Palawan News April 2015

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Palawan - Archived News

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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

Wars of ancient history were about possessions, territory, power, control, family, betrayal, lover's quarrel, politics and sometimes religion.

But we are in the Modern era and supposedly more educated and enlightened .

Think about this. Don't just brush off these questions.

  • Why is RELIGION still involved in WARS? Isn't religion supposed to be about PEACE?
  • Ask yourself; What religion always campaign to have its religious laws be accepted as government laws, always involved in wars and consistently causing WARS, yet insists that it's a religion of peace?


There are only two kinds of people who teach tolerance:
  1. The Bullies. They want you to tolerate them so they can continue to maliciously deprive you. Do not believe these bullies teaching tolerance, saying that it’s the path to prevent hatred and prejudice.
  2. The victims who are waiting for the right moment to retaliate. They can’t win yet, so they tolerate.
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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

Mindanao-Palawan links pushed for BIMP-EAGA at Langkawi summit

By Carmelito Q. Francisco

DAVAO CITY -- Sea and air links between Mindanao and Palawan are being pushed by the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) as a component of the strategy to strengthen the Philippine’s network within the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines (BIMP) sub-region. At the leaders’ summit in Langkawi, Malaysia which ended on Thursday, Secretary Luwalhati R. Antonino, MinDA chair, said the Philippines has the weakest transport connections within the BIMP-East Growth Area.

“The Philippines is working on the establishment of air and sea linkages (for Mindanao and Palawan) to be fully accessible to our EAGA neighbors,” said Ms. Antonino, the country’s signing minister for the sub-region.

Mindanao and Palawan are the focus areas for the Philippines within the sub-region.

Budget airline AirAsia Philippines, a subsidiary of Malaysia’s AirAsia Bhd, announced recently that it is studying a service linking Davao City, Puerto Princesa, and Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia.

At present, the airline operates Cebu-Kota Kinabalu and Manila-Kota Kinabalu flights.

At the same time, representatives of the Philippines and Indonesia are working on a roll-on/roll-off shipping link between Davao and General Santos Cities and Bitung, North Sulawesi, said Romeo M. Montenegro, MinDA public affairs head.

Initially, the two sides agreed to tap a privately-owned vessel which can accommodate 20 20-foot equivalent unit vans.

“Since this is a private initiative, we hope this can start within the year,” said Mr. Montenegro, pointing out that the vessel company is still securing the needed permit for the sea link.

The Philippine side is also pushing for a sea link between Brookes Point in Palawan and Kudat in Sabah which is expected to “strategically provide a faster and cheaper channel of trading goods” between the areas.

Other pending proposals include regular commercial flights between Davao City and Manado, Indonesia as well as Zamboanga to Sandakan, Sabah and Palawan-Kota Kinabalu.

Trade and Industry Undersecretary Prudencio M. Reyes Jr., who also attended the summit, said the Philippines will continue to pursue these linkages that are expected to strengthen the economy of Mindanao and Palawan.

“Connectivity brings food, people and investments around the sub-region and will stir further socioeconomic developments within the EAGA,” said Mr. Reyes in a statement.

He said the Department of Trade and Industry will continue to “help pursue initiatives and projects aimed to spur trading and economic activities in the sub-region,” as he cited the gross domestic product growth propelled by tourism and investments among the countries in the sub-region.

Based on data from the EAGA Facilitation Center, trade within the sub-region hit P7.319 trillion last year.

Foreign direct investment in the sub-region grew in 2013 by 23% to P444.8 billion compared with the previous year.

Research in Tubbataha, Palawan identifies 5 individual tiger sharks

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

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, April 29 (PNA) -- Shark research in the World Heritage Site, Tubbatahan Reefs Natural Park (TRNP), has identified and documented five tiger sharks since it started, according to the Tubbataha Management Office (TMO).

The TMO headed by Angelique Songco also said in a release that the identification and documentation was also “with a possible sixth.”

Accordingly, Ryan Murray, project leader of the research currently being done by the Large Marine Vertebrate (LAMAVE) Project in the Philippines, and which is located in Tubbataha, disclosed that “three of the tiger sharks have been recorded since 2012.”

The release furthered that “to distinguish between individual tiger sharks, Murray looks for unique features such as scars, bite marks, and color patterns.”

The images were seen “from videos and photos obtained by the Baited Remote Underwater Video (BRUV) installed, and those shared by visitors of the marine park and the dive operators.

Those who have contributed videos and photos, so far, are Colin Swerdfeger of Stella Maris, Keith Lapuos of Oceana Maria, Chester Lee of Discovery Palawan, and Giga Songco of Vasco.

Murray is said to have lauded the participation and support of the diving industry in the on-going shark research.

LAMAVE and the Tubbataha can be recalled requesting private citizens for support through the acquiescence of images taken in Tubbataha.

“Through the contribution of our partners, citizen science is making its mark in helping us better understand the secrets of our seas,” the release said.

New technical-vocational school to open in southern Palawan

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

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, April 28 (PNA) -- A new education building for technical and vocational courses for Palaweños will be opened by the provincial government in Barangay Plaridel in the town of Aborlan in southern Palawan.

Orphy Ordinario, program director of the Programang Pang-Edukasyon Para sa mga Palawenyo (PPP), said the new school is part of Governor Jose Alvarez’ dream to help residents, who are not able to complete their education, have better chances to get out of poverty.

The new school, Ordinario explained, will serve as the center of technical and vocational courses in southern Palawan.

The provincial government will be assisted in the goal by the Asian Business Cabletow Cooperative Academy, Inc. (ABCCAI), which is the “purveyor of skills and knowledge that would enable the have-less students and financially-challenged families to be prepared, knowledgeable and skillful in their chosen career and be globally competitive in Technology, Environmental Preservation and Cooperative Management with personal excellence based on human values without discrimination of race and creed.”

The ABCCAI reportedly has a wide knowledge and experience on teaching technical and vocational education, and is accredited by the Technical Educational and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

Ordinario said documents are now being prepared for the setting up of the technical and vocational school, including the authority from the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.

The PPP, he furthered, is now also accepting applicants for the technical-vocational scholarship program of the provincial government. Around 1,000-1,500 applicants are ready to be accepted as first batch of enrollees.

He assured that their enrollment will be completely free as scholars of the Palawan government.

The technical-vocational scholarship program is open to Palaweños 16-year old above; submit their application forms that can be obtained from the PPP at the Community Affairs Division, 1x1 photo ID, Barangay Clearance and NSO-authenticated Birth Certificate, and a long brown envelope.

Scholars can select from the following technical-vocational courses Computer Systems Technology NC II, Visual Graphic Design NC II; Bartending NC II; Food and Beverage Services NC II, Front Office Services NC II, Housekeeping NC II; Local Guiding Services NC II; Massage Therapy NC II; Driving NCII; Bookkeeping NC III; Microfinance Technology NC II at Heavy Equipment Operation NC II for the Backhoe Loader, Bulldozer, Motor Grader, On-Highway Dump Truck and Wheel Loader.

Ordinario said the technical-vocational program will officially open on June 29.

Coron Airport wins Greenest Airport Contest

By Lyle B. Coruña [(PNA), CTB/CARF/LBC/EDS]

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, April 27 (PNA) -- The Francisco Reyes Airport in touristy Coron in northern Palawan has won as the “greenest airport” in the Philippines.

The news was related by Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) Manager Joselito Arzaga to Mayor Clara “Fems” Reyes because of her utmost support to the management of the said airport that is located in Barangay Decalachao, Coron.“You have not asked, but Mayor Fems, was the one who inspired us to work hard for the cleanliness of our airport inside and out. She herself taught our utility staff on how to clean our comfort rooms, and to put plants around for a relaxing atmosphere at the airport,” said Arzaga.

Reyes, on the other hand, said it’s the airport that gives the first impression to travelers, who visit Coron.“If the surrounding stinks to them when they land, they will have a very bad experience,” she said, “That is why it is necessary that our airport gives a good impression by being clean inside and out.”

Reyes thanked Arzaga and the management of the airport for their cooperation with the municipal government. She also thanked Police Inspector Roberto Papa of the Aviation Security Group at the airport.

Aside from plaque, the airport in Coron also received PHP30,000; and additional fund of PHP250,000 from CAAP Director General William Hotchkiss III was also received for beautification.

HIV-AIDS treatment hub at Ospital ng Palawan gets green light from DOH


PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, April 26 (PNA) -- The National Coordinator for HIV-AIDS of the Department of Health (NCHA-DOH) has approved the establishment of a treatment hub at the Ospital ng Palawan (OnP) in this city.

The Provincial Information Office (PIO) head Gil Acosta said over the weekend that the development raises hope for suspected individuals with the chronic, potentially life-threatening condition to seek care and medication.

The inspection of the OnP for the possibility of a treatment hub/facility set up was conducted on April 16-17 this month per information from Aileen Macabihag, the Provincial STI HIV-AIDS program manager of the Provincial Health Office (PHO).

STI stands for sexually transmitted infections while HIV-AIDS, human immunodeficiency virus and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.

The group that conducted the assessment was composed of Dr. Joseph Vilimac, National Coordinator for HIV-AIDS; Dr. Cherry Abrenica, Head of HIV-AIDS Ward of the San Lazaro Hospital; Dr. Cherry Candawa, Regional Coordinator of the HIV-AIDS and Dr. Antoinnette Evangelista, Medical Coordinator, National STI HIV AIDS Prevention and Control Program.

The facility can be started and opened this year after the doctor, who will be in charge, has undergone the training for Clinical Management of Antiretroviral Therapy in June.

The hub will be managed by the HIV-AIDS Core Team, or HACT, who will be headed by Dr. Jose Coloma of the OnP as chief, with a nurse, a medical technologist, pharmacist and a social worker.

It will initially have a 5-bed capacity, and will have laboratory equipment for the examination of patients. Medicine supplies will also be placed for their use.

Once operational, suspected HIV-AIDS patients can seek treatment from the facility and no longer in Manila. Macabihag said that patients, who will be detected positive, should have regular examination and medicine in-take.

In 2013, around 12 cases of HIV was confirmed in Puerto Princesa by the City Health Office (CHO).

In a previous report by the Philippine News Agency (PNA), then CHO chief Dr. Juancho Monserate, confirmed their existence and said they were those who engaged in unprotected sexual activities.

"Yes, we have recorded 12 HIV cases in Puerto Princesa, and they are males who have engaged in unprotected sexual activities with males also," said Monserate.

Palaweños could expect full blast infrastructure development


PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, April 25 (PNA) -- Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez said Friday that Palaweños can expect full blast infrastructure development, specifically in the concreting of 5,570 kilometers of lateral-livelihood roads in the province when all 341 light-to-heavy equipment facilities have been completely turned over to municipalities.

This was assured by Alvarez on the blessing Friday of the equipment pool at the provincial government motorpool in Barangay Irawan here.

"Constructions have started in other towns, and if we’ve completed the distribution of all, they will be non-stop," said Alvarez to the Philippine News Agency (PNA).

Presently, some of the new equipment are now being used in the construction of hospitals, water system supply projects, school buildings, airports, and road constructions in the municipalities of Aborlan, Narra, Rizal, Brooke's Point, Bataraza and Taytay.

Towns of Coron, Busuanga, Agutaya and Dumaran are on the road too, to infrastructure development with the transportation of equipment units to the locations just recently.

The whole fleet is composed of 50 excavators, 27 6-way dozers, 10-low ground pressure dozers, 26-boom trucks, nine dropside trucks, nine self-loading trucks, 140 dump trucks, nine graders, and 20 compactors -- the largest the provincial government has purchased in recent times, amounting to over over PHP1 billion, "the thriftiest acquisition among local government units (LGUs) in the country," said Alvarez.

Meanwhile, Alvarez said Palawan is willing to lend the equipment units to the city government to usher infrastructure development in Puerto Princesa.

Going Green: Solar panels atop Puerto Princesa City Hall inaugurated

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

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, April 24 (PNA) – - The 20-year build-lease-transfer (BLT) "Puerto Princesa City Solar Showcase" strategically installed atop the new city hall complex was finally inaugurated Friday afternoon, making it the first Philippine-German green government infrastructure project in the country in terms of energy efficiency.

"This solar project further boosts Puerto Princesa's reputation as a city that is living and growing in harmony with its pristine natural environment," said Mayor Lucilo Bayron in welcoming the innovative solar project.

"We're using cutting edge clean technology to generate renewable energy and save taxpayer money while building our economy and creating new career opportunities for our people," he added.

The showcase, deemed to ease the city government's power bill encumbrance, is a fruition of the solar power agreement Bayron's administration had entered into late March with world-class renewable energy developer Vissolis Philippines, Inc. (VPI) that shoulders all of its financing, designing and installation.

"We're reproducing a lot of energy for Puerto Princesa [that is] good for the economy, the people and the environment," Thomas Hayes, Vissolis Chief Operating Officer told the Philippine News Agency (PNA).

He adds, "Visollis’ project which is clean, lower-cost, reliable and sustainable is all about energy for the people by the people."

Unlike the PHP10/kWh it has been paying to the Palawan Electric Cooperative (PALECO), the city government only has to pay PHP8/kWh electricity generated by the Vissolis solar panels.

"The best way to save is by producing your own electricity that you don't buy from someone else," said Hayes.

On its first year of tenancy, at the said city hall complex, the administration in 2014 had paid a total of PPHP6.8-million, or an average of PHP570,000 a month to the PALECO.

Roughly, it consumed a total of 1,292,900 kWh, or an average of 107,741.7 kWh a month.

Meanwhile, the solar showcase composed of three hundred 260-Watt photovoltaic (PV) modules that convert bright sunlight directly to electricity has 78-kilowatt peak capacity and can produce about 100,000 kilowatt hours of electricity a year.

Three solar inverters will transform the direct current of the modules into alternating current and match the grid frequency of the electricity circulating at the City Hall Complex.

Each solar panel has an economic lifespan of around 35 years. This means that once the20-yr. BLT contract has ended, the city government will finally operate the facility for the remaining 15 years for free.

Hayes, meanwhile, assures Vissolis has trained local Filipino solar energy team to keep the system running all throughout its economic lifespan.

The project is part of the worldwide dena Renewable Energy Solutions Program coordinated by Deutsche Energie-Agentur GmbH (dena) – the German Energy Agency, and co-financed by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) within the initiative “renewables – Made in Germany.”

The inauguration program held here was also attended by German Ambassador to the Philippines Thomas Ossowoski, along with Vissolis team, led by CEO Carlos Mayer and representative of Department of Energy among others.

(NewsFeature) U.P. professor says Palawan’s WW2 past is important in Philippine history

By Celeste Anna R. Formoso and Ronces Paragoso [(PNA), LGI/RCK/CARF/EDS]

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, April 23 (PNA) -- Dreams of the future is better than the past, but history has to be understood and preserved in order for people in the present to act to move forward, according to Ricardo P. Jose, Ph. D., of the Department of History, University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman.

Jose, who was in this city Wednesday to attend the commemoration of the 70th Philippines Liberation Anniversary dubbed “A Salute to Valor: Palawan-70 Years of Freedom,” said this after stating that the province has a lot of WW2 narratives and incidents that have not yet been fully recorded.

“One thing that we found out here was there’s really none. Usually, recordings are main stream; in Leyte, Bataan, Manila,” he said.

Palawan is significant history, he said, because of its strategic position. “It covers the West Philippines Sea; the airfield here is very strategic and the Japanese knew this that’s why they built it here. They were the ones who did it first, actually,” he said.

When the Americans learned of this in 1944-1945, they immediately incapacitated the airfield that was built by the prisoners of war (POW), who were brought to Palawan, to cut Japanese supplies from coming in.

“Once they took over the airfield here, they used it as support to the invasion of Borneo, and then the South, and even reached Vietnam from here,” he told the Philippine News Agency (PNA).

He believes that when the supplies were cut, and the airfield under the command of the Americans, the surrender of Japan to the Allied Force was sped up.

Aside from the tactical airfield, he said that the support of the guerilla force under the Palawan Special Battalion (PSB) during WW2 is also significant because they were able to contain the Japanese Imperial Army forces until the arrival of American troops under the leadership of Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

“There’s only one real book about Palawan’s history, it’s called Palawan’s Fighting 1,000; it’s the only one written so far,” Jose claimed. The copy is now at the Palawan Special Battalion WW2 Museum privately-run by Higinio “Buddy” Mendoza, the son of local hero Dr. Higinio A. Mendoza, Sr.

Jose said he has materials from his trips to the United States several times, and some other travels, where he collected historical materials not only about Palawan but the whole country.

He added that he found reports from Palawan; maps, action reports from communications, and others.

Since he knows this, he said he might do it on his own to write about Palawan’s WW2 history. “The Japanese occupation here was not really well known,” he said.

Among others, he said he also discovered that there also circulated “guerilla money” in the province during WW2. Having the guerilla money, he said, was life or death then because the Japanese soldiers did not like it.

“The Filipinos were very ingenious in producing that in the mountains, and since Palawan is big, the issues were different for different islands and areas. Cuyo had them, Brooke’s Point too, had them, so, they are really among the rarest Filipinos here during WW2,” he furthered.

Having the guerilla money, Jose explained, only means that during WW2, Filipinos were very organized, very systematic against their Japanese enemies.

What makes Palawan history important

There were three incidents that also make Palawan important in Philippine history. One was about two submarines of the Allied that were sunk within the vicinity of the southernmost municipality of Balabac.

Jose said the Japanese put mines in the area, and one submarine hit this and sunk. Palawan guerillas, he said, were able to rescue at least 10 people, and a week after, another submarine hit the same mine and also sank too.

“They are still there now, but the guerillas rescued the crews so, that’s another thing,” he said.

During the Battle of Leyte Gulf, or even before it started, there were major Japanese ships that passed west of Palawan. The guerillas spotted them and reported to the Allied Forces.

They also sank two cruisers, and damaged another, causing the Japanese ships to go back to Brunei.

“These were two very heavy cruisers, and one was a flagship of the Japanese admiral, who was forced to transfer to another ship. That’s just off Palawan so, these cruisers are still there under the ocean,” Jose stated further.

During WW2, the USS Dace of the U.S. Navy sank the heavy cruiser Maya near Palawan, and the 769 Japanese navy men, who were rescued from it were transferred to Musashi.

The wrecks of the battleship Musashi was recently discovered in the deep waters of Sibuyan Sea, Cebu by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

Musashi “capsized and sank in 4,430 feet (1,350 m) under the command of Captain Toshihira Inoguchi, who chose to go down with it; 1,376 of his 2,399-man crew were rescued.” About half of the battleship’ survivors were evacuated to Japan, and the rest took part in the war in the Philippines.

The Japanese battleships in Coron, which are also important, were different, he said.

“Coron was strategic because after Manila was being bombed, the Japanese vessels transferred there to try to seek refuge, but they were detected by the Americans, who sank them there,” he narrated.

Another important historical fact that went unrecorded was the arrival in Palawan seas of two submarines that reportedly provided support to the guerillas.

“We still do not know where they landed, but they gave supplies to the guerillas. This is not very well-documented. Added to that, there were also two submarines that came here and landed commandos, whose main mission is to help the guerillas developed and establish watch stations to man the coast,” he said, adding it was also for them to always check the weather.

Weather is reportedly very important during WW2 to both the Americans and the Japanese military operations. Some of the commandos, who were landed, were weather experts, who report to Gen. MacArthur.

Preservation of cultural and historical sites in Palawan

With all these, Jose said it is very important that Palawan restores and rehabilitates its cultural and historical sites.

He particularly mentioned the Mendoza Park that is currently undergoing a facelift, and where local hero Dr. Mendoza was buried; the Plaza Cuartel, that he is glad now has a marker and will also be restored further; and the classic if not one of the best penal colonies, the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm.

”The buildings in Iwahig are original, and to make it more important, in 1945, the suspected collaborators of the Japanese were incarcerated there, like Claro M. Recto, and two others,” he said, adding there’s a memorial that stayed there.

”Palawan’s history not only goes back in prehistoric times. Of course, there’s its strategic location in the West Philippines Sea,” he said.

With rich wartime history, Palawan could become one of the most important cultural and historical sites that tourists will visit.

Palawan heroes vs Japanese honored on liberation anniversary

By Alexis Romero (

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY - The anniversary of the liberation of Palawan from Japanese forces was celebrated here for the first time on Wednesday, 70 years after the historic yet forgotten World War 2 milestone happened.

Palawan guerillas served as coast watchers during the war. They also acted as blocking force that prevented Japanese troops from replenishing the supplies of their comrades.

"They (Palawan guerillas) hastened the end of the war by cutting the supplies of the Japanese. Strategically, they played a big role," University of the Philippines history professor Ricardo Jose told The STAR.

Palawan was also one of the first Philippine areas to be liberated by Filipino and American forces because of its strategic location. The province has an air field that proved to be crucial in supporting military operations in Borneo, Luzon and South China Sea.

However, Palawan's role is not even mentioned in history textbooks and is not highlighted in events commemorating the World War 2.

"When we study history, we tend to focus on big events - Manila, Bataan, Corregidor. We tend to forget smaller events, Jose said. Homepage ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1

"We still lack understanding about this event that happened 70 years ago," he added.

To fill the gap, the Palawan Liberation Task Force composed of government, private and international groups conducted research about the experiences of guerillas in the province during the Japanese occupation.

The task force consisted of the provincial government of Palawan, city government of Puerto Princesa, Palawan Tourism Council, Palawan Chamber of Commerce, Tourism department, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Rajah Travel Corporation

The task force's effort paid off as it paved way to an event celebrating Palawan's liberation. Dubbed as "A Salute to Valor," the event honored Filipino and American heroes who sacrificed for Palawan's independence.

A wreath laying ceremony was held at the Plaza Cuartel, where Japanese soldier burned more than 100 American prisoners in their foxholes, an event known as the Palawan massacre.

Representatives from the Philippines and the United States laid wreaths in each of the two markers honoring the fallen soldiers.

Filipino and American war veterans were also given awards in the provincial capitol.

Surviving veterans who received a plaque and two medals were Patricio Bonales, Gaudencio Lucero, Eliseo Manaeg, Guillermo Sumanting, Quirino Bundal, Felix Aban, Silverio Abiog, Lorenzo dela Chica, Vicente Arrieta and Baltazar Padilla.

War heroes who were given posthumous awards were Dr. Higino Mendoza Sr., Gaudencio Abordo, Pablo Muyco, Antonio Palanca and Nazario Mayor.

Only about 40 of the more than 1,000 Filipino guerillas from this province are still alive, according to data from the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO).

Among those who attended the event were PVAO administrator Ernesto Carolina, Palawan Gov. Jose Alvarez, Vice Gov. Victorino Socrates, Puerto Princesa Vice Mayor Luis Marcaida .III, Australian Ambassador Bill Tweddell, John Avila of USAID, retired Brig. Gen. Restituto Aguilar, Armed Forces Western Mindanao Command chief Vice Adm. Alexander Lopez, Brig. Gen. Steven Beach of the Oregon National Guard,war veterans and their families.

"Their (veterans) heroic deeds will be immortalized in the annals of Filipino and American soldiery," Carolina said.

Another highlight of the celebration is the launching of the heritage tour that seeks to promote Palawan's cultural tourism.

Alvarez said while Palawan is known for ecotourism because of natural wonders like the Puerto Princesa Underground River, they also want to market it as a cultural tourism site.

"The interest of tourists on Palawan should be varied," he said, noting that tourism contributes more than half of the local economy.

The tour package will include a visit to the Palawan World War 2 Museum, which displays authentic war uniforms and other hard-to-find memorabilia, Eulalia Park, Plaza Cuartel, Rizal Park, Mendoza Park and the Immaculate Concepcion Cathedral. The guided tour costs P600 per person and includes the vehicle and snacks.

Century Properties developing Php20-B integrated resort project in Palawan

By Leslie D. Venzon [(PNA), FPV/LDV]

MANILA, April 21 (PNA) -- Century Properties Group Inc. is pouring in Php20 billion in investments in the next 10 years to transform a 56-hectare beachfront land into an integrated resort and real estate destination in San Vicente town in Palawan, optimistic about the country’s tourism potential.

Jose E.B Antonio, founder and Chairman of Century Properties, bared the company’s investment plan following the signing of a memorandum of agreement for purchase of the development site.

“We have long identified tourism as a structural growth area for the Philippine economy and as such, we are very pleased to announce the purchase of this development site in San Vicente, Palawan. This is a deal we have been working on for a considerable period of time,” he said.

Antonio said the company will pursue a phased development plan for the project and has earmarked Php1.5 billion over the next three to five years to complete phase 1.

“The pace and timing of subsequent phases will in a large part be driven by the take up of the sale of hotel villas and the residential investment properties, which will form a significant part of the returns from this project,” he said.

Antonio said that by focusing on larger projects where the local tourism infrastructure is in place or under development, the company aims to capture the potential in the hospitality and lifestyle sector.

“This acquisition represents an important next step for Century Properties as it works towards positioning itself to benefit from the huge structural potential identified in the tourism and lifestyle sector in the Philippines,” said Tim Hallett, chief operating officer for Century Properties Hospitality Inc.

Hallett said Century will initially target the domestic market for the development project.

“But as the facilities and accommodation options increase in later phases of the project, we will then look to target both regional and international markets,” he noted.

Touted as the Philippines’ final frontier, Palawan is rated as one of the best travel destinations in the country.

It is the site of the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River and was declared as one of the new seven natural wonders of the world.

“Tourism brings inclusive progress to the country, and our company seeks to contribute to the growth of Palawan as the next tourism hot spot which we feel in time will rival or even surpass the prestige of Boracay as an international beach destination,” added Hallett.

Balikatan 2015’s ENCAP officially opens in Puerto Princesa, Palawan

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

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, April 20 (PNA) -- The bilateral exercise Balikatan 2015 officially started Monday morning in this capital city of Palawan, strengthening civil-military relations, and sharing experiences among military troops of the Philippines and the United States, through engineering civic action program (ENCAP) activities.

The formal start was jointly announced by Brig. Gen. Joaquin Malavet, commanding general of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade (1MEB), and Brig. Gen. Guillermo Molina, deputy commander for administration and logistics of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) Western Command (WESCOM) at a media conference done in chorus with the one held at Camp Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

Molina and Malavet said that this year’s Balikatan in Palawan focuses on upgrading personal skills, firming relationships, and building partnerships among participating U.S., Filipino, and Australian soldiers through humanitarian civic actions, such as the construction of classroom buildings in communities where they are most needed.

“What we’re exercising here is the command post exercise, or CPX, and it’s critically important that the staff of the 1st MEB, my team, work closely and collaboratively with WESCOM. What is there is that it will allow us to plan, brief, and to think through how we might conduct operations in the future,” Malavet said.

He said that the ENCAP in the context of Balikatan was always significant as it subsidized the need of the participating troops to continually transform skills by learning from each other’s experiences and aptitudes in serving communities.

Molina, on the other hand, furthered that cooperating and working collaboratively, shoulder-to-shoulder together under Balikatan’s ENCAP is not a minor feat at all for both RP-US soldiers, and the participating Australian troops.

“It is even related to post-conflict scenarios. This would basically measure how rapidly we can build from the ground together structures that have been destroyed in conflict, or during calamities, when they come to help us,” he said.

The ENCAP of the 31st iteration of the bilateral exercise are currently constructing four school buildings with two classrooms each that can accommodate 40-50 per classroom in barangays San Rafael, Cabayugan, and Sta. Lourdes, Puerto Princesa City.

The CPX is a first between WESCOM and the 1MEB, where approximately 250 U.S. service members are currently working shoulder-to-shoulder with their Filipino counterparts.

It provides the framework to test jointly developed plans, and is based on completely fictitious scenarios.

Comelec asks President Aquino to declare May 8 as special non-working holiday in Puerto Princesa City


MANILA, April 19 (PNA) -- The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has asked President Benigno S. Aquino III to declare May 8, 2015 as a special non-working holiday in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan in connection with the scheduled recall polls in the city next month.

“There is a need to declare May 8, 2015 as a special non-working holiday to afford the registered voters of the City of Puerto Princesa, Palawan to participate fully in the recall elections,” said Comelec Resolution No. 9949.

Comelec Executive Director Jose Tolentino has been directed by the commission to furnish the Chief Executive with a copy of the resolution.

Meanwhile, the election period for the recall polls starts on April 20 until May 18.

During the period, prohibited acts include the alteration of territory of a precinct or establishment of a new precinct; the illegal release of prisoners; organizing or maintaining reaction/strike forces or similar forces; the transfer or detail of officers and employees in the Civil Service, including public school teachers; and suspension of any elective provincial, city, municipal or barangay officials.

It is also the start of the gun ban in the city, wherein the carrying of firearms or other deadly weapons is strictly prohibited.

Comelec Resolution No. 9949 provides exemption from the gun ban that include: Members of the poll body, the President, Vice President, Senators, Congressmen, Cabinet officials, justices and judges, officials of the Office of the Ombudsman, officials of constitutional commissions, law enforcement personnel, sea ports and airport personnel, and the Presidential Security Group, among others.

Violation of the prohibitions may result to facing election offense cases which carry the penalty of one to six years imprisonment, removal of right to vote, and disqualification to hold public office.

Earlier, the poll body approved the holding of the recall elections in Puerto Princesa after a petition was filed against Mayor Lucilo Bayron by petitioner Alroben Goh which was supported by a sufficient number of signatories.

‘Facebook’ monk crowdsources for goodwill in Palawan

By Dindin Reyes (Rappler)

In Puerto Princesa Palawan, a Buddhist monk helps solve people’s problems by logging onto Facebook and finding connections

PALAWAN, Philippines – Every morning, just as the sun is rising along Clarkville beach in Puerto Princesa in Palawan, a monk walks down the shore in deep maroon robes with a small black bowl in hand.

He’s on his way to a small village in Barangay San Pedro where he’s to make his rounds among the houses, receiving food and giving blessings.

His name is Bhante Rakkhita. To the Filipinos, he’s Brother Ben.

Finding spirituality in the barangay

When Bhante started on his morning walks in February of 2014, people had no idea what to make of him. Here was a bald, older Caucasian man with a British accent who walked around the whole place with only his robes on and without any shoes.

To bridge the communication gap, the owner of a wellness and detox retreat center near the village called Bahay Kalipay helped explain Bhante’s presence and the age-old Buddhist tradition he was trying to live out – you offer any available food you have in the bowl for the monk, and then you share in a blessing with him.

What started out as a conversation of 3 sentences – “Tao po?” “Let us pray” and “Salamat po,” grew into a relationship where people shared their stories with him, and more and more of them invited him into their homes.

Bhante seeks to offer a daily spiritual exercise where people come together to be quiet and pray while the rest of the world waits. When he speaks his mantra, the people go quiet and, though they may not have understood it before, the silence puts people’s minds and hearts together in unity.

These days when Bhante invites the Filipinos to pray, he plays a translation from a tiny speaker he places in his bowl and as they comprehend the words, people close their eyes. “Para sa isang kagalang-galang na tao na pinaparangalan ang kanyang kalikasan, ang apat na ito ay tataas: mahabang buhay, kagandahan, kaligayahan at lakas.“ (For one worthy of respect who constantly honors his nature, four qualities increase: long life, beauty, happiness, and strength.”

The more homes he shared himself with, the more Bhante grew to love the Filipino people even more. Their warmth and their co-dependency was everywhere and you could see it went beyond just giving what you already had.

During one of his morning rounds Bhante met a woman who adopted a baby after finding out the mother attempted to drown her newborn in desperation. This story of desperation and despair brought Bhante to investigate the incomes of the families he visited. In the process of investigating, Bhante heard the call for help.

People helping people

People in the area call Bhante “the Facebook monk.” In the age when having an online connection eliminates barriers, Bhante uses social media to share the people’s stories and seek for help.

One of the people he’s helped is Nora. The fourth child of the Montemor couple, Nora was born with cerebral palsy.

Dealing with it was a challenge for Berting, with his chronic mouth ulcers, and Nancy, who had to close her sari-sari store to take care of her. Seizures were a part of their normal life and after trying different medicines, it seemed like it would be something that wouldn’t go away.

In one of his many rounds, Bhante saw 7-year-old Nora sitting in a wheelchair and as he usually does, he asked about their lives. Later on, he found funding for them to look for a new doctor who recommended a stabilizing medicine that has changed their lives.

Rhodora Valencia is an 18-year-old Bhante helped to get school supplies and a school uniform to continue with her tourism course. What she received in the end was much more than clothes and papers.

After seeing Bhante’s work she realized that instead of studying so that she could end up as an overseas Filipino worker, she wanted to stay home and help. When she talks about her interest is in welfare work, it sounds like nothing else seems desirable for her. She sees kids her age getting into drugs, sex, getting married early, not taking care of their children.

She’s started her welfare work by translating Bhante’s books on spirituality and meditation so that people from the community can read them as well. When people listen to the Filipino version of Bhante’s mantra, it’s Rhodora’s voice they hear.

Another man Bhante has connected with is Arsenio Sanio. Arsenio is a quiet man who always has a smile on his face. At first he seems like any other Filipino grandfather, silently going about his way, but with more observation, you’ll see the limp and drag of his left leg. Arsenio had a stroke in 2008 and his control of the left side of his body hasn’t been the same since. For 7 years now he hasn’t been able to do his life’s work as an electrician. After meeting him, Bhante connected him with a local healer, Fern Yanson, a hidden gem in Barangay San Pedro.

She’s an expert in figuring out how to heal people with different recipes and combinations of things you’ll find in nature. An accident gave her son paralyzed legs and she healed him with fruits, vegetables, and neuro-lymphatic massage. Bhante sends sick people her way for healing that won’t break their bank accounts. A guest of Bahay Kalipay Bhante brought over has even given her a blender so she could make green smoothies for the families whose daily diet only consists of noodles and rice.

Fern is a healer but she’s also in need. Her grandson has colon cancer and has to live with a colostomy bag. Without thinking twice, Bhante called out for help online and found two Filipinos who conduct a medical mission for diseases just like his, the World Surgical Foundation mission. Fern’s grandchild will be getting his surgery next year. This year, it was baby Renche’s turn.

3-year-old Renche Kuddana Jr was born with Hirschsprung disease. He was born without an anus. Earlier this year, his parents Renche and Rachel were about to fly to Manila with only good intentions and hope, believing that somehow they’d be able to pay for the surgery, for a place to stay, food, and anything else they may need.

Right before they were about to leave, they met Bhante. Overnight, the monk came back to them with news that a woman from the United Kingdom was willing to fund the operation, to be done by a medical mission in Bacolod.

Just this April of 2015, right before baby Renche was to get another procedure done, another donation came in for him through Bhante’s network – a Christian woman wanting to help a Muslim family, through a Buddhist monk.

Filling in the gap through crowdfunding

Bhante isn’t on Facebook just because. He’s on the social network because he believes that there’s a gap in resources and assistance that humans from all over the world can fill in. The qualities that have endeared Bhante to Filipinos are alive online too. The warmth and co-dependency he found in the village was the same warmth and co-dependency people on Facebook showed him every time he would call out for assistance.

Search Bhante Ven Rakkhita Samanera and you’ll see that his Facebook feed is a diary of all the tears, fears, and hopes of Barangay San Pedro. It is an experience in sharing plights and being open to receiving solutions. The continuous help Bhante has received from people from all over the world has driven him to see crowdfunding as a tool that people in the village can use for themselves.

A small group of interested young people have come under Bhante’s wing to learn how to harness the Internet to connect with good souls all over the world. They’re slowly learning to use sites they had never heard of before because they want to break the cycle that poverty has introduced in all of their lives in one way or another.

It’s not just about filling in for the short-term needs.

The lives of the people in Barangay San Pedro have been recurring episodes of struggle. Having a hand to help them get back on their feet gives people new hope. Knowing there are people who support them gives them a new drive to strive for things better than what they already have. It’s a fresh infusion of goodness in their daily lives consumed by poverty. It’s a sign that it’s time for them to move forward.

DOH-MIMAROPA offers free training for lifeguards of hotels and resorts in the region

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

MALVAR, Batangas, April 17 (PNA) -- The Department of Health (DOH)-MIMAROPA Region has emphasized to the owners of local hotels and resorts the importance of having well-trained lifeguards to ensure the health and safety of tourists visiting the island provinces of Mindoro (Oriental and Occidental), Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan.

According to DOH-MIMAROPA Regional Director Eduardo C. Janairo, the resort and hotel owners can avail themselves of “free training” for lifeguards being offered by the regional office to help boost the capacity of the region as safe destination for tourists and other visitors.

Director Janairo said this during the second Provincial Health Summit dubbed as "Usapang Lokal Para sa Kalusugan" held at the Lima Park Hotel in Malvar, Batangas on April 16, attended by local chief executives and representatives from different agencies converging together to strengthen and assure the health and safety of the tourists, staff and community while boosting the capacity of the region as safe destination.

“There is a need to capacitate hotels and resorts owners that there are well-trained lifeguards that can handle and assist the tourists/visitors of the beautiful scenic spots of the island provinces in times of need,” Director Janairo said in an interview with the Philippines News Agency.

Janairo explained that the training cost will be shouldered by the DOH-MIMAROPA and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) will administer or provide the training under a schedule to be arranged with the agency.

He said that interested owners of hotels and resorts who do not have yet lifeguards can avail of the training by submitting to them the qualified names of their respective first-aiders that can be accepted as trainees.

In the same health summit, Dr. Rommel Lizan, DOH Medical Officer IV, suggested that small hotel and resort owners who do not have the capacity to employ a lifeguard for their resort may coordinate with each other and hire one common trained lifeguard as part of ensuring the safety of their respective clients in order to make MIMAROPA known as a safe destination.

Dr. Lizan discussed before the hotel and resort owners how important is their commitment in attaining the goal of making the MIMAROPA region a safe destination for tourists who will not only speak good things about its beauty but also of the efficient services which include safety measures in line with the DOH vision.

Lizan also reminded them on the importance of compliance by hotels and restaurants in maintaining good hygiene and sanitation of their rooms and facilities, including proper disinfecting of equipment.

The medical officer also gave the participants some basic knowledge on emerging and reemerging diseases and what they need to do in case there will be a client that is sick or whose health is not in good condition.

He said that since employing doctors and nurses in hotels can contribute added costs which many of them cannot afford, it will be a good measure for the hotel and resort owners to have coordination with the local hospitals that can accept their clients, especially for emergency cases.

“They may have a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the hospitals so that the hospitals will immediately attend to the client/patient,” he said as he cited how important is proper coordination, especially if the resort/hotel is located far from hospitals.

He noted that hotel/resort owners should also be aware of the standard protocols in referrals, in case a tourist/visitor has signs of infectious diseases, to the proper regional hospital that can attend to them to ensure that spread of infections will not happen.

The health summit in Malvar town was the second leg of the health summits spearheaded by DOH-MIMAROPA to ensure that hotel and resort owners contribute in the promotion of a healthy population of MIMAROPA as well as its visitors so that tourists will choose it for they are assured not only of its beauty but also of the entire services it can offer to make their stay there a “pleasant experience.”

Palawan’s education program supports 18,000 college students


PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, April 16 (PNA) -– Around 18,000 college students are recipient this year of the free tuition fee program of the education sector under the Infrastructure, Health, Education, Livelihood and Protection of the Environment (IHELP) flagship program of the administration of Governor Jose Alvarez.

Some of these beneficiaries joined the graduation rites for the members of Class 2015.

According to Orphy Ordinario, program manager of the Programang Pang-Edukasyon para sa mga Palaweño (PPP), the beneficiaries of the program for school year 2014-2015 were enrolled in the two public universities in the province, namely the Palawan State University (PSU) and the Western Philippines University (WPU), taking up different college courses.

In previous interviews, Ordinario noted that the program covered granting of free tuition fees to beneficiaries in order to support as many students as possible.

“Governor Alvarez does not want to limit the number of students, who can avail of the educational benefits,” he said.

Aside from those taking up baccalaureate courses, the program also supports students taking up technical vocational courses.

Ordinario said those enrolled at the Puerto Princesa School of Arts and Trade (PPSAT) got full scholarship, which means that aside from the tuition fee, the program also covered the miscellaneous expenses of the technical vocational courses that ran for three to six months.

Just before the commencement exercises of the two state universities in the province this April, the provincial government had issued checks to WPU-Puerto Princesa campus covering payments for the first and second semesters.

The check for the first semester was in the amount of Php 8,357,325, while the check for the second semester was in the amount of Php 7,805,200 or a total payment of Php 16,162,525.

Likewise, the provincial government had also issued a check to PSU covering payment for the first semester in the amount of Php 15,273,000.

According to data, there are about 4,000 beneficiaries of the education program of at the PSU-Main Campus.

Checks are ready for release, on the other hand, to the PSU campuses in eight municipalities, namely El Nido, Dumaran, Araceli, Linapacan, Española, Roxas, San Vicente, Brooke’s Point. Checks for WPU Bataraza, Taytay and Busuanga are also ready for release.

Meanwhile, preparations are ongoing for applications for educational assistance for school year 2015 to 2016.

(FEATURE) Lake Manguao: An avian treasure chest in Northern Palawan

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

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, April 11 (PNA) -- With their dusky crowns, napes, shadowy eye stripes, bluish-grey mandibles, thin brown legs, and rusty cinnamon-colored heads and necks radiating under the heat of the golden morning sun, nearly two dozen Philippine ducks (Anas luzonica) can be witnessed frolicking and winging their ways over Lake Manguao in the once monarch-ruled town of Taytay in northern Palawan.

This duck which has been listed as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) because of “rapid and continuing decline” in population due to “extensive hunting and widespread conversion of wetland habitats,” is one of the avian jewels of the 6.7-square kilometer inland sea that is said to have a 44-square kilometer conforming catchment area.

In addition to the wild duck species in the Anatidae family of birds, Joie Matillano of Western Philippines University (WPU), whose avian photos were published online on January 30, 2010, noted that there were also Oriental dwarf kingfishers (Ceyx erithaca); Blue-eared kingfishers (Alcedo meninting); Common flamebacks (Dinopium javanense); Hooded pittas (Pitta sordida); Common kingfishers (Alcedo atthis); Ashy-headed babblers (Malacocincla cinereiceps); Grey-cheeked bulbul (Alophoixus bres); Grey herons (Ardea cinerea); Great egrets (Ardea alba); Western osprey (Pandion haliaetus); Spangled drongo (Dicrurus bracteatus); and Pin-striped tit babblers (Mixornis gularis) that reside in the only freshwater lake in the province’s mainland.

One of the caretakers, who operates a motorized dinghy that takes tourists to sightsee on the lake, told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) in a visit before the Holy Week that around 5:30 a.m., Palawan hornbills (Anthracoceros marchei) or talusi can also be witnessed in flocks of eight to about a dozen hopping and settling on tops of trees, and leave before 7:00 a.m. when the sun has completely risen.

“Too bad you were late; they were here very early. They fly early to land on the trees near the entrance to the lake; sometimes, they are noisy,” said Gerry, whose family mainly subsists on catching the cichlid fish tilapia from the lake.

Manguao’s avifauna

In a survey conducted by the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic, and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD) sometime in 2007, it noted that there were “a total of 126 species of birds recorded in the lake, wherein 24 were migratory, 76 residents, 14 restricted to range Palawan-endemics, seven Philippine-endemics, and five had both resident and migratory populations.”

Eight of the species are under the IUCN’s vulnerable category: the Chinese egret (Egretta eulophotes); Falcated ground babbler (Ptilocichla falcate); Palawan flycatcher (Ficedula platenae); Palawan hornbill, Palawan peacock pheasant (Polyplectron emphanum); Blue-headed racquet tail (Prioniturus plateni); Grey imperial pigeon (Ducula pickeringii); and the Philippine duck. Five species were recorded as near-threatened.

The year of the survey, the PCAARRD said, “constituted the first record of the Philippine-endemic duck in northern Palawan. “

“Matagal na ako dito, mga kulang-kulang 15 years, at mas marami sila noon. Kumunti na ngayon (I’ve stayed here for nearly 15 years, and before, there used to be a lot of wild ducks. Their number has greatly reduced),” Gerry, who does not want his full name mentioned, stated.

His testimonial seems to prove what PCAARRD reported that “threats to birds included hunting for local consumption and curiosity, rampant poaching of the critically endangered species, slash-and-burn farming, and selective illegal logging,” which could lead to homegrown extinction.

The PCAARRD survey result then said that due to Lake Manguao’s “high avian species diversity, its catchment can qualify as an important bird area for conservation.”

Conservation efforts

Unlike before when no tourists would come due to the difficulty of reaching Lake Manguao, these days it has become popular to the few foreign visitors, who take interest and love to do less traveled itineraries in the first class town of Taytay.

Gerry said the ideal time of the day to appreciate the birds’ beauty in their natural habitat is around sunrise by using paddle boats that make less noise.

Binoculars, or cameras with telephoto lenses, are the best tools to use when bird watching.

”But what birds will there be if focus on the protection, conservation, and preservation of Lake Manguao is not taken into mind by the local government unit (LGU)?” asked Rommel Cruz, one of the founders of Birdwatch Palawan (BP), a member of the Palawan Ornithological Society (POS), and who organizes bird tours under

Cruz said he knows Lake Manguao is protected “in paper,” but does not remember when this happened.

He does not also know if the bird lake has a Protected Area Management Board (PAMB), “a multi-sectoral body responsible for the administration and management of a protected area created through the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act (NIPAS).

This Board decides on budget allocations, approval of funding proposals and planning on matters concerning the ecology, particularly the protected areas.

“I know there is none, I know there is none,” Cruz replied, feeling somewhat unhappy over what fate may become of the avian residents of Lake Manguao.

He is also not aware if the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) has the lake in its protection radar considering how vital it is as a habitat for various species of endemic and non-endemic birds, flora and other wildlife.

Philippine duck

Lake Manguao, said Cruz, is a critical habitat, especially for the Philippine duck that is protected under the law because it is an endemic and listed as vulnerable.

“In Palawan, the only record of the Philippine duck, is in Quezon in southern Palawan, and Lake Manguao,” he said, adding that the duck species only stays there and does not migrate.

According to Birdlife International, the Philippine duck “is endemic to the country, being recorded from all the major islands and eight smaller islands. Records since 1980 derive from 30 localities say they’re mostly in Luzon and Mindanao.”

“Records from Siquijor and the Sulus remain unsubstantiated. A steep population decline was evident by the mid-1970s, with high numbers recorded at only a few sites in the following decade, like Candaba Marsh (Luzon) which probably supported many thousands in the early 1980s.”

Palawan, particularly Lake Manguao, is not even included in Birdlife International’s list of where they can be seen.

“The Philippine duck is a resident there; the lake provides habitat to it, and other wildlife that can only be found in Palawan. Looking at the profile of the lake… since it is low-land forest… there are large trees… trees that are cavity forming,” he said.

This means these trees provide nesting territories to birds like the Palawan hornbill, woodpeckers, parrots, cockatoos, and the likes.

Since there is no clear protection effort for Lake Manguao, Cruz stated it is prone to encroachment of squatters, illegal loggers, slash-and-burn activities, and others that can affect it as a biodiversity area.

Recently, he heard that some people want to stake claims over vital portions of the lake. If this happens, and intrusion will not be stopped, the Philippine duck might flee the area, where they can never be seen and appreciated closely anymore, and where they might be more in danger of being hunted.

For someone, who arranges birding tours like he does, Cruz knows what will be the long-term effects for Lake Manguao if “focused protection” is not imposed.

Cruz wants the lake protected, “there is no doubt,” he said. However, right now, their stand is somewhat uncommitted since when after they showed interest last year, the local government of Taytay responded without urgency.

“There was a response, but we didn’t see the urgency; Lake Manguao’s protection doesn’t seem to be in the local government’s list of priorities. They said they were busy,” he furthered, though what were said were relayed verbally.

Manguao’s eco-tourism potential

Cruz group’s interest offered to the LGU of Taytay the conduct of an avian survey in the lake and the surrounding areas, as well as bird watching basics to expand tourism potentials that will be beneficial to its caretakers.

The survey will generate an estimate of what kinds of birds are in Manguao, their population size and the changes that affect them, as well as the collection of the causes of these changes in population or species diversity.

The bird watching basics, on the other hand, will familiarize locals on the understanding of the birds that can eventually turn them into bird guides.

Bird guiding, said Cruz, can be a source of livelihood for the residents in the area, or the 16 families that serve as caretakers of the lake.

“We proposed that while we’re conducting the avian survey, local guides are being trained simultaneously so, they can have additional livelihood,” the bird expert in Palawan said, supplying that they should be the one benefitting.

Birding tours, he said, can definitely provide income, and is one way of encouraging the protection of sites where they can be found.

“If they do not take care of the birds, then what is there to see?” he asked. “If we only talk conservation, and not see it happen, then what comes next? There should be balance; they benefit at the same time they protect.”

Lodging places for potential bird tourism are also a must, according to Cruz. This can be set up near the lake site, and made of sturdy indigenous materials that will not cause harmful effects to the environment.

This is because birding enthusiasts sometimes stay three-five days to appreciate the avian residents in their natural environment.

Although he is unable to provide any estimate as to how much the LGU could earn in environmental protection fees, local taxes, and others, Cruz believes Lake Manguao is not only an avian treasure chest, but can be a source of livelihood too, for the locals.

When it comes to Taytay, he claimed that except for the historical Fuerza de Santa Isabelle and the islands, there is nothing else to call its own since there are also the same in El Nido and Coron.

“Taytay is a very, very important gateway to El Nido; just one hour or so, you’re here. Tourists there can come here if they’re interested in the avian residents of the lake.”

If Lake Manguao is protected, Taytay can truly claim it “its own,” like Narra that has Estrella Falls to boast; El Nido that has the secret lagoons; Puerto Princesa that has the underground river, and Coron that has Kayangan Lake.

Cruz’ group still wants to pursue the further protection of the lake. But he said the initiative should come from the LGU of Taytay.

“The initiative should come from the LGU; it is theirs, we are here to help protect the lake and its wildlife,” he said.

Sea connectivity between Palawan- East ASEAN gets boost from cargo vessel maiden voyage

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

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, April 14 (PNA) -- Finally, after waiting for so long, sea connectivity between Palawan and the neighboring countries of Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, and Malaysia will get a boost Thursday when the first-ever vessel under the BIMP-East ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Growth Area leaves the port of the southern town of Brooke’s Point.

“At last, after waiting for 20 years, it’s happening; the sea link between Palawan and our neighbors in the BIMP-EAGA will now come to life when our first-ever vessel goes to Kudat in the state of Sabah, East Malaysia on Thursday,” Brooke’s Point Mayor Mary Jean Feliciano told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) in a phone interview Tuesday.

Brooke’s Point, a first class municipality located south of the province, and named after Sir James Brooke, a British adventurer, whose exploits in the Malay Archipelago made him the first White Rajah of Sarawak, is one of two areas in the Philippines, where sea networks have been established to improve trade and tourism among four member countries.

On Thursday, Feliciano said cargo vessel Princess Beatrice will set sail for the first time from the port of Brooke’s Point in Barangay Buligay to Kudat, Sabah, East Malaysia with raw palm oil products.

“When it returns from Kudat, it will also be bringing consumer goods here and others,” said Feliciano, whose excitement could not be hidden.

“Our town has been waiting for this for a long time. If I am not mistaken, this plan took off during the time of former president Fidel Ramos. After a few governors, now it’s finally happening through Governor (Jose) Alvarez’s persistent follow ups,” she said.

Feliciano said that the trip of Princess Beatrice is just the initial. What the provincial government is after, she said, is the eventual establishment of the Brooke’s Point-Kudat RORO (roll-on, roll off) service that shall bring tourists from Malaysia to Palawan to other parts of the country as a “gateway.”

“This is the start; we will check what the reception is, and maybe after five or six trips by the cargo vessel, the roll-on, roll-off service will come next,” she said, stating further that residents of Brooke’s Point are excited about the recent development.

She added that many Brooke’s Point residents are working in Malaysia, and if the RORO service becomes available, it would become easier for them to travel back home to their families.

Foreign tourists visiting Malaysia and its states, she said, can also have the opportunity to visit the Philippines through Palawan.

“Aside from trade opportunities, the sea connectivity will also present us with tourism prospects, particularly that our target is to help the country reach its goal of 10 million tourists within the next few years, and is important in the regional economic intergration,” the lady mayor said.

The sea connectivity will play a vital role in the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), which is aimed at “implementing certain initiatives to achieve a single market and production base, allowing the free flow of goods, services, investments, and skilled labor, and the freer movement of capital across the region.

The areas of cooperation of the AEC include “human resources development and capacity building; recognition of professional qualifications; closer consultation on macroeconomic and financial policies; trade financing measures; enhanced infrastructure and communications connectivity; development of electronic transactions through e-ASEAN; integrating industries across the region to promote regional sourcing; and enhancing private sector involvement for the building of the AEC.”

The port of Brooke’s Point is located 192 kilometers south of Puerto Princesa. Daily, it handles consumer goods, construction materials and products of agricultural and mining industries, and links the province to Cagayan de Tawi-Tawi, General Santos City, and Dipolog.

It has a listed commercial area of 2,329.51 square meters and operational area of 15,823.18 sq. m., or a total port area of 18,152.69 sq.m.

The port reportedly has an RC wharf of 12 meter wide by 60 meter long connected to pier approach of 6 m x 190 m.; depth of 6.0 meters; and one RORO facility of 12 meters by 15 meters.

Governor Alvarez is expected to attend the send-off program for the maiden voyage to Kudat of Princess Beatrice.

Malampaya gas plant expected to go online Tuesday


MANILA – The Malampaya natural gas facility in Palawan is expected to go online on Tuesday following a scheduled 30-day maintenance shutdown.

Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. (SPEX), which operates the Malampaya Deep Water Gas-to-Power Project, said the facility will resume supplying natural gas by 12:01 a.m., Tuesday.

“We will be back at 12 midnight later. That's 00:01 of April 14…Everything went as planned,” said SPEX managing director Sebastian Quiniones.

The facility was shut down on March 15 to give way for the installation of a second platform, which is aimed at maintaining fuel supply to the Sta. Rita, San Lorenzo, and Ilijan power plants.

Quiniones said the second offshore platform will help sustain the 2,700-megawatt production level of the three plants and address the natural decrease in pressure of the reservoir.

The tie-in of the second platform, which costs $765 million, will also help guarantee long-term security for the country’s power sector.

During the month-long shutdown, the three power plants were still able to produce power to Luzon, but using the more expensive liquid fuel. The plants in Sta. Rita and San Lorenzo used condensate, while the Ilijan plant shifted to biodiesel.

The shift to liquid resulted to higher rates of independent power producers (IPPs) by P0.17 per kilowatt hour and power supply agreements (PSAs) by P0.31/kWh.

Meralco power rates also went up by P0.27/kWh in April. The power distributor said generation charge for May could also increase due to the longer impact of the Malampaya maintenance shutdown and the expected higher temperature in the coming days.

RP-US Balikatan 2015 starts shoulder-to-shoulder work to build school in Puerto Princesa

By Celeste Anna R. Formoso (PNA), CTB/CARF/PJN

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, April 12 (PNA) -- The RP-US Balikatan Exercise 2015’ “shoulder-to-shoulder” engineering civic action projects (ENCAP) have started in Palawan with Filipino-American soldiers starting to lay the foundations of a school building in Barangay Sta. Lourdes on Thursday.

In a text message to the Philippine News Agency (PNA) Saturday, the Western Command’s (WESCOM) 6th Civil Relations Group, Civil Relations Service AFP announced the onset of the ENCAP of the 31st iteration of the bilateral exercise that will also be done in barangays San Rafael, Cabayugan and three others in this city.

”Balikatan 2015 has begun! The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is working shoulder-to-shoulder with partner nations here in Palawan.

Photos posted on April 10 at the Facebook Page of Exercise Balikatan, and documented by U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Wesley Timm showed U.S. Army Sgt. Brad Ball, an electrical engineer with the 643rd Engineer Company, 84th Engineer Battalion, 103rd Engineer Brigade, taking a break to chat with a little Filipino boy at the construction site for a school building project in this city.

The said project is part of both the RP’s and the US’ humanitarian civic assistance engagement.

In another photo, U.S. Army Spc. Jerome Ramsey, a carpenter masonry specialist, and Ball, can be seen bending reinforcement bars for the classroom building in a school that was not immediately identified.

Ball and Ramsey are part of the over 6,500 U.S. soldiers, who will join an estimate of 5,000 Philippine soldiers in this year’s shoulder-to-shoulder exercises in key areas in the country, such as Pampanga, Cavite, Nueva Ecija, Zambales, and Puerto Princesa in Palawan.

WESCOM Vice Admiral Alexander Lopez has been designated as Balikatan 2015’s exercise director.

On April 10, U.S. service members were reported to have participated already in a “subject matter expert exchange that focused on visual storytelling at the WESCOM. The activity reportedly “provides an opportunity for Philippine, Australian, and U.S. forces to continue strengthening relationships and work together.”

Balikatan is an annual scheduled multi-service combined exercises hosted by the Philippines, designed to promote regional peace and security by enhancing inter-operability and readiness of Filipino-American soldiers to terrorism and disaster management.

DOH lauds Puerto Princesa's assistance in fight vs measles, polio


PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, April 11 (PNA) -- The Department of Health (DOH) lauded the City Health Office (CHO) here for its support to the polio-free country program to downgrade measles affectation in 2014.

In a statement released Friday by the City Information Office (CIO), it said that in support of the health campaign of the DOH on September 1-30, 2014 in the country, the CHO conducted its own in Puerto Princesa that contributed to the immunization of the targeted 11 million children against measles and rubella, and 13 million, who received oral polio vaccines (OPV).

In the MIMAROPA Region, where the city is the capital of Palawan, the DOH reported that 339,520 children between the ages 9-59 months were targeted for measles-rubella vaccination, and 398,566 between 0-59 months for OPV.

According to the DOH regional office, the CHO made an accomplishment of 89 percent in target both for measles-rubella and OPV.

The CIO statement said this only proves that the Puerto Princesa government and its health officials and personnel are serious in the fight against measles-rubella and polio.

Through the DOH regional office, the CIO said the DOH thanked and lauded the “Apuradong Adminstrasyon (Prompt Administration)” of Mayor Lucilo Bayron in a letter sent earlier in March.

Mobula japonica or Mobula thurstoni, still a first in Tubbataha in Palawan

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

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, April 10 (PNA) – The Tubbataha Management Office (TMO) admitted that it made a mistake in the identification of the manta look-alike Mobula japonica.

According to the TMO in a post on March 26 at its website, its March 9 announcement of the first-ever sighting of the Mobula japonica through the article “Another First in Tubbataha” appeared to be a misidentification after the Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines (MWWP) pointed it to them.

“It appears we jumped the gun in making the announcement. LAMAVE (Large Marine Vertebrates Project Philippines) had just then given us its preliminary findings and was still analyzing more footage from hundreds of videos taken in Tubbataha last year when we made the announcement. We threw caution to the wind. Mea culpa!” the TMO’s statement said.

It further quoted Chief Executive and Founder of Manta Trust Guy Stevens in saying that distinguishing the Mobula japonica from Mobula thurstoni, a moderate-sized devilray, “is tricky at the best of times, even with good ID shots, so the identification of the individual in questions is by no means certain.”

Stevens supposedly said however, that “on balance, there are a few things, which makes his “colleagues” and him more inclined to believe this is the Mobula thurstoni.

Accordingly, “the dark shading on the underside of the pectoral fins” of the manta look-alike that was seen “is more common on Mobula thurstoni; the double curvature to the leading edge of the pectoral fins, resulting in the appearance of slightly bent-shaped pectoral fins, is also a feature of the said devilray.”

The TMO, which is headed by Angelique Songco, said that it will confirm the identification of the manta look-alike.

“We will confirm the identification and announce it here later – less precipitately than we did before, surely. Thanks to our friends from MWWP, LAMAVE and Manta Trust for their comments and help,” the statement said, adding “However, the good news is, whether it was the Mobula japonica or the Mobula thurstoni, it still is a first in Tubbataha.”

In March this year, the LAMAVE Project Philippines launched in the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (TRNP) World Heritage Site a new research project to conduct a comprehensive biodiversity assessment of sharks and rays.

The research work will focus on “ascertaining and quantifying the biodiversity, population and distribution of sharks and rays in and around the park.”

The TMO and LAMAVE said results of the research will assist in “determining the migratory behavior of the marine wildlife for specific, focused and actions to protect them.”

It can be recalled that the TMO announced on March 9 the sighting of the previously unrecorded manta look-alike Mobula japonica in the waters of Tubbataha.

National gov’t supports tourism in Puerto Princesa

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

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, April 9 (PNA) -- The national government is fully supportive of the development of the tourism industry in this city with PHP2.613-million it allocated for the construction and rehabilitation of the Puerto Princesa City Airport.

In a release through the City Information Office (CIO), the city government said the upcoming project will further enliven the tourism industry, as well as provide 1,400 employment opportunities to the locals.

Considered a “Gateway to Asia,” regular flights from Taiwan now arrive weekly here, with 156 travelers, who stay for three days to visit Honda Bay Islands and the Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR) UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The statement said that aside from the airport construction and rehabilitation, the government’s Tourism Infrastructure Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) under Chief Executive Officer Mark Lapid, has also allotted PHP15-million for the engineering design of a modern Sabang Terminal in Sitio Sabang, Barangay Cabayugan, the home of the PPUR.

The new terminal, according to Mayor Lucilo Bayron, is expected to open up opportunities for smaller cruise ships to come to Palawan waters and invest in the Puerto Princesa-El Nido-Coron and vice versa travel route.

The statement further claimed that the national government’s support extends too, to the improvement of the Puerto Princesa City Port with the Department of Tourism (DOT) closely cooperating with the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) for cruise ship tourism.

It quoted DOT Undersecretary Benito Bengzon Jr. in saying that for port improvement, Puerto Princesa was included with those of Manila, Subic, Boracay, Davao, Bohol, Ceby and Zamboanga, which are tourism site gems in the country.

“The airport upgrading and improvements must likewise, come hand-in-hand with seaport development,” the statement quoted of Bengzon.

The plan is by virtue of increasing tourist arrivals in the country via cruise ships that reached 52,820 in 2014 compared to 41,624 in 2013, and 23,857 in 2012.

For the first time in the history of tourism here, the city government said cruise ship arrival was the highest this year with 12 more expected until March, and will even increase to 15 before the year ends.

DOH-Mimaropa conducts training on management of mental health disorders

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

CORON, Palawan, April 8 (PNA) -- In pursuance of the government's National Mental Health Policy, the Department of Health-Mimaropa or Region IV-B started on Wednesday a three-day training on Mental Health Gap Action Program (MHGAP) at Coron Village Lodge in Coron, Palawan.

The training is being participated in by different municipal health officers (MHOs), doctors and nurses of DOH-Mimaropa and spearheaded in coordination with psychiatrists, doctors and other expert trainers of the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) in Mandaluyong City.

MHGAP training is in support to the call of the World Health Organization (WHO) for countries to give priority in addressing mental health problems to prevent cases of suicides and thus save precious lives.

Among the common mental health problems cited are bipolar disorders, stress-related disorders and other significant emotional or medically unexplained conditions of patients.

According to Dr. Aurora Gaerlan Campita, head of the Integrated Non-Communicable Disease and Control Program (INCDCP) of DOH-Mimaropa, the region-wide training is part of efforts to ensure that people in the Mimaropa provinces have enough access to mental health programs.

“This is the last among the series of a total of nine batches of trainings that started in February of this year,” Dr. Campita said, adding that the project was initiated and decided by DOH-Mimaropa Director Eduardo C. Janairo.

“Director Janairo has seen the need to train the MHOs and nurses in the region in providing speedy assessment and management of mental health problems that may arise, especially during times of disasters,” Dr. Campita said.

MIMAROPA refers to the island provinces of Region IV-B such as the twin provinces of Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan.

“Since Mimaropa is facing the problem of lack of expert psychiatrists, most of the cases of people suffering from mental problem are being referred to the NCMH (in Metro Manila),” Campita said.

She explained that with the knowledge gained from the lecturers of NCMH, initial management of cases and even medical treatment can now be handled in Mimaropa and will not require further referrals.

In the series of trainings, NCMH experts shared information and knowledge on how to handle mentally ill patients and how the doctors and nurses should manage and treat some common mental disorders.

As part of the output of the training, the DOH-Mimaropa officials are also eyeing to have at least one mental rehabilitation facility that can be developed later to serve the island provinces.

Palawan gov’t targets 2-M tourists by yearend; puts faith in heritage tourism

By Azer N. Parrocha [(PNA), RMA/ANP]

MANILA, April 7 (PNA) -- With an ambitious target to lure two-million tourists by the end of the year, the local government of Palawan is putting its faith heritage tourism to boost the number of its arrivals.

Although Palawan is better known for its pristine beaches and Underground River, the province has also played a significant role towards the liberation of the Philippines from Japanese occupation during World War II.

“There is a lot in our province history that tourists can appreciate,” Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez said, stressing the local government’s interest to highlight history to tourists planning to visit the province.

“We will be reclaiming lost pieces of history,” he added, noting that the move to turn Palawan into a heritage tourism destination will be kicked off on the 70th year anniversary of the liberation of the province on April 21.

During the event, Alvarez said that Palawan would be hosting ranking government officials and military officers from the Philippines and United States along with surviving war veterans and families from the two countries.

“It will be a huge event for the province. This is the first time Palawan will be recognized for its contributions during World War II,” he added.

Recently, the local government, together with the Department of Tourism (DOT), City of Puerto Princesa, Palawan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Palawan Tourism Council, USAID, and Rajah Travel Corp. have already formed a coalition to oversee the development of Palawan as a major heritage destination.

Alvarez said that the coalition would also ensure efforts toward refurbishing and restoring places in the province that have historical significance.

Among the World War II tourism destinations the local government is pushing include the World War II Memorial Museum, Plaza Cuartel, Mendoza Park, and Iwahig Prison.

The World War II museum is one of a very limited number of museums in the country that houses ammunitions, uniforms, vehicles, and a list of Filipino and American soldiers who fought in Palawan during the war.

Plaza Cuartel is the old Japanese garrison in the province where 139 American prisoners of war were burned alive by Japanese soldiers during the height of the liberation.

Besides Plaza Cuartel is Mendoza Park which was named after local hero Dr. Higinio Mendoza who opposed Japanese occupation of their province.

Just like Plaza Cuartel, the 26,000 hectare Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm was used by the Japanese as a garrison here in the country. It is now one of the largest open prisons in the world.

Aside from highlighting heritage tourism, Alvarez said that the local government has also pushed tourism in their province with various projects under the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

Alvarez said that so far, the government constructed more than 5,500 kilometers of road, 10 new hospitals, 10 key port facilities, and three new airports.

Palawan gov’t strongly supports elderly citizens

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

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, April 6 (PNA) -- The administration of Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez once again expressed Monday its strong support to programs that would provide important services to the elderly.

The manifestation of sturdy support was made by the governor as Baragatan sa Barangay, the provincial government’s comprehensive social program, prepares to go to municipalities in northern Palawan.

The Provincial Information Office (PIO) said the last leg of Baragatan sa Barangay will be in the southernmost tip of the province this month, which is the town of Balabac.

Afterwards, it will be moving to bring comprehensive social services to the north, specifically in the towns of Busuanga, Culion, Coron, Linapacan, San Vicente, El Nido, Taytay, and Roxas, and subsequently to Cuyo, Magsaysay, Agutaya and Araceli.

The PIO further said that Alvarez is resolute to give the support based on Republic Act 9994, or the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010 that orders local government officials to provided monthly pension to indigent elderly residents.

Information officer Gil Acosta said that in the province, the Local Social Pension (LSP) for senior citizens between the ages of 73-76 is under the management of the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office (PSWDO).

He said it is Alvarez himself, who hands the monthly pension to the elderly recipients with the PSWDO, and currently, 1,346 have already been given.

Over Php2-million have been dispensed by the provincial government for this through the Baragatan sa Barangay in southern Palawan in the municipalities of Aborlan, Narra, Brooke’s Point, Sofronio Espaňola, Quezon, Rizal and Bataraza.

For 2015, the provincial government allotted Php20-million for the LSP for the senior citizens.

A senior citizen himself, Alvarez, in touring southern Palawan for the Baragatan sa Barangay would always mention that the elderly is “close to” his “heart” because he is also “one of them.”

Palawan to host event honoring Filipino-American WWII veterans 70 years after

By Keisha Lao ( Correspondent)

MANILA, April 4 -- Palawan is not the first to come to mind when it comes to Philippine World War II history. But for Dr Ricardo Jose of the UP Third World Center Studies, Palawan was one of the most strategic spots in the region.

“It covers the western flank of the Philippines, it covers the West Philippine Sea, and before WWII broke out, the Americans didn’t realize this. There were no significant fortifications in the area,” he said.

Palawan is actually one of the many places in the country with a grim past. On December 14, 1944, American prisoners of war numbering 139 were massacred by Japanese forces in Plaza Cuartel. By jumping off a cliff, 11 soldiers survived and were kept from harm by Palaweños.

As part of the campaign to liberate the Philippines, the US liberation forces invaded Palawan from February 28 to April 22, 1945. A Palawan special battalion composed of 1,000 Filipino guerillas joined in on the action and helped liberate the island.

To help commemorate the island’s historical significance, a public-private partnership will try to stimulate tourism growth by developing places associated with the liberation.

The program dubbed “A Salute to Valor: Palawan – 70 Years of Freedom” will be held on April 21-23, 2015 in commemoration of the 70th year of liberation of the province of Palawan. Activities are lined up to be held at the Plaza Cuartel and Mendoza Park. Developed by Rajah Travel Corporation, the Salute to Valor commemorates the World War II invasion of Palawan and the fight between the US and the Japanese in 1945.

The Palawan Liberation Task Force is composed of the Department of Tourism, the provincial government of Palawan, the Puerto Princesa City local government, the United States Agency for International Development, the Palawan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, FAME, the Palawan Tourism Council, and the Rajah Travel Corp. The program aims to further nurture into the minds of the people the history of Palawan and Puerto Princesa which is aimed to boost the historical and cultural aspect of tourism in the province.

The event will be attended by relatives of war veterans from the province as well as those from the United States of America who were part of World War II. Heroes to be honored include Palawan’s own Dr. Higinio Mendoza and the prisoners who died in the Plaza Cuartel.

Aileen Clemente of Rajah Travel Corporation said organizers have been doing several researches about history of Palawan’s liberation and have reached out to several relatives of war veterans to make the event more meaningful. The historic event is really meant to honor the war heroes of Palawan.

10 Local Places That Are Best For Traveling Alone

By Keisha Lao ( Correspondent)

Want to travel alone? You'll surely enjoy these places!

There will come a time in your life that you will have to travel alone. Although the thought of it can be quite frightening and intimidating, especially if you're doing it for the very first time, it actually isn't. For some, the idea of traveling alone may be sad, but you will be able to find joy in it. It's best when you want some time alone away from the city where all you're required to do is to relax.

1) Davao

Davao is known to be one of the safest and most livable cities in the Philippines. Traveling alone will give you the chance to meet new people and to try new things. You'll never run out of things to do and adventures to go on because Davao is filled with them! From a Crocodile Park to a Zorb Park, traveling alone wouldn't be such a bore with the amount of things you can do!

Travel time: Around 1 hour and 45 minutes via plane

2) Sagada

Sagada is known for its natural beauty, its culture, and the hospitality of its people. The accommodations are budget friendly and you can even join tour groups! It's so beautiful in Sagada that people who have been there say that you are able to see the world from above the clouds. Since That Thing Called Tadhana was shown, Sagada has then been known for the kilig and hugot scenes of Mace and Anthony. The movie shows that when you're traveling alone, you'll never know who you can meet along the way, you might just meet your soulmate!

Travel time: Around 7 hours and 20 minutes via car

3) La Union

La Union is known as the surfing capital of the north because it is said to have some of the perfect waves in the region. Need a place to stay? You can stay at the Flotsam and Jetsam Artist Beach Hostel where all their rooms are uniquely designed. Then you can take a short stop to El Union Coffee and have a taste of one of the best grilled sandwiches you will ever have. La Union is such a great place to go to if you just want to relax and enjoy the waves.

Travel time: Around 3 hours and 35 minutes (without traffic) via car

4) Crystal Beach, Zambales

Crystal Beach is the best place to fully experience the great outdoors because you can enjoy surfing and camping all in the same area. Here you are free to do anything you want to, for as long as you want to at your own pace because you are traveling alone. You are not obliged to entertain anyone but yourself. Surfing in the morning, camping at night, then you finish your day sleeping in a tent, I don't think it gets any better than that!

Travel time: Around 2 hours and 40 minutes via car

5) Hinatuan Enchanted River, Surigao Del Sur

The Hinatuan River is known as the Enchanted River because no one knows where the water is coming from. The river almost looks like it was photoshopped because of its crystal clear waters that gives you a glimpse of the deepest part of the riverbed. Swimming is known to be one of the best ways to decompress after experiencing stress, and in Surigao Del Sur, you are given the chance to swim in such pristine waters.

Travel time: Around 5 hours via plane

6) Luljetta's Hanging Garden and Spa, Antipolo City

When all you want to do is to find peace of mind, head on over to Luljetta's Hanging Gardens and Spa. The fact that it isn't so far away from Manila makes it one of the best and quick getaways. Enjoy a gorgeous view of the city while getting massages or other spa treatments all at very affordable prices. Travel time: Around 30 minutes via car

7) The Farm at San Benito, Barangay Tipakan, Lipa

Just like Luljetta's Hanging Gardens and Spa, The Farm at San Benito is a healing sanctuary best for those who just want to take time off and unwind. They offer different kinds of yoga and meditation classes that are perfect for overall health and wellness. Good news is that those who will purchase the single occupancy rates on the Wellness Holiday, Detox Cleanse, and Specialized Healing Retreat will be having 25% off savings! What are you waiting for?

Travel time: Around 1 hour and 30 minutes via car

8) Hidden Valley Springs, Laguna

If you rarely spend time alone, you may be surprised at how enjoyable it can be. By its name, it is already evident that Hidden Valley Springs is the best place to stay hidden and to disconnect from everyone. Imagine sitting on a peaceful pool or taking an energizing morning hike without having to make conversation with anyone! Sometimes it's important to take advantage of being alone so you can enjoy the moment and reflect.

Travel time: Around 1 hour and 30 minutes via car

9) Minoloc Island, El Nido Palawan

The Philippines is filled with beautiful beaches, which is why it's not a surprise that another beach is on the list. With the amount of things you can do on the island, you'll never know which interests you'll be able to discover. You are given the opportunity to find yourself as you try to discover the world.

Travel time: Around 40 to 50 minutes via plane

10) Batanes

Since safety is always first, solo travelers will be pleased to know that Batanes has the lowest crime rate in the country. While normally you spend a lot of time talking to your friends, traveling alone gives you the chance to be more observant and reflective. This picturesque town is filled with extremely beautiful sceneries everywhere you go and being alone will help you appreciate it fully.

Travel time: Around 1 hour and 40 minutes via plane

Summery weather in tourist areas unlikely towards Easter --PAGASA

By Catherine J. Teves [(PNA), SCS/CJT/NOD]

MANILA, April 2 (PNA) -- The government-run Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) expects cloudiness and rain from Good Friday (April 3) until Easter Sunday (April 5) in several tourist areas nationwide.

In its outlook released Thursday, PAGASA) said partly cloudy skies to at times cloudy conditions with rain showers or thunderstorms are likely this Good Friday in Luzon's Vigan City, Baguio City, Banaue, Anilao, Puerto Galera, Taal and El Nido; the Visayas' Boracay, Bohol and Cebu as well as Mindanao's Camiguin Island and Davao.

PAGASA also forecast Naga City in Bicol Region to experience on the same day cloudy skies with rainshowers and thunderstorms.

Weather conditions in some of the tourist areas will likely worsen on Black Saturday (April 4) as PAGASA cautioned against rains with gusty winds that day in Baguio City, Banaue and Naga City, aside from cloudy skies with rainshowers and thunderstorms in Vigan, Anilao, Puerto Galera, Taal, Boracay and Cebu, however.

Partly cloudy skies to at times cloudy conditions with rainshowers or thunderstorms will continue on Black Saturday in El Nido, Bohol, Camiguin and Davao, noted PAGASA.

For Easter Sunday, PAGASA forecasts stormy weather to prevail in Baguio City and Banaue as well as rains with gusty winds in Vigan City.

Cloudy skies with rainshowers and thunderstorms are likely in Anilao, Puerto Galera, Taal and Naga City while partly cloudy skies to at times cloudy conditions with rain showers or thunderstorms are possible in El Nido, Boracay, Bohol, Cebu, Camiguin and Davao during the same day, PAGASA continued.

The weather agency continues warning about typhoon 'Chedeng' (international name 'Maysak'), estimating this tropical cyclone to landfall by late Saturday to early Sunday over the eastern coast of Aurora or Isabela provinces in Luzon.

'Chedeng' is already inside the Philippine Area of Responsibility at 995 kilometers east of Catarman, Northern Samar province as of 10 a.m. Thursday, noted PAGASA.

The typhoon is packing maximum sustained winds of 175 kilometers per hour near its center and gustiness of up to 210 kilometers per hour, PAGASA said in its 11 a.m. severe weather bulletin issued Thursday.

"Estimated rainfall amount is from moderate to heavy within the 150-kilometer to 200-kilometer radius of the typhoon," warned PAGASA.

Forecast movement of 'Chedeng' is west-northwest at 19 kilometers per hour, PAGASA continued.

PAGASA also forecast location of 'Chedeng' at 740 kilometers east of Daet, Camarines Norte province on Friday morning, 595 kilometers east of Virac, Catanduanes province on Saturday morning and 130 kilometers northeast of Baguio City on Sunday morning.

The agency warned 'Chedeng' can trigger possible flash floods in low-lying areas and landslides along mountain slopes, particularly in the Aurora-Isabela area as well as up to 4.0-meter high storm surges and sea surface waves in the eastern coast of Samar, Bicol and Aurora-Quezon.

Petition for recall election in Palawan contains 10,000 invalid signatures, says Comelec

By Ferdinand G. Patinio [(PNA), RMA/FGP/RSM]

MANILA, April 1 (PNA) -- After affirming the required number of signatures that will merit a recall elections in Palawan, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) will look into the presence of over 10,000 invalid signatures in the petition.

The Comelec en banc is referring to the 10,092 signatures that were declared not valid.

“Although the required number of signatures might have been reached, which would therefore leave the Commission no choice but to organize a recall elections, it is disturbing and worrisome that such a substantial number of invalid signatures have been presented before the Commission to support the recall petition,” according to the decision released on Tuesday.

The number is composed of 6,679 signatures of not registered voters; 3,203 multiple entries; and 210 whose fact of illiteracy were not indicated.

Meanwhile, the Comelec noted that there were no signatures that need to be invalidated due to forgery, falsification, or being blurred.

“The Commission shall look into the matter to find out if there is deliberate attempt to present invalid signatures in support of the petition,” said the poll body.

In its decision, the Comelec said there is a sufficient number of valid signatures totaling to 22,326 in the recall petition against Puerto Princesa City Mayor Lucilo Bayron.

The valid signatures came from the 32,418 signatures that have been verified.

With this, the commission en banc had already ordered the Puerto Princesa election officer to issue a certification that the total number of signatures and thumbmarks satisfied the required minimum number of petitioners for the purposes of conducting a recall election.

It also directed the Comelec – Deputy Executive Director for Operations (DEDO) to prepare the calendar of activities for the conduct of recall polls in Puerto Princesa City.