Palawan News May 2014

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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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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

AFP eyes letting US troops use Ulugan, Oyster Bays under EDCA

By Joel Locsin (LBG, GMA News)

Pristine Ulugan and Oyster Bays in Palawan province do not only have great value not only as a haven for nature lovers, but great strategic potential for the military.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines is considering allowing the United States military to use the venues for training, under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

"(K)asi nakita natin ang potential niya at kailangan magkaroon ng paraan para ito ma-develop into a naval facility," AFP spokesman Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said in an interview with GMA News' "Saksi."

EDCA, signed earlier this year by the Philippines and the US, expands cooperation between the two countries and allows the US military to build military facilities in "agreed locations."

It is seen to help the Philippines deter incursions by countries like China to disputed parts of the South China Sea, which the Philippines refers to as the West Philippine Sea

GMA News' Ian Cruz noted Ulugan Bay is a harbor for sea vessels especially in bad weather.

The military's Naval Forces West had moved its headquarters there while the Navy has a detachment in the area, he added.

On the other hand, Oyster Bay is a potentially strategic area considered for US troops' use, as one can get to the West Philippine Sea from there via Ulugan Bay.

Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez noted such a potential setup could be a deterrent to outsiders.

"Aba e presence lang nila rito, marami nang matatakot di papasok. Tama na yan, that alone is a deterrent by itself," he said.

As for concerns that the development could disrupt the natural beauty there, Puerto Princesa City Mayor Lucilo Bayron said there should be a balance between development and nature.

"(P)wede naman magkaroon ng balanse," he said.

For their part, local fishermen said any development of the area should not affect their livelihood.

"Okay lang naman yan 'di makasagabal sa hanapbuhay ng mga mangingisda sa malapit," said one.

Pacquiao mulling island retirement in Palawan

By Redempto D. Anda (Inquirer Southern Luzon)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Philippines—World boxing champion and Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao is looking to buy an island in Palawan to build a retirement home once he is through boxing.

Pacquiao is looking at five islands that have been offered to him for sale, but he won’t say where they are.

“I like it here in Palawan because there’s a lot of green here, unlike in Manila, which is already crowded,” Pacquiao told the Inquirer in Filipino on Thursday.

Pacquiao brushed aside rumors that he already owned several hotels and restaurants in Palawan, saying that he was still evaluating investment options in the province.

The boxing champ was in Puerto Princesa City to meet with Palawan Gov. Jose Chaves Alvarez. He was accompanied by officials of Kia Motors, which has a franchise with the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).

Alvarez’s family’s car dealership is the distributor of Kia and several high-end automobile brands in the Philippines.

Pacquiao said the Kia team that would join the PBA was completing its lineup.

“We started with 50 potential players and now we are down to about 20. We want to make sure we build a strong team that won’t be a pushover in the league,” he said.

In a press conference, reporters asked Pacquiao about the chances of his next opponent being American welterweight champion Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Pacquiao said the encounter was unlikely to happen, as Mayweather was not keen on fighting him.

“It really would be great if it’s Mayweather who will be my next fight because it’s what the fans like to see. But it seems it’s not yet time. The weather is still bad.”

Pacquiao has just been revealed to again be the richest member of the House of Representatives, where he is also listed as the congressman with the most absences.

Oyster Bay villagers all for building naval base

By David Santos

Puerto Princesa City, Palawan - For years, this has been the typical morning in Ulugan Bay off Puerto Princesa: Fishermen, out in the seas for days, returning home with their boats filled with fresh catch.

That landscape is now slowly changing, with the presence of heavily armed military rubber boats and war ships roaming the bay.

Besides the newly-transferred Naval Base in Barangay Macarascas, Puerto Princesa City, another obscure navy facility is now being built in Oyster Bay.

One of the unique features of the Oyster Bay is its location. It is situated in the inner part of the bigger Ulugan Bay. It is secluded, making it an ideal harbor for the Navy's ships and other assets.

The Navy is trying to project Oyster Bay as a top secret facility, prohibiting journalists from getting close to the area.

The government is initially spending around P500 million to develop the Oyster Bay detachment, which primarily will serve as a safe harbor for Navy ships that need to be deployed to the West Philippine Sea.

Among the structures built so far include a huge oil tank and boat house.

A special road is also being constructed to connect Oyster Bay to Palawan's main highway.

The P43-million funding for the project was allotted in 2012, just about the time tensions between China and the Philippines started to heat up.

Local officials support the government's move to reinforce military presence west of Palawan, more so, the possibility of allowing US troops to be stationed in the area.

Puerto Princesa Mayor Lucilo Bayron said the area needs a military facility because it's isolated from the rest of the country.

"Hindi namin kayang proteksyunan yung lahat ng anong meron tayo [We can't protect everything we have here]," Bayron said.

Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez said the mere presence of a military facility would prevent unwanted intrusions into the area.

"That alone is a deterrent by itself," he said.

Oyster Bay is next to Barangay Bahile, a small village with a population of about 3,000 people.

Being one of the remotest communities in the island, basic services such as water supply remain inadequate.

Around 80 percent of residents here derive their income from fishing and other maritime resources.

Military operations in their area are not expected to affect their livelihood.

Barangay Bahile Chairman Carlos Quirante, a retired Navy officer, said the authorities had explained to residents about the military base being a restricted area. They fishermen, he said, were told where their boats could pass.

Barangay residents, he said, are aware of the tension over the West Philippine Seas. That's why they support the construction of a naval base in the area.

Both officials and resident said they would keep an eye on military activities here, particularly its impact on the environment, since Palawan is known for its biodiversity and unique sanctuaries.

Other than this, they said, they have nothing much to worry since having the troops around would also do so much not only for their interests but also for national security.

Aquino not keen on coal-free Palawan

By Kristine Angeli Sabillo (INQUIRER.net)

MANILA, Philippines – While he is willing to dialogue with local stakeholders, President Benigno Aquino III has expressed skepticism that Palawan’s energy needs will be addressed without the use of coal power plants.

“Kailangan mo iyong tinatawag na base load plants (We need what we call base load plants),” Aquino on Tuesday told a reporter asking if Palawan could be “spared” from DMCI Power Corporation’s proposed 15-megawatt coal fired power plant.

Baseload power plants are crucial sources of energy that are able to continuously supply electricity throughout the year. Coal-fired plants are among the usual baseload power sources.

Aquino explained that solar energy will not suffice because it is dependent on “prevailing weather conditions” and that he was not sure of the hydroelectric capacity of the province.

“So far, ang talagang reliable na available for Palawan in particular is coal or diesel (So far, the really reliable sources of energy for Palawan is coal or diesel),” he said.

“It’s back to a question of: ‘Do we want power or not?’” he added, explaining that Palawan needs adequate energy to cater to the 10 million tourists projected for 2016.

“A lot of these tourists will be going to Palawan. I am sure you are aware of all the developments that are happening here plus iyong airport, i-u-upgrade din natin. And all of that plus the upstream and downstream industries will need power. And if it’s not available, then practically we are saying, parang wala na rin iyong tourism na big industry dito or iyong growth, or projected growth,” he pointed out.

(A lot of these tourists will be going to Palawan. I am sure you are aware of all the developments that are happening here, including the upgrading of the airport. And all of that plus the upstream and downstream industries will need power. And if it’s not available, then practically we are saying, we won’t have the projected growth from tourism, which is a big industry here.)

Nevertheless, the President said it is the local community that will decide on the matter.

“So at the end of the day, we don’t impose. We will dialogue with you and with the local community but it has to be a common decision based on the available facts,” he said.

Aquino said the government is exploring gas as energy source though it is more expensive than natural gas and the country has yet to build a regasification plant.

“So [we return to considering] coal or diesel [as] base load. Then, again, we will dialogue with you. You tell us, you are the bosses here,” he said.

Aquino was in Palawan for the 116th anniversary of the Philippine Navy.

DMCI Power’s proposed coal-fired power plant has been met by protests from residents and the local Church.

Officials of the Western Philippines University earlier told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that the proposed site of the power plant, in Barangay San Juan, Aborlan was near a fish sanctuary.

In December last year, the Palawan Regional Trial Court issued a temporary environmental protection order against the plant after residents filed a petition. The new set of village officials of San Juan at the time revoked the endorsement of the previous village council that voted in favour of DMCI Powers’ project.

Dreams for the village called ‘Hope’

By Frances Mangosing (INQUIRER.net)

MANILA, Philippines—Somewhere in the middle of the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), there sits a village called Pag-asa with about 100 Filipinos greatly in need, helpless in the crosshairs of aggressive neighbors.

Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon Jr. of Kalayaan dreams that Pag-asa one day becomes a marine fishery and tourism zone. He hopes a “marina” be also constructed. The construction of “relevant port facilities” will translate to progress. A harbor will be able to shelter fishing and patrol boats.

In the vision of Bito-onon, Pag-asa will become the “central hub,” as it oversees the islands claimed by the Philippines (Pag-asa, Patag, Lawak, Likas and Parola) and two reefs (Ayungin and Rizal). But until now, everything remains a dream.

Kalayaan is a fifth class municipality composed of islands known as Kalayaan Island Group or KIG (Spratlys). It covers about 65,000 square miles of islands, shoals and reef. The seat of government is the village called Pag-asa.

Pag-asa Island is the largest of the islands of the KIG occupied by the Philippines that is 480 kilometers off southwestern Palawan. It is the second largest island in the whole of Spratlys. Neighboring countries have overlapping claims of the island, but China claims nearly the entire West Philippine Sea.

Two neighboring countries built tourist resorts on their claimed islands, but the Philippines in Pag-asa has a humble community with a town hall, water and power utilities, health center, elementary school, police station and a combat airstrip.

“The airstrip is a military one and it’s tedious– for private planes it might take a while to get down,” Bito-onon told INQUIRER.net.

But the airstrip needs repair, and if fixed, will be “the most convenient” link to the city. Travel by boat is usually at least 30 hours from mainland Palawan and is discouraged during rainy season.

The island is in need of so many things, medicines for one. When Bito-onon spoke to INQUIRER.net early this May, he said that his people were in need of medications.

“Many are getting flu. We need dextrose, vitamins and the likes,” he said.

There is a small clinic in Pag-asa which has also limited features and for more urgent cases, patients are usually fetched by a small military plane and brought to the city.

A Facebook page called “It’s no fun in Pag-asa” was launched last month led by cultural activist Carlos Celdran to help Filipinos improve the sustainability of their lives.

Celdran’s group, which claims to be”unapologetically idealistic,” sought the support of Bito-onon to be able to help the people in the desolate island. Those who wish to help may check out It’s no Fun in Pag-asa Facebook page and their online donation drive page.

Aquino to fly to Palawan for Navy show of force

By Christian V. Esguerra (Philippine Daily Inquirer)

MANILA, Philippines—President Benigno Aquino III is set to fly to Palawan on Tuesday to witness a military show of force amid the country’s raging territorial dispute with Beijing, which is claiming around 80 percent of the South China Sea.

The “capability demonstration” will be held by the Naval Forces West (NFW), described as the Philippine Navy’s “primary operational command securing the West Philippine Sea.”

It will be part of the Navy’s 116th anniversary celebration, which will be held in the naval operating forces for the first time. It is meant to “showcase” the Navy’s plan to develop “its forward operating base in Palawan, facing the West Philippine Sea,” according to a Malacañang brief.

President Benigno Aquino III. MALACANANG PHOTO BUREAU

Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said that the NFW has been “at the forefront of territorial defense operations in the Kalayaan Island Group,” some 370 kilometers from Palawan.

“In strengthening the defense mechanisms of our country, the administration makes progressive investments for the long term, leaning forward into the future as we pursue the path to greater national and regional stability,” he said in a statement.

The NFW command center features “secure communications equipment and a satellite-based vessel tracking system,” which would “further bolster our defense capabilities and ensure stability in the area,” according to Lacierda.

Besides the demonstration, the President will also be shown the “conceptual master plan” of Naval Station Carlito Cunanan (NSCC), named after the first naval officer to bolt the Marcos administration and join the EDSA Revolution in 1986.

Lacierda said the NSCC was set for “redevelopment, which includes the rehabilitation of the pier, living quarters, and other support facilities,” following the signing of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the United States.

The deal was closed in time for US President Barack Obama’s April 28 visit to Manila, the last leg of a four-nation Asian swing intended to reaffirm Washington’s support for its allies amid China’s growing assertiveness in the region.

The Philippines’ own dispute with China is reflected in the Navy’s anniversary theme: “Protecting Our Territory, Safeguarding Our Future.”

Aquino will take the opportunity to honor “the sacrifice of our Marines, who have bravely devoted themselves to protecting our territorial and maritime borders.”

“We recognize their hard work and dedication, and in them find renewed inspiration to maintain our commitment to protect our national sovereignty,” Lacierda said.

Marine soldiers stationed at the stranded BRP Sierra Madre—a decrepit vessel serving as a military outpost in waters off Palawan—were also honored in the President’s Day of Valor speech last month.

“Day and night, on board the stranded BRP Sierra Madre, their dedication was anchored on keeping watch over and safeguarding our territory. This is why, together with our veterans, soldiers like them are among those we honor today. The Filipino nation salutes all of you,” Aquino had said.

Ulugan Bay development not aimed at China -- PN Chief

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

MANILA, May 25 (PNA) -- Philippine Navy flag-officer-in-command Vice Admiral Jesus Millan on Sunday stressed that the decision to improve the naval installation in Ulugan Bay, Palawan and hold the PN's 116th anniversary there this coming May 27 has nothing to do with the country's ongoing territorial spat with China.

"What we are doing there is (part) of our obligation to develop our facilities there (to enable the PN) to accomplish its mission and improve the morale of our men," he added.

Ulugan Bay is estimated to be around 100 nautical miles from the disputed Spratly Islands.

Millan said that development is needed as the Navy facility there is underdeveloped.

The PN chief also stressed that the decision to celebrate the Navy's 116th anniversary there is done to emphasize the need for improvements there.

"It is our commitment really to sustain our units inthe field so that they can carry out their mandated roles," Millan pointed.

The PN chief also stressed that developing Ulugan Bay will not be a waste as it can bring a lot of strategic benefits to the country.

He also clarified that this development is not aimed at China whom the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries are at loggerheads due to conflicting maritime claims.

Navy to hold anniversary celebration in Palawan

By Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star)

MANILA, Philippines - The Navy will celebrate its 116th anniversary next week in Palawan, the province nearest to the disputed Spratly Islands in the West Philippine Sea.

President Aquino is expected to attend the event on Tuesday at the Naval Station Carlito Cunanan in Ulugan Bay in Puerto Princesa City.

Aquino will inspect the improvements being made in the naval station’s port, living quarters and other support infrastructure.

He will also inaugurate mission-essential facilities for command and control of the Naval Forces West, the unit that oversees naval operations in the West Philippine Sea.

“This year’s anniversary is a departure from the traditional Navy anniversary celebrations where the venue is usually Manila-Cavite area,” said Col. Edgard Arevalo, chief of the Navy’s Civil-Military Operations Group.

“The Navy will show the President the improvements being undertaken and what other mission-essential facilities are needed in that base to sustain its operations in the West Philippine Sea,” he added.

Palawan to conduct seminar on comprehensive artificial insemination breeding program for farmers

(PNA), CMR/CARF/JSD

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, May 23 (PNA) –- The Provincial Veterinary Office (PVO) of Palawan is all set to conduct a seminar on the Comprehensive Artificial Insemination Breeding Program on Monday in the town of Brooke’s Point to stress to farmers the importance of artificial insemination in their livelihood.

Dr. Darius Pe Mangcucang said 150 farmers who own breeding carabaos are expected to attend the orientation.

Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez is also expected to attend the orientation with Brooke’s Point Mayor Mary Jean Feliciano.

The seminar will be undertaken in close cooperation with the Department of Agriculture - Philippine Carabao Center (DA-PCC).

Mangcucang said that the target of the orientation, aside from stressing the importance of the program, is to inform farmers about what breed of carabao should be employed for insemination, benefits of having a mixed breed carabao, and what impact it will have in the municipality.

He added that the event will be the first in Palawan regarding artificial insemination.

This was done through a memorandum of agreement between the DA-PCC with Dr. Felomino Mamuad, and Alvarez.

The MOA provides that the provincial government and the DA-PCC shall help each other to realize the goals of artificial insemination of breeder carabaos for cross breeding in the production of milk and meat.

Mangcucang said the DA-PCC will train veterinarians and technicians in Palawan and will provide the embryos to the farmers who will attend the seminar.

The provincial government, on the other hand, will prepare the plan to ensure the continuity of the program, provide funds for the purchase of liquid nitrogen tank where the embryos will be stored, and other facilities needed.

It will also determine qualified technical staff from the municipalities for the implementation of the Comprehensive AI Breeding Program.

It is also the role of the provincial government to expand and develop the cross breeding program in Palawan and help municipal technicians in the program implementation.

Palawan’s IHELP to start various projects to alleviate poverty

(PNA), LGI/CARF/UTB

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, May 22 (PNA) –- Governor Jose Alvarez’ target to alleviate poverty in Palawan through IHELP (Infrastructure, Health, Education, Livelihood and Protection of the Environment) is steadily rolling with more programs to start soon.

The Provincial Information Office (PIO,) in a statement released Thursday, said Local Good Governance on Fiscal Management Program (LGGFMP) consultant Cesar Ventura called a meeting for department heads on May 19 at the Governor’s Conference Room to discuss current trends and methodologies, as well as concerns in the implementation of the development agenda.

Under the livelihood component, primarily discussed was the target to farm coffee and cacao in municipalities in southern Palawan. This will begin with the conduct of several orientation activities for beneficiaries.

The orientation will deal with understanding cacao and coffee farming, effective financial management, technicalities and methodologies in farming, commercial production of the high-value crops, sustainable coffee and cacao farming, among others.

Also under the livelihood component, IHELP is offering a micro-financing program for indigents in the women sector, farmers, youth, fishermen, indigenous communities, and senior citizens.

Qualified beneficiaries in the micro-financing program must be Palaweños with residencies of not less than one year, and family income of not more than P14,000 a month.

The PIO said the livelihood team for this is headed by James Mision, and it is currently preparing for the implementation of the program.

Also discussed under the livelihood component of IHELP is the support needed to increase seaweeds farming in towns of Agutaya, Cuyo, Magsaysay, Coron, Culion, Busuanga, Linapacan, Taytay, El Nido, San Vicente, Araceli and Dumaran. in northern Palawan that is expected to start in July.

The PIO said the governor is merely waiting for some more documents before the seaweeds farming project rolls.

In the "Kalingang Pangkalusugan para sa Pamilyang Palaweño Program" (KALINGAPPP), under the health component, the information office of the province said the team in charge is continuously making rounds of areas in the northern part of the province to validate the status of expected beneficiaries.

Ventura said all programs under IHELP have to be assessed and organized soon so they can already be presented to the public that is waiting to have some solid support out of poverty.

Lawmakers eye P1B to fortify Kalayaan Group of Islands

By Dennis Carcamo (philstar.com)

MANILA, Philippines - As the territorial dispute between the Philippines and China escalates, two Mindanao-based lawmakers have proposed a measure, seeking to appropriate P1 billion for the fortification of the structures in the Kalayaan Group of Islands.

In House Bill 4167, Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez and his younger brother Abante Mindanao partylist Rep. Maximo Rodriguez Jr. sought the improvement, fortification, and building of structures in the areas.

The legislators said that the fund to be allocated for the Kalayaan Group of Islands would also promote the tourism industry of the region.

The proposed P1 billion appropriation would be used for the construction of a safe harbor, berthing facilities, and the repair of the Rancudo airfield on Pag-asa island.

"In order to strengthen our claim and protect our sovereignty, we need to build more structures and fortify our defense of these islands, particularly the construction of a safe harbor as well as the repair of the Rancudo airfield on Pag-asa Island. Aside from solidifying our claim, the construction of structures in the Kalayaan Islands would also improve the tourism industry there," the elder Rodriguez said.

Kalayaan Islands is a fifth class municipality in Palawan, which has a population of around 300 to 400 people. It has one barangay, Pag-asa, and a 1.3-kilometer airstrip that is used by both the military and civilians.

The Kalayaan Islands have been the subject of claims of different countries including Vietnam, Palau, Malaysia, and China.

The Philippine government said the areas covered by Vietnam's unilateral partial submission are "disputed because they overlap with those of the Philippines."

The Philippines also contested the submission by the Republic of Palau establishing the outer limits of its continental shelf that lie beyond 200 nautical miles. It said the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea of Palau is measured overlaps with the maritime jurisdiction of the Philippines.

At present, the different countries, particularly China, have built strong fortifications and military structures in the Kalayaan Islands.

On several instances, Chinese gunboats even confiscated fishing nets of Filipino fishermen and the increasing Chinese intrusions and their illegal occupation of Mischief (Panganiban) Reef are already alarming to the country's security, the lawmakers said.


Korean firm wins USD 82.9-M Puerto Princesa airport project

(PNA), JBP/PR/JSD

MANILA, May 20 (PNA) -- Another one of the country’s premier tourist destinations will soon boast of a world-class international airport, after the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) awarded a USD 82.9-million design-and-build contract for the Puerto Princesa airport to Korea’s Kumho Industrial Co. Ltd.-GS Engineering & Construction Joint Venture (Kumho-GS).

“The eco-tourism showcase that is Puerto Princesa, as well as the rest of Palawan, will soon have a modern, world-class airport which we can be as proud of as the destination itself. With beaches and other natural wonders attracting throngs of visitors from all over the globe, it will finally have a gateway that is befitting of its stature,” said DOTC Secretary Joseph Abaya.

In compliance with its Engineering, Procurement, and Construction (EPC) contract, Kumho-GS will begin with the design component by the third quarter of this year. While the joint venture is preparing the airport’s detailed engineering design, it will likewise begin mobilizing its equipment and securing various project permits.

Civil works at the existing site, or the build component, will begin in the fourth quarter of 2014. The project scope includes the construction of a new passenger terminal building, cargo terminal building, apron, connecting taxiways, a new air navigation system, and other support facilities.

Kumho-GS will have around 30 months to complete the project, which means that the DOTC expects the modern airport to be fully operational by first quarter of 2017.

Once the project is completed, the airport will have an annual capacity of about 2 million passengers. In 2013, it counted 1.335 million passengers, which is way beyond its passenger terminal building’s (PTB) current estimated capacity of only 350,000 passengers per annum.

“Apart from boosting our tourism sector, this project will also generate jobs, particularly in the infrastructure sector. Overall, the estimate is up to 1,400 total new jobs during construction alone,” Abaya added.

The project is largely funded through a Korean Export Import Bank (KEXIM) loan, to the tune of USD 71.612 million. The loan is payable in 40 years, inclusive of a ten-and-a-half-year grace period, at a concessional interest rate of 0.1 percent per annum.

As a tied official development assistance (ODA) loan, the bidding process was governed by the Guidelines for Procurement of Korea’s Economic Development Cooperation Fund (EDCF), and decisions were concurred with by KEXIM. Bidding for the project was also limited to South Korean firms.

Earlier this year, the DOTC awarded the contract for another major international airport, the Mactan-Cebu International Airport, under the Aquino administration’s Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program. It is also expected to boost tourism and economic activity, not only in the Visayas region, but for the country as a whole.

Coron town to build bigger warehouse

By Lyle B. Coruña [(PNA), LAM/CARF/LBC/EBP]

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, May 19 (PNA) -- A new warehouse will be constructed in Coron by the National Food Authority (NFA) on a lot donated by the municipal government.

Mayor Fems Reyes says she will track down the documents of the portion of land, where the warehouse is going to be constructed. Initial negotiation to purchase the lot was made during the previous administrations.

“We will work-out with the municipal council to authorize your mayor to waive our right over the property in favor of NFA,” Reyes said in her social media account.

Coron's ownership over the property is by virtue of a tax declaration only since the proposed area is not yet titled.

NFA-Palawan manager Edmundo Enrique told Reyes during their recent meeting that they are renting a warehouse in Barangay Poblacion 6 but it can only accommodate 20,000 sacks of rice.

“The ship carries 30,000 sacks for each delivery; this is why the space in the warehouse we are renting is not enough. It is now about time to construct a bigger warehouse or storage facility, and we already have a fund for this,” said Enrique.

Reyes advised Enrique to construct a warehouse that could store 50,000 sacks of rice to serve not only Coron but also the adjacent municipalities of Culion, Busuanga and Linapacan.

"We cannot afford to suffer rice shortage soon here in the Calamianes," the lady mayor told the NFA, adding that preparation is important especially during typhoon season.

School kids receive letters from soldiers in loneliest outpost

By Redempto D. Anda (Inquirer Southern Luzon)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Philippines—What do soldiers in the country’s loneliest outpost do to kill time? They write letters to schoolchildren.

The BRP Sierra Madre, a rusting former naval supply ship marooned on the disputed Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal), shelters a handful of Marines as the country’s first line of defense against China’s bold thrust to take control of the entire South China Sea.

Virtually isolated by a naval blockade imposed by two to five Chinese warships 24/7, the Philippine Navy paradrops supplies to the sun-baked ship to avoid a naval confrontation.

Successful paradrop

Early this month, the Naval Forces West executed a successful paradrop (previous ones landed either on the water or broke into pieces when they hit the deck of the BRP Sierra Madre). Among the cargo were not just fried chicken from a famous fast-food chain but also a bunch of letters from various elementary and high school children in mainland Palawan province.

The letters were collected by support groups led by the University of the Philippines Cadets Alumni Association from schoolchildren in various public and private schools in Palawan, including Pilot Elementary School, Dumangueña Elementary School, Kids World Learning Center’s Grade 2 class, Wescom Elementary School, Palawan State University, Palawan National School and Palawan Adventist Academy.

“Salamat sa inyong kabayanihan sa pagbabantay ng ating teritoryo … Mahal namin kayo (We are grateful for your heroism in guarding Philippine territory … We love you),” wrote Art Benedict Cabading on a sheet of paper with doodles of ships and soldiers.

“Lubos kaming naaantig sa inyong liham … Hindi lang pala pamilya namin ang nananalangin para sa amin kundi ang buong sambayanang Pilipino (We are extremely touched by your letters, knowing it’s not just our families praying for our safety but the entire Filipino people),” wrote Sgt. Wilmer Murillo of the Marine Battalion Landing Team 12.

Classified information

The Western Command (Wescom) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines declined to narrate how they were able to receive the letters from the soldiers on Ayungin with the Chinese naval blockade in place. Recent reports indicate that at least five Chinese naval vessels have been keeping an eye on the disputed reef.

“That is classified information,” Wescom spokesperson Lt. Cheryl Tindog told the Inquirer.

Coron, Palawan, mayor bares eco-tourism plan for island municipality

By Jonathan L. Mayuga

CORON, Palawan—Mayor Clara “Fems” Reyes envisions this island-town to be a top tourism destination in the country through sustainable eco-tourism development.

A first class municipality with a population of 42,941 according to the 2010 Philippine census report, Coron is one of four towns that compose the Calamianes Group of Islands in Northern Palawan. The other three towns are Busuanga, Culion and Linapacan.

Coron comprises half of the Busuanga Island and the entire Coron Island and 50 other minor islets. It boasts of pristine waters and beautiful diving spots, including a number of sunken Japanese warships, coral-reef gardens, lagoons and a freshwater lake that continue to attract local and foreign tourists.

Among the most famous attractions are the “Hidden Lagoon,” “Twin Peak Coral Garden,” “Calachuchi Coral Garden,” the Bulungan Beach and the Kayangan Lake.

Giant wall-like rock formations and hidden caves that serve as home to the famed balinsasayaw, which is made into bird’s nest soup, and harvested by Tagbanua tribesmen, who climb up and rappel down caves for the birds’ nests are among the attractions of the island-hopping adventures in Coron.

“I envision Coron to be the top tourism destination in the country,” Reyes said, adding that Palawan, considered as the country’s last frontier of ecological biodiversity has a lot to offer to local and foreign tourists other than the Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR) and the Tubbataha Reef.

The PPUR and Tubattaha Reef are two of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco)-declared World Heritage Sites.

Coron is mainly a fishing and tourism town. With the devastation caused by Superyphoon Yolanda in November last year, fishermen who lost their boats are now heavily dependent on income from eco-tourism.

Most of the fishing boats in Palawan, like in other Yolanda-stricken areas in the Visayas, have been completely destroyed and promised help by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in the form of fishing boats has not arrived.

Reyes said the local government is developing a master plan geared toward achieving her vision for Coron.

However, Reyes said that to promote Coron as a world-class tourism destination, it needs to undergo a major facelift, particularly Coron Bay.

Reyes, the former vice governor of Palawan, is serving her first term as local chief executive of Coron. Reyes is stepping up plans to boost the town’s eco-tourism potential.

She is eyeing the relocation of 4,500 squatter families living at the villages along the Coron Bay. Those to be affected are residents of Barangays 1, 2, 5 and Tagumpay.

The local government of Coron has identified a possible relocation site in Barangay Bintuan, where there is a 56-hectare government-owned lot.

The mayor said they are currently holding talks with various national government agencies, such as the DENR, National Housing Authority (NHA), National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) and other stakeholders for the construction of affordable or low-cost housing for those to be affected by the plan.

Reyes also bared that talks with the DENR led by Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje for the development of the Yulo King Ranch for the relocation of government offices, establishment of big commercial, industrial and residential areas in the 22,000-hectare ranch that was sequestered by the government.

“We are currently talking to the DENR to give back to Coron what is ours. Hopefully, if the Yulo King Ranch will be turned over to us [local government], we will be able to develop it,” she said.

Through the Municipal Tourism Office, the local government of Coron is mulling the implementation of a single- tourist-fee scheme that will offer packaged tours that include land transport service, boat rides and entrance fees among other recreational facilities or activities.

Michael Fababier, the municipal planning officer of Coron, said they are eyeing to come up with an initial layout of the resettlement area and design a model community for those who will be transferred in the next few months.

“Hopefully, by June, we could come up with a plan for the relocation of those living along Coron Bay,” he said.

Fababier said the plan is to make the relocation of the squatters happen within the year.

Part of the plan to boost the eco-tourism potential of Coron is to encourage investors to put up tourism-related establishments along Coron Bay after the relocation of the squatters has been realized, he said.

Coron’s tourist arrival in 2012 has reached a record high of 100,000. Last year Reyes expressed confidence that the number of tourists visiting Coron has dramatically increased.

She said that the Busuanga Airport, which used to have only two flights from Manila, now has six to eight flights daily. Aside from flights from Manila, there are now flights from Cebu, Puerto Princesa and soon from Boracay.

She said that together with the Department of Tourism, the local government is pushing for more inter-island flights that would directly bring in to Coron tourists without the need for stop-over in Manila.

Meanwhile, as an immediate solution to the garbage woes, Reyes said she had ordered the barangay officials to strictly enforce the garbage law and appealed to the town’s residents to practice proper solid-waste management.

“We’ve also talked to owners of business establishments concerning their wastewater,” she said.

Reyes said the local government is also constructing portable toilets in container vans for the common use of people in coastal communities.

Early this month, the Environmental Management Bureau called the attention of Coron’s local chief executive, after water samples from the Coron Bay revealed biological oxygen-demand level that exceeded acceptable standards.

This was mainly due to the indiscriminate dumping of waste that eventually reaches the waters of Coron Bay.

Girlie Abu, head of the environment and enforcement division of the EMB in Region 4B, had asked the local government to act on the garbage problem by establishing a sanitary landfill and shutting down its garbage dump. She said a materials-recovery facility should also be put up.

She said there were also traces of fecal coliform in the water.

It was learned that many houses have been built on foreshore land along the banks of Coron Bay. A survey conducted by the local government of Coron revealed that many of the households have no toilets and, while some may have, there is no sewage-treatment plant for wastewater.

Commercial establishments have also been found violating environmental laws with the absence of a water treatment facility for its wastewater.

According to a survey conducted by local government of Coron, 15 of the 42 tourism-related establishments were found to have committed various violations and were immediately notified to institute corrective measures. There are 430 business establishments in Coron.

Reyes said there will be no let up in enforcing environmental laws in Coron under her leadership.

“I will not allow the solid-waste management problem to continue. These establishments will be made to comply environmental laws as well as local ordinances,” she said.

The mayor said that under an existing ordinance, violators face penalties ranging from fines to closure of the establishment.

Palawan prepares for annual 'Baragatan' celebration

By Celeste Anna R. Formoso [(PNA), JBP/CARF/JSD]

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, May 16 (PNA) -- The provincial government of Palawan has started its preparation for this year’s “Baragatan,” a convergence event that celebrates the founding of its civil government and brings together local government units (LGUs) in one large trade fair.

Baragatan, rooted from the Cuyunon word “bagat,” means “people coming together” from various towns in Palawan to celebrate their culture and traditions through songs, dances, trade shows, exhibitions, and other activities.

As part of the preparation, the Provincial Economic Enterprise Development Office (PEEDO) is now accepting applicants, who want to participate in the Technology and Livelihood Development Center (TLDC) trade and private trade fairs in Baragatan, which will be celebrated in June.

In this year’s celebration, the theme is “Tuwid na Daan Tungo sa Maunlad na Palawan,” according to Provincial Information Officer Gil Acosta Friday.

Incidentally, the Baragatan celebration will be the first time for Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez, who will lead the soft opening of the trade fairs on June 9.

“The grand opening will be on June 16, and will end on June 23, the day the province will celebrate the 112th founding anniversary of its civil government,” said Acosta. The overall chairman is Caesar Sammy Magbanua, the governor’s chief of staff.

At the TLDC trade fair, visitors and residents can enjoy quality souvenirs they can take home, such as cashew products, banana chips, and other delicacies. There will also be handicrafts, woodcrafts, baskets, bamboo crafts, and others that are “truly Palaweño made.”

The TLDC trade fair hopes to showcase the craftsmanship and skills of Palaweños in the creation of local products that can be taken home as “pasalubong.”

In the private trade fair, manufactured consumer products will be sold, from clothes to home appliances, toys, and others.

Acosta said they will closely inspect all items that will be sold in the private trade fair as they will not allow pirated, suspected smuggled products, old clothes or appliances (ukay-ukay), items that can cause fire incidents and sharp or bladed items that can hurt people.

Each applicant will have to submit an application form, Mayor’s business permit, DTI and BIR registrations, and copy of official receipt of paid rental fee at the Provincial Treasurer’s Office.

The documents will be submitted to the chairman of the private trade fair and Palawan TLDC trade fair at the PEEDO. The last payment of rental fee will be on May 28.

2 of 11 poachers caught off Palawan deported

By Evelyn Macairan With Janvic Mateo (The Philippine Star)

MANILA, Philippines - Two minors caught with nine other Chinese poaching off Palawan were deported to China on Tuesday.

He Zhuang and Li Xiang Hui were deported at around 11 p.m. on May 13, according to Bureau of Immigration (BI) spokesman Ma. Angelica Pedro.

Immigration officers escorted them on board a Philippine Airlines flight after the Palawan regional trial court had turned them over.

The names of He and Li have been included in the immigration blacklist for being illegal entrants and for poaching in Philippine waters.

Immigration Commissioner Siegfred Mison and Deputy Commissioners Abdullah Mangotara and Ronaldo Ledesma signed the deportation order.

Mison said the BI could not deport the nine other Chinese unless the court resolved the criminal cases against them.

The court allowed the nine to post bail of P30,000 each for poaching and P40,000 for taking endangered species.

Mison identified the nine Chinese as boat captain Chen Yi Quan, chief engineer Chen Ze Hao, and crewmen Shi Xian Xiong, Shi Liang Duong, He Chuan, Huang Ji Xuan, He Sheng Bao, He Yuan Cheng, and Lu Chuan Fang.

Mison said the BI has a pending request for the court to turn them over once they have posted bail since they are all subject for deportation.

They will also be banned from re-entering Philippine territory after they have been deported.

Online petition

More than a thousand netizens are supporting an online petition for the government to prosecute the Chinese caught poaching hundreds of turtles off Palawan.

“We strongly urge the authorities in Palawan and the national government, especially President Benigno Aquino III, the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of Justice, and the police to be strong in the face of undue pressure,” read the petition in Change.org.

Save Philippine Seas started the petition, which had over 1,700 supporters.

Among the signatories are environmental lawyer Antonio Oposa and marine conservationist Anna Oposa.

“We, citizens of the Philippines, hereby stand by our government and express our fullest support for the immediate prosecution of the Chinese nationals with their shameless Filipino collaborators arrested for the capture of over 500 endangered marine turtles in our seas,” read the petition.

Petitioners said the poachers violated national and international laws like the Wildlife Conservation Act, the Fisheries Code, and the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species.

Petitioners called “barbaric” the act of piercing the eyes of the marine turtles and tying them through their eye sockets to prevent them from escaping.

“We congratulate and applaud the Philippine National Police Maritime Group Special Boat Unit for seizing the Chinese fishing boat and apprehending its crew to enforce maritime and marine conservation laws,” read the petition.

“As the richest marine waters on Earth, we Filipinos must take the lead in marine law enforcement.”

DA-RFU to fund regulatory center for agri products in Aborlan, Palawan

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

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, May 14 (PNA) – The Department of Agriculture-Regional Field Unit (DA-RFU) in Region 4B is providing funds for the construction of a regulatory center for agricultural products in Barangay Magsaysay, Aborlan in southern Palawan.

Frauline Castillo of the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPA) in an interview with the PNA on Tuesday, said that construction of the said center is under the High Value Commodity Development Crops Program (HVCDCP) in partnership with the provincial government of Palawan.

Once built, the center will have an x-ray machine for the detection of mango pulp weevil (MPW) from the southern part of the province. The MPW is currently a problem being faced by the mango industry in Palawan.

In the long term, the regulatory center will also conduct tests on other food commodities, such as high value crops to ensure high quality of farm products from Palawan.

At present, the mangoes are undergoing x-ray for MPW at the Palawan Agricultural Center (PAC) in Barangay Irawan to ensure that they will not get to the market with the infestation, to avoid its spread, Czstillo said.

She did not say how much the DA-RFU has set aside for the construction of the regulatory center, but assured the project has already broken ground in Magsaysay.

In related news, a farmer from Barangay Dumarao, Roxas, who was sent to train for a year in organic farming in Japan, has already returned, according to Mila Veneranda of the OPA.

The farmer is Jessie Sabanal, an active member of the 4-H that employs organic farming system.

Veneranda said Sabanal started training in April 2013 in Japan to expand his knowledge in new technologies in the organic farming of corn, rice, vegetables and flowers. He ended his training in the said country in March.

She said the OPA hopes that Sabanal will be able to share what he learned from the training to other farmers in the province, and to encourage them to go for organic farming.

The training was funded by the National Agricultural and Fisheries Council (NAFC) in cooperation with the government of Japan and the OPA.

Palawan employment office deploys 208 youths in municipalities under SPES program

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

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, May 13 (PNA) – Two hundred eight (208) secondary, college students, and out-of-school youths (OSYs) were deployed by the Palawan Provincial Employment and Services Office (PESO) in different municipalities under the Special Privilege for Employment of Students (SPES).

Gemma Bustos, Labor and Employment Officer II of the PESO, said Monday that these secondary and college students including the out of school youths were deployed in 13 municipalities in the province.

Fifteen SPES beneficiaries will be assigned in each municipality, while 25 will render services during the summer at the Provincial Capitol until May 21, she said.

Their stints under SPES, Bustos explained, is in compliance by the provincial government of Republic Act 9547 that is open to young people between the ages of 15-25 years old.

Each beneficiary, she added, will receive P200 per day, where 60% or P120 of their salaries will come from the provincial government, and 40% or P80 will be shared by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

Bustos furthered said that in the present implementation of SPES, many beneficiaries are in college, and the rest in secondary level.

“There are OSYs, and they qualified because they were certified by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to be of good moral character,” she said, adding they were accepted also because they want to enroll in the next opening of classes.

When the program concludes, the beneficiaries will have to submit their accomplishment reports and daily time records (DTRs), Bustos said.

These documents will be included in the payroll that will be processed for the beneficiaries to receive their SPES salaries.

“We hope that the SPES this year will be able to give our beneficiaries experiences that will teach them lessons on the value of working hard to enable them to go back to school. It is a great privilege, and we hope they do not waste what they will learn,” she said.

Palawan-Kota Kinabalu route to boost trade, economic ties in BIMP-EAGA

(PNA), LAM/LDV

MANILA, May 12 (PNA) -- A direct flight will be launched from Puerto Princesa, Palawan to Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, as the Philippines and ASEAN neighbours Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia intensify economic and trade cooperation.

Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Herminio Coloma, in a Palace press briefing Monday, said that President Benigno Aquino III and leaders of three other ASEAN countries during the 24th ASEAN summit agreed to concretize the proposed connections of roads, airports and seaports through the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA).

Coloma said the 10th BIMP-EAGA Summit was held after the 24th ASEAN Summit in Myanmar that ended Sunday afternoon.

He said that apart from the operation of direct flights from Kota Kinabalu to Puerto Princesa, a memorandum agreement (MOA) between private companies establishing the Davao-General Santos-Bitung shipping service was also forged.

Coloma said BIMP-EAGA member countries will undertake these initiatives with a goal to expand trade and commerce cooperation, as well as boost livelihood of citizens of the four countries.

“Kaya ito ay masugid na itinataguyod ng apat na bansa kabilang na ang Pilipinas. (That is why these are aggressively promoted by the four countries including the Philippines,” he said.

On the issue of West Philippine Sea dispute, Coloma said ASEAN foreign ministers in a joint statement urged all countries concerned to exercise self-restraint and avoid actions, which could undermine ease of mobility and stability in the area.

This is in accordance with the universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

“And to resolve disputes by peaceful means without resorting to threat or use of force,” he added.

Coloma said all parties to the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea were also called on to undertake full and effective implementation of the Declaration of Conduct (DOC).

“In order to create an environment of mutual trust and confidence, the parties were advised to emphasize the need for expeditiously working towards an early conclusion of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea,” he said.

Congress must give focus on climate change adaptation and mitigation, solon says

(PNA), SCS/PR/PJN

MANILA, May 11 (PNA) -- A lawmaker has taken the initiative so Congress could give special attention to the global climate change phenomenon which threatens high-risk nations like the Philippines.

Rep. Douglas S. Hagedorn said it would be best that the House of Representatives create a Standing Committee on Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation, contained in House Resolution No. 509.

“The creation of said standing committee will accelerate the establishment of a more coherent and consistent legislation that addresses the urgency of the situation,” Hagedorn stressed, concerned over the continuing destructive effects on man and the environment.

The Palawan lawmaker noted that the country is ranked third in the list of countries with the most reported natural disasters in 2010 and ranked 10th in the world in the list of most affected nations in the Long-Term Climate Risk Index (CRI).

The House of Representatives has a crucial role in responding to climate change, the lessening of its effects and the enhancement of the population’s readiness by way of legislation, Hagedorn explained in HR 509.

“The establishment of a responsive, unified and solid framework and policy on climate change has become urgent in the wake of the complex and intricate Philippine laws and legislation,” he stressed.

Hagedorn explained that the vast issue that covers the entire phenomenon, recent destruction and desolation, and incoherent legislation renders a cloudy and inconsistent policy framework and policy environment on climate change adaptation and mitigation.

“These require a constant review by a Standing Congressional Committee to ensure the creation of coherent and consistent legislation,” the author said.

To further stress the obvious, Hagedorn recalled the recent super typhoon "Yolanda" which resulted in immeasurable devastation to public and private infrastructure, including the loss of thousands of lives across its path, it has brought to fore the global concern for concerted action by nations and governments.

“Let us learn from the painful lessons of nature. Let’s act together, and now,” Hagedorn said.


90 Palaweños to benefit from Malampaya Foundation scholarship

(PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY – Around 90 Palaweños stand to benefit from the recently signed memorandum of agreement (MOA) between the Malampaya Foundation, Inc. (MFI) and two universities in this city.

Dr. Elsa Manarpaac, president of the Western Philippines University (WPU), said Wednesday that the Malampaya Sustainable Development Scholarship (MSDS) grant, which was the subject of an agreement she signed with the MFI, and the Palawan State University (PSU) will begin in June, when classes open.

The MSDS is offering 30 scholarship grants each at WPU and PSU for Bachelor’s Degree, and 30 for Master’s Degree and Doctorate Degree at the University of the Philippines (UP).

Each recipient will have a budget of P45,000 per semester for university fees, books, allowances and stipends.

Manarpaac said the scholarship grant aims to produce professionals and specialists on sustainable energy development, and environment and natural resources management to help Palawan, Batangas and Mindoro in their sustainable development goals.

Those who will enter and be accepted in the scholarship program will have to be committed to agree to a lock-in period of two years to be able to provide dedicated service to the three provinces, where they will come from.

Manarpaac added that the scholarship grant will not only open many doors of opportunities to residents of Palawan, but also to the natural environment that the province is protecting, conserving and preserving for the next generations to enjoy.

“This will definitely open doors for many opportunities for the Palaweño youth so they can realize their dreams,” she told the Philippine News Agency (PNA).

Interested residents to the scholarship program can submit their applications to the Office of Student Affairs of the two universities. A screening date will be scheduled to look into their qualifications before the names of those who will make it will be submitted to MFI.

In 2002, the Malampaya Deepwater Gas to Power project was awarded the World Summit Business Award for Sustainable Development Partnership at the World Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The accolade was endowed by the United Nations Environmental Program and the International Chamber of Commerce in recognition of Malampaya’s careful balance of the social, environmental and economic components in the course of development.

In December 2005, the Malampaya Joint Venture partners, composed of Shell Philippines Exploration B.V., Chevron Malampaya LLC and the PNOC-EC, formed the Malampaya Foundation Inc (MFI) to serve as its social arm and to strengthen commitment in making significant contributions toward community-based sustainable socio-economic development and marine environment conservation.

The foundation’s main thrust is to empower people through capacity building and provision of tools to enable productivity, social and economic development and conservation of the environment.

The MFI’s main areas of operation are in the impact areas of the Malampaya Deepwater Gas to Power project, namely, Northwest and North Palawan islands, Oriental Mindoro and Batangas City.

Endangered marine turtle poaching in Palawan alarming

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

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, May 9 (PNA) – The Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff (PCSDS) said the poaching and illegal trading of the endangered green sea turtles (pawikan) and other “critically endangered” species in the province is “alarming.”

“Something needs to be done to curb this because we are losing them fast; we do not want to wake up one day with no more of them in our ocean,” PCSDS spokesperson Alex Marcaida told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) in an interview.

Marcaida’s statement came in wake of the interception of 11 Chinese and five Filipino fishermen within the vicinity of Hasa-Hasa or Half Moon Shoal on Tuesday, suspected to be making a trade for caught green sea turtles from Balabac island town at the southernmost tip of Palawan.

He said they are not only worried about the sustainable protection, conservation and preservation of the green sea turtles, but also other reptiles of the order Cheloniidae that are found in Palawan like the critically endangered hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata).

“Almost 70% to 80% of our wildlife protection and conservation operations in the Balabac area involved the poaching and illegal trading of the green sea turtles, and this is alarming because the numbers being collected are great,” Marcaida disclosed to the PNA.

He said what is even alarming is that it is the Filipino fishermen that are now catching the endangered green sea turtles to make a trade with foreign fishermen, such as the Chinese.

“Some foreign fishermen wittingly enjoin unscrupulous Filipino fishermen to catch them and then make a trade. We suspect that they are making a trade in Half Moon Shoal; like they have made it a store for green sea turtles in the sea,” he said.

Since the location of the shoal is in the open sea, Marcaida believes it is easier for foreign fishermen to escape to nearby country of Malaysia, where they can no longer be chased due to border laws.

“If they see Filipino soldiers patrolling at sea, they can easily escape to the nearest country, which is Malaysia because it’s near Half Moon,” Marcaida added.

The alarming rate at which the green sea turtles and other marine turtle species are being poached and illegally traded, Marcaida claimed, was the subject of the PCSDS’ recent meeting with Western Command (WESCOM) commanding chief Gen. Roy Devaraturda.

On May 7, he said the military general met with PCSDS staff to discuss what can be done to further increase concerted efforts to protect the marine turtle species, and how the WESCOM can also expand its participation.

“We had initial discussions on how we can increase our joint efforts to protect the endangered and critically endangered turtles, and we have agreed to widen our information, education and communications campaign about their protection,” said Marcaida.

This means that the support of barangay officials, particularly in Balabac, will be enjoined to prevent the possibility of losing the green sea turtles.

“Community support is very, very important in efforts to make this species of marine turtle survive. We cannot discount them, we need to make them see the value of why there is a need to protect these marine turtles,” he added.

He added that the WESCOM might be able to help by providing logistical support since one operation can cause environment authorities outside the military at least P 20,000 or more in gas and fuel, which is difficult.

“We’re in the process of mapping out how to address this problem with the help of government agencies, like WESCOM. General Deveraturda is very cooperative, and we appreciate this,” he said.

Before the arrest of the 11 Sino fishers with over 300 live and dead green marine turtles, on April 30, environment authorities in Palawan recovered 53 species of the same species held in water pens in Sitio Silom-Silom, Barangay Catagupan also in Balabac.

PNOC-EC, Nido Petroleum starts drilling for oil at Baragatan prospect next week

By Euan Paulo C. Añonuevo (InterAksyon.com)

MANILA - State-owned Philippine National Oil Co-Exploration Corp (PNOC-EC) expects to start drilling at the Baragatan oil and gas prospect in offshore Palawan next week.

In a statement, PNOC-EC said its partners Nido Petroleum Ltd and Dragon Oil Plc will spud the Baragatan 1 exploration well covered by Service Contract (SC) 63 in offshore Southwest Palawan around May 14.

"This will be the first offshore exploration well to be drilled in the Philippines this year," PNOC-EC said.

The rig that would be used -- Naga 5 -- is owned and operated by United Motor Works of Malaysia. It is a newly fabricated jack-up rig capable of evaluating the hydrocarbon potential of the large Baragatan prospect. Nido Petroleum will act as drilling operator of the well on behalf of the consortium.

The rig sailed from Singapore on May 2 and will arrive at the site in 10 days. Drilling is expected to last 20 days.

The Department of Energy (DOE) awarded SC 63, also known as East Sabina, to PNOC-EC and Nido Petroleum on November 24, 2006.

On April 23, the DOE approved the farm-in of Dragon Oil Plc into the consortium with its purchase of Nido Petroleum's 40 percent stake in the contract area.

Otto Energy bags 14-month extension of exploration permit off Palawan

By Euan Paulo C. Añonuevo (InterAksyon.com)

MANILA - The Department of Energy (DOE) has allowed Australia’s Otto Energy Ltd to proceed with an extended timetable for the development of a petroleum prospect in offshore Palawan.

In a disclosure to the Australian Securities Exchange, Otto Energy said the DOE gave its nod to the 14-month extension of its commitment to drill two wells at Service Contract (SC) 55.

Under Otto Energy's revised work program, it will drill one well each between August 6, 2011 and December 23, 2014; as well as between December 23, 2014 and December 23, 2016.

The SC 55 block in offshore Palawan contains the Hawkeye and Cinco prospects.

The Hawkeye prospect is believed to contain oil in place ranging from 87 million barrels (MMbbl) to 1,539 MMbbl with a mean of 680 MMbbls.

As for the Cinco prospect, the estimated in place gas rangee from 0.9 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) to 6.3 TCF with a mean of 3.2 Tcf.

Otto Energy had pushed back its committed drilling activities in the contract area because of the delayed issuance of the Strategic Environmental Plan clearance from the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development.

The delay led to the withdrawal of another Australian firm, BHP Billiton Petroleum Corp, from the SC 55 consortium. Besides the two Australian firms, the consortium also includes locally-listed Trans-Asia Oil and Energy Development Corp.

Otto Energy said that it has already solicited proposals from several companies interested in joining the development of the petroleum block.

"Formal submissions have been requested in June 2014 and Otto [Energy] will evaluate any proposals with the intention to complete the farm-out process and secure a new joint venture shortly thereafter," it said.

Palawan prepares IEC to celebrate World Migratory Bird Day

By Celeste Anna R. Formoso [(PNA), JBP/CARF/JSD]

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, May 6 (PNA) -- Known as one of the provinces in the Philippines with a sundry of avian treasures, the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff (PCSDS) and other environment organizations concerned with their conservation are gearing to celebrate the World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD) this month.

Melo Ponce de Leon, representative of the information office of the PCSDS, said the celebration will take place on May 10 to May 11 with the help of United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) to give importance to the migratory birds’ protection in the province and other parts of the country..

Ponce de Leon said this year’s celebration is further centered at pushing forward the tandem between protecting the world’s migratory avian gems and eco-tourism so the industry can help in the global effort.

Various information, education and communication (IEC) campaigns will be undertaken by the PCSDS to raise the awareness of the people of Palawan on avian protection.

In Palawan, birds are known to dwell during migration season in the Tubattaha Reef Natural Marine Park (TRNMP) in the island town of Cagayancillo and Ursula Island in the mining town of Bataraza, Lake Manguao in the fortress town Taytay, and Barangay Iwahig that has become popular over the years as a wetland for bird.

Palawan has been identified as one of the seven Endemic Bird Areas (EBA) of the Philippines by Birdlife International (BI).

In Puerto Princesa City, the St. Paul Subterranean River National Park, where the underground river is located at Sitio Sabang, Barangay Cabayugan, is one of the five most Important Bird Areas (IBA).

Birders all over the world have been flocking the site for the opportunity of personally appreciating some of the 15 endemic avian species such as the Palawan peacock pheasant (Polyplectron napoleonis), Philippine cockatoo (Cacatua haematuropygia), Chinese egret (Egretta eulophotes), and Nordmann’s Greenshank (Tringa guttifer).

The Philippines is included in what is called the East-Asian Australasian Flyway (EAAF), one of the migratory flyways of the Asian and Australian continents that include 22 other countries.

The birds migrate from the northern Artic circle to New Zealand to pass the cold season. During this migration, they temporarily stay in the countries they pass to rest and feed.

Ponce de Leon said they usually take shelter in places that have water, or what are called wetlands. This is the reason why wetlands are also important and protected.

Hundreds upon hundreds of birds with over 170 species pass the migration path, and most of them are globally threatened or near-threatened species, she said.

Accordingly, the WMBD “was initiated in 2006 and is an annual awareness-raising campaign highlighting the need for the protection of migratory birds and their habitats. On the second weekend each May, people around the world take action and organize public events such as bird festivals, education programs and birdwatching excursions to celebrate WMBD.”

“Migratory birds connect all corners and almost every environment of the world along their migration paths. WMBD is a global event and also hopes to connect the world, and bring together organizations, governments and dedicated people to protect migratory birds for future generations.”

WMBD works as a network to increase public knowledge about migratory birds and their importance and also connects groups of people to share, celebrate with and learn from each other.

Electricity providers for remote areas in Puerto Princesa sought

By Iris Gonzales (The Philippine Star)

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Energy (DOE) has declared remote areas in Puerto Princesa City as open for the provision of electricity service by qualified third parties as mandated by the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001.

In a published notice, the DOE said the Palawan Electric Cooperative Inc. (Paleco) has issued a board resolution declaring the city’s Sabang-Cabayugan area as unviable area.

Thus, the DOE is calling on interested parties including private entities, local government units, cooperatives and non-government organizations to submit proposals for the electrification of the Sabang-Cabayugan area.

Unviable areas refer to a geographical area within the franchise area of a distribution utility or cooperative where immediate extension of power distribution line is not feasible.

Qualified third parties (QTP) on the other hand, refer to an alternative electric service provider that meets the standards in and is chosen in accordance with the Department of Energy provisions.

The DOE said that Paleco, which has the franchise obligations over these remote and unviable areas, has received an unsolicited proposal and entered a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the City Government of Puerto Princesa and WEnergy Global Pte Ltd. last year to service power requirements in the area.

According to the DOE, the MOU aims to plan, design, build, operate and own a Solar PV power plant with a minimum installed capacity of 1 to 1.5 MW that will satisfy the current and future demands in Barangay Cabayugan, with an immediate focus on the area of Sitio Sabang, Barangay Cabayugan, Puerto Princesa, among others.

Special delivery: Chicken Joy for Ayungin troops

By Jaime Laude (The Philippine Star)

MANILA, Philippines - Food deliveries don’t usually come by plane, but this was certainly no ordinary food delivery.

Yesterday, a blue Navy Islander plane dropped packs of Jollibee’s popular Chicken Joy and Jolly Peach Mango pies to the Marine troops at Ayungin Shoal.

“For a change and to boost the morale of our troops out there, we have decided, for the first time, to include in our air re-provisioning operation packs of Chicken Joy and non-perishable products from an all Filipino-owned food chain,” Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista said.

The airdrop was part of the mission of the AFP to provide provisions to the troops at the grounded Navy ship BRP Sierra Madre on forward deployment to guard and secure Ayungin Shoal.

The operation took weeks of thorough and joint planning by the AFP and the Western Command (Wescom) in Palawan to ensure packages and supplies are delivered to the Marines in Ayungin Shoal.

“We have to supply those in the Ayungin first. The troops in the other islands will also have their Jollibee delivered later,” Bautista said. Headlines ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1

Bautista noted that most of the returning troops relieved from forward deployment in the islands and shoals in the Spratlys bring their families to the nearest Jollibee outlet.

The Jollibee packs were dropped off from a Navy Islander plane that took off at the Puerto Princesa City airport.

The plane reached Ayungin after an hour and maneuvered overhead at 150 meters to drop the provisions to the troops.

The STAR joined the paradrop operations on an Air Force Nomad plane that Wescom dispatched to provide support to the Navy Islander plane.

As the Navy plane circled above the Sierra Madre to drop its cargo using special airdrop equipment, the Marine troops below had no idea what was in the packages.

Contacted later through radio, the troops on the ship cried out with joy upon learning the airdrop provisions included packs of Chicken Joy and Jolly Peach Mango pie.

One of the two packages landed squarely on deck while the other had to be retrieved from the sea.

Included in the sealed provisions were bundles of letters from pupils of a Puerto Princesa City elementary school praising the troops for their unselfish sacrifice in protecting the country’s sovereignty in the hotly contested region.

“We are grateful for your sacrifice in guarding the Ayungin Shoal. We will include you in our prayers in wishing that the Philippines and China would come to an understanding,” a pupil wrote in Filipino.

Wescom commander Lt. Gen. Roy Deveraturda said the airdrop operation is a routine undertaking of his command. Wescom has operational jurisdiction over the country’s maritime waters in the West Philippine Sea.

“We are doing this to remind our troops out there that we are thinking of their welfare 24/7 and at the same time, promote awareness among Filipinos that somewhere out there in the middle of an open sea, their soldiers, despite being exposed to the elements, remain dedicated in performing their sworn duties of guarding and protecting the country’s maritime sovereignty,” Deveraturda said.

The Sierra Madre was grounded in the area sometime in 1999 and has stood in the way of China’s creeping “invasion” of the entire region following its occupation in 1994 of Panganiban (Mischief) Reef, an area close to mainland Palawan.

China, citing historical facts, is laying claim to almost the entire South China Sea as an integral part of its maritime domain. Following its illegal occupation of Panatag Shoal near mainland Zambales almost two years ago, China has since last year set its sights on Ayungin Shoal.

The shoal, which is only 105 nautical miles from mainland Palawan, is highly strategic to China as it is very close to Panganiban Reef that Beijing occupied and has transformed into a highly fortified forward naval station.

DSWD hires project-based staff for 2014 special validation

By Celeste Anna R. Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY – The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Field Office IV-MIMAROPA has hired eight (8) area supervisors and 39 enumerators, who will be assigned in the five island provinces to complete the special validation for senior citizens and Modified Conditional Cash Transfer (MCCT) this May 2014.

Three enumerators were hired in Marinduque; five enumerators and two area supervisors in Occidental Mindoro; eight enumerators and one area supervisor in Oriental Mindoro; 18 enumerator and four area supervisors in Palawan, and one area supervisor and five enumerators hired in Romblon province.

The said special validation aims to validate the poverty status of Social Pension recipients, a DSWD program that provides Php500.00 monthly stipend to indigent senior citizens aged 77 years old and above who are not in the list of poor households.

This also adheres to the Department’s goal of reducing the exclusion error of social protection programs where MCCT recipients who may be identified poor will be potential beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program.

Field staff will undergo a 3-day intensive training in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan on May 5-7, 2014 to equip them for the actual conduct of household assessment.

Coron is first Palawan town to adapt Singapore Math system

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

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, May 2 (PNA) -- Marshall Cavendish Education, a book distributor of top schools in the Philippines, reported that Children’s Chance For Tomorrow Foundation (CCTF), an international school in Coron, is the first learning institution in the province to adapt a Singapore curriculum in Mathematics and Science.

The books of Marshall Cavendish Education, a leading K-12 educational publisher deeply committed to developing educational materials that play a critical role in raising the quality of learning, are also used by schools in the United States, United Kingdom, Middle East and other countries which adapted the Singapore Math system.

Moreover, the Trend in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMS) ranked Singapore Math as the leading Math curriculum in the world, followed by Japan Math and California Math, respectively.

Rowe Bandoy, CCFT-CIS school principal is encouraging Coronians to send back their children to Coron to take advantage of a different kind of quality education.

“Foreign nationals staying in Coron are also encouraged to enroll and bring their children here, most of them I learned are sending their kids to Cebu, Subic, and Manila for elementary and high school, while they do business here. These could mean more locals in town and better business to our fellow Coronians,” Bandoy said Thursday.

Environment authorities recover 53 green sea turtles in Balabac, Palawan

By Ruth T. Rodriguez [(PNA), CTB/CARF/RTR/JSD]

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, May 1 (PNA) – Municipal police authorities in Balabac in the southernmost tip of Palawan recovered 53 critically-threatened live green sea turtles (pawikan) in water pens while conducting seaborne patrol lunch time Wednesday.

According to the Provincial Police Office (PPO), the threatened marine turtle species were recovered in Sitio Silom-Silom, Barangay Catagupan, Balabac while hidden in cages.

The PPO said they were probably being prepared to be transported to Halfmoon Shoal, an area 100 kilometers off mainland Palawan in the West Philippines Sea (WPS), where their illegal trading is reportedly rampant.

The turtles were released as soon as environment authorities completed tagging them and documenting their recovery in Balabac.