Palawan News July 2018

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Palawan - Archived News

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Dietary supplement is a product that contains vitamins, minerals, herbs or other botanicals, amino acids, enzymes, and/or other ingredients intended to supplement the diet. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has special labeling requirements for dietary supplements and treats them as foods, not drugs.

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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

New P192-M public market to rise in Puerto Princesa City

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- A PHP192-million two-storey public market is expected to rise on a 28,000 square meter site at the bay area here to ease congestion in the two other public markets.

Architect Ezrha Miguel, executive assistant IV at the City Mayor’s Office, said Tuesday the proposed public market near the old San Miguel warehouse will have 1,000 stalls in the main building.

Around 480 stalls will be set aside for wet market on the ground floor and 670 for dry goods on the second floor. The total area that will be occupied by the main building is 7,423 square meters in front of the Puerto Princesa Baywalk.

“Kung available na ang funds ay ibi-bid na kasi meron ng engineering drawing. Pagkatapos niyan, i-po-post na ng Bids and Awards Committee (If funds are already available, it will be put on bidding as it now has an engineering drawing. After that, it will be posted by the Bids and Awards Committee),” she said.

The funds for the new public market will come from the supplemental budget of the city government.

The public market will also include an outdoor area with 74 stalls for street food vendors, adequate parking space, roadways, and landscaping, to be completed in 600 days, she said.

It will have two access roads and will also be accessible from the bay through the existing fish port. This will also enable tourists from the cruise ship port nearby to have an easy access to the market, she said.

“Pagbaba ng mga turista ay didiretso lang sila doon (As soon as they go down their cruise ships, they can walk and go there directly),” she said.

Demetrio Alvior Jr., assistant city tourism officer, said the new public market will address the need of the city to have a clean, orderly marketplace that the locals can be proud of.

“Tayo ay world-class destination dapat ay world-class din ang facilities para maka-extend tayo ng excellent service sa mga turista (We are a world-class destination and it follows that our facilities should also be world-class to extend excellent service to our tourists),” he said.

Single hatchling brings hope to ‘Palawan forest turtle’ conservation

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- Hope springs eternal for the critically endangered Palawan forest turtle after conservationists in the province successfully hatched a single egg following about 10 years of hard work.

An extremely sought-after species in the illegal wildlife trade, the Palawan forest turtle (Siebenrockiella leytensis), is an endemic freshwater turtle in the province that has faced threats, mainly due to the brazen collection.

Dr. Sabine Schoppe, director of the Palawan Freshwater Turtle Conservation Program (PFTCP) of the Katala Foundation, Inc. (KFI), on Friday said they have hatched the first recorded egg from captive parents of the freshwater turtle with support from the Wildlife Reserve Singapore (WRS).

The hatchling that emerged from its egg on June 24 was named “Sonja,” and it is from parents that have been dwelling for years in their “assurance colony” facilities in Palawan.

“Five years ago, with support from WRS, we intensified research on the Palawan forest turtle, and now have a better understanding of their food preferences, incubation requirements like humidity and temperature, incubation time, nesting prerequisites, enclosure and furniture design, and necessary environmental conditions to trigger reproduction,” she said.

Schoppe, who has been studying and researching the species for the past 15 years, explained that assurance colonies are usually established for species that are facing threats and might go extinct in the wild.

Any Palawan forest turtle that will be raised in captivity will be part of this colony for release later in areas where its population has seriously declined due to poaching for the wildlife trade.

“After hatching the first one, we are very positive that we will have more. The aim of the assurance colony is to breed them for conservation for eventual release back to the wild,” she said. Schoppe added while there has been successful incubation of eggs from “wild-caught” Palawan forest turtle, she warned against referring to such cases as “captive breed” as it might predictably launder the act to facilitate trade.

“Captive breeding implies the production of offspring from parents under human care, so the hatching of eggs of gravid wild-caught females does not qualify as true captive breeding,” said. Dr. Sonja Luz, director of the Conservation, Research and Veterinary Services of WRS and to whom the newly-hatched freshwater turtle was named.

Luz said the hatching is a landmark accomplishment in reproduction efforts to save the species. “The recent breeding success is a true milestone in the conservation of this important species and gives us hope that we can turn things around even for lesser known species in this region,” she said.

Jovic Fabello, staff spokesperson of the independent and multi-disciplinary body Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD), said the hatching of the turtle egg is an optimistic achievement in the conservation of the species that has importance in the balance of the ecological system.

“This is encouraging news for the conservation of the Palawan forest turtle and it is a testimony to the effective breeding practices put in place as far back as years ago. It shows the dedication of the people who work with them,” he said.

Palawan turtle

Also known as Philippine forest turtle, Philippine pond turtle or the Palawan turtle, this freshwater turtle is recognizable by its brown to reddish brown to black shell covering called “carapace.”

The Palawan forest turtle can reach a measurement of 35 centimeters or 14 inches in length, though this size is very rare in occurrence.

“It’s not something that can be easily found; it’s in the forest, it’s in streams, and it’s night active -- comes out only in the night, and it doesn’t go to the houses or the rice fields,” Schoppe described.

They mature at about six to eight years, and then a female may lay one or two eggs in one clutch.

“Maybe a female will lay one to six eggs in one year. If you consider the chance that one egg will hatch and reach maturity in about 1 percent only and you can compute how many you need to repopulate a certain area,” she added.

Ecological importance

Palawan forest turtles live in their habitats alongside more common native turtle species, like the Asian box turtles.

However, the species’ conservation status became more important following the rediscovery in 1988 of a specimen in the province.

“It took another 20 years until it was really found out that the species is from Palawan not from Leyte,” Schoppe said about developments from when it was first described in 1920.

The advent in the hunt due to the peak in demand for the Palawan forest turtle in the black market became known in 2004. People would go to the conservation of elephants, tigers, rhinos, but not many pay attention to the not so charismatic species.

“They have equal rights to be protected, especially because of the important role they do in the ecosystem. They are helping to reduce pest species. For example, they feed on the golden kuhol, which is a pest species. The hatchlings, among others, feed on mosquito larvae that are transmitting malaria and dengue,” she said.

Since the Palawan forest turtles are between land and water, they make a link between the aquatic and terrestrial environment and bring in nutrients, which is also another ecological role.

“They are digging tunnels in the riverbanks so they turn the soil and make it more fertile. They feed on the fruits of riverine vegetation, and the seeds, when they defecate them, they germinate so they help in planting forests,” she added.


In June 2015, Schoppe’s expertise was called to the task following the confiscation of around 4,000 Palawan Forest Turtle from the warehouse of a Chinese businessman Peter Lei in Bataraza town, southern Palawan. The shipments were destined for the Chinese black market, an underground economy that sells to turtle hobbyists and overseas collectors presumably to bring luck to their households.

“The species is critically endangered and the main threat is the collection for the illegal wildlife trade, followed by food, and traditional medicine,” Schoppe said.

This is the reason why the KFI, WRS, and organizations like Turtle Conservancy, Rainforest Trust, and Chester Zoo (England), are working together with local partners like the PCSD staff and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Biodiversity Management Bureau (DENR-BMB) to save the species through assurance colony breeding, establishment of protected areas, and setting up a team of forest wardens to look after their habitats.

All Palawan forest turtles are found in the northern part of the province in the municipalities of Roxas, Dumaran, San Vicente, Taytay, and northern parts of Puerto Princesa City.

In Roxas, Schoppe said, their cooperation work with the municipal government, the PCSD and DENR, has now established three sites as protected areas.

“If the trade continues the way it does, and there are no protected areas, this species can easily go extinct,” she said.

Dumaran, another town in the northern part of the province, still has populations, but they are very low now due to the unabashed collection in the past.

She disclosed the Palawan forest turtle’s habitat in Taytay municipality is already locally extinct as there are habitats that have no more population. They found out about it after the municipal government requested the KFI to help do surveys and information and education campaign in the municipality.

“Taytay has local extinction already, there are sites where it doesn’t occur anymore due to over-exploitation. The findings were really very sad,” Schoppe said.

Law enforcement

The KFI, WRS, and their partners are still in the phase of finding out how many Palawan forest turtles are left dwelling in their natural habitats.

Schoppe said they estimate there are about 10,000 individuals scattered in the identified Palawan municipalities.

“We have some estimate of about 6,000 individuals as of 2014, but after the confiscation in 2015, we realized that we have to do more surveys because the population is bigger than we thought, and that’s a positive thing. But the exploitation is going on in a very high volume,” she added.

There are enough policies to cover enforcement in protecting the species, and the PCSD is helping improve the situation over the years.

Considering Palawan’s size and its issue on manpower to protect its forests and all other species that need conservation, Schoppe agrees it will be hard to be comfortable.

“We established protected areas, we worked with the locals in the communities, we are giving incentives for former poachers to become wardens of the environment, and we’re working with municipal governments to strengthen protection,” she added.

Fabello said they are currently working on a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with Schoppe’s group that would cover strengthening the enforcement in protected areas and known habitats.

“Meron kaming MOA na pinag-aaralan ngayon para mapirmahan at kasama doon ay kung paano pa mapapalakas ang pagbabantay sa mga natural habitat ng Palawan forest turtle (We are currently crafting a MOA that we can sign and it will include enforcement to further strengthen the protection of the natural habitats of the Palawan forest turtle),” he said.

Long-term conservation goal

In the long-term, Schoppe’s and the KFI’s dream is to downgrade the status of the Palawan forest turtle from critically endangered to “endangered” in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Wildlife Act of the Philippines (Republic Act No. 9147).

“We hope through the joint conservation efforts, this species will be downgraded to endangered. At the moment, it’s critically-endangered under the IUCN and under the Philippine Wildlife Act,” Schoppe said.

She believes this can be done if the local people, municipal governments in areas where they occur, and other government and non-government agencies will pay enough attention.

More than the elephants, the tigers, and other species in school textbooks that students read, Schoppe said endemic wildlife species in Palawan should be included in the curriculum.

“If you look at school books they are using in the Philippines, there are giraffes, elephants, and tigers, but there are no pangolin (scaly anteater), no Palawan forest turtle, and there is not even a Philippine cockatoo,” she said.

Awareness raising on the conservation of the species cannot be done in communities without continuous presence because this will not leave permanent knowledge.

“As far as awareness is concerned, I think the continuous presence in the areas is very important. If you just go and visit a certain area once, you cannot leave a permanent knowledge. It needs to be repeated,” Schoppe said.

40 Palawan scholars expected to enroll in medicine this year

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- Around 40 Palawan provincial government scholars are expected to enroll in medicine this year under the Programang Pang-edukasyon Para sa Palaweño (PPP) to later serve in the hospitals in the province.

Under IHELP (Infrastructure, Health, Education, Livelihood, and Protection of the Environment), the PPP will provide each of them PHP70,000 in financial assistance for tuition per semester for four years, said Provincial Information Officer Gil Acosta Jr. on Wednesday.

“Ang program ay isang pamamaraan ng administrasyon ni Governor Jose Alvarez na punuan ang kakulangan ng mga doctor na magbibigay ng maayos na serbisyong pang-kalusugan ng mga tao sa mga ospital na itinayo ng provincial government (The program is a way for the administration of Governor Jose Alvarez to address the lack of doctors that will provide health and medical services to the people through the hospitals constructed by the provincial government),” he told the Philippine News Agency (PNA).

If all 40 applicants pass the evaluation process of the provincial government, Acosta said they will be added to the 81 medical students granted scholarships under the PPP.

Each scholar who will pass the licensure examination for physicians will render services equivalent to the number of years the provincial government paid for their medical schooling.

“Kulang na kulang kasi talaga tayo ng doctor sa Palawan. Under the plan, dapat mapunuan ang kakulangan na ito sa human resource kasama na ang pagpapataas ng suweldo para maging competitive na para sa mga doctors (We really lack doctors in Palawan. Under the plan, we should cover for this scarcity, including making their salaries competitive),” he added.

He added the scholarship will continue, particularly because of the proposed House Bill No. 4580 of Palawan (1st District) Rep. Gil Acosta, which seeks to establish the “Western Philippines Medical Center” in the province.

The medical scholarship is also aligned with the goal of the administration of Governor Alvarez to construct 15 major hospitals in the far-flung areas of the province.

This year, two new hospitals opened in Palawan - in the municipalities of Narra and Brooke’s Point in the southern area. Three more are expected to start operating in the third quarter of the year.

Acosta said 10 of the current number of medical scholarship grantees by the provincial government have already graduated and now undergoing post-graduate internships.

They are Jakes Katherine Abad, Hanna Lei Gacott, Katherine Hernandez, Kenneth Libuit, Novy Lee Oblan, Marianne Aira Paed, Lois Tablazon, Emillie Grace Tombucon, John Mark Tuting, and Geemarlyn Omar.

Omar, who studied medicine at Matias H. Aznar Memorial College of Medicine (MHAMCM) in Cebu, said she is thankful to the provincial government for allowing her to become a beneficiary of the PPP scholarship grant. “My journey at medical school would not have been a smooth-sailing one without the scholarship I received from the provincial government of Palawan. It has helped me and my family immensely,” she said.

“Rest assured that the success of my endeavor will always include giving back by serving my fellow Palaweños,” Omar said.

400 Palawan cherry trees to be moved to 7-ha green park

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- The city government here is eyeing the transfer of over 400 fully-grown Balayong trees to a seven-hectare green park being developed in Barangay Tiniguiban near the City Hall Building on July 28.

Known also as Palawan cherry trees (sp. Cassia nodosa), Mayor Lucilo Bayron said Monday these will be moved through a citywide tree planting festival from a demo farm in Barangay Sta. Lourdes being managed by the City Agriculture Office.

He said the activity will also include the earth-balling of flowering trees for transplanting along national highway areas as part of the city’s beautification drive.

“By July 28, all of the Balayong trees in Sta. Lucia will be transplanted there so we can have an impressive festival,” he said.

The Balayong Park is envisioned by the city government to be a major tree park that will become an alternative tourist attraction in Puerto Princesa.

The city government has an estimated budget of PHP250 million to develop it with a restaurant whose main feature is a view deck overlooking the bay, children’s park, cultural museum and library, water park, a DNA tower, food complex, pavilion for art exhibits, and a fitness and recreational park.

He said a meeting has been scheduled for Wednesday with representatives from various city offices and various sectors for the Balayong festival tree-planting activity.

Bayron added the trees that will be affected by the road widening projects of the city government and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) will also be moved.

“Since we have an ongoing road widening, our City ENRO (Environment and Natural Resources Office) has pinpointed those good, flowering ones, which we will also be transferred to our Balayong park,” he said.

Wescom awards medals to PH, US Seabees in Palawan

By Celeste Anna Formoso

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- The Western Command (Wescom) has awarded military civic action medals to officers and enlisted personnel of the construction battalions of the Philippine and US navies for jointly completing the construction of a school building of an elementary school in this city.

Capt. Cherryl Tindog, chief of the Public Affairs Office of Wescom, said Tuesday the medals were given and pinned by Lt. General Rozzano Briguez to the participating Filipino and American sailors, better known as “Seabees,” in a simple ceremony on Monday.

“Binigay sa kanila ang medals dahil sa natapos na nila ang construction ng isang unit ng two-classroom school building sa Sicsican Elementary School dahil sa kanilang humanitarian civic action (They were given the medals for completing the construction of one unit two-classroom building at the Sicsican Elementary School),” Tindog said Tuesday in an interview with the Philippine News Agency (PNA).

The completed school project in Barangay Sicsican will provide both teachers and students a more conducive learning environment.

She added it was completed through the Construction Civic Action Detail (CCAD) made up of Seabees whose mission is to execute engineering assistance, perform community relations to enhance shared capabilities, and improve the host country’s social welfare.

In an earlier press statement her office sent to the local media, Briguez thanked the US Navy for its remarkable brand of service to the people who will benefit from the school.

“The recognition you received bespeaks well of your dedication to duty and, especially, the US Navy, a remarkable brand of service to the people, regardless of culture, race or color. Wescom is very grateful to the US Government and the US Navy Seabees as they continually make Palawan -- our area of operations, the recipient of their Humanitarian Civic Assistance Projects,” he said.

Tourist arrivals increase in San Vicente town, northern Palawan

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- The trend in visitor arrivals in the emerging tourist destination of San Vicente town, northern Palawan is improving, growing by around 41 percent from January to June this year compared to the same period in 2017.

Based on data submitted by the San Vicente local government to the Provincial Tourism Promotions and Development Department (PTPDD), tourist arrivals in the municipality grew from 15,974 last year to 22,518 in 2018.

The difference logged during the first half of this year is 6,544 arrivals, San Vicente municipal administrator James Inawasan told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) in a phone interview Monday afternoon.

“Tumaas talaga kasi sa Port Barton pa lang, daily ay may arrival noong summer na around 200 tourists. Ngayon kahit tag-ulan na, may arrivals pa rin kami na 50-80 (It really increased because in Port Barton, we have a daily arrival of around 200 tourists. Now, even if it’s already the rainy season, we still get 50-80 arrivals daily),” he said.

He said the increase cannot be owed to Boracay’s closure nor the opening of the new San Vicente Airport since the peak in the figure happened in March and the early days of April.

Their data said a big portion of the total figure, or 18,735 arrivals, were foreign visitors.

“Siguro 'di natin masasabi na dahil ito sa temporary closure ng Boracay kasi late April nangyari iyon. Hindi rin dahil pa sa San Vicente Airport dahil 'di pa naman nag-uumpisa ang commercial operation doon. Tumataas dahil talagang sumisikat na rin ang San Vicente (Maybe we cannot say that it is due to the temporary closure of Boracay since it happened late April. It’s not also because of the San Vicente Airport as commercial operation there has not started yet. It’s increasing because San Vicente is now getting popular),” Inawasan said.

He added the increase is happening even if their municipal tourism office has yet to pursue intensive marketing for San Vicente, home of the 14-kilometer uninterrupted stretch of "Long Beach" that is slowly gaining popularity worldwide.

“Hindi pa kami nag-fu-full blast sa marketing since kailangan pa namin ma-install ang ibang facilities. Itong pagtaas, sa Port Barton pa lang ang pinag-uusapan natin. Hindi pa kasama ang ibang attraction dito (We have not gone full blast on marketing it as we still need to construct other facilities. In this increase, we’re just talking about Port Barton. We’re not yet talking about those going to other attractions here),” he stressed.

Barangay Port Barton in San Vicente is increasing in popularity for its 12 easy-going island getaways with white sandy seashores surrounded by rich marine biodiversity.

Currently, he said the municipal government is working on correcting the easement zone compliance of tourism businesses in the area to prevent the degradation of its marine environment.

Inawasan said an estimated 200 notices of violations had been issued to establishment owners, by virtue of an executive order signed by Mayor Pie Alvarez over a couple of months ago.

“Marami na ang nag-umpisang umatras at magbaklas ng mga structures nila na nasakop ang easement zone. Desidido ang municipal government na ayusin itong isyu agad (Many have started to move back and demolish their structures that have encroached in the easement zone. The municipal government is really decided to fix the issue this immediately),” added Inawasan.

Ex-rebels train on organic farming

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- Some 10 former members of the New People’s Army are undergoing a training course on organic agriculture production in this province as part of their amnesty under the Local Social Integration Program (LSIP) and the continuing bid to empower them back to society.

Lucita Padul, social welfare officer III of Palawan’s Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office (PSWDO), said Saturday the training on Organic Agriculture Production (OAP) NCII in an undisclosed location, is from July 12 to 21.

Padul said its goal is to provide the rebel returnees with skills and abilities in organic farming to uplift their and their families’ lives following their return from armed struggle.

“Patuloy na isinusulong ng Pamahalaang Panlalawigan katuwang ang ibang ahensiya ng pamahalaan ang pagtataguyod ng kapakanan ng mga nagbalik-loob sa pamahalaan o rebel returnees sa pamamagitan ng LSIP na ipinapatupad sa ilalim ng PSWDO (The provincial government, in close cooperation with other agencies, is continuously supporting the return of former rebels through the LSIP that is implemented under the PSWDO),” she said.

The OAP NCII consists of competencies that they must achieve to produce organic farm products, such as chicken and vegetables, including the production of organic supplements, such as fertilizer, concoctions, and extracts.

It has two elective competencies, which are about raising organic hogs and raising organic small ruminants. It is facilitated by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

After finishing the course, they will have OAP NCII qualifications, which means they have been trained in producing organic supplements or fertilizers.

Padul said the training course also includes lectures on drug abuse prevention being led by the provincial police.

The rebel returnees are also provided with subsistence assistance, counseling, food, shelter assistance, educational support, and transport assistance.

“Ang mga ganitong aktibidad ay bahagi lamang ng pagtataguyod ng programa upang mapangalagaan ang kapakanan ng mga former rebels (Activities like these are part of the provincial government’s commitment to ensure that the well-being of our former rebels are not neglected),” she said.

Padul added that the administration of Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez is serious in making the 10 former rebels become active community partners for change.

She said they hope their support for the returnees would encourage the latter’s former comrades in the NPA to surrender peacefully.

Padul commended the assistance extended to the LSIP program by the Western Command and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority for the former rebels who have expressed optimism in gaining skills about livelihood opportunities in agriculture.

The training course was provided under Provincial Ordinance No. 2540, series of 2015, which establishes the implementing guidelines and provision of assistance to rebel returnees through the LSIP.

PH, Aussie sailors in Palawan sea drill play goodwill games

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- Philippine Navy (PN) and Royal Australian Navy (RAN) sailors challenged each other in friendly games of basketball and volleyball, as part of their 10-day joint maritime security activity (MSA) in Palawan on Tuesday.

Captain Cherryl Tindog, chief of the Public Affairs Office of the Western Command (Wescom), said the friendly face-off was aimed at establishing familiarity and camaraderie among sailors of both countries before they begin their shipboard training on inter-operability cooperation against terrorism, kidnapping, and other lawless activities at sea.

The sailors of the RAN docked their patrol vessels -- HMAS Ararat and HMAS Wollongong -- at the Puerto Princesa City Pier (PPCP) on Monday led by Lt. Col. Judd Andrew Finger.

They will perform maritime activities side-by-side with BRP Ramon Alcaraz (FF 16) and BRP Simeon Castro (PC 374) under the Naval Forces West, Philippine Navy (Navforwest, PN) until July 25.

Tindog added the navy sailors will do the shipboard training within the waters of the southern Palawan town of Balabac and Coron in the north.

“The weather is still bad, but the goal is to do the shipboard training in the waters of Coron in the northern area and Balabac in southern Palawan to be able for both participating sailors to create a safe culture in the areas of common interest,” she said.

She said the continuing conduct of joint activities, such as the MSA with other navies, has helped the country to prevent kidnappings and terrorism in the maritime domain.

Palawan, Cebu named among best islands in the world

By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora (PNA)

MANILA-- Two Philippine islands were named among the best in the world by the 2018 poll of New York-based Travel+Leisure magazine.

Travel+Leisure conducted its annual World’s Best Awards survey, where its readers share insight on best travel experiences around the globe, from top cities, islands, cruise ships, spas and airlines.

Their 15 Best Islands in the World for 2018 listed Cebu as 8th with a score of 89.10 and Palawan as 6th with 90.04.

Palawan in 2013 and 2017 scored the top spot among the 15 contenders.

Last year, Travel+Leisure noted that Palawan was even hailed as "single most beautiful place on Earth," with its hospitable locals, world-class scuba diving spots and unspoiled beaches.

Cebu, a regular lister, also ranked 6th in the 2018 Asia's Best Islands conducted by the same magazine.

Replacing Palawan's spot was Java, Indonesia which scored 95.28 points. Java made its first appearance on the list this year.

Palawan steps up anti-illegal drugs campaign in schools

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- The provincial government of Palawan has stepped up its anti-illegal drugs information and education campaign in three schools in the northern town of Roxas.

Provincial Information Officer Gil Acosta Jr., also the officer-in-charge of the campaign, said Friday it is an initiative under the office of Governor Jose Alvarez and the Provincial Anti-Drug Abuse Program (PADAP), in close cooperation with the Department of Education.

He said it is the Palawan government’s response to the nationwide anti-illegal drugs campaign of President Rodrigo Duterte, particularly focusing on preventing students to be involved in drug use and abuse.

“Ito ay may layunin na makapagbigay ng kaalaman sa mga kabataan kaugnay ng masamang epekto ng paggamit ng bawal na gamot (The aim is to provide information to young people about drugs and its ill effects),” Acosta said.

He added that Governor Alvarez believes that through the provision of information, the youth can learn the bad effects of illegal drugs and later become partners to prevent its spread in the province.

The information drive, which was attended by hundreds of grades 7-12 students, was held on July 9-10 at the Magara School for Philippine Craftsmen, Roxas National Comprehensive High School and Abaroan National High School – all in Roxas.

He said among the topics that were discussed was the classification of illegal drugs and its negative effects.

Acosta added that more information drive in schools in the province will be conducted in the following months to ensure that students stay away from illegal drugs.

According to the 2nd Municipal Anti-Drug Abuse Council (MADAC) Summit held last month, four municipalities in Palawan had been declared drug-cleared so far – Cagayancillo, Dumaran, Araceli, and Magsaysay.

Out of 367 barangays in the province, 79 had also been declared drug-cleared by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).

Palawan IPs want co-management of tour sites within ancestral domains

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- The indigenous peoples mandatory representative (IPMR) of Palawan is urging the provincial board to pass his proposed ordinance, which seeks the co-management by tribal communities of tourists destinations within their ancestral domains.

IPMR and Ex-Officio Board Member Joel Lumis on Friday told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) there are tourist sites in the province within their ancestral lands but are not being co-managed by the IP dwellers.

These are the Calauit Safari Park in Busuanga town, the Puerto Princesa Underground River, Mt. Mantalingahan Protected Landscape that is straddled in the territorial jurisdiction by five municipalities in southern Palawan, Victoria’s Peak and Estrella Falls in Narra, and Tabon Caves in Quezon.

“Nakapaloob ang mga lugar na ito sa loob ng ancestral domain na may applications na for certificate of ancestral domain titles. Meron tayong tinatawag na native title, ibig sabihin lahat yan dapat masama sa management nila ng mga katutubo (These sites are within ancestral domains that have applications for certificate of ancestral domain titles. We have what we call native titles, which means they should all include the IPs in the management of these sites),” said Lumis.

In cases where proclamations had been passed to make them special sites prior to the passage of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA), he hopes these can be reviewed or amended to include the IPs as co-managers of tourist sites in their own lands.

He said there are places in the ancestral domains considered “sacred” by the IPs; if they are not made co-managers, there is a possibility that tourists will unintentionally trespass.

“Bawat area may mga sagradong lugar ‘yan. Ngayon kapag hindi natin kasama ang mga IPs dyan mag-manage, tapos biglang pumunta sa sagradong lugar ang mga bisita, maba-violate ang rights ng IP (Each area has sacred places. Now, if we do not make the IPs as part of the management, their rights will be violated if visitors enter these sacred places),” he added.

On Tuesday, Lumis filed during the provincial board’s regular session his proposed Ordinance No. 19-18, which calls for co-management by IPs of tourist spots. This, he said, is pursuant to Section 17, Article 14 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on recognition, protection, and promotion of their rights.

“Ancestral domains in Palawan are sacred, it is only right for the indigenous dwellers to co-manage them and protect and preserved their integrity,” he said.

Under the proposed measure, any decision by the Department of Tourism, the provincial government, municipal government, or any other agencies, on tourism sites in ancestral domains will not be valid without the intervention or consent of the IPs.

“Ang gusto lang naman namin ay respeto sa karapatan namin. Kunting pang-unawa lang dahil marami sa amin ang di nakikinabang sa regalo na bigay sa amin bilang mga katutubong naninirahan sa mga ancestral domains (What we want is a little respect for our rights. A little understanding will go a long way since many of us need to benefit from the gifts of our ancestral domains as native dwellers),” he said.

His proposed ordinance is now being studied by the provincial board's committee on rules and laws.

BFP-Palawan gets new personal protection equipment

By Celeste Anna Formoso

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan – Firefighters in this province are set to receive new personal protection equipment (PPE) for use in carrying out their duties, Superintendent Catalino Ramos, Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP)-Palawan director, said Thursday.

Aside from the PPE, several municipal fire protection offices (MFPOs) in the province will also receive 216 yellow double jacket fire hoses with aluminum NST couplings for fire rescue, he added.

“What you’re seeing is the PPE that some fire personnel lack in the MFPOs in Palawan when we conducted an inspection a few months ago. We have fire boots, helmets, and gloves for hand covering that our firefighters need,” he told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) as he showed the new equipment set for distribution.

The fire hoses will be distributed to the MFPOs in Aborlan, Bataraza, Brooke’s Point, Busuanga, Coron, Culion, Cuyo, Dumaran, Sofronio Española, Narra, Quezon, Rizal, Roxas, Taytay, and also Puerto Princesa.

Ramos said when he visited the MPFOs, he noticed that some PPE and hoses, which are important in firefighting, are already overused, if not lacking in their inventories.

“May mga gulong din at iba pang kailangan ng fire trucks ay naibigay na din. Ang mga fire hoses naluluma yan at yong iba noong dumating ako medyo na-check ko ay sira na. Kailangan natin ng bago para maayos natin na magampanan ang ating trabaho (There were also tires and other materials for firetrucks and they had been distributed already. Fire hoses are now old; when I got here and made a check, I noticed that most of them are no longer functional. We need new ones so we can better do our jobs),” he said.

Ramos said the issuance of the PPE to firefighters is vital in guaranteeing their safety while they perform fire rescue duties.

He added that safety can easily be ensured by having firefighting equipment and proper protection.

“The importance of the equipment is indispensable to ensure maximum protection against fire of the public and those who risk their lives to save others,” he stated.

Ramos said the arrival of the PPE and the other equipment followed the delivery of the PHP17.5-million Rosenbauer firetruck in the first week of July to the fire protection office in Puerto Princesa.

The BFP official appealed to municipal government officials in Palawan to help in equipping the MFPOs as there are many who only have personnel but no firetrucks to use.

“Ang atin ngang pakiusap ay kung puwede tulungan ang ating mga MFPOs dahil marami pa tayo na personnel lang ang meron wala naman fire truck. (our request is for them to help equip our MFPOs because we still have a lot that only has personnel but have no fire trucks) They can also set up their own fire brigade and we can help train firefighters,” he said.

Ramos also also made an appeal to Governor Jose Alvarez and the provincial government to help them find a suitable location for their future PHP9-million office building, as he noted that their current office is not large enough for their supplies and personnel. (PNA) Related Stories

10 Palaweños get scholarship grants from university in China

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- Ten Palaweños will soon leave for China as master’s and undergraduate degree scholars in Hainan Normal University (HNU), the oldest university in Haikou City for higher learning.

Atty. Joshua Bolusa, the provincial administrator of Palawan, said Thursday the scholarship would not only allow the grantees the opportunity to learn China’s dynamic culture but also carve bright futures for themselves.

“This scholarship will open a new dawn for them considering (that) China is becoming an economic giant,” Bolusa said.

Those who will take the master’s degree program are Karla Jean Seratubias Sornel, Julia Ann Gabo Borres, and Jolly Dalabajan Pedida, who will take Master in Psychology; Katherine Mae Erispe Cañete, Master in Mental Health; and Nathalie Jane Samaniego Plizardo, who will take Master of Education-Modern Educational Technology.

Those who will undertake the undergraduate degree program are Niña Beatriece So Linga, Bachelor in Computer Science and Technology; Gabriel Manilingan Obrique, Bachelor in Mechanical and Electrical Integration; Klienne Francia Sambire Pua, Bachelor in Mechanical and Electrical Integration; Davis Solomon Magada Servañez, Bachelor in Pharmaceutical Engineering; and Paul Christian Bundal Valones, Bachelor in Pharmaceutical Engineering.

They were from the municipalities of Magsaysay, El Nido, Quezon, Roxas, San Vicente, and Brooke’s Point.

Bolusa said all of them will get full scholarship grants from HNU, including monthly allowance, living quarters, comprehensive medical insurance, and round-trip tickets from the province to Haikou City.

“Magbibigay rin ng tulong pinansiyal ang pamahalaang panlalawigan sa mga iskolar para pandagdag sa kanilang panggastos habang nag-aaral sa Hainan (The provincial government will also provide the scholars help for their additional expenses while studying in Hainan),” he added.

The scholars will be flying to China in August for the September 3 start of their classes at HNU.

Bolusa said the HNU scholarship offer is made to students of Palawan State University, Western Philippines University, and Palawan National School.

Their acceptance is facilitated by a technical working group (TWG) that was created by the provincial government under Executive Order No. 23 Series of 2018.

The TWG is tasked to collect data about the applicants, conduct interviews, and assist in the process of selecting the scholars.

2 caves in Southern Palawan eyed as tourists attractions

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- Two caves in Quezon town, southern Palawan, are being surveyed and assessed by the technical team of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff (PCSDS) as potential tourism destinations.

Jovic Fabello, information officer of the PCSDS and also part of the technical team, told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) on Wednesday that the caves under assessment are Modlum Cave and the Sangaran Ark Cave, which has a mini underground river and waterfalls in Barangay Isugod, Quezon.

“Nandito kami ngayon to assess and survey these caves per request of the municipal government na gustong i-open siya as tourism destinations sa Quezon. (We are here now to assess and survey these caves per request of the municipal government that wants to make these as tourism destinations in Quezon),” he said in a phone interview.

Fabello, whose team will be in Isugod until Friday, added that the survey and assessment are also in support of proposed House Bill 5333 by Palawan (2nd District) House Rep. Frederick Abueg.

According to the proposed bill, Sangaran Ark Cave is accessible to all kinds of vehicles as it is only half an hour away from Sitio Balintang, Isugod. By trekking, it is around four hours from the Isugod barangay hall building.

Fabello said Sangaran can be reached by trekkers by traversing a 45-degree climb and 10 minutes tread down to the Maritub River that cuts through it and the location of Modlum Cave.

“Pagbaba ng trekker, ang landing niya sa Maritub River tapos lalakad ng 500 meters sa gilid ng ilog papuntang Sangaran kung saan may mini underground river at waterfalls (When a trekker goes down, he will land in the Maritub River and will walk 500 meters on its side to reach Sangaran where there is a mini underground river and waterfalls),” he said.

He described the setting around the two caves as canyon-like.

Fabello said Isugod residents refer to Sangaran, which has a precipitous ark feature, as their own “mini underground river” is worthy of showing the world.

Quezon is a first class municipality in the southern part of the capital of Puerto Princesa that is home to Tabon Caves, where the remains of the “Tabon Man” was discovered at Lipuun Point in 1962 by American anthropologist Dr. Robert B. Fox.

“Ang isa pang napansin namin dito, marami rin ang caves. Hindi lang namin alam kung kasing dami ng caves sa loob ng Tabon Cave na may 225 caves pero seven lang ang may archeological diggings (What we noticed is that there are also many caves here. We just don’t know if they are as many as those in Tabon Caves that has 225 caves, but only seven with archeological diggings),” he further disclosed.

The PCSDS technical team is being assisted in the survey and assessment by a team of cave experts from the Puerto Princesa Underground River, Fabello added.

In Abueg’s proposal, he said if Sangaran Ark Cave is declared a tourist destination, the Department of Tourism can help improve it while at the same time maintain its natural beauty.

“It is certain that this wonderful gift of nature will realize improvement and be a potential source of income for its local government and the people residing within the area,” he said in his explanatory note.

Campaign vs. wildlife trafficking in Palawan stepped up

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- Law enforcement authorities against wildlife trafficking have intensified their campaign this year to keep under control the decline in the population of critically-endangered and highly-protected species.

This came after a joint team of environmental watchdogs confiscated early Wednesday morning an estimated 202 heads of talking mynah and blue-naped parrot birds in Barangay Quinlogan, Quezon town in southern Palawan.

Jovic Fabello, spokesperson of the multi-sectoral and interdisciplinary body Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD), said the alleged caretaker of the critically-endangered birds, Joseph Quintayo, was able to escape the actual apprehension at 5:55 a.m.

The first confiscation this year was on June 6 involving 184 talking mynahs, blue-naped parrots, and hornbills in Barangay Punta Baja, Rizal.

“Due to a large number of talking mynahs and blue-naped parrots we have confiscated since June, we are intensifying our campaign further. This is the second time this year that wildlife traffickers have attempted to bring out of Palawan these protected birds,” he told the Philippine News Agency (PNA).

He said their monitoring in 2016, focused on southern Palawan and in 2017, on the northern part of the province. But this year, the intensified campaign against wildlife trafficking will be all over the entire province since they now have two teams helping various law enforcement agencies.

The US Department of Interior is also helping fund the capability training of the enforcers, as well as providing financial assistance.

Tip-offs from the communities have also been strengthened with the help of the BRAIN System or Biodiversity Resource Assessment and Information Network, he added.

“Actually, natutuwa kami dahil nagwo-work na ang information sharing ngayon mula sa mga communities. Ang mga tao sa komunidad, sila ang mga nagpapasa sa amin ng impormasyon tungkol dito sa mga nagsasagawa ng wildlife trafficking (Actually, we are happy that information sharing from the communities is now working. The people in the communities are the ones sending us information about unscrupulous individuals engaged in wildlife trafficking),” Fabello added.

More chemists sought for CDT lab in Palawan

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan – Municipal agriculturists in Palawan are asking the fisheries bureau for additional chemists in its cyanide detection test (CDT) laboratory here to speed up the examination of fish samples.

Roxas municipal agriculturist Edgar Padul said Friday this was among the issues they raised with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) during a meeting last month.

“Ito yung sentiment ng ating mga live fish traders, kaya tayo rin ay nag-request na magkaroon sila ng additional chemist kasi iisa lang ang meron BFAR. Kung sakaling wala ang chemist o mag-leave ay walang substitute. Di talo ang live fish industry (It’s the sentiment of our live fish traders, that’s why we are requesting for additional chemist since they only have one in the BFAR. If the chemist is absent or is on leave, there is no substitute. The live fish industry will suffer),” he said.

Padul said there had been instances when the chemist was on official business, and no other employee can substitute. This often frustrates live fish traders, who take samples to the CDT lab from far-flung areas of Palawan.

The BFAR prohibits the transportation of live fish stocks that have not passed through cyanide detection testing.

“Dapat ay dagdagan ang chemist at ang sabi ng BFAR ay susubukan nila na e-request sa kanilang regional office (BFAR should add additional chemists, and it said it will try to request from their regional office),” Padul said.

The multi-sectoral and interdisciplinary body Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) has a CDT machine that could help, but Padul explained only the BFAR is authorized to issue transport permits to live fish traders.

He explained that without the CDT, local authorities will not issue an auxiliary invoice for live fish transport to any trader.

The CDT is a response to the need for a reliable enforcement mechanism against the use of poisonous cyanide in the live and aquarium fish industries.

It enables the government, through BFAR, to detect cyanide presence in fish tissues and utilize the result as basis for the issuance or denial of transportation permits.

In an interview Friday, Robert Abrera, the assistant regional director of BFAR Mimaropa, said this would no longer be a problem soon for live fish traders in some municipalities in northern Palawan.

This is because a CDT laboratory will be included in the construction of their agency’s provincial office in Coron.

The future laboratory will provide CDT services to live fish traders in Coron, Busuanga, Culion, Linapacan, Agutaya, and other nearby towns.

“Yan ang tinignan natin na dapat din na mailagay sa provincial office na ito para iyong mga nagbu-buhay-buhay ay di na dadalhin ang mga samples nila sa Puerto Princesa na napakalayo (That is what we are considering to also have in the provincial office for those who are in the live fish industry so they won’t bring their samples to Puerto Princesa that is quite far from them),” he added.

BFAR to open provincial office in northern Palawan

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan –- The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) is set to open its provincial office in Coron town soon to bring services closer to coastal communities in northern Palawan.

BFAR Assistant Regional Director Roberto Abrera said Friday in a phone interview with the Philippine News Agency (PNA) that the construction of the PHP5-million three-storey office building is now ongoing on Uson Island, Coron, facing the town of Busuanga.

It is being constructed on the 13-hectare property of the BFAR in the said municipality, where a PHP50-million training center is also being built.

“Ginagawa na itong building ngayon para magkaroon tayo ng provincial office sa northern Palawan para iyong mga mangingisda doon di na kailangan pang pumunta sa Puerto Princesa para sa mga kailangan nila sa BFAR (It is now being constructed for us to have a provincial office in northern Palawan so that fishermen there need not go to Puerto Princesa for their transactions with BFAR),” Abrera said.

Once completed, the BFAR provincial office will cater to Coron and the municipalities of Linapacan, Busuanga, Culion, Agutaya, and others nearby.

Abrera said further they are looking at equipping the future provincial office with a cyanide detection test (CDT) laboratory to respond to the need of the government for a reliable enforcement tool against cyanide use in the live fish industry.

“Yan ang tinignan natin na dapat din na mailagay sa provincial office na ito para iyong mga nagbu-buhay-buhay ay di na dadalhin ang mga samples nila sa Puerto Princesa na napakalayo (That is what we are considering to also have in the provincial office for those who are in the live fish industry so they won’t bring their samples to Puerto Princesa that is quite far from them),” he added.

Abrera said in December 2017, they had turned over to the municipal government of Coron a PHP3-million community fish landing center (CFLC) to improve the socioeconomic conditions of fishing communities in Coron to prevent the high poverty incidence.

He explained it is part of President Rodrigo Duterte’s commitment to deliver precise interventions and promote inclusive growth in the fishery sector.

“Nauna nang natapos ang kanilang community fish landing, at nakita natin na nagkaroon na sila ng maayos na facility at storage ng marine products (We have completed first the community fish landing and we saw that they now have a facility for storing marine products),” he added.

The fish landing center is located in Barangay Decabobo, and is equipped with a cold storage facility and eight stainless stalls.

PH, Malaysia to sign maritime security pact vs. transnational crimes

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- The Philippines and Malaysia maritime police forces are expected to sign soon a formal agreement for stronger maritime security cooperation against transnational crimes, terrorism, and emerging nautical concerns.

Director of Philippine National Police-Maritime Group (PNP-MG) Chief Superintendent Rodelio B. Jocson on Wednesday said they are discussing the fundamentals of the agreement before it can be signed.

The agreement will particularly focus on the areas of operations, undertaking coordinated maritime activities in law enforcement, and prevention of kidnapping, vessel hijacking, terrorism, trafficking of persons, smuggling of migrants, illicit drug trafficking, arms smuggling, and other illegal and criminal acts, he said.

Jocson is in Puerto Princesa for the 2nd Bilateral Meeting of the Marine Police Force-Royal Malaysia Police (MPF-RMP) and the PNP-MG held in Hue Hotel in this city.

“Actually, this will be tackled within the day. It has not yet been signed because we’re still reviewing the terms and condition. Maybe we will finish this within the day, if not maybe we will do that in the next bilateral meeting,” he said in a media conference.

Commissioner of Police Dato’ Sri Zulkifli Bin Abdullah, who is the Head of Delegates and the Director of the Internal Security and Public Order Department of the MPF-RMP, added it will also include cooperation in protecting marine resources from poaching

“For your information, I am also the chairman of what we call the Green Committee in the Royal Malaysia Police, and we have a very keen concern for protecting the marine environment. It has not been discussed yet, but it is important to protect the environment, and we will include that in the next meetings we will have,” he said.

He added that any abuse of the marine environment is also “a crime that should be taken seriously,” especially so that they have had successful operations against illegal logging and poaching of critically-endangered marine wildlife in their own maritime territory.

Jocson said the bilateral meeting will also discuss a lot about coordination protocols to fight transnational crimes and to forge a stronger relationship with their Malaysian maritime police counterparts.

“In order to be successful in preventing transnational crimes, we need our neighbors because if we do not know them, the trust is different. This kind of meeting will forge stronger relationships between us and our personnel,” he said.

Under the proposed agreement, its implementation will respect the principles of sovereignty, territory, non-interference in internal affairs, equality between the two nations, common interests, and international laws.

It will aim to establish a Joint Enforcement Working Group, a Joint Communication Plan to ensure accurate and timely information exchange and intelligence sharing, designate a Maritime Area of Common Concern and Common Area of Operations, and identify Rendezvous Points for smooth and coordinated maritime activities.

The proposed forms of cooperation are the exchange of information and intelligence sharing as may be permitted, the conduct of capacity building activities, and search and rescue or retrieval activities during disasters and emergency.

PAL to service new San Vicente airport soon

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- The branch manager of the Philippine Airlines’ (PAL) local office here said the recently opened airport in San Vicente town, southern Palawan, will be added to the four new domestic points the airline will service from Clark International Airport (CIA) in Pampanga.

In an interview with the local media on Tuesday, Joel Paredes said the San Vicente Airport (SVA) was included in the airline's new domestic points due to the number of foreign and domestic tourists that want to visit the town and El Nido.

He said beginning October 28, a PAL flight will leave the CIA at 7:30 a.m. and will arrive at the SVA at 9:10 a.m. It will fly back to Clark at 11:20 a.m.

Paredes said the addition of the SVA in the domestic points of PAL will result to more tourism developments and increased arrivals in San Vicente, an emerging travel and leisure hub in the northern part of the province.

“In the near future, like what they say, it’s the next Boracay because it has a beautiful white beach but it has to be really developed,” he said.

He said the route will be serviced by their 86-seater Bombardier Q400 that has a spacious layout.

Paredes added that property owners in San Vicente can take advantage of the opening of the airport by setting up businesses that cater to tourists.

He said a local transport service terminal should also open to ferry guests to destinations in the town and to El Nido. James Inawasan, municipal administrator of San Vicente, said earlier that the opening on May 10 of the SVA is expected to bring in 100,000 tourists this year.

“San Vicente’s tourist arrival has been increasing in the past three years, and now that it’s been opened for commercial operation, we’re expecting to log in around 100,000 foreign and domestic tourists,” he said.

San Vicente is a first-class municipality situated on the northwestern side of the main island of Palawan.

It is the first “Flagship Tourism Enterprise Zone” of the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA), which is home to a 14-kilometer white beach popularly known as “Long Beach,” and 22 islands and islets that boast of pristine blue waters and swimming coves.

Palawan pushes youth to pursue career in agriculture, fisheries

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- An ex-officio member of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (Provincial Board) of Palawan urged local government units (LGUs) on Tuesday to inspire their youth to go for careers in agriculture and fisheries and take over family farming and food supply.

Board Member Clarito Prince Demaala IV said the majority of the youth nowadays are into careers dealing with modern technology, leaving behind farming and threatening food security.

“Karamihan sa mga millennials ngayon ay ayaw ng mag-stay sa mga bayan nila at gusto na lang sa city. We all know na Palawan is blessed in the sea and farmlands, so dapat ma-encourage sila na kahit papaano, kahit iba ang gusto nila sa buhay, sana kung ang parents nila ay farmer dapat i-practice din nila (Most of the millennials these days no longer wants to stay in their towns, they all want to live in the city. We all know Palawan is blessed in the sea and farmlands, so they should be encouraged even if they want something different, even if they want their lives to be different if their parents are farmers at least help in farming),” Demaala said during the regular session.

He said encouraging the youth to pursue careers in agriculture and fisheries does not mean he does not recognize the importance of other academic paths but he wanted to promote farming and fishing livelihood.

Demaala said that a survey conducted recently said the average age of the Filipino farmers is 50 to 52. This means Filipino youths have become less interested in agriculture and fisheries.

“Nagkakaroon ng pangamba na someday ‘yong ating mga farmers at fisherfolks ay mawawalan na ng magmamana sa sakahan at pangisdaan. Kaya sana ang mga parents na farmers ay maituro at maipraktis ng kanilang anak ang kanilang kinagisnan na hanap-buhay (There is worry that someday there will be fewer people to till lands and go fishing. It is our hope that parents can pass on their farming and fishing skills to their children for livelihood),” he said.

The provincial board member said if the worry is about less income, there are already many opportunities in agriculture and fisheries these days and related careers are now being offered to ensure higher profits.

The local and national governments are also not stopping in making sure that technologies are upgraded and that agricultural and fishing programs and projects are being offered, Demaala added.

Foreign youth group visits Palawan

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- A group of 13 young people from different countries on Monday visited the Capitol for a courtesy call as part of the 11th edition this year of GenFest, an international gathering of young people that promotes unity beyond all borders.

They came from as far as Brazil, Africa, Germany, and Mexico to connect with the Focolare Movement in Palawan.

Norma Valencia, an organizer of GenFest in an interview, said the Focolare Movement is a worldwide religious organization that encourages the ideals of unity and universal brotherhood regardless of cultural background, traditions, and race.

“They did not only visit to see government leadership, but to also look at what is happening in Palawan -- in the development, how far it has gone in different municipalities, and how it makes an impact on the lives of the people,” she said.

She said the visit will likewise see how the province can be promoted by the young people to their friends and families in their countries.

The youth group was welcomed at the Provincial Capitol by lawyer Joshua Bolusa, the provincial administrator; provincial tourism officer Maribel Buñi, and Ceasar Sammy Magbanua of the Office of Governor Jose Alvarez.

On July 4, the provincial government will be holding a cultural activity for the youth group dubbed “Barrio Fiesta” at the Victoriano J. Rodriguez Hall.

It will showcase various traditional and cultural presentations about Palawan where they could learn from.

They are also expected to plant trees, island hop tour the Honda Bay Islands, and attend cultural seminars.

The main program of the Genfest 2018 will be held at the World Trade Center, Metro Manila, on July 6-8. Valencia said the international gathering hopes to inspire young people “to work together and embrace unity in diversity and to create a more empathetic world.”

New municipal hospital opens in southern Palawan

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY -- Residents of Narra and other nearby towns in southern Palawan can expect upgraded medical health care following the opening recently of the PHP117-million Narra Municipal Hospital (NMH) that has a 50-bed capacity.

“With the opening on June 27 of the new hospital in Narra, Governor (Jose) Alvarez expects that medical and health care services will improve in the town and will also be able to serve others in nearby municipalities,” said Gil Acosta Jr., information officer of the provincial government of Palawan, on Monday.

He said the construction of the NMH in Barangay Antipuluan was jointly undertaken by the province with the Department of Health-Mimaropa and the municipal government under Mayor Lucena Demaala.

Out of the total budget for construction, the amount of PHP14,871,550 went to the purchasing of hospital equipment.

The NMH has a laboratory room, CT scan room, dietary and linen building, isolation building, material recovery facility, doctor and nurse quarters, mortuary, powerhouse, and other facilities.

Acosta said the hospital is equipped with a CCTV to monitor daily activities and prevent untoward incidents, paging system, intercom, and fire protection and alarm system.

Meanwhile, Demaala expressed thanks for the new hospital, which she said is “an important element of the health care system” for residents of Narra.

“Nagpupugay tayo sa Panginoon dahil ang inaasam-asam natin ay nandito na, tatlong taon nating inantay ito. Ito ang commitment ni Gov. Alvarez under IHELP Program. Itong hospital ay bukas din sa ating karatig munisipyo lalo na sa mga residente ng Narra (We praise God for the accomplishment of what we have hoped for, waiting for it for three years. It is the commitment of Gov. Alvarez under IHELP Program. This hospital is open to everyone in neighboring towns, especially for the people of Narra),” she said.

IHELP (Infrastructure, Health, Education, Livelihood, Protection of the Environment) is the provincial government’s development agenda for Palawan.

She said NMH is now ready to operate with three doctors, 14 nurses, five nurse attendants, and four registered midwives.

Palawan signs pact for establishment of PAF base in Balabac town

By Celeste Anna Formoso

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY -- The Philippine Air Force (PAF) will establish a military air base in Balabac town in southern Palawan.

This, after Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez and PAF commanding general Lt. General Galileo Gerard Kintanar Jr. inked a memorandum of agreement that would establish the base.

A statement sent Monday by the office of Gil Acosta Jr., information officer of the provincial government, said the "Balabac Air Base" will be set up in a 300-hectare area in Barangay Catagupan, Balabac, southern Palawan.

Quoting Alvarez, the statement said that setting aside the property for the PAF base is the provincial government’s contribution to efforts to secure the West Philippines Sea and the southern border.

“Indeed, this is a big milestone for us, as we impart on securing the future of the West Philippine Sea including our southern borders. Rest assured that we have a government here that is ready anytime,” it quoted Alvarez.

The statement, quoting Kintanar, also said the establishment of the air base will be an important milestone in the history of PAF and the provincial government due to the role it will have in sheltering equipment and personnel.

“This is a significant and historic event giving us 300 hectares of precious land in southern Palawan, in a place where we’ll hopefully call later as the Balabac Air Base of the PAF,” the statement said, quoting Kintanar.

Alvarez's authority to sign the agreement is in accordance with Resolution 13644, series of 2018, approved by Sangguniang Panlalawigan members. (PNA)

15K volunteers, guests join Puerto Princesa's 28th Feast of the Forest

By Gerardo Reyes, Jr (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- All roads here on Saturday led to the lowland forest of Barangay Montible for the 28th Pista Y Ang Kagueban (Feast of the Forest), a mass tree planting event that reminds city residents of the vital role forests play in preventing global warming and building sustainable communities.

An estimated 15,000 volunteers, residents, and guests of Puerto Princesa assembled in Montible as early as 4 a.m. to take part in the planting of 10,000 seedlings of a variety of tree species that will later provide shelter and food for birds.

Mayor Lucilo Bayron, who led the tree planting feast, said Montible was chosen as the site of this year’s Pista celebration because it has recently become a significant territory for birds, especially for the critically-endangered Philippine cockatoo or Red-vented cockatoo (katala).

“Ito ay kinikilalang habitat, sabi ng mga mahihilig sa bird watching ay dito matatagpuan ang maraming ibon kaya ito ang pinili para makapagtanim ng mga fruit trees at iba pang mga matataas na kahoy. Kailangan din nating protektahan ang mga endemic at pambihirang ibon na dito lang matatagpuan sa Palawan (This place is recognized as a habitat, according to bird watching enthusiasts, that’s why this was chosen as planting site for fruit and other tall species of trees. We need to protect endemic and rare birds that can only be found in Palawan),” Bayron said.

He said that to date, at least five poachers and illegal loggers had been arrested in Montible. It has also become a hot spot for informal settlers who illegally occupy forestlands in the area.

With the trees planted Saturday, the city government would have regular workers keeping watch of the barangay that will soon be home, too, to the Montible & Lapu-Lapu Water Project by the Puerto Princesa City Water District.

“Itong area na ito ay nagiging subject ng illegal occupation. People are squatting, kaya kailangan natin itong ma-proteksyunan from those illegal occupants (This area has become a subject of illegal occupation. People are squatting that’s why we need to protect it from illegal occupants,” he said.

Bayron hinted that this year’s edition of the forest feast will not be the last due to the importance of the site to the city’s environmental conservation and protection goals. Continuously holding the Pista Y Ang Kagueban in the area, he further said, would help ease the pressure it has suffered in recent times due to persistent attempts by illegal occupants to squat on lands.

“Malaki ang ating pasasalamat sa mga nag-participate ngayon, pati na yung mga nauna sa atin na nagpasimula nito, namana na natin ang sinimulan nilang pag-create ng mga kagubatan (We appreciate everyone’s participation in this, even the past city government officials who started this and left to us the legacy of rehabilitating the forest),” he said.

Meanwhile, Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer Felizardo Cayatoc of the local Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said the mass tree planting will be credited as the city government’s contribution to the National Greening Program (NGP) reforestation drive.

“Ito ay magiging part ng accomplishment ng city government sa NGP natin. Atin natin itong sinusuportahan dahil sa magandang layunin na pagyamanin ang environment (It will become part of the city government’s accomplishments in the NGP. We support this because of its good intention to rehabilitate the forest),” he said.

Among those planted were Narra, African kapok, yellow shower trees, and wild mangosteen -- trees that birds love to feed on. The Pista Y Ang Kagueban, which is the Cuyunon language equivalent of “Pista ng Kagubatan,” was established in 1991 by the Palawan Integrated Area Development Project Office to institutionalize forest protection and conservation amongst the youth and city residents.

DSWD pilots UCT for social pensioners in Palawan town

By Celeste Anna Formoso (PNA)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan -- The Department of Social Welfare and Development-Mimaropa has piloted Saturday the Unconditional Cash Transfer (UCT) for 988 social pensioners in Brooke’s Point, southern Palawan.

The distribution of the government cash grant is in accordance with Section 82 of Republic Act 10963 or the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law which is meant to offset the effect of rising prices of commodities on social pensioners.

In a statement sent to the Philippine News Agency (PNA), DSWD Mimaropa Regional Director Wilma Naviamos said the PHP2.4-million cash aid was distributed to 272 social pensioners in Poblacion 1, 211 in Poblacion 2, and 505 in Barangay Pangobilian, Brooke’s Point.

“Ang ayudang ibinibigay po namin sa inyo ngayon sa UCT ay mayroong kasamang pagmamahal at pagkalinga ng pamahalaan. Kayo ay kinakalinga at inaaruga namin. Kahit gaano kalayo ay pupuntahan namin upang mailapit sa inyo ang serbisyo ng gobyerno (The UCT cash grant that we are providing is filled with love and compassion. We will visit you even if you live in the farthest and the most isolated barangay to provide you the services of the government),” she said.

Naviamos said an estimated 10 million households or individuals will receive UCT cash grants. Of this, three million are indigent senior citizens who are also beneficiaries of the DSWD’s Social Pension Program with the help of local government units and social development offices.

According to the statement, included in the figure are 4.4 million beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4Ps, while the remaining 5.6 million will be selected from the Listahanan or National Household Targeting System (NHTS), which will go through validation.

The UCT will be implemented in three years. For 2018, each family will receive PHP200 per month or a total of PHP2,400 a year through the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) cash cards.

This will increase to PHP300 per month or PHP3,600 annually for both 2019 and 2020.

The distribution of the cash grants in Brooke’s Point was done by the DSWD Mimaropa in cooperation with the LBP and the municipal government of Brooke’s Point.