Palawan News June 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
Nutrient Moringa Leaves Other Foods
Vitamin A 6780 mcg Carrots: 1890 mcg
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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

Contents

2 M passengers a year seen with new Palawan airport

By Delon Porcalla With Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star)

MANILA, Philippines - Tourist arrivals in Palawan are expected to increase with the newly renovated Puerto Princesa International Airport in Palawan, an official said yesterday.

“The new airport is designed to accommodate two million passengers per annum with a peak passenger flow of 690 passengers per hour,” Undersecretary Julianito Bucayan of the Department of Transportation and Communications told President Aquino at a briefing.

Palawan is home to the Tubbataha Reefs marine reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the Underground River, recently voted among the New7Wonders of Nature.

Bucayan said the target completion date of the $102-million project, which was started in August 2014, is January 2017. He assured the President they are doing everything to finish it “much earlier,” or before Aquino steps down in June 2016.

He said the airport’s capacity had to be expanded to address the growing air traffic in Palawan. The airport was designed to enhance the quality of service and comply with international civil aviation organization safety standards.

“Included in the air navigation system is one of the newest in the Asia-Pacific region. We have the first one in Laguindingan (Cagayan de Oro) and we will be implementing a full Internet protocol, a full digital communications system for this airport,” Bucayan said. Headlines ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1

He said the airport could now accommodate four A320s and two A330s passenger planes, adding that the airport capacity is in sync with the passenger terminal capacity.

He said the airport also has a 200-car parking facility.

The passenger terminal building has a floor area of 13,000 square meters, much bigger than the existing 3,000 square meters.

The Export-Import Bank of Korea,under the operation and management of the Economic Development Cooperation Fund of Korea,financed the project. Mactan-Cebu international airport

Meanwhile, Aquino yesterday led the inauguration of the new Mactan-Cebu International Airport terminal building.

The project, which costs P17.5 billion, was approved by the National Economic and Development Authority in 2013. It is being carried out through public-private partnership (PPP) to increase the airport’s passenger handling capacity from 4.5 million to 15 million per year. It is expected to be completed by June 2019.

The President said there would be 20 additional aircraft parking stands with respective aerobridges, 13 bus parking stands for vehicles that shuttle passengers to and from the airport and more than 550 private vehicle parking stands.

He said a link-bridge to connect domestic and international terminals would be built, aside from 100 domestic and international flight check-in counters from the current 49.

There will be bigger spaces and the flow of operations will be smoother, Aquino said, adding that all the improvements were part of their goal to build quality airport and facilities to serve the passengers.

“We always say this: Under the straight path, our objective is inclusive growth,” the President said.

He said better airports could help boost tourism, which credited as one of the areas responsible for the country’s economic growth.

The President said every tourist could bring in $1,000 to the economy and provide jobs or livelihood opportunities, with the need for more restaurants, souvenir shops, drivers and tour guides.

Quoting his celebrity sister Kris Aquino, the President said tourism could be of help “now” and not tomorrow.

Aquino said flights would be increased along with passengers that could be accommodated.

Pryce seeks 10% stake in Palawan oil prospect

By Alena Mae S. Flores

Listed Pryce Corp., through unit Pryce Gases Inc., plans to acquire a 10-percent stake in service contract 55 off southern Palawan from Otto Energy Ltd. of Australia.

Pryce Gases made a firm offer to acquire from Otto a 10-percent participating interest in SC 55 through the Energy Department for the exploration, development and exploitation of petroleum resources.

“The offer is essentially subject to the condition that PGI is to receive 20 percent of the Filipino Participation Incentive Allowance under the service contract and will be entitled to 10 percent of the cost recovery pool,” the company said in a disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange on Monday.

Pryce said the offer had not yet been accepted and might “still be subject to amendments and counterproposals.”

“There is likewise no certainty or assurance that any agreement will be reached relative to PGI’s offer,” it said.

Pryce, formerly Pryce Properties Corp., is a property holding and real estate company incorporated in 1989.

Its lone subsidiary Pyrce Gases produces and sells industrial gases and engages in the importation and distribution of liquefied petroleum gas under the Pryce Gas brand name,

Otto, meanwhile, owns 73.18 percent of SC 55, Palawan55 Exploration & Production Co. holds 6.82 percent while Red Emperor Resources NL of Australia has 15 percent.

Red Emperor is raising funds of about A$5.76 million (P199 million) to finance the drilling of Hawkeye-1 prospect in SC 55 scheduled in late July.

Red Emperor disclosed to the Australian Securities Exchange the issuance of 72 million new ordinary shares at 4 pence (A$0.08) per share was oversubscribed and raised £2.88 million (A$5.76m) before expenses.

“Proceeds from the raise and existing cash resources will principally be used to fund the upcoming drilling and potential appraisal activities in the Philippines, where the company has a 15 percent interest in Block SC55 in the southwest Palawan Basin,” it said.

SC 55 is a deep-water block in the middle of a proven regional oil and gas fairway that extends from the productive offshore Borneo region in the southwest to the offshore northwest Palawan.

Aquino visits Palawan

By JOEL M. SY EGCO

PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino 3rd flies today to Puerto Princesa City in Palawan, the province that is closest to the disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. confirmed the planned visit during a radio interview on Sunday but stressed that it has nothing to do with the heightening tension between the Philippines and China.

“The President is scheduled to fly tomorrow (Monday) to inspect the progress of the ongoing (project) to modernize the Puerto Princesa Airport that was approved by the NEDA (National Economic Development Authority) last October 17, 2014 which costs P5.23 billion,” the Palace official said over state-run Radyo ng Bayan.

Coloma clarified that the visit is not at all related to the disputes or to the halting of repair works at Pag-asa island, the small town located in the Spratlys.

“The reason why we stopped the repairs (in Pag-asa island) is based on the status quo principle on areas covered by issues on maritime entitlements in the West Philippine Sea that is related o the rules-based approach strategy where we filed an arbitration case before the UN (UNited Nations) tribunal,” he added.

He said Aquino will also visit the Mactan Cebu International Airport project that was also approved late last year.

With a budget of P17.5 billion, the Mactan project aims to further improve the tourism industry in the region, Cebu being an important international gateway.

Outgoing AFP chief now an adopted son of Palawan

By Jaime Laude With Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star)

MANILA, Philippines - For showing determination in challenging China’s provocations in the West Philippine Sea, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. has been named “an adopted illustrious son of Palawan.”

In bestowing on Catapang the honors, the Palawan Provincial Council cited his personally leading a group of local and foreign media last month to Pag-Asa island – seat of the Kalayaan island town in Palawan – to brief them on the real situation and send a message to China that the Philippines is serious about asserting its sovereignty over its territory.

Catapang retires from the service next month upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 56.

“He was declared an adopted illustrious son of Palawan through Provincial Resolution No. 12050 dated May 19, 2015,” AFP Public Affairs Office chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc said.

Palawan Gov. Jose Alvarez signed the resolution adopted by the provincial council headed by Palawan Vice Gov. Victorino Dennis Santos.

The province, through the council, expressed its appreciation for Catapang’s concern as well as his reassurance of protection for the country’s maritime borders.

While in Pag-Asa, Catapang announced his plan to build a vacation house in Kalayaan after his retirement. He said he plans to rent out the house to tourists occasionally, in line with the tourism program of Kalayaan town Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon Jr.

“Gen. Catapang’s initiative in pooling the resources and efforts of the AFP in visiting Pag-Asa Island was also appreciated by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan,” Cabunoc said.

Pag-Asa island is one of the nine areas in the region occupied by Filipino troops. Local help

Meanwhile, Angkla party-list Rep. Jesulito Manalo said yesterday the local maritime industry can help secure the country’s territorial waters by building vessels for the Coast Guard and the Navy.

“With what’s happening in the West Philippine Sea, we can – if we all work together – ourselves build our own ships for the Coast Guard, for the Navy and merchant vessels,” Manalo said.

He added public funds should be invested in building and developing national shipyards instead of acquiring used vessels from foreign powers.

Manalo noted the country’s weak or zero deterrent capability in the face of China’s continued reclamation and military construction activities in the West Philippine Sea, as well as piracy and poaching along the country’s extensive coastline.

“We can actually become a peaceful maritime power in the region, and can provide stability. One day, we’ll be shipping fleet owners. We have the manpower, experience and expertise. Let’s believe in ourselves and have a bigger vision for our country,” he said.

He said the Philippines ranks first in Southeast Asia and fourth in the world in terms of ship building, after China, South Korea and Japan. However, most of the major shipyards in the country are foreign-owned.

A paper from the Congressional Policy and Budget Research Department (CPBRD) of the House of Representatives said the construction of a 320,000-deadweight tonnage commercial ship “shows that the Philippines can build world-class ocean-going vessels.”

The CPBRD also said in 2013, a total of 90 international vessels were ordered from the Philippines, almost double the 48 booked orders in the previous year.

According to the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina), there are 12 licensed shipyards in the country, with eight having facilities for the construction and repair of big ships.

Malampaya consortium seeks 15-year contract extension

By RITCHIE A. HORARIO

THE consortium that operates the Malampaya natural gas project off northwest Palawan is seeking a 15-year extension of its contract, which is set to expire in 2024.

Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla said that the consortium has asked for an extension of its contract due to the likelihood that the gas field still contains enough reserves.

The Malampaya gas field is being operated by Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. in joint venture with Chevron Malampaya LLC and PNOC Exploration Corporation (PNOC EC).

Shell Philippines leads the consortium as operator and owns a 45-percent stake, while Chevron Malampaya also owns 45 percent and PNOC EC holds the remaining 10 percent.

Sebastian Quiñones, Shell general manager, said the consortium has sought the extension of the contract to operate mainly to explore for new natural gas deposits.

Quiñones said they are still looking for a new gas field near the $2 billion Malampaya platform, but the exploration should have the government’s go-signal.

“We would proceed with more exploration. We have to conduct drilling for us to be able to find first gas. Then we would proceed with development,” Quiñones said.

Petilla said the DOE will look into the request of the consortium, adding that the agency is now exploring alternative power sources, including imported liquefied natural gas (LNG).

The energy official said the consortium had commissioned a study indicating that the gas field will likely last until 2030. According to the study, Malampaya will last an extra five years if it is operated as a baseload supplier, and can last after 2030 if it is used as mid-merit supplier.

Mid-merit plants supply the gap between baseload and peaking plants, which run during peak hours.

“The life of the Malampaya gas field depends largely on the usage of the power plants,” said Petilla.

The Malampaya gas field under Service Contract 38 fuels three power plants in Batangas with a total capacity of 2,700 megawatts (MW), providing 40 percent to 45 percent of Luzon’s energy needs.

The three Batangas plants are currently running as baseload (or 24 hours a day, seven days a week) except during forced outages and maintenance shutdowns.

To draw more gas from the Malampaya gas field, the consortium has embarked on a $1 billion project to meet its supply commitments to the three power plants.

3,900 endangered turtles seized from Palawan warehouse

By Pia Ranada (Rappler.com)

The seizure is the largest confiscation of the critically-endangered Palawan Forest Turtles to date

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine authorities have seized more than 3,900 critically-endangered freshwater turtles from a warehouse owned by a Chinese national in southern Palawan, a government official said.

The seizure on June 17 was the largest for freshwater turtles in Palawan, Alex Marcaida of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) told Rappler on Thursday, June 25.

International group Traffic says it is the largest confiscation of Palawan Forest Turtles to date.

The confiscated 3,907 Palawan Forest Turtles, listed as critically-endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), were the majority of a total haul of 4,402 freshwater turtles.

The haul included 168 Asian Leaf Turtles and 25 Southeast Asian Box Turtles.

The turtles were confiscated from a warehouse in Bataraza, the southernmost town on mainland Palawan, around 6 hours away by land from Puerto Princesa City, said Marcaida.

The turtles were found in concrete aquariums in the warehouse. Ninety were already dead when they were discovered by Palawan's Provincial Law Enforcement Task Force.

The turtles were in poor condition, crowded in the concrete aquariums with dirty water that appeared not to have been changed for a long time, said Marcaida.

Sixty-nine turtles did not survive the long land travel to Puerto Princesa. Days after, 85 more died bringing the total number of dead turtles to 244.

Recuperating

Law enforcers handed the surviving turtles to PCSD who have turned them over to conservation institutions for rehabilitation.

"As of the moment, they are in rehab centers. We turned over some of them to the Katala Foundation. But since they don't have enough space, some turtles are with the Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center," said Marcaida.

Around 1,000 turtles have been released back into the wild, following the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act.

The rest are under evaluation in the rehabilition centers.

It will take at least a month for these turtles to fully recuperate, said Marcaida. The focus during that time will be to deworm the turtles, and treat them for any infection they may have contracted while in captivity.

But deworming may take much longer because PCSD and the partner institutions don't have enough funds to cover all the turtles, said Marcaida.

'Collecting frenzy'

The PCSD and Palawan's Provincial Law Enforcement Task Force are preparing to file charges against the owner of the warehouse, a Chinese national.

Marcaida said the warehouse had been under surveillance by Palawan authorities for some time. But when confronted, the Chinese owner claimed he had only been renting out the warehouse and was unaware of the illegal activities inside.

Authorities arrested the Filipino caretaker but released him soon after.

The Palawan Forest Turtle, endemic to the province, is locally called "bakoko" and is prized as a Chinese culinary delicacy and pet.

It is the largest and heaviest turtle of its type in the Philippines and for 80 years, its true geographic distribution across the country remained a mystery, according to a 2012 report by the IUCN.

Scientists and conservationists had thought it came from Leyte, hence its scientific name. It was only recently discovered that the bakoko thrived in the northern part of Palawan, catalyzing a mad rush for the species among poachers.

"The recent discovery of a natural population of S. leytensis on Palawan has already spurred a collecting frenzy among wildlife trappers and traders to supply domestic and international markets for the illegal wildlife trade," reads the report.

The turtles are usually smuggled by Chinese merchants to Hong Kong or China.

The recently seized Palawan Forest Turtles were believed to have been collected over a period of 6 months from their natural habitats in Northern Palawan.

Traffic lauded Philippine law enforcers for the confiscation but said the fight was far from over.

"Traffic urges the authorities to track down and punish the perpetrators behind this heinous crime," said Traffic Southeast Asia Regional Director Chris Shepherd.

DOE approves re-assignment of interest in Palawan oil well from Pitkin Petroleum

(Philippines News Agency)

MANILA - The Department of Energy (DOE) has approved the 70 percent re-assignment of interest for Service Contract 6-Octon Block from Pitkin Petroleum Plc. back to the original farmors.

”We received advice from the SC 6 Block A Operator that the Department of Energy has approved the re-assignment of participating interests to the farmors resulting from the withdrawal of erstwhile farminee, Pitkin Petroleum Plc,” Trans-Asia Petroleum Corporation said in a disclosure from the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) Wednesday.

Trans-Asia Petroleum noted its participating interest in SC 6 Block A has reverted to 7.78 percent following the DOE’s approval.

Last February, Philex Petroleum Corporation reported impairment losses worth P338.5 million due to its subsidiary Pitkin Petroleum Plc., having exited the project in Service Contract 6A.

Pitkin Petroleum was supposed to develop phase 2 of the project for the 70 percent stake, according to a 2011 farm-in agreement, but decided to back out early this year.

Located in offshore Northwest Palawan, SC 6A covers 1,081 square kilometers, mostly in the shallow waters of north west of the province.

The block is located only 10 kilometers from the Galoc oil field, and 50 kilometers away from the Camago-Malampaya oil and gas field.

Eight wells have been drilled within the SC6A area, with several wells having found oil and gas.

Other companies that have a participating interest in the project are Philodrill Corp, PetroEnergy Resources Corp, Forum Energy Philippines Corp, Anglo Philippine Holdings Corp, and Alcorn Gold Resources Corp.

DOH-MIMAROPA heightens campaign for good health of pregnant women and their children

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

CULION, Palawan, June 23 (PNA) -- The Department of Health (DOH)-MIMAROPA conducted its regional version of "Buntis Congress" on Tuesday at the island municipality of Culion, Palawan to highlight its campaign in ensuring that pregnant women and those within the reproductive age will get the appropriate services to keep them healthy and away from the verge of death.

A total of 400 reproductive age women were provided with free health services such as pre-natal check-up, vitamins and counseling by DOH health workers and partners.

Among the free health packages provided to pregnant women were blood testing, preventive dental health services, ultrasound testing, and urine screening.

"Buntis or pregnancy kits" and malaria nets were also distributed by personnel of the Population Commission who also shared information about family planning methods that can be used by families who want to plan the number of their children.

According to DOH-MIMAROPA Regional Director Eduardo C. Janairo, the conduct of the "Buntis Congress" has been conceptualized to ensure that all pregnant mothers in the MIMAROPA region who are living in difficult-to-reach areas will be aware of how they can access the available services offered by DOH.

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

Director Janairo noted that being aware of the available health services to pregnant mothers can pave the way for sure and safe motherhood while protecting their children afterwards.

"The Buntis Congress aims to increase the knowledge, attitude and skills of pregnant mothers as part of the efforts in giving priority to maternal and child care interventions," said Dr. Janairo.

Through the conduct of the congress, pregnant mothers are given reminders on avoiding pregnancy complications that may put not only their own lives to risk but also their babies.

Among the reminders are having regular check-up, taking care of their oral health and giving birth in a hospital facility.

The DOH is giving a boost on maternal and child care and health as one of its priority programs in line with the goal of achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

DOH Secretary Janette L. Garin earlier announced that the conduct of nationwide "Buntis Congress" is included in the DOH's Hi-5 Program or High-Impact Breakthrough Strategies to ensure the attainment of universal health care as envisioned by the Aquino administration’s straight path of good governance.

The strategies consist of reduction of infant mortality rate by 20 percent; lowering under-five mortality rate by 22 percent; reducing maternal mortality rate by 57 percent; halting Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS) by 40 percent; and increasing the service delivery networks in poor communities.

The Hi-5 Program aims to ensure that the Aquino administration will fulfill its promise of better health care services under its universal health care agenda.

With the conduct of the "Buntis Congress," DOH officials want to achieve the target of reducing maternal and child mortality rates. In doing so, they have engaged the participation of local government units (LGUs) in the region of MIMAROPA as active partners.

According to Dr. Faith Felipe Alberto, DOH-MIMAROPA Assistant Regional Director, there were 12 maternal deaths in Palawan from January to June of this year.

Such deaths were due to various contributing factors such as internal hemorrhage or bleeding suffered by mothers while being transported to the hospital facility, especially those from the far islands.

Dr. Alberto said they discourage women from giving birth through "hilot" or traditional midwives as there are some functions that cannot be performed by them, especially if there are birth complexities.

Japanese patrol plane in Palawan for drills with Philippines

(Kyodo News)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY - A P3-C patrol aircraft of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force on Sunday landed in Puerto Princesa City, in Palawan to take part in a training exercise with the Philippine military, marking the first time for an SDF unit to enter the island.

The exercise is seen as an opportunity to display the strength of Japan's cooperation with the Philippines, with an eye to China's controversial land reclamation on the disputed Spratly Islands in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

About 20 members belonging to the first aircraft group of MSDF Kanoya Air Base in Kagoshima Prefecture arrived on the P3-C. From Tuesday, personnel of the Philippine military are to board the plane for a scheduled flight over international waters of the South China Sea.

The exercise is humanitarian in nature, focused on improving joint efforts in conducting maritime search and rescue during a disaster.

Adm. Tomohisa Takei, commander of the MSDF who visited the island in February during an official visit to the Philippines, said warning and surveillance activity "is not envisioned."

At a summit meeting held in Tokyo on June 4, Philippine President Benigno Aquino and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed to begin negotiations on an accord for the transfer of defense equipment and technology in the fields of disaster relief and maritime security, as their nations bolster security ties due to tensions sparked by the pace and extent of China's reclamation work.

Although details have yet to be worked out, Japanese government sources have said P3-C patrol aircraft and radar-related equipment are seen as potential export items.

Separately from the drill with the MSDF, the Philippines is scheduled to hold regular naval exercises with the United States east of Palawan from Monday.

Japan and the Philippines, which mark the 60th anniversary of bilateral ties next year, have increasingly stepped up their cooperation in the face of China's increasing assertiveness in the contested waters.

China claims sovereignty over most of the South China Sea, which is a vital shipping lane and believed to have rich fishing grounds. Rival claimants in the dispute are Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Taiwan and the Philippines, which is one of the most vocal in opposing China's push for overlapping territorial claims.

While Japan is not directly linked to the South China Sea dispute, it fears Beijing's expanding influence in the sea. The United States, an ally of Japan and the Philippines, does not take a stand in the territorial issues but has expressed concern over unilateral attempts to change the status quo at sea by force.

19 Pinoy youths sent to SEACamp earth campaign

By Pia Lee-Brago (The Philippine Star)

MANILA, Philippines - Nineteen Filipino youths from all over the country were awarded grants by the US embassy to implement marine conservation projects at the Sea and Earth Advocates (SEA) Camp held recently in Coron, Palawan.

SEACamp is a US embassy project, in partnership with Save Philippine Seas (SPS), focused on empowering young Filipinos to become leaders in marine conservation.

The grant winners were selected from 90 participants of the regional SEACamps held between April to May in Batangas, Negros Oriental and Tawi-Tawi.

Grant winners were selected by a panel from SPS, USAID’s ECOFISH project, Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines and Lighthouse Studio based on feasibility, impact and innovation.

One winning proposal from Luzon, KaliKLASRUM, will engage urban children in environmental and conservation issues.

In the Visayas, the project Scarus will assist fishermen in painting and coding their boats.

The Garbage to Garden Project in Mindanao will provide training on proper waste management and vermicomposting techniques.

SEACamp, one of the many activities of the US embassy in support of its ongoing earth campaign, is also supported by Bobble, CP Kelco, Havaianas, Human Nature, Lagu, Ni-pa Foods, and Smart Communications, Inc.


3 suspected Abu Sayyaf members arrested in Palawan

(VR/Sunnex)

SECURITY forces have arrested last Thursday three suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf Group in Bataraza town, Palawan.

Abu Sayyaf members Alnaser Sawadjaan, Jardin Hajuli, and Alig Pandah were nabbed by patrolling military and police personnel in Sitio Bagong Buhay in Barangay Sumbeling around 12:40 p.m.

The three were arrested on a firearms charge after they yielded a caliber 45 pistol.

During questioning, the three revealed that their leader, one Muammar Askali, is in Puerto Princesa City, also in Palawan, casing potential kidnap victims or target of a "terror activity" in line with the ongoing Baragatan festival.

Sawadjaan is the son of the late Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Jul Asman Sawadjaan who is blamed for the kidnapping of a Jordanian journalist Baker Attani three years ago in Sulu.

The report said Askali masterminded the bombing of a police camp in Sulu last May 29 that left 14 people, including policemen, injured.

PH, US to hold naval exercises east of Palawan on June 22

By Cynthia D. Balana

The Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (Carat) naval exercise between the Philippines and the United States Navy will begin Monday (June 22) in east of Palawan amid the rising tension in the South China Sea.

The Carat 2015, a bilateral maritime exercise, will be conducted from June 18 to 30 in different areas of Palawan, according to Lt. Liezel Vidallon, Philippine Fleet public affairs officer.

The exercise aims to conduct combined naval operations in order to enhance interoperability between the Philippine Navy and United States Navy.

The exercise is expected to strengthen both navies’ combined capabilities in amphibious operations, special operations, surface warfare, and modern naval warfare.

The Carat events include Helo Crash and Salvage Drill, P3-Orion surveillance plane flight near the disputed waters, gunnery exercise at sea, and training aboard USS Fort Worth like deck landing qualification, visit board, search and seizure and weapon system.

Vidallon has said no exercise will be conducted on the disputed island as Carat is being conducted yearly.

“It’s just an annual bilateral training conducted to enhance interoperability between the two parties,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines will just stand by as China has completed its reclamations on the disputed waters.

“We have already proven that indeed China has put up reclamations in the area that is not consonance with the international law so it is up to the Department of Foreign Affairs (to proceed),” AFP Chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang said.

Catapang said the AFP would verify China’s statement that reclamations were over by conducting another reconnaissance flight in the area.

Workers in Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan and Mindoro to get wage hike

By Melissa Luz T. Lopez

MINIMUM WAGE workers from the Mimaropa region will soon enjoy a small increase in daily pay after securing approvals from the local wage board.

The Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board governing the provinces of Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, and Palawan approved on April 29 incremental hikes in daily salaries for minimum wage workers and was published in a newspaper yesterday.

Wage Order No. IV-B-07 increases the salaries of minimum wage earners in the region by increments of at least P5 to be implemented in two to four tranches.

The wage hike stems from a Jan. 21 petition filed by the Association of Minimum Wage Earners and Advocates to increase the basic daily pay by P185.

However, the six-member wage board said that this amount was “unrealistically high” for employers, and could instead bring business decline and worker displacement.

But the same wage order also states that the wage board has decided to “provide workers with immediate relief” to cope with rising commodity costs “without impairing the viability of business and industry.”

As approved, the daily pay for minimum wage earners in the following areas would be increased by P5 by July 3, or 15 days after the publication date.

In select areas in the region, minimum wages will again be raised by another P5 or P7 starting Nov. 1; by another P5-P10 on May 1, 2016; and by P5-P10 in Nov. 1, 2016.

The final adjusted minimum wages by November 2016 would be:

• for those working in companies under the non-agriculture sector with more than 10 employees: P285, from the current P255-P275 depending on the area;

• for those working in companies under the non-agriculture sector? with less than 10 employees: P235, from the current P205-P215 range;

• for those employed under the agriculture sector: P235, from the current P215 or P225 rates;

• and for those working in mining firms: P285, from the current P280.

The wage adjustments will also allow the region to do away with the two-tiered wage system that is currently in place, with the end rates leading up to equal basic pay in every sector in all areas within Mimaropa.

Currently, daily minimum wages in the region vary depending on the industry and location. Wages are highest in Puerto Princesa, slightly higher in the tourist islands of Calapan, Puerto Galera, El Nido and Coron, and lower in the rest of the region.

Though the wage board approved the incremental hike, two members dissented with the decision.

Employers’ representative Osias C. Navarro and Trade representative Joel B. Valera said the approved increase is “not justified” and the tranches assigned were “too short” for firms to adjust the wages.

Firms may choose to file an appeal or exemption to the local wage board and will be subject to evaluation.

Tubbataha now an EAA Flyway Network Site

By Victoria Asuncion S. Mendoza (VSM/TMO/LBR/PIA4b/Palawan)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan, June 17 (PIA) -- Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (TRNP) is now part of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership (EAAFP), a platform for international cooperation for the conservation of migratory waterbirds and the sustainable use of their habitats.

Spike Millington, Chief Executive of the EAAFP announced the inclusion of TRNP as a Flyway Network Site, in a meeting with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Biodiversity Management Bureau, on 23 – 28 May 2015 in Manila. EAAFP is a platform for international cooperation for the conservation of migratory waterbirds and the sustainable use of their habitats.

The two islets of TRNP regularly supports more than 20,000 seabirds. It serves as the main rookery and breeding ground of six seabird species (Red-footed Booby, Brown Booby, Great crested Tern, Sooty Tern, Black Noddy and Brown Noddy) four of which are migratory. Tubbataha is the only known breeding area of the worcestri subspecies of Black Noddy, one of the few breeding areas of Sooty Tern and Brown Noddy, and it was the last known breeding area of Masked Booby in the Philippines until 1995.

Most of the seabird species breeding at the Tubbataha can be considered threatened at national or regional levels. The Critically Endangered Christmas Island Frigatebird (Frigata andrewesi) regularly occurs with up to five individuals at a time, as well as Chinese Egret, Swinhoe’s Storm Petrel, Eurasian Curlew and Black-tailed Godwit.

Tubbataha is the 3rd wetland and Ramsar Site in the Philippines to become a flyway network site; the other two being Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary and Naujan Lake National Park.

The inclusion of Tubbataha in the EAAFP strengthens its efforts to conserve the seabirds breeding and roosting in the park through conservation of the population in the areas within their migratory route.

Baragatan sa Palawan 2015 formally opens with colorful float parade, fireworks

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

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, June 16 (PNA) -- Baragatan sa Palawan, the annual civil government anniversary and convergence offering of the provincial government, formally opened Monday in this highly-urbanized capital city with a colorful float parade and a fireworks display in the evening.

The official opening of the Baragatan, which is a Cuyunon word that means “coming together,” took place with a grand parade personally led by Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez, Vice Governor Dennis Socrates, members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, Puerto Princesa Mayor Lucilo Bayron, department heads of the city and provincial governments, and others.

Alvarez and the local government officials started the grand parade at the Immaculate Conception Parish near the city bay, and ended it at the Cory Park at the back of the Provincial Capitol Building Compound, where a short program was done.

In his speech, Alvarez encouraged oneness among Palaweño people, and empowerment of local government units to implement development projects that can get many communities out of poverty.

The governor said that holding the Baragatan event each year is giving importance to the contributions of history to the present and the future of Palawan.

In related news, the Baragatan committee introduced Sunday afternoon 17 candidates, who will vie for this year’s Mutya ng Palawan crown and other significant titles.

Of the province’s 23 municipalities, only 17 have candidates in the coveted search that is part of the anniversary celebration.

Mutya ng Palawan 2015 will win PHP50,000; 1st Runner up PHP40,000; 2nd Runner up PHP30,000; 3rd Runner up PHP20,000; 4th Runner up PHP15,000 and PHP5,000 each as consolation prizes.

Mutya committee chairperson Leonila Rizada-Baga said the Talent Night is on June 18, and the Grand Coronation Night will be on June 22.

On June 18-19, Alvarez will also lead the celebration of the Strategic Environmental Plan Law Anniversary with talks on “Palawan and the Future;” SEP Highlights: The 23 Years of Palawan Sustainable Development; and the inaugural session of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) Scientific Advisory Board.

Coron, USAID sign agreement to preserve Siete Pecados as marine protected area

(PNA), JBP/CARF/RCG

CORON, Palawan, June 16 (PNA) -- The local government of Coron and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) recently signed a memorandum of agreement for the implementation of a comprehensive master plan to further protect aquatic and cultural resources at the Siete Pecados (7 Sins) Marine Protected Area.

Last week, the signing of the agreement between the Coron LGU and the USAID was witnessed by 20 journalists, who were participants to the 5th U.S. Embassy Seminar for Regional Media (Writing for Survival: Media for Marine Conservation).

The comprehensive master plan is necessary, according to Siete Pecados park manager Jose Mazo, to preserve the 52-hectare marine park off mainland Coron as it aspires to provide systems for management, handling of personnel, aid for development projects, and direction on the administration of tour visits.

One of nine marine parks in Coron, Siete Pecados, is proof that the Coron community can make partnership work successfully among the local and national governments, and the USAID to further boost not only the fish stocks but livelihood of the people as well.

“Importante sa amin ang Siete Pecados hindi lamang dahil sa ecosystem nito kundi dito rin kami kumikita sa aming hanap-buhay (This Siete Pecados is important to us not only as an ecosystem but also because our livelihood depend on it),” Mazo told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) and other journalists, who conducted a site visit on June 12 with former environment secretary and national scientist Dr. Angel Alcala and the U.S. Embassy Public Affairs Office representative.

Just a few minutes boat ride from the famous Kayangan Lake on Coron Island, Siete Pecados is one of the reasons why resort businesses have flourished in this island town in northern Palawan.

“Kung walang proteksyon ang Siete Pecados, marahil hindi kikita ang mga may-ari ng mga resort at hotel dito sa Coron (If Siete Pecados is not protected, maybe the owners of the resorts and hotels here will not have income),” Mazo said, adding around 400 tourists come near the site each month to snorkel “only in the boundaries.”

He stated tourists are not allowed to come within the park as it is considered “core zone,” where no human activity should be conducted.

Located across Sitio Maquinit, Barangay Tagumpay, Coron, Vivian Facunla, coordinator of the five-year USAID Ecosystems Improved for Sustainable Fisheries (ECOFISH) Project, said Siete Pecados is home to a diverse collection of colorful fish, corals, and infrequently seen invertebrates.

This fact, she said, has contributed around PHP1.4 million in revenues since 2013, and is self-sustaining in terms of funding maintenance and regular patrol and monitoring operations.

“Happy tourists mean a prosperous local economy that attracts even more tourists, which in turn could bring more revenues to the marine park,” she said.

The protection of Siete Pecados “has also sustained the livelihood of marginal fisher folks in Tagumpay as it is sanctuary to parent fishes and their young. The result is higher survival rate of fishes, many of which migrate out of the marine park.

“That spill-over effect ensures that local fishers will have something to bring home after a day of hook-and-line fishing,” she said, adding local residents have reported a catch of as much as 10 kilos per day.

Siete Pecados has reportedly become the benchmark for creating marine parks in Coron and other local governments in the Calamianes. In fact, Mayor Clara Reyes considers the protection of critical marine ecosystems as a foundation of the LGU’s broader program for sustainable economic development.

Coron tourism increases by 6,000 visitors in 1st Quarter of 2015

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

CORON, Palawan, June 14 (PNA) –- Coron’s tourism industry is in good health again barely two years after super typhoon Haiyan’s devastation, according to Joselito Arzaga, the manager of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) at the Francisco B. Reyes Airport in this scenic town in northern Palawan.

In an interview with the media, who attended the 5th U.S. Embassy Seminar for Regional Media (Writing for Survival: Media for Marine Conservation) held here from June 11-12, Arzaga said that now, they are back to welcoming 400 foreign and domestic tourists a day since the first quarter of 2015.

“It went down when Yolanda (Haiyan) hit us in 2013 to as low as 200,” Arzaga told the Philippine News Agency (PNA).

Home to Kayangan Lake, which was held as the cleanest inland body of water in the Philippines, and as its ship wreck capital, he said “visitors actually, never stopped visiting Coron even after Yolanda’s devastating onslaught.

Most of those, who came and supported Coron’s rise from the super typhoon were reportedly Russians and Koreans.

“The LGU (local government unit) mentioned to me before that Russians and Koreans never stopped visiting us,” Arzaga said.

He added too, that there is no more “lean season” in Coron.

“We don’t have a lean season anymore. All year round visitors come. Tourism just sort of laid low for a few months,” he said, adding this was probably because of news reports of Yolanda’s destruction.

“When our airport here closed, people thought that’s going to be for a long time. However, when they learned that it was okay, and it went back to operation immediately, they’re back visiting us,” the airport manager said.

Arzaga disclosed that there are projects they are awaiting for the Francisco B. Reyes Airport, such as water system development that will have a budget from the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), the landscaping of the parking area, and a new arrival area.

The DOTC, he explained, plans to utilize the old passenger terminal building adjacent the airport to become the arrival area.

The projects will reportedly happen before the end of the year.

Cops recover 38 abandoned critically-endangered sea turtles in Balabac, Palawan

By Ruth T. Rodriguez [(PNA), RMA/CARF/RTR/SSC]

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, June 13 (PNA) -- Police authorities in the southernmost town of Balabac, Palawan recovered on Philippines Independence Day 38 species of abandoned critically-endangered sea turtles (locally known as pawikan) off the coast of Sitio Timbayan, Barangay Ramos.

Palawan Police Provincial Office (PPO) spokesperson Insp. Aldrin Atienza said the live sea turtles were recovered around 9:30 a.m. Friday by a team from the Balabac Municipal Police Station (MPS), led by Insp. Maribel Ustares, kept in three cages in Barangay Ramos.

Twenty of the sea turtles, according to Atienza, were immediately released in the waters of Balabac. The rest, on the other hand, were turned over to the Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Office (MENRO) for “proper documentation.”

The police spokesperson said the decision to release the sea turtle came up since the Balabac MPS does not own a large enough motorized boat to carry them back to the main town as they were large.

The police team did not find any suspect in the area. But follow up operations continue, said Atienza to the Philippine News Agency (PNA) Saturday.

Miriam wants probe on P53.14B taxes Malampaya contractors owe to govt

By Amita O. Legaspi / KBK (GMA News)

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago has called for a Senate investigation on the P53.14 billion underpaid income taxes Malampaya contractors allegedly owe the government.

In Senate Resolution 1388, Santiago said the government must balance the interest between profit of investors and state revenue while at all times ensuring that public interest is primordial.

She said the Commission on Audit stated that Malampaya gas field owes the government P53.14 billion in underpaid income taxes from 2003 to 2009.

The contractors claimed that the amount was deductible from the government's 60 percent share of taxes during the period.

This view was supported by the Department of Energy, but COA said Presidential Decree 87 and 1459 are clear that the minimum government share was 60 percent of the net earnings of any exploration.

Among the contractors involved were Shell Philippines Exploration BV, Chevron Malampaya LLC, and Philippine National Oil Company.

“Congress should intensify existing legislation to clarify revenue sharing issues on the Malampaya gas field project,” Santiago said in the resolution.

Malampaya is a deepwater gas-to-power project located in Palawan supplying three gas turbine power plants with a combined capacity of 2,760 megawatts of power. The companies extracting natural gas are required to pay corporate income taxes.

UPLB senior science researchers hope Palawan to use LiDAR technology

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

CORON, Palawan, June 11 (PNA) -- Senior science research specialists from the University of the Philippines Los Banos (UPLB) hope local government units (LGUs) in Palawan would take interest in employing the LiDAR or Light Detection and Ranging technology to assess the province's "resources."

This happened during Wednesday's orientation and introduction of the Philippine-LiDAR 2, which aims to produce a detailed map of terrestrial, fluvial and coastal resources.

Attended by various LGU representatives led by the provincial and city governments, research specialists Ozzy Boy Nicopior and Milben Bragais aim to further introduce LiDAR's various applications that can help assess these resources.

They explained that through remote sensing technology, the distance and height of an area can be measured by using laser light that can generate a three-dimensional map that is exact and detailed.

Bragais said LiDAR is a modern technology that started in 2000 and first used in 2011 in relation to Disaster Risk and Exposure Assessment for Mitigation or DREAM Program of the national government.

From identifying areas where the potential of floods, landslides, and others can happen, experts see the LiDAR as a tool that can gather data on agriculture and other resources on land, mountains and coastal areas.

LiDAR can identify the locations of rivers, seas, anf lakes. It can also identify coconut plantations, corn fields, cashew trees and more.

Bragais said Phil-LiDAR 2 uses three small aircrafts - Pegasus and Gemini for land, and Aquarius to measure the sizes of corals near the coastlines.

From April to May, aerial scanning of the west and east coasts of Palawan was started. The same for Coron and Tubbataha Natural Marine Park will be next year, on the other hand.

Due to lack of personnel, the research specialists requested for the cooperation of the LGUs to help validate the data from the areal scanning through field monitoring using the GPS, camera and compass.


Collaboration center to ensure quality malaria care opens in Puerto Princesa City

By Keith Anthony S. Fabro [(PNA), LAP/CARF/KASF/EDS]

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, June 10 (PNA) -- A collaboration center that aims to ensure the quality of malaria care services was opened Tuesday at the PEO Compound in Barangay Bancao-bancao, this city.

The center, named as Palawan Research Institute for Malaria Mosquito-borne diseases (PRIMM), will serve as a hub for all malaria-diagnostic and entomological trainings, quality assurance and research and development for regions IV-B, V, VI, and VII, relayed Dr. Mario Baquilod, OIC Director III of National Center for Disease Prevention and Control (NCPDC) Infectious Disease Office.

Baquilod told the Philippines News Agency (PNA) Tuesday that the province would benefit from it most.

He pointed out, "Palawan is contributing about 92 percent of the country's malaria cases."

But he said the Department of Health (DOH) is in the process of totally eradicating it to cope up with the medium-term development plan of achieving elimination status by 2025.

He added the country saw a sinking trend of malaria cases -- from 2006's about 46,000 -- it went down to 4,937 in 2014.

From January to May 2015, the DOH recorded 635 cases of which two-thirds or about 200 to 300 were from Palawan.

Southern towns, particularly Rizal and its adjacent towns are with the highest incidences, he said, adding they will meet their health officers early July for 2016 planning.

Moreover, the center "aims to be the symbol and pivot for all health networking and partnership in Palawan," read the project rationale.

It will "provide a mechanism for providing a structured, regular system for technical assistance with the ultimate goal of ensuring the quality of malaria care services in the country."

The center, which is the country's third along with Tuguegarao and Davao, has a malaria microscopic training laboratory and slide bank, entomology training laboratory and insectary.

The initiative was made possible through the Movement Against Malaria, a joint project of Pilipinas Shell Foundation Inc., Regional Health Office IV-B and the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine.

"I am looking forward that this initiative will further catalyze our efforts towards a malaria-free Philippines," read DOH Secretary Janette Garin's message.

The center was established through the financial support from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and the Malampaya Joint Venture Partners of Shell Philippines Exploration, Chevron Malampaya LLC and the Philippine National Oil Company.

Australia’s Kairiki Energy divests offshore Palawan petroleum assets

By Claire-Ann Marie C. Feliciano

KAIRIKI Energy Ltd. has decided to divest from its petroleum assets in the Philippines, citing uncertainty over the contract areas located offshore Palawan.

The company said in a disclosure to the Australian Securities Exchange that it terminated the binding term sheet with Focus Oil and Gas Ltd, resulting in the “disposal of its entire interest in the share capital of Yilgarn Petroleum Philippines Pty Ltd.”

Yilgarn is a joint venture company that holds a 30.1% participating interest in Service Contract (SC) 54 A and 40% in SC 54 B -- which covers resource areas in waters northwest of Palawan.

Cited as the cause of the decision to dispose the interest was “the likely non-satisfaction of the condition precedent” on the agreement with Focus.

Kairiki said the Philippine Department of Energy (DoE) granted a moratorium on SC 54 “to give the joint venture sufficient time to study the development of the discovered marginal resources in the block.”

The moratorium -- which runs from Aug. 4 of last year until Aug. 5, 2017 -- will give the joint venture the option to enter into another sub-phase at the end of the term, which entails the commitment to drill one well.

“If the joint venture elects to continue into the production period, the three-year moratorium period will be automatically deducted to the initial production period,” the disclosure read.

Given its minority interest, Kairiki said it has minimal control over future activities covered by the contract.

The company also noted that “the moratorium approved by the DoE could potentially result in the company being relatively inactive through... August 2017.”

Agriculture department steps up campaign vs mango pulp weevil in Palawan

By Jocelyn Y. Tabuada

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, June 8 (PNA) -- The Department of Agriculture (DA) in Palawan is stepping up anew its campaign against the spread of the mango pulp weevil.

Librada Fuertes, head of the Research and Development of DA-Palawan Agricultural Experiment Station (DA-APES) said the mangoes from the northern areas of Palawan are still safe from the infestation.

“24/7 ang ginagawang monitoring ng mga tao natin, pinapara nila ang lahat ng mga sasakyang dumadaan upang matingnan kung may dalang mga mangga ito (Our people are awake 24/7 to monitor vehicles if they’re bringing mangoes),” Fuertes said.

“It is only the mangoes from Puerto Princesa City and southern Palawan that are still positive with the mango pulp weevil, “Fuertes added.

She said that they are monitoring the different terminals and the street vendors to prevent the spread of the infestation.

“We require them to secure permits from the City Hall to ensure that the mangoes they are selling are safe for human consumption, “she added.

Fuertes also gave tips to mango tree growers on how to guard against mango pulp weevil.

”First is center pruning, where you have to trim the center of the mango tree, from the leaves to the branches so that sunlight can get in. Pulp weevils are active during nighttime. They die when they are hit by sunlight for 10 minutes to 15 minutes, “she said.

There should be sanitation, she stated, where the infested mango fruits should be buried or burned to prevent spreading, and that chemicals should also be applied to stop the pests.

Despite the pest problem, Fuertes encouraged mango growers to continue. “The DA and local agricultural offices are doing their best to solve the problem. This cannot be done overnight, “she said.

Accordingly, “research still has to find a long-term remedy to the problem of mango pulp weevil (Sternochetus frigidus) infestation in the province of Palawan in the Philippines where the world-renowned underground river is found. Pest control approaches by farmers have so far been unable to eradicate the pest at source which finds the edible fleshy part of the mango as its favorite breeding place. Hence, the name mango pulp weevil or MPW.” (PNA) FPV/CARF/JYT/EBP

Palawan off-grid deal filed with ERC

By Claire-Ann Marie C. Feliciano

SABANG Renewable Energy Corp. (SREC) has sought regulatory approval to provide electricity to an off-grid site in Palawan province. The company asked the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to approve the qualified third party service and subsidy agreement (QTP-SSA) it executed with National Power Corp. (Napocor).

The agreement covers the provision of electricity to Barangay Cabayugan in Puerto Princesa City.

“The current electricity service situation in Barangay Cabayugan is an unregulated and individual system of electrification based on diesel generation,” SREC explained in its application dated May 20.

The company added that there is also no operational power grid in Palawan and while the large hotels run on diesel generators, all other establishments are limited by the availability of power.

Under the QTP-SSA, SREC will provide electricity to around 600 households, 50 small hotels and business establishments, and two mid-sized hotels.

The power will be sourced from a hybrid power facility, which will be composed of a 1.4-megawatt (MW) solar photovoltaic (PV) plant; a 2.3 MW-hour storage batteries; and four 320-kilowatt units of diesel generators.

SREC said the solar farm will involve 5,616 PV panels with a capacity of 250 watt-peak each. Ion batteries will also be used for energy storage.

“In order to guarantee a 24-hour energy supply, the plant also includes four diesel engine generator sets...,” SREC added.

The entire facility will entail a P429.43-million investment that will be funded by a combination of debt and equity. It is expected to be fully operational within this year.

The entry of QTPs in off-grid areas is intended to stimulate economic growth even in unviable areas.

Operations of such power providers are made feasible via a subsidy sourced from the universal charge for missionary electrification (UCME).

“This enables a QTP to operate viably while charging its consumers at rates reasonably acceptable in the area as determined by this commission,” the application read.

The QTP-SSA between SREC and Napocor further provides that the power generator shall charge and collect from its end users the subsidized rate and source the remaining from the UCME subsidy.

“This will greatly spur economic growth in the service area and contribute significantly to the improvement of the lives and livelihoods of the local inhabitants of the island,” the petition stated.

Napocor -- through its Small Power Utilities Group -- is mandated by the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 to provide electricity to remote barangays and villages or areas not connected to the country’s power grid.

The state-run power firm urges private parties to enter into these areas to provide electricity via bilateral deals.

Areas considered off-grid include Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Masbate, Siquijor, Zamboanga, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

Bill Gates and wife visit Palawan

(CNN Philippines)

(CNN Philippines) - Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates was in Palawan for three days this week to have a vacation and check out an investment opportunity, eyewitnesses told the Philippine News Agency (PNA).

Eyewitnesses at the Puerto Princesa City Airport said they saw Gates arrive onboard a Global Express private plane on Monday (April 6) with wife, Melinda Gates, and two of their three children.

An aircraft security procedure document obtained by the PNA showed that only the crew and an international security team was allowed to come near the plane.

They then took a privately-hired helicopter and headed for the luxury beach resort of Amanpulo.

According to the report, the business magnate, tagged by Forbes as the richest man on the planet for 16 years, also made a visit to an El Nido island he wanted to invest in.

The family reportedly flew back to Manila on Wednesday (April 8).

Earlier news reports stated that Gates went to Los Baños, Laguna to visit the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

IRRI confirmed Thursday (April 9) that senior officers of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation visited this week.

It did not state, however, if the Gates were among the delegation.

The visit was related to a partnership between the two organizations in developing Golden Rice— a genetically-engineered rice variety that contains beta carotene — which is one key project in the foundation’s larger Global Development Division.

According to the foundation, Golden Rice can help reduce the global problem on vitamin A deficiency which could lead to blindness and, in some cases, death.

Greenpeace, however, claim that the introduction of this genetically-engineered variety could negatively impact local livelihoods as traditional farmers could lose their markets.

Turtle visits puzzle elementary school in Puerto Princesa City

By Keith Anthony S. Fabro [(PNA), FPV/CARF/KASF/EDS]

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, June 5 (PNA) -- Children and school administrators at the Don Mauricio Reynoso Elementary School (DMRES) in this city are puzzled about turtle visits they are being paid recently despite the absence of any swamp area in their immediate neighborhood.

Since the rolling of the Department of Education’s (DepEd) “Brigada Eskwela” on the last week of May, the school in Barangay Bancao-Bancao has been getting infrequent to numerous visits by various species of turtles.

By the time they realized it, the school community had collected 37 turtles, whose species have been identified as Philippine Freshwater Turtle, Southeast Asian Box Turtle, Asian Leaf Turtle and Philippine Forest Turtle.

The news, which was first broken by Brigada News FM, was confirmed when an official report was made Wednesday, June 3, to the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff (PCSDS).

According to the PCSDS, the turtles probably managed to escape its keeper, and that more are probably roaming in the school vicinity, waiting to be found or rescued.

It said too, that keeping the turtles is an illegal act and violates Republic Act 9147, or the Philippine Wildlife Act.

The Philippine Forest Turtle, in particular, is a species of freshwater turtle endemic to the country, and is classified as “critically endangered” and is native to the Palawan island group.

The PCSDS is still investigating the "unusual" case. They further urged students and residents in the vicinity to turnover to them the forest turtles they brought home for them to bring it back to its natural habitat.

Explosion rocks Balabac mayor's house

By Efraim Canoy (ABS-CBN News Palawan, ABS-CBNnews.com)

PALAWAN - An explosion damaged the house of the mayor of Balabac town in Palawan early Thursday morning, police said.

Senior Superintendent Benjamin Acorda Jr., Palawan provincial police director, said the explosion happened at 2:45 a.m. and damaged the house of Mayor Shuaib Juani Astami.

Two of Astami's relatives sustained minor injuries due to the blast. The mayor was unhurt.

The police Explosives and Ordnance Division has already taken samples from the site.

Authorities have yet to determine whether the blast was accidental or intentional.

Supposedly extinct amphibians rediscovered in Palawan

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

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, June 3 (PNA) -- The National Geographic’s (NatGeo) “Weird & Wild” website segment featured Tuesday “two species of amphibians thought lost to science” but were rediscovered again in the mountain forests of the Philippines, particularly in Palawan.

In a feature written by Jason Bittel for NatGeo at http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/05/150602-amphibians-extinct-species-toads-philippines-animals/, he noted that it had been “50 years since anyone laid eyes on the Malatgan River caecilian, a legless amphibian native to the island province of Palawan in the Philippines.”

Before the rediscovery, Bittel said “science dreaded that the species, whose last record was lost in a museum during World War II, was gone forever.”

That was the common belief until a group of scientists made a recent trip to the Philippines and found “something slithering through the dirt.”

One of the members of the group, evolutionary biologist Rafe Brown of the Universityof Kansas (UOK), said the seeing afresh was “basically a coincidence.”

This was because one of the students, who went with them, “walked by it and thought it was a worm. But lo and behold, it was a Malatgan River caecilian."

Bittel’s NatGeo weird and wild article narrated that Brown and his team have been striding and sifting through muds in Palawan for “over 15 years looking for signs of this and other species lost to science.”

The serpentine amphibian was found accidentally in Cleopatra’s Needle, a mystical mountain surround by lush forests in Puerto Princesa that is home to the Batak, Tagbanua, and other indigenous communities.

Described, Brown said the amphibian does not have any “flashy colors or anything like that, but it's one of those last, iconic species that we couldn't find.”

Also rediscovered was the Palawan toadlet (Pelophryne albotaeniata), which Bittel wrote, “had been missing for the last 40 years.”

The rediscoveries were the result of a survey launched in December 2014 by the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD), Global Wildlife Conservation (GWC), and the Amphibian Survival Alliance (ASA), and Rainforest Trust (RT).

Bittel’s article quoted Robin Moore, conservation officer of ASA, in saying when they started the project, they didn’t know for sure if the animals were in Cleopatra’s Needle.

Moore said the rediscoveries were “incredible” that it found the two amphibians after not seeing them for decades.

Alliance for clean energy in Palawan denounces affirmation of coal power

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

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, June 2 (PNA) -- The Palawan Alliance for Clean Energy (PACE) is denouncing the multi-sectoral and inter-diciplinary body Palawan Council for Sustainable Development’s (PCSD) affirmation of an earlier endorsement it issued to the 15-megawatt circulating-fluidized coal-fired power plant in San Isidro, Narra being proposed by DMCI Power Corporation (DPC).

In a statement posted at the website of Palawan News, the PACE said “the manner by which the PCSD issued a Strategic Environmental Plan (SEP) clearance to the thermal plant project demonstrated” the body’s “brazen disregard of its core mandate to protect Palawan’s environment.”

“The PCSD as a permanent regulatory agency surrendered itself to machinations of local politics, kowtowing to the provincial governor’s personal dictates,” the PACE said.

The PACE said it is denouncing the affirmation of the coal plant on the fact that no deliberation or debate was done “at all” within the PCSD because Governor Jose Alvarez “held sway all other local officials, including the mayors of Puerto Princesa City and Narra, “who meekly kept their mouths shut when the resolution was made.”

The PACE is further rankled as representatives of the community because they were reportedly denied their “basic clamor to be fairly represented in the decision-making process.”

The alliance for clean energy stated that it is further denouncing the fact that even in the communities, where the coal plant is planned to be constructed, there was no informed participation in the environmental impact assessment process.

“This denied the community residents unbiased access to information on the coal power plant project,” the PACE said.

The PACE also denounced the “railroading of the entire local permitting process” from the barangay level to the municipal, to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan and to the PCSD.

“All of these processes were a mockery of the consultative and participatory processes required under existing laws, and in direct disregard of PCSD’ own procedures,” it said, adding that until today, the DPC has not submitted an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) on its project to the Environmental Critical Areas Network (ECAN) Board.

The ECAN endorsement, the PACE claimed, is an important process that was missed in the PCSD to facilitate the certification.

The coal project, it claimed further, is too costly, that is why it was rejected under the newly-approved Palawan Island Energy Development Master Plan.

“Shocking and disturbing is the Palawan governor’s response that the project no longer needs the endorsement of the ECAN Board and the approval of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and that he can unilaterally change the energy master plan. It is alarming that the highest-ranking public official in the province of Palawan contravenes the basic tenets of transparency, participation and accountability that our laws stand for. The Aquino administration promotes good governance in its fight against corruption,” said the PACE.

When clicked, the PACE’s statement brings online users to a separate site at http://act.350.org/letter/save_palawan_stop_coal/ where it is asking them to help send a message to Environment Sec. Ramon Paje that putting a coal plant in Palawan is dangerous to the Philippines’ “last remaining paradise.”

The petition was signed by Commissioner Naderev Yeb Sano of the Climate Change Commission and Environment Activist; Dr. Antonio La Vina, dean of the Ateneo School of Government; Ms. Regina Lopez, managing director of ABS-CBN Lingkod Kapamilya Foundation; Enrique Nunez, country director of Conservation International, and others.

Malampaya fund scope expanded to include post-disaster repairs

By Melissa Luz T. Lopez (Reporter)

A MEASURE which expands the coverage of the Malampaya gas fund to include repairs to power lines and structures damaged by calamities has been approved by a House of Representatives panel.

The House Committee on Energy on Monday unanimously approved a bill that amends Presidential Decree 910 which outlines the types of projects that may be charged to the special fund.

The new draft consolidates 13 bills and resolutions filed by House members related to the use of Malampaya funds.

Under the measure, the special Malampaya fund can also be used to “finance the rehabilitation or replacement of energy infrastructures, including but not limited to generation, transmission and distribution facilities in preparation for and response to natural and man-made calamities.”

If enacted into law, this would be an addition to the authorized use of the government’s royalties from oil firms for energy exploration, development, and exploitation programs in the Philippines.

The Supreme Court in its November 2013 ruling said the Malampaya fund can be solely spent on “energy-related” projects and should not be placed under the discretion of the President.

Some P168.2 billion is available from the Malampaya gas fund as of April 30, according to Robert Dominick E. Mariano, research service director of the Bureau of the Treasury. The components of this balance are remittances of P210 billion less incurred expenses of P42 billion for the operations of the Malampaya natural gas project.

The royalties come from private oil firms exploring and operating in the Palawan natural gas fields.

Former President Ferdinand E. Marcos created the special energy fund in 1976 to finance resource development in the local energy sector.

1-CARE party-list Rep. Edgardo R. Masongsong, who represents rural electric cooperatives, said the rule change would allow the Energy department to use the existing funds for continuing sitio and barangay electrification projects in the country.

After securing committee approval, the bill heads to the House plenary for further debates and voting.