Mayor Bayron allegedly intended the new task force to support BANAT in the conduct of massive information, education and communications (IEC) campaign, especially in the barangays among the youth sector that is the primary target of illegal drug peddlers and traffickers.

The mayor reportedly defined “walis-sagasa” as an aim to “tidy up” Puerto Princesa of the return of illegal narcotics trafficking, like metamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu).

The CIO added that Walis-Sagasa’s prime function will be to strengthen city government efforts to stop the proliferation of illegal drugs by conducting IEC campaigns and by also going after unscrupulous individuals, who engage in the unlawful business.

Bayron’s order was reportedly for Amurao to rally behind the task force by ensuring that those who will violate the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act will be stopped and will be made to answer for their deeds.

In related news, anti-illegal drugs operatives from various government agencies here arrested two men and a woman in a buy-bust operation Monday with Php200,000 worth of shabu following Bayron’s vow to crush down the problem.

Joint operatives belonging to the City Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operation Task Force (CADSOTF), Philippine Drug Enforcement Authority (PDEA)-Palawan, local Task Force BANAT, Task Force Walis-Sagasa, and others arrested in Barangay Kalipay suspected peddlers Eduardo Lavadia, Ma. Lolita Lavadia, and Cesar Mejoque – all residents of Barangay Bagong Silang in this city.

Confiscated from their possessions were three big and small pieces of heat-sealed transparent sachets that allegedly contain shabu, a motorcycle used in the peddling, and a cellular phone.

Cases for violation of Republic Act 9165, or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act, have been filed against the three while follow-up operations remain to look for their accomplices.

Palawan’s social welfare dep't distributes financial assistance to elderly citizens

(PNA), LAP/CARF/PJN

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Feb. 3 (PNA) -- True to its commitment to help the elderly citizens of Palawan, the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office (PSWDO) started again this year its distribution of local social pension (LSP) to elderly citizens between the ages of 73-76.

The Provincial Information Office (PIO), in a press statement sent Tuesday, said the PSWDO has started the distribution of the LSP again this year in different barangays in the town of Aborlan for elderly residents.

Senior citizens who received their LSPs from the provincial government were from barangays Isaub, Iraan, Sagpangan, Poblacion, San Juan, Mabini, Cabigaan, Magbabadil, Barake, Magsaysay, Tagpait, Gogognan, Plaridel, Tigman, Apo-Aporawan, Jose Rizal, and Apoc-Apoc in Aborlan last January.

The information office said that according to the LSP program, the elderly beneficiaries will each receive P250 per month.

The pensions are for indigent senior citizens between the said ages, who underwent evaluation by the PSWDO, Office of Senior Citizens Affairs (OSCA), and Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office (MSWDO).

It is implemented under the Enhanced Program for Senior Citizens of the PSWDO to help elderly citizens in their medicine, food, and other expenses.

For the months of January to July 2014, 11 elderly beneficiaries were given P3,000 each; 68 others were also added on the list for the current year.

For the months of July to December 2014, around 134 beneficiaries received their local social pension from the provincial government.

In total, the PSWDO was able to distribute P319,500 for the elderly beneficiaries in Aborlan.

Puerto Princesa govt studying plans for bigger, wider, longer ‘Underground River Day’ celebration

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

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Feb. 2 (PNA) -- This city’s leadership is currently studying a proposal to make the Puerto Princesa Underground River Day every month of November bigger, wider and longer.

Mayor Lucilo Bayron in local interviews over the weekend, said the first celebration of the “PPUR Day” on November 11, 2014 was a huge success because it was supported by residents of the city and foreign and domestic tourists, who celebrated with the famous subterranean river.

He believed if the city comes well-prepared with the celebration, the day of celebration of the subterranean river can be done for a week, and can become like the Masskara Festival in Bacolod, Sinulog in Cebu and Ati-Atihan in Aklan.

It can be colorful and vibrant too, because people who will join can wear interesting costumes that would display the different wildlife that can be seen in the park that cradles the underground river.

Bayron said the plan for a lengthened celebration of the PPUR Day can specially be done with the foremost support of students from different elementary, secondary and tertiary schools, the non-government organizations (NGOs), different local and national government agencies, among others.

The proposed week-long festival, he added, can be an additional activity in the park that can also attract more tourist arrivals, and can give extra income to those engaged in tourism-related businesses.

Although the mayor did not give specific details on what is currently the proposal being considered, he said residents and supporters of Puerto Princesa can look forward to a brighter celebration of the PPUR Day this year.

Last year, 3rd District Palawan House Rep. Douglas Hagedorn filed a measure in Congress requesting his colleagues to declare November 11 as a “non-working holiday” in the city for the PPUR Day.

The PPUR Day was declared through Resolution No. 294-2013, and furthered with Presidential Proclamation No. 816 signed in Malacañang on July 3, 2014.

Coast Guard: 8 rescued from distressed motor launch off Palawan

By Joel Locsin / LBG (GMA News)

At least eight seamen were rescued from a distressed motor launch off Bataraza town in Palawan last Wednesday, the Philippine Coast Guard reported Sunday.

It said the motor launch "Azriel" got into trouble after its rudder was detached from its shaft while it was crossing the Rio Tuba area in Palawan.

In its report, the PCG said the vessel was carrying 200 bags of cement, 100 steel bars, a motorcycle and other cargo during the incident.

From Puerto Princesa City, the boat headed for Balabac Island when its rudder broke off.

Upon learning of the incident, the PCG sent a rescue team to the affected vessel.

The boat with its eight crew members was towed to Sitio Marabahay Pier in Barangay Rio Tuba in Bataraza, Palawan.

Rescued were:

Mark Alano, 24
Nito Lanacero, 48
Rosmin Salaysay, 20
Bernard Aborot, 25
Andro Pungyan, 28
Rogel Calopez, 47
Laurence Royal, 39
Nonoy Bautista, 45