Palawan News June 2014

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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 fisherman’s banca: Fast, cheap and do-it-yourself

By Gregg Yan and Sophia Dedace (MST News)

The future banca: fast, cheaper and Do-It-Yourself.

And just in time for the fisherfolk of the Visayas and Palawan who lost 30,000 of their double outrigger canoes to Typhoon Yolanda.

Blueprints and molds to make a lightweight fiberglass version of the banca have been rolled out for fisherfolk by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)-Philippines.

Fishermen and boat builders in Leyte and Northern Palawan have made 600 fiberglass banca and they have been trained to train others to make the sleek craft.

“Fiberglass boats are faster, cheaper and easier to make,” explained naval architect and indigenous watercraft expert Ramon Binamira, Jr. who designed WWF’s fiberglass model that is 15 feet long, 14 inches wide and weighs 30 kilograms.

Two persons can easily carry the fiberglass banca for fast safekeeping whenever a typhoon nears.

“Fiberglass is now widely available, relatively cheap, and easy to build boats from,” Binamira said.

Compared to wooden bancas, fiberglass boats are watertight because of the fiber-reinforced plastic hulls that are one continuous piece, preventing leaks and reducing maintenance costs.

Fiberglass boats do not shrink in contrast to wooden hulls that shrink or swell when brought out of the water and laid up under the sun. The fiberglass is rot-proof and resistant to shipworms and other marine borers.

Binamira said the fiberglass hull is at least thrice more puncture-resistant than a banca with an 8- to 10-millimeter wooden frame.

“My wooden boats last for only two to three years,” said Benjamin Pedrero of Tacloban who lost his home, boat and 30 relatives in the deadly storm. “This can probably last me 20 years, even a lifetime.”

A traditional wooden boat takes him 10 to 20 days, on average, to build; a fiberglass boat only takes about one to two days to construct, said Pedrero, one of the trainees in fiberglass boat-building.

To veer away from band-aid solutions and dole-outs, the program teaches fishermen who lost their boats how to build their own fiberglass bancas and replicate boat molds for future use by succeeding generations.

The fishermen and boat-builders, who received training for a week, can then transfer their knowledge and skills to fellow mariners in their coastal communities. Key resources like boat molds, tools and training modules are provided to sustain the building of fiberglass bancas for the long term.

“Bancas for the Philippines went beyond physical re-engineering,” said WWF-Philippines Vice-chair and CEO Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan. “In a sense, it involved re-booting social software.”

The boats of the future, fiberglass bancas allow for simpler and more efficient construction through open-access technology. One mold can be used to make at least 20 banca hulls.

“Our goal is to meld the old with the new – modernizing the way we build a boat whose design was already refined by generations of fishers,” said Binamira whose extensive body of work in naval architecture includes two decades of boat-making in Bohol. SciPhil

(Gregg Yan is the Communications Manager and Sophia Dedace is the Communications Officer of WWF-Philippines.)

Puerto Princesa praised as sports events host

By Rey C. Lachica

Puerto Princesa City — The 1st Puerto Princesa Canoe Kayak Dragonboat Championships is just halfway through its competition yesterday but the Philippine Canoe Kayak Federation (PCKF) already gave the city an excellent grade for its first hosting job.

“We are grateful for the support and cooperation of the city government. They did an excellent job,” said Jonne Go, president of (PCKF). “I just hope this is just the start of our partnership in developing the sport here.

“First time host sila but they left no stone unturned,” said Go. “From the planning stage up to the tournament proper, andyan sila at karamay mo.”

With its strategic location, Go believes the city has a strong potential to become a haven of paddlers, small wonder that thousands showed up to witness the morning heats dominated by the Philippine Marine Corps.

With the growing number of hotels, Go said staging an international tournament in this city known for its underground river poses no problem.

The race course, Go said, just needs little improvements to pass international standard.

“Right now we are looking for young paddlers whom we can train and nurture to become future members of the Philippine team,” said Go. “Malaki talaga ang potential ng Puerto Princessa.”

Aside from its ideal location, Go said the city government, led by Mayor Lucilo Bayron, is sincere in its drive to promote the sport.

Bayron, meantime, vowed to stage more tournaments here to encourage and inspire his constituents to take up the sport or any kind of watersports because of the vastness of their natural resources, not to mention the luxury of having an open sea.

Three more teams beat the deadline Saturday night, raising the number of participants in the tournament also sponsored by Smart, Globe, Cignal TV, Itoy’s Coffe haus, Sunlight Guest Hotel, BET Construction and AR Lustre Construction to 15.

Aside from the Marines, also taking part in the one-day tournament offering prize money are Boracay All Stars, Kata Bom, Honda Bay Team, Navy, Naraga (Palawan), Manila Dragons, John Lacson College (Iloilo City), Manila Blazing Paddlers, PDRT Fireblades, Raha (Palawan), Pyros, Phil. Titans, La Salle and Iwahig.

DOH Region IV-B Targets Patients in Remote Locations

(DFF, Medical Observer)

MANILA, PHILIPPINES – No tough terrain, harsh clime or intolerable distance should stop a frontline government agency in providing a basic public service, especially those designed to save lives and limbs, to the people.

Thus, the persistence award goes to the Department of Health regional office in MIMAROPA (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan) as it vowed to turn over more bicycles with sidecars, boats or water ambulance and even horses to deliver basic health services in the community especially in far-flung areas where transportation is limited.

Initially, 20 utility bicycles were turned over to barangay health workers (BHWs) in these provinces to deliver basic health services in remote communities where transportation is limited.

mimaA BHW is a volunteer health worker who has undergone a BHW training program accredited by government or non-government organization and accredited by the Local Health Board of the province.

“We are identifying more areas in the region where we can provide simple but essential means of transportation for our BHWs to reach distant communities faster and more efficient. These bicycles will be the initial provision and we are looking to distribute more bicycles with sidecars to transport patients, boats or water ambulance and even horses in the mountainous areas of the provinces”, said DoH-MIMAROPA Regional Director Eduardo Janairo.

Janairo issued the statement during the 3rd Community Volunteer Health Workers Convention held at the Puerto Princesa City Coliseum, Palawan last June 21.

He noted that bicycles are useful as a commuter vehicle, and they can also be equipped with a basket where a BHW can place his/her belongings. Also to be given are BHW Kit with blood-pressure apparatus, first-aid medicines, and vest for easy identification of the health worker.

There are currently 13,765 BHWs currently serving in five provinces of MIMAROPA with 239 males and 13,538 females. Oriental Mindoro has the largest number with 4,051; Palawan with 3,596; Occidental Mindoro with 2,818; Romblon – 1,879; and Marinduque – 1,421.

Janairo said…

“…the regional DoH office, in coordination with the local governments of MIMAROPA, aims to deploy BHWs (barangay health workers) in all the barangays of the five provinces.”

He added that the regional office would continue conducting series of BHW training course to upgrade the skills and competencies of health workers in the region to be able to attain the 1BHW:20 household ratio.

“Each BHW must be knowledgeable about Primary Health Care such as duties and responsibilities in the community as primary service providers, maternal and child health, disease prevention and control, intensive family planning, NHIP or Philhealth, oral health and basic instruction on first aid during emergencies,” the regional DoH chief said.

The target number of BHWs to be deployed is 28,202 for the total population of 2,820,248 in the region.

A total of 234 BHWs have already been trained from March to May this year and are now deployed in six municipalities in Marinduque and 14 municipalities of Oriental Mindoro.

WESCOM rescues missing Malaysian-owned barge off West Philippines Sea

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

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, June 27 (PNA) – The reported missing Malaysian-owned barge was rescued off the West Philippines Sea (WPS) by air and naval assets that went on a search and rescue mission since second week of June under the Western Command (WESCOM) in Palawan.

Lt. Cherryl Tindog, spokesperson of the WESCOM, said Friday that “utilizing air and naval assets, WESCOM conducted search and rescue mission on the reported missing Malaysian-owned civilian barge off the WPS waters.”

As of 7 a.m. Friday, the barge is anchored at Ulugan Bay in Barangay Marufinas in this city, while Philippine authorities are still awaiting for its owner to tow it back to Malaysia.

Tindog said WESCOM’s search and rescue mission was ordered after officials of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG)-Palawan District alerted them regarding the missing civilian barge and tugboat.

The military spokesperson said developing reports hold that a fishing vessel sighted an abandoned barge floating 5 nautical miles east off Hasa-Hasa (also Half Moon) Shoal, which was later identified as the missing Malaysian-owned flat-bottomed boat Hub 18 that carries around a hundred container vans.

She did not say if the fishing vessel that made the sighting is owned by Filipino fishermen.

”Upon receipt of the report, the WESCOM immediately alerted its units for possible search and rescue mission and dispatched Philippine Navy Islander 314 to conduct aerial search. PNI 314 sighted the missing barge 15 nautical miles southwest off Abad Santos Shoal drifting to northeast direction,” said Tindog in a statement released to the Philippine News Agency (PNA).

Naval supply ship BRP Bacolod City (LC 550) scoured the seas and located Wednesday morning the said missing barge about 22 nautical miles northeast off Abad Santos Shoal.

Tindog added that the owner of the barge confirmed to authorities that its crewmen were rescued by a Vietnamese boat on June 22, and were brought to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia.

The owner expressed that a tugboat will be sent to tow the barge back to Malaysia.

According to the Philippine Navy International Liaison Officer in Singapore, the container vans aboard the barge contain used cars, spares, frozen fish and personal effects. The owner declared that there are no dangerous items among the cargoes.

At present, WESCOM continues to collaborate with concerned agencies in order to ensure that lives and properties at sea are safeguarded during emergency crisis.

The WESCOM maintains its position to ensure that the incident will not pose any threat or disaster, and hazard to navigation.

WESCOM ups efforts to bring gov't services to people in Puerto Princesa

By Clarinda I. Catimpo [(PNA), CTB/CARF/CIC/EBP]

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, June 26 (PNA) -- Intent on bringing government services to indigent residents here, the Western Command (WESCOM) and leaders of the city government joined together anew for the second round of “Damayan” in three barangays Wednesday.

Held in barangays Napsan, Bagong Bayan and Simpocan in the west coast of this city, Damayan which was launched in April under the administration of Mayor Lucilo Bayron, aims to bring public service to far-flung areas in Puerto Princesa through supplementary assistance and free services to the indigents.

The services it provides are health services, giving proper information to the locality through information, education and communication (IEC) on health, and training through capability and skills building.

The outreach program is a collaborative effort of the City Government of Puerto Princesa, the Western Command, 570th Composite Tactical Wing, Naval Forces West, 3rd Marine Brigade and Joint Task Force Peacock.

The church, different national and local government agencies, are also partnering to bring health services to the community, said the WESCOM.

The program’s thrust is to carry-out the city government’s programs in education, health and livelihood in the 66 barangays in the city.

More than 1,000 residents of these barangays, most of whom cannot afford to pay for even the most basic medical service, availed of the free medical check-up, dental services, and medicines brought by the soldiers.

“We wish to establish our role not only as protector of the people but also as a reliable partner in achieving progress and development for the community,” WESCOM Chief Lt. Gen. Roy O. Deveraturda said.

In April this year, “Damayan” was brought to barangays Langogan, Binduyan and Concepcion, located north of Puerto Princesa City.

The program works on the principles of cooperation and unified efforts of all concerned – much like the present Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) of the AFP which is called “Bayanihan.”

“The principle at work here is very simple and – as our recent activities have shown—very effective: if we all work together, then, we can achieve whatever it is that we set out to do,” the WESCOM Chief said.

Palawan solon stresses importance of day care workers in development of children

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

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, June 25 (PNA) – Day care workers should be appreciated for their contributions in early childhood education and development, a Palawan solon said Tuesday following the holding of the 21st Provincial Annual Day Care Workers Forum during the recently concluded Baragatan 2014.

Provincial Board Member Roseller Pineda said day care workers in the province should be lauded for their pre-school support and positive influences that can have long-term impacts in the lives of many Palaweño children despite having scanty resources.

“Our day care workers are the first to be there in the pre-school lives of our children. They are the ones to provide the care our children need in the day care centers when parents need to work for the family to stay above water,” Pineda said, adding something must be done to also improve their standards of living for them to be able to work more and be inspired to take the temporary roles of parents.

Pineda spoke well of the day care workers in Palawan after he attended as guests the 21st Provincial Annual Day Care Workers Forum held during the Baragatan 2014 celebration on June 20-21 with the theme “Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) Paunlarin, Kapakanan ng Day Care Workers Siguraduhin.”

Attended by over 900 day care workers, the 2-day annual convention was called by the leadership of Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez to determine their needs and how else the provincial government can help them in their areas, said Pineda.

On ECCD, Pineda said the goal of the provincial leadership is to evaluate the competency and the commitment of the day care workers in the kind of service they provide, its current quality, the facilities that support it and what else is needed to be done, community and local government support, and others, for an effective transition of day care students to formal education.

He furthered said that as education is one of the most important agenda under IHELP, Alvarez’s leadership is steadfast in its commitment to ensure that pre-schoolers are given the kind of support they need to be able to move to formal education successfully, and eventually become good citizens for Palawan.

The event was also an opportunity, he added, for day care updates; ECCD Literacy Updates for 3-4 years old, as well as the Dance Therapy for Pre-School Children approach.

For their hard work, the provincial government, led by Vice Governor Dennis Socrates and Provincial Social Welfare and Development Officer Apolonia David, provided incentives to day care workers who have already served for many years.

Four day care workers were awarded P5,000 each for rendering 25 years service. They are Dulce Amor Maat of Agutaya, Floriana Bonales and Joy Bawing of Narra, and Rebecca Manalo of Taytay.

At least 21 day care workers, on the other hand, received P4,000 for 20 years in service; 79 day care workers received P1,000 for 10 years in service; and 93 received P600 each for 10 years in service.

Street dancing, fireworks display end Baragatan 2014 celebration in Palawan


PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, June 24 (PNA) – A colorful and friendly street dancing competition called “Saraotan sa Dalan”held early afternoon Monday, and a 20-minute beautiful fireworks display early evening successfully ended the week-long celebration of Baragatan 2014 in Palawan Monday.

Caesar Sammy Magbanua, the overall chairman of the celebration, said this year’s annual convergence event not only highlighted the importance of commemorating the 112th Civil Government Anniversary of Palawan but also the cohesiveness of all Palaweños though they all come from different political backgrounds, beliefs and traditions.

“I think the most important thing during this year’s Baragatan is the display of unity, of cohesiveness… that no matter what you’re political beliefs are, or who you rooted for before, we’re here together celebrating the past that made Palawan what it is today,” Magbanua told the Philippine News Agency (PNA).

Of the 23 municipalities that Palawan has, 20 participated in the Local Government Unit Trade Fair and set up their own booths as early as June 9, to market their own produce. Some sold products under the One Town, One Product (OTOP).

Even the distant island town of Coron, which was affected by super typhoon Yolanda in November 2013, actively participated. Its booth was among those frequented at the Capitol Grounds for the Abaca woven bags it sold.

On June 23, which is a Special Non-Working Public Holiday in Palawan based on Republic Act 9748, the week-long Baragatan was capped with the “Saraotan sa Dalan” (street dancing in Cuyunon dialect) competition with eight rival dance groups from eight municipalities.

Wearing colorful costumes, body paints and big smiles on their faces, all participating dance groups performed in two stations along the main road Jose Rizal Avenue, with one final for the judges at the Cory Park, Provincial Capitol Compound.

The dance group from the municipality of Bataraza won in the competition with P200,000 cash prize from the organizers and sponsors of Baragatan 2014.

The town of Quezon came in second with P100,000 cash prize, and the third by the municipality of Narra. All three winning dance groups are from municipalities in southern Palawan.

In the evening, a 20-minute fireworks display illuminated the Cory Park and the Junction 1 area shortly before midnight while the popular rock band Spongecola performed.

“Governor (Jose) Alvarez is thankful for the participation and support of everyone to the successful celebration of Baragatan in Palawan. This year’s celebration was his first Baragatan and he made it a venue to mark his development plans for the province and most importantly, its people,” he said.

Earlier, during the opening, it can be recalled that Alvarez announced some of his big dreams for the province, including his hope for the construction of two international airports that would open fresh opportunities, particularly in the tourism industry.

DOH provides bicycles, other transport to barangay health workers in MIMAROPA

By Lady Marie dela Torre [(PNA), LAM/SDT/UTB]

MANILA, June 23 (PNA) -- The Department of Health (DOH) in MIMAROPA (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan) has vowed to turn over more bicycles with sidecars, boats or water ambulance and even horses to deliver basic health services in the community especially in far-flung areas where transportation is limited.

Initially, 20 utility bicycles were turned-over to barangay health workers (BHW) in these provinces to be used in their delivery of basic health services in remote communities where transportation is limited.

“We are identifying more areas in the region where we can provide simple but essential means of transportation for our BHWs to reach distant communities faster and more efficient. These bicycles will be the initial provision and we are looking to distribute more bicycles with sidecars to transport patients, boats or water ambulance and even horses in the mountainous areas of the provinces”, said DOH-MIMAROPA Regional Director Eduardo Janairo.

Janairo issued the statement during the 3rd Community Volunteer Health Workers Convention held at the Puerto Princesa City Coliseum, Palawan last June 21.

Janairo said that bicycles are useful as a commuter vehicle and they are also equipped with a basket where a BHW can place his/her belongings. Also to be given are BHW Kit with Blood Pressure Apparatus, first aid medicines and vest for easy identification of the health worker.

Currently, there are 13,765 BHWs currently serving in five provinces of MIMAROPA with 239 males and 13,538 females. Oriental Mindoro has the largest number with 4,051; Palawan with 3,596; Occidental Mindoro with 2,818; Romblon – 1,879; and Marinduque – 1,421.

According to Janairo, the region in coordination with the local governments of MIMAROPA aims to deploy BHWs in all the barangays of the five provinces.

He added they will continue conducting series of BHW Training Course to upgrade the skills and competencies of health workers in the region to be able to attain the 1BHW:20 household ratio.

"Each BHW must be knowledgeable about Primary Health Care such as duties and responsibilities in the community as primary service providers, maternal and child health, disease prevention and control, intensive family planning, NHIP or Philhealth, oral health and basic instruction on first aid during emergencies”, said Janairo.

The target number of BHWs to be deployed is 28,202 for the total population of 2,820,248 in the region.

A total of 234 BHWs were already trained from March to May 2014 and are now deployed in six municipalities in the province of Marinduque and 14 municipalities of Oriental Mindoro.

A BHW is a volunteer health worker who has undergone a BHW training program accredited by government or non-government organization and accredited by the Local Health Board of the province.

Murderers wander with machetes at idyllic Palawan prison

By CECIL MORELLA (Agence France-Presse)

IWAHIG - One hundred convicts armed with machetes wander through a vast prison without walls in one of the Philippines' most beautiful islands, a unique approach to reforming criminals.

Two token guards with shotguns slung on their shoulders relax in the shade nearby as the blue-shirted group of inmates chop weeds at a rice paddy at the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm in Palawan.

But Arturo, who is 21 years into a life sentence for murder, has no plans to escape, preferring to keep his chances of an eventual commutation or even a pardon.

"I don't want to live the life of a rat, panicked into bolting into a hole each time a policeman comes my way," the 51-year-old inmate, whose full name cannot be used in keeping with prison regulations, told AFP.

Surrounded by a thick coastal mangrove forest, a mountain range and a highway, the 26,000-hectare (64,000-acre) Iwahig jail is one of the world's largest open prisons, more than two times the size of Paris.

A single guard sits at its largely ceremonial main gate, routinely waving visitors through without inspection.

A shallow ditch, but no walls, is all that separates the 3,186 prisoners from the outside world.

A mere 14 kilometers (nine miles) away is Puerto Princesa, a city of 250,000 people and a top tourist destination as the gateway to an island famed for stunning dive sites, a giant underground river system and beautiful beaches.

A steady stream of local and foreign tourists visit Iwahig's quaint, pre-World War II prison administration buildings and a handicrafts shop, which is manned by inmates who have made the items on sale.

A few hundred hectares of the land is devoted to rice paddies, which sit picturesquely on either side of a fire-tree-lined dirt road. Ducks, goats, cattle and egrets feed quietly on newly harvested plots.

Fish ponds, coconut plantations, corn fields and vegetable plots are scattered across the prison, although the bulk of the land remains covered by forest and mangroves.

Penal colony's harsh history

US colonial rulers established Iwahig in 1904 for political prisoners and Manila's worst inmates, seeking to isolate them in what was then a sparsely inhabited frontier about 600 kilometers (370 miles) from the nation's capital.

Prisoners were used to clear virgin rainforests for farming, which would in turn encourage migration from the archipelago's more populous areas.

After the Philippines won independence post-World War II, those who had served out their term were also given the option to clear and own up to six hectares of land.

Up until the 1970s, the prisons had much tougher security than today, with chain gangs of inmates the norm.

Most other jails in the Philippines continue with brutal conditions, with inmates packed beyond capacity in dingy, airless cells and having to take turns sleeping.

A fresh breath of reform

But at Iwahig, and four smaller penal farms in other provincial areas, authorities have sought to take advantage of the open spaces to create conditions that encourage the rehabilitation of inmates.

"This [farm work] serves as their preparation for getting back into a free society once they are released. It helps them adapt back to life as free men," said prison superintendent Richard Schwarzkopf.

Iwahig's inmates mostly come from Manila's main Bilibid prison, a far smaller facility that holds about 22,000 convicts and which requires periodic prisoner transfers to ease the over-crowding.

Instead of the squalid, sardine can-like cells of Bilibid, night quarters for most of Iwahig's inmates are lightly guarded buildings that are bigger than a basketball court, surrounded by barbed wire rather than concrete or metal walls.

About 50 lucky minimum-security inmates live full-time in straw-and-bamboo huts scattered along the penal farm, assigned to guard the crops, tractors and other implements.

There are just 150 maximum-security inmates who must work indoors and remain in a more tightly secured environment.

However, murderers and other previous maximum-security prisoners can qualify for the outdoors if they have served at least half their sentence and have a record of good behavior. A life sentence is regarded as a 40-year term.

Schwarzkopf said the modern approach to penology had been a success. He said less than 10 percent of Iwahig's prisoners became repeat offenders after being released, lower than the national average.

The jail has also had no recent history of riots or mass breakouts.

Schwarzkopf said there had been just one breakout since he took over leadership of the prison in 2012: involving four inmates serving terms for murder, attempted murder and car theft.

Three of them were swiftly captured, according to Schwarzkopf, although he declined to say which one of the four remained at large.

Prominent Puerto Princesa lawyer Herminia Caabay said she also regarded Iwahig's "humane" approach to inmates as a success.

"Riots are a sign of depression brought about by prison conditions. These usually happen at places where people are kept behind bars," Caabay said.

Convicted drug dealer Gamay, 39, said he treasured his time working the land as it helped him keep his mind off his wife, who had left him for another man.

"It stops me thinking bad things," said the stocky, tattooed former fish vendor, who began his 30-year sentence in Manila's Bilibid but was transferred to Iwahig seven years ago.

Gamay said living at Iwahig had allowed him to dream and prepare for a successful life back in society.

"The work experience helps you learn to stand on your own two feet... I want to go back to selling fish and save up to build my own house," he said.

Feature: UN, NGOs seek to ease pressure on coral reefs


EL NIDO, Philippines (Xinhua) - While patrolling the seas around the clock and chasing down errant fishermen are ideal interventions to preserve marine resources such as coral reefs, the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) believes that simply changing the way people do business or their habits when they go on vacation would also boost the efforts.

This is because, UNEP said, human activities have a big impact on marine resources. Aside from climate change, population increase and coastal development have also contributed significantly to the damage on coral reefs.

"A fifth of the world's coral reefs have been lost, and more than 60 percent is under immediate, direct threat. Climate change and ocean acidification will increasingly affect all reefs. What we do impact on reef health," said Jerker Tamelander, head of UNEP 's Coral Reef Unit.

UNEP singled out tourism as constituting a "significant pressure" on coral reefs. While tourism can bring in much-needed revenues for developing countries, the tendency of businesses to disregard the need to protect the environment so they can rake in more profits can exact a heavy toll on the natural resources of the Philippines.

For UNEP, this is simply unacceptable especially since this would mean the destruction of more natural resources such as coral reefs. Recognizing the need to put in place doable "best practices " that can be adopted by businesses, locals, and tourists, the UN unit partnered with Britain-based charity The Reef World Foundation and local non-government organization El Nido Foundation (ENF) to roll out the Green Fins approach in the Philippines.

Green Fins is a set of simple measures that seek to preserve coral reefs in popular diving sites in the country. UNEP and ENF organized a study tour for foreign and local journalists in El Nido town in the western Philippine province of Palawan. The tour is meant to showcase how the Green Fins approach is being implemented in El Nido.


El Nido (Spanish term for 'the nest') is a first class municipality located in the northwestern tip of Palawan province. It covers 18 villages, of which 16 are coastal villages and has a population of 39,095.

It was in the 1980s when the beauty of the town was discovered by a handful of tourists and domestic visitors. Scuba diving tours in El Nido became popular after Ten Knots Development Corp. (TKDC), a subsidiary of Japanese firm Nissin Sugar Manufacturing Corp., put up a resort for divers. To preserve El Nido and its marine resources, TKDC and Andres Soriano Corp. spearheaded the set up of ENF.

"Tourists shied away from El Nido due to malaria, criminals, and leprosy," said ENF Chairman Alberto Lim, who is also the country's former Tourism Secretary. Palawan Province, Lim noted, is home to the Iwahig Penal Colony and the Culion Leper Colony.

With malaria cases now significantly reduced in Palawan province and leprosy no longer a threat in Culion Island, El Nido and other towns in Palawan province have seen an influx of tourists and diving enthusiasts in recent years. Citing figures from the Municipal Tourism Office, Lim said tourist arrivals in El Nido rose to 62,960 last year, from 10,000 in 1994. Tourism has become the number one source of revenues for the local government in recent years.

"This alone has made it imperative to put in place a management strategy that will ensure the protection of remaining coral reefs in El Nido," he said.

ENF Executive Director Irma Rose Marcelo said El Nido has 447 reef-building coral species and 44 unconfirmed species. El Nido reefs are home to more than 800 fish species.

It is for this reason that the ENF decided to bring in the Green Fins approach to El Nido in 2012. Under the Green Fins approach, diving centers are assessed based on their adherence to the Code of Conduct which consists of 15 "best practices" that seek to minimize the impact of the diving and snorkeling industry on coral reefs. To protect marine resources, the Code of Conduct calls on diving centers to implement simple measures such as no stepping on coral.

"It makes sense to engage the diving and snorkeling industry because of the passion of people who are involved in it. Divers serve as 'eyes' that alert us about the damage on coral reefs," said Samantha Craven, project manager of The Reef-World Foundation.

Centers who agree to follow the Code of Conduct have to undergo a training session, followed by an assessment of their dive center at least once a year. This process requires allowing a fully- trained Green Fins coordinator to go to the dive center and carry out a one-hour training presentation. An assessor would then join one of the dive trips of the establishment to observe staff and their customers.

Assessors will then give corresponding scores to each criteria. Scores range from 0 (no environmental impact) to a maximum of 330. A lower score indicates that the establishment is more adherent to the Green Fins Code of Conduct.

In return for observing the Code of Conduct, a diving center becomes a Green Fins member. While UNEP and Reef World officials would not say whether membership in Green Fins has a direct impact on an establishment's bottom lines, they agree that a Green Fins establishment tends to attract more customers who want to patronize environmentally responsible businesses.

The local government of El Nido is looking at institutionalizing the Green Fins approach by requiring them to become a member before getting their license. El Nido Vice Mayor Nieves Rosento said this may be implemented next year.

To protect the town's marine resources, Rosento said there is a proposed "Eco-Tourism Ordinance" which will impose fines against tourists and boat men who will break coral reefs. "The local government is also planning to award outstanding establishments and eco-friendly dive shops."


Caera Travel & Tours is one of the pioneer Green Fins members that has seen its business grow exponentially in the last four years. Proprietor Ramil Panganiban said he started his business in March 2010 with a capital of only P500 ($11). His informed people about his business via a notice printed on a small coupon bond.

"When I started, I rented boats for my tours. Through hard work and diligence as well as our focus on providing excellent customer service, we now own three boats," Panganiban said.

Before he became a Green Fins member, Panganiban said he already understood the value of preserving the town's marine resources to ensure that future generations will continue to be able to earn from them. Because of this, he said he did not have a hard time complying with the Green Fins guidelines.

"If we don't take care of the corals, if tourists see only dead corals, it would be bad for business. Tourists will no longer come here to visit our town so it only makes sense to preserve our coral reefs," he said.

(Special Report) Palawan health officer says ‘nothing to fear in using alternative medicine to cure common illnesses’


PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, June 20 (PNA) -– Lady Mayor Jean Feliciano of the southern Palawan municipality of Brooke’s Point was suffering from sudden and repetitive cough and rhinitis when the Philippine News Agency (PNA) caught up with her at the 4th Meeting of the World Network of Island and Coastal Biosphere Reserves at a hotel in this city recently.

Holding a tissue to cover her mouth, and occasionally wiping her nose, Feliciano apologized for the current state she was in.

“This is truly the rainy season and common ailments are… well, common. It’s already cold in the morning, and drizzle did this to me,” she said, adding she should have brought Lagundi tablets with her.

In Palawan, Feliciano is among the mayors who promote the use of approved traditional and alternative medicines to her constituents who live in far-flung barangays and have no immediate access to health personnel or centers.

Lagundi (Vitex negundo), which she uses whenever she has cough and colds, is one of the 10 Department of Health (DOH)-endorsed medicinal plants to be used as herbal remedies in the Philippines under Republic Act 8423, or the Traditional and Alternative Medicine Act of 1997.

“If it’s simple cough and rhinitis brought about by the rainy season, I always go for traditional and alternative medicines like Lagundi, as it is as reliable as the prevailing drugs we’re often prescribed when we go to doctors,” Feliciano said.

Lagundi, which can be easily grown in home gardens, has leaves that can be simmered to produce tea. It is said to also cure fever, asthma and pharyngitis, diarrhea, dyspepsia, boils, and rheumatism.

“Even without the Lagundi tablets, if they have its leaves, they can boil them and then strain so they can drink the water as tea,” said Feliciano.

In her hometown, the mayor said, the municipal health office (MHO) encourages the gardening of herbal plants, and the use of traditional and alternative medicines to cure common illnesses during the rainy season.

“Yes, we promote the gardening of herbal plants that we know are approved under the law, and their use as remedies for certain ailments, like Lagundi, Sambong, Tsaang Gubat, and others,” she told the PNA.

In fact, Feliciano said the Brooke’s Point Kitchen Incubator (BPKI), a joint venture project with the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) that aims to provide an environment for technology and entrepreneurial development for start-up micro-small-medium enterprises (MSMEs), now manufactures tea out of Tsaang Gubat.

Tsaang Gubat (Ehretia microphylla lam) is a shrub that nurtures in the wilds, and its tea derivative is widely used for its anti-bacterial benefits, and anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties.

The lady mayor swears that Lagundi is all she needs whenever suffering from cough and colds.

“I do not immediately buy drugs that are synthetic (pharmaceutical). Most of the time, I go for alternatives and traditional medicines because they reduce my risks for bad side effects, they are cheaper, and you find them almost anywhere – all you need to do is boil,” she said.

Traditional & Alternative Medicine Act of 1997

Palawan Provincial Health Office (PHO) Chief Dr. Ed Cruz said the province is cognizant of the Traditional and Alternative Medicine Act of 1997, and its implementation is strong, especially in areas where it is difficult to get immediate medical attention.

“In municipalities where there are barangays that are far from health centers and drugstores, the use of approved herbs is encouraged as remedies for common illnesses during the rainy season,” he told the PNA Friday.

In the case of Bataraza, where last year the residents had to deal with the problem of diarrhea, Cruz said the MHO in the area is encouraging the use of traditional and alternative medicines as remedies, such as the concoction from boiling fresh or dried Lagundi leaves that can help ease digestive discomfort.

“Often, common illnesses, if untreated can be the leading causes of death. If the herbal medicines can help, we are encouraging their use. But of course, we are only recommending those that have already been approved by our health authorities,” he said.

Under the Act, and the Philippine DOH’s Traditional Health Program, other approved herbal medicines are Akapulko (Cassia alata), Ampalaya (Momordica charantia), Bawang (Allium sativum), Bayabas (Psidium guajava), Niyog-niyogan (Quisqualis indica L.), Sambong (Blumea balsamifera), Ulasimang Bato/Pansit-pansitan (Peperomia pellucida), and Yerba Buena (Clinopodium douglasii).

All municipal health offices (MHOs), Cruz said, have already been alerted to intensify their campaigns for residents to take care against common illnesses, particularly diarrhea in Bataraza, dengue and malaria, cough and colds, flu, cholera, Leptospirosis, and also food and water infections.

To avoid malaria and dengue, he advised Palaweños to keep their immediate environment clean of stagnant waters, where the dengue mosquitoes could breed; allow sunlight to pass through thick undergrowth by pruning; boil water before drinking; and increase intake of Vitamin C to activate anti-bodies, among others.

“Cleanliness is very important in health,” Cruz said, adding that this rainy season, the Provincial Health Office is ready to provide technical support to the MHOs should problems arise in their areas.

Palawan launches Rescue 165; leads creation of inter-agency crisis management body


PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, June 19 (PNA) -– Climate change is a recognizable problem for the province of Palawan, and Governor Jose Alvarez does not want his constituency to be caught by surprise again by its ill-effects like what happened during super typhoon Yolanda. in the long-term.

In preparation, the provincial government officially launched Wednesday the Palawan Rescue 165 (PR 165) and the Palawan Inter-Agency Crisis Management Body (PIACMB) to strengthen and provide support to the responsibilities of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (PDRRMC).

PR 165, according to program manager Gilbert Baaco, is aiming to be at least, like the United States’ and Canada’s emergency dispatch centers Rescue 911.

“It may not really be as high-tech as the operation of 911 in the U.S. and Canada, the point is, the leadership has taken the first steps to have a special body, a group that will respond when there are emergencies. Right now, we’re in the age where climate change is already a truth. Changes in weather patterns mean that we’re no longer isolated from the path of typhoons as displayed by Yolanda in the Calamianes,” Baaco said during the launching Wednesday at the VJR Hall, Provincial Capitol Compound.

With over a hundred responders trained on search and rescue (SAR), water search and rescue (WASAR), basic life support (BLS), high angle rescue (HAR), and others, Baaco said PR 165 is a vast improvement in the manner by which the provincial government carries out extending support to its constituencies in times of man-made and natural disasters.

Speaking to the members of the PR 165 and the attendees of the event, Alvarez said the services of PR 165 are now “much-needed in Palawan due to climate change.”

“You can expect that I and Vice Governor Dennis Socrates, and the rest of the provincial government, will work hard to provide for the Palaweño people in all aspects, especially during times of disasters,” he said.

To equip the rescue body, Alvarez said small sea crafts, such as rubber and speed boats, ambulances, 4x4 vehicles with rough terrain capabilities, heavy equipment, and a landing craft tank will be purchased in the following years – all for disaster preparation.

In addition, headquarter buildings for the police, fire and PR 165 will also be constructed through funds from the provincial government and other concerned agencies to better response to emergency service requests.

“Through these future projects, our services for the Palaweño people and our visitors will continue. All these will bring the ‘kaayadan i ang banua’ (good welfare of the province),” he said.

Alvarez repeated that if all have been put in place in the province, tourists will come to Palawan, where it is safe. In 10 years, he is looking at having 3 million tourists in the province.

In addition, he informed that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has allowed the provincial government to take up a loan of P1.2 billion for the purchase of heavy equipment.

These will be used for disaster responses, and may be transported from one town to another by the landing craft tank (LCT) that the Palawan government will be purchasing.

“It is not hard to do; what we need are real services to be provided, like hospitals, Rescue 165, community volunteerism – so they will also be able to help each other… I assure you, 3 million tourists can bring in 80 billion pesos that will circulate in the whole province,” he said.

Baaco told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) in a separate interview following the launching that PR 165 will also set up operation centers in between two municipalities in northern Palawan, in southern Palawan, and in the Calamianes Islands Group composed of the municipalities of Linapacan, Coron, Culion and Busuanga.

In doing so, the PR 165 program manager said the operation centers can be mobilized easily to provide “first responses” to calls for emergency help in case any untoward incident or disaster occurs in distant municipalities.

The PIACMB, on the other hand, is a body composed of public and private stakeholders that have declared to be united in helping the PR 165 and the PDRRMC “in preventing and mitigating the adverse impacts of crisis brought about by climate change; help in providing assistance to indigent residents of the province; and respond to emergencies and ensure the preservation of the lives and properties of the constituents.”

It will be a body that shall strengthen partnership with members of the civil societies and humanitarian organizations to achieve the approach of “Bayanihan” system; and assist in maximizing resources for the delivery of services province-wide.”

It shall also be tasked, Baaco said, to formulate the operational manual that will provide the protocols for the coordinating mechanism referral and communications network in consultation with the public and other stakeholders for PR 165.

Among the signatories are the governor of the province, the Western Command, Naval Forces West, 570th Composite Tactical Wing, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), Provincial Health Office (PHO), PhilHealth, the Palawan Provincial Police Office, Philippine Red Cross (PRC), Ospital ng Palawan, Palawan Adventist Hospital, various media organizations, and others.

After the signing of the declaration, Alvarez, Baaco and the rest proceeded to the blessing of three new rubber boats that PR 165 will use in its day-to-day operations.

Baaco said the three are just initial, and the target is to equip each of Palawan’s 23 municipalities with two in the coming years.

Puerto Princesa City Jail holds first-ever concert ‘inside’ detention facility

By Clarinda I. Catimpo [(PNA), CTB/CARF/CIC/JSD]

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, June 18 (PNA) – The City Jail management here will hold “Himig ng Kabilang Panig”, a first-ever concert to be held inside a jail, on Saturday starting at 8pm.

According to PPCJ information officer JO1 Marlito Anza, the musical concert aims to raise funds to purchase musical instruments and materials for the inmates at the City Jail.

“This is part of honing the talents and skills of the inmates while inside to become productive, and also in preparation for their eventual freedom… for them to have something to do and a livelihood. This is part too, of their holistic reform that’s why warden Inspector Lino Soriano thought about this concert,” Anza said.

The “Himig ng Kabilang Panig” musical concert will be held inside the City Jail on June 21 and will feature the Freedom Band, Cupcake Band and the BJMP Band of Brothers. Tickets are sold at only P200.

“Please support the BJMP-Puerto Princesa City Jail musical concert. Proceeds will be used in purchasing musical instruments for the inmates. Come and witness the first ever concert inside the jail in the entire nation,” Anza said.

As to why dare to open the City Jail for a public performance, the warden said the management aims to lessen the stigma of outsiders have on jail premises.

“We want the community to experience how it is to be inside the city jail… to lessen the stigma. During the concert, security will be in place to protect our guests,” Soriano said.

Representatives from 21 countries converge in Palawan to discuss climate change impacts on biosphere reserves

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

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, June 17 (PNA) -– Representatives from 21 countries all over the world converge Tuesday in this capital city of Palawan to discuss the impacts of climate change and how the specific problems it causes on island and coastal biosphere reserves can be addressed and mitigated.

Under the 4th Meeting of the World Network of Island and Coastal Biosphere Reserves, nearly 50 international participants from as far as Yemen, Spain and Sweden arrived in Puerto Princesa to start the four-day evaluation of past actions and explore new directions for the World Network of Island and Coastal Biosphere Reserves (WNICBR).

Led by Dr. Miguel Clusener-Godt of the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the WNICBR was created in 2012 in an aim “to study, implement and disseminate island and coastal strategies to preserve biodiversity and heritage, promote sustainable development, and adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change.”

Its two technical headquarters coordinate the network and work together at the global level: the office in the island of Jeju, Republic of Korea, focuses on climate change issues while the other in Menorca, Spain, specializes in sustainable development.

The network was formed by the representatives of 20 islands and coastal biosphere reserves around the world, including Palawan, Philippines, which is “a Man and Biosphere Reserve.”

Accordingly, “island and coastal areas biosphere reserves around the world have different natural, socio-economic and political characteristics.” However, under climate change, they face similar problems that can be resolved and mitigated in common ways.

In his opening speech Tuesday, Godt said minor islands located in the Carribean and the Asia Pacific Region are mostly vulnerable to the ill-effects of climate change, such as “poverty, natural disasters that now have massive results, relocation of people, forfeiture of traditional culture, and onslaught of invasive species, which could have changing effects in the balance of marine and terrestrial island ecosystems and cause irreversible harm of biodiversity.”

Godt and the international participants were welcomed by Mayor Lucilo Bayron, who said that the city could learn from what will be discussed in the network meeting since being part of the island province of Palawan makes Puerto Princesa isolated too, from the entire country.

With the aims of the WNICBR, Puerto Princesa, he said, can learn how to cut losses during the occurrence of natural disasters by incorporating in its risk reduction management plan strategies that could effectively mitigate the effects of climate change in the city and its residents.

A city with five bays – Honda Bay, Puerto Princesa Bay, Ulugan Bay, Oyster Bay, and Binunsalian Bay – that provide safe places for human settlement and fishing, Bayron recognizes that it is no longer impossible for climate change from seriously affecting communities set up in them.

Represented, on the other hand, by Provincial Information Officer Gil Acosta, Governor Jose Alvarez stressed that as a “man and biosphere reserve,” it is important to the Palawan leadership to always strive to find a balance in managing the people and the environment, where they live.

Sustainable balance in conserving the province’s biodiversity, while at the same time fostering economic development, is paramount in his agenda to ensure that Palawan’s poverty index of 63.38 percent is reduced in the coming years.

Palawan was held a “Man and Biosphere Reserve” by UNESCO on March 27, 1990 in Paris, France because of its unique and abundant natural endowments.

The UNESCO declaration quoted that Palawan “is recognized as part of the international network of biosphere reserves, this network of protected samples of the world’s major ecosystem types is devoted to conservation of nature and scientific research in the service of man. It provides a standard against which can be measured the effects of man’s impact on his environment.”

Baragatan annual week-long celebration starts in Palawan

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

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, June 16 (PNA) -- “Baragatan,” the Palawan’s annual offering to celebrate its 112th Civil Government Anniversary, opened Monday morning in this city with Governor Jose Alvarez, Vice Governor Dennis Socrates, the members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, and employees of the provincial government.

Starting the celebration with a mass at the Capitol Building, and a simple opening ceremony, Alvarez is optimistic that though modest and short – only one week – Baragatan is “for all Palaweños to cherish,” and embodies his goal of a “free from corruption province.”

In his opening speech, Alvarez said this year’s Baragatan celebration will jump-start the province’s vision to bring evocative changes, supportive unanimity, and development out of poverty for many Palaweños.

Among what his leadership is committed to do is linking Sabah, Malaysia and Bukidnon and Palawan, Philippines historically and culturally, considering that all have indigenous peoples (IPs) whose ways of living are quite similar, and cultural practices that are never far from each other.

He expounded that this can be done through cultural exchanges and learning studies through Sabah’s annual month-long harvest festival celebration called “Kaamatan,” Bukidnon’s “Kaamulan” ethnic cultural festival held annually in Malaybalay City, and Palawan’s very own “Baragatan.”

These three areas, he furthered, can help each other to benefit their people, especially Palawan that has a poverty index of 63.38% compared to Bukidnon that only has less than 15%.

“Let us go for ‘Palawenyong may kaya at may sipag’ so we can be at par with other provinces, like Bukidnon that has below 15% poverty index, and let’s bring some of Sabah, Malaysia’s more than 3 million tourists to Palawan,” Alvarez said.

He made the event too, as a venue for his announcement that the funds to construct 5,500 kilometers of road that would render full access to residents to trading areas in Palawan, and for water projects in some communities that do not have potable supply have now arrived.

“The funds for road and water projects have now arrived, and will be put to good use so that we can be at par with other provinces,” he stated.

Using the traditional musical percussion instrument gong, Alvarez hit it three times to officially open the Baragatan that actually started the private and LGU trade fairs on June 9.

Afterwards, he proceeded to lead the opening of a photo exhibit by veteran Filipino lensman George Tapan at the Capitol Pavilion.

Tapan’s photo exhibit featured his two winning photos of Palawan: the first featured a lovely local woman on the blue expanse of water taken at Onuk Island, Balabac which won in the National Geographic Photo Contest in 2011, and “Coron Island After Sunset, which won at the 2012 PATA Gold Award for Travel Photograph Contest.

Astoria Palawan: Puerto’s newest Princess

By Christine S. Dayrit (RENDEZVOUS, The Philippine Star)

Each one of us is in search of our own heaven. All we need to do is give ourselves the chance and time to find it. Often, we don’t need to look far.

Much has been said and written about the beauty of the Philippines but it takes one to experience it to truly fathom the surprises it brings. Palawan has been touted to be not just the cashew capital of the country but also the sublime paradise of virgin forests and grasslands, the last frontier of a variety of flora and fauna, island of the gods and goddesses where endangered sea turtles and sea cows frolic in its azure seas.

At Astoria Palawan, the newest stunning addition to the Palawan “lush-scape” of natural glory, you surrender to your surreal senses as your spirit indulges in impeccable luxury and exceptional hospitality. The eco-friendly and eco-conscious Astoria Palawan is owned by gracious couple Jeffrey and Vivian Ng. Their other equally posh properties include the Astoria Plaza in (2001) and Astoria Boracay (2010), Astoria Bohol (2012), Chardonnay by Astoria (2013), and Astoria Palawan (2014). Truly, this homegrown Philippine brand boasts luxury and sustainability in all its private retreats that are synonymous with extraordinary experiences in fabulous locations.

Astoria’s late founder Ambassador John S.K. Ng’s vision was to make the brand the top of mind choice for travelers going to big destinations like Boracay, Bohol and Palawan. He wanted his homegrown, local brand grow into a world-class chain, which it has somewhat achieved with guests coming from all over the world. He wanted Astoria to provide jobs to the local communities where it operated to improve people’s quality of life. He was a philanthropist who always believed in giving back to the community where Astoria resorts are located.

The 90-minute flight from Manila to Puerto Princesa was short but sweet. Picturesque slices of tropical beaches, emerald grasslands and majestic mountain ranges elicited great anticipation from our gregarious group that included several lifestyle media. Leading the group was the affable John Tanjangco, corporate branding head for the Astoria group. A well-appointed van drove us through scenic, winding but well-landscaped roads for 75 minutes to the newest princess of the island—The Astoria Palawan located in San Rafael, right on the shores of the picturesque Honda Bay. Strategically located midway between Puerto Princesa and the world-famous Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, more commonly known as the St. Paul’s Underground River, the Astoria Palawan is naturally beautiful, stylishly sustainable and luxuriously green.

The launch was very successful with distinguished guests led by Senator Sonny Angara and his lovely wife Tootsy and Senator Koko Pimentel. Asian Grand Legacy’s Miguel Cerqueda waxed poetic as he gave respect to the late Astoria founder and visionary John Ng. Tourism Promotions Board’s Chicoy Enerio, Puerto Princesa’s Mayor Lucilo Bayron and the Bishop of Palawan Pedro Arigo graced the occasion as well. Lifestyle Feature - Travel ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1

Also present for this momentous event was Astoria visionary’s widow Olivia T. Ng. She was also accompanied by younger son Michael and nieces Stephanie and Nicole Tang. Jeffrey and Vivian’s children, Jeff Jr. and John, were also in attendance.

Jeffrey enthusiastically shared that very soon all the airports in Boracay, Bohol and Puerto Princesa will be open to international flights.

Vivian, the indefatigable driving force behind the Astoria properties, being the newly appointed chief operating officer, intimated that the Astoria Palawan offers a diverse array of activities that guests can choose from. One exhilarating pursuit is the mangrove activity while on a paddleboat manned by a knowledgeable guide. Marvel as your expert guide points out centuries-old mangrove trees and their inhabitants—snakes snoozing on a bed of branches, birds roosting overhead as the boats glides quietly underneath.

Astoria’s dream design team, architect Ed Gallego and vivacious sisters Cynthia and Ivy Almario, has certainly created a luxurious tropical oasis of rustic elegance interwoven with contemporary design in Astoria Palawan. As one enters the resort’s reception pavilion called the Canopy, one feels a quiet liberation from the city and a congenial connection to nature as one appreciates the mini-wooden sculptures of a whale, sea cow, turtle, dolphin and wild boar. Here, guests can spend endless hours playing billiards, card and board games, ping-pong, foosball and computer stations/video games for children of all ages.

As you saunter into the creative enclave of eclectic hues, you find yourself in the center of the property, which is The Reserve, the resort’s restaurant with an enchanting view of the Sulu Sea and the 39-meter infinity pool. Savor your preferred cuisine here like pastas, pizza, roasts and freshly baked bread. My dear friend, Olivia Limpe-Aw, owner of Distilleria Limtuaco & Co., made everyone try her latest product, Manille Liqueur de Calamansi, a delicious and refreshing limoncello-like digestif made from calamanco rinds.

Astoria Palawan believes that beauty lies not just in the way things were created but in the way we, as stewards, heed the call to care for what we have been blessed with. The postcard perfection of this resort is reinforced by intelligent, green technologies: a water filtration system is used to ensure cleanliness of the mountain spring water, a sewage treatment plan is in place, a food waste processor turns food waste into clean water, distressed wood in all its villas is made from old lumber, electric trikes with zero emissions to the environment are utilized among many other eco-friendly measures.

As Astoria Palawan unravels itself to the world, it will be a preferred destination in perpetuity. Here’s why. The resort offers 13 leaf-inspired, wood cabin- type villas, which house all of the 40 luxurious and spacious private rooms and suites. The five-hectare mango orchard on which the resort is located has low rise trees allowing you to pick your fresh fruits. The resort’s caramel-crusted sand overlooks the calm waters of the Sulu Sea. Steps away from the veranda are the hotel chain’s longest swimming pool with an infinity edge that seems to jut out to the sea.

As you listen to the vibrant audio streams in the ambient surroundings, the water of the pools’ color segues from turquoise, green, fuchsia to violet, red, white and orange, showcasing invigorating hydro-color therapy. As I relaxed in the sunken loungers in the pool, the eclectic lights and music assuaged the tension in my body. As the jets massaged different points in my body, I embraced the gentle nurturing and invigoration of this tropical paradise.

More exciting developments in Astoria Palawan are in the pipeline such as the 4,000-sq-m Waterpark featuring water geysers, bamboo water cannons, spray water to cool down toddlers and youngsters, splash pads, wave pools and fiberglass artistic renditions of Palawan’s endemic flora and fauna. Glass-bottom boats and acrylic kayaks will be available to provide our guests with a glimpse of the underwater wildlife that abounds. The fishpond and a rock-climbing wall for those active guests looking for exhilarating activities will complete the resort’s facilities.

I awoke before the sunrise on the horizon. Pink wisps of clouds intertwined with white cotton puffs were gently splashed in the canvass of the sky. A restful sleep allowed me a grateful demeanor. How can I ever forget the surreal sight of the sunrise to my left and the full moon hovering above to my right? The duality of transition reminded me that life is filled with many rare moments worth cherishing. Let us cherish our miracles and never take for granted each sunrise, sunset, each rainbow, each drop of rain,

As I basked in a moment of solitude and prayer, I observed the hermit crabs, corals and eclectic creatures that swirl in the placid calm of the azure waters of Honda Bay and realized how blessed we are to be living in this beautifully diverse country, our very own Philippines.

Here, nature gently speaks to you, rouses you from the slumber of your joy. You feel revitalized, refreshed and confident that whatever life brings your way, this kind of peace of assurance will accompany you wherever you go. Astoria Palawan was created to provide this kind of luxurious space, expansive layout, and jovial colors to encourage a celebration of life, love and laughter. It is a sanctuary where many milestones of our ever-so-young lives will be witnessed. It is a paradise where many moments of our journey on earth will be created and rehashed later on in life.

I did not look far to find my kind of heaven. Let my heaven be yours as well. See you at Astoria Palawan.

The Tabon Caves: A little pocket of frozen time


It was year 2009 when our school organized an "environmental tour" for one of the many beautiful and historical places of Palawan. Sadly, I had did not take photos of the memorable escapade—but in my heart, the images of laughter and passion for learning and exploring will remain.

Since it was a three-hour ride from school, I donned my earphones and black sunglasses, then slept all the way there. But when the tour guide said "We're here! Welcome to Quezon!", all of my drowsiness was blown away. The place was unbelievable!

Our first stop was in the National Museum of Quezon. Unlike major museums, theirs was a simple affair located at Bgy. Poblacion in Quezon, Palawan. There, we learned some cultures of Palaweños and saw some ancient stone tools and clothes. We also had a chance of seeing some fossilized bones of animals and ancient peoples of the Philippines—plus, we got to know more about the legendary story behind the place.

One of the things I won't forget was when they told us about the cave once used as a home and burial site for the ancient inhabitants of the Philippines. They say it's a legend, for that cave was an island before, discovered in 1962 by an American anthropologist named Dr. Robert B. Fox. Together with his team of archaeologists, they found the "Cradle of Civilization" of the Philippines, the Tabon Cave Complex.

Tabon Cave is a 138-hectare cave facing the South China Sea, located at the Lipuun Point of Quezon, Palawan. It is alleged to have 215 caves inside, though only 29 of these have been fully explored. And for us to reach the said cave, we needed to spend 30 to 40 minute bangka ride from Quezon pier.

It was a sunny Friday afternoon. There were plenty of jellyfish swimming beside our bangka. It was my first time riding on a small boat; the experience was frightening. But excitement was floating atop any fears I had.

When we arrived at the Tabon Cave Complex, the assigned tour guide told us we needed to prepare ourselves for a great hike and swim challenge.

Of the 29 explored caves, we were given an opportunity to visit three: the Liyang Cave (first cave; entrance to Tabon Cave), the Diwata Cave (home of the Tabon birds or Balinsasayaw), and the Tabon Cave (the largest cave). Inside these caves, there were holes of different sizes said to be the exact resting places of the jars once used as the coffins of ancient inhabitants.

That day, I considered myself a researcher/adventurer/tourist, for I could not believe I was walking in these ancient homes. I almost cried in gratitude, for young as I was then, I was exploring one of the most outstanding places of the last ecological frontier in the Philippines.

While we were inside the caves, we couldn't help but be amazed by the different limestone formations built up there 25 million years ago. Those big limestone formations were truly captivating; it takes many years to form those perfect curves from the reserves of different underwater organisms. The excitement rose further when the tour guide explained to us that the buried and displayed jars inside the caves, known as the Manunggul burial jars, were said to be one of the "pamanas" of our beloved ancestors to us. How cool was that? To personally see the Manunggul jar was like stepping inside a time machine.

However, the tour did not end there. After an hour of walks and hikes over lots and lots of stairs within the green forest outside the wonderful caves, my colleagues and I needed to look for a better and faster way to go back to our bangka. It could have been dangerous for us if we stayed long inside the cave. We needed to have an easy way out without walking the stairs again.

The solution: My colleagues and I needed to go down and swim in the clear waters beside the Tabon Cave. Swimming time!

...Except, I am not a good swimmer. I needed to look for another way to get to the boat. I guess I was lucky that time, for who could have thought my lack of swimming ability would lead me to a small, hidden beach, a little pocket of paradise complete with a mild breeze and crystal-clear waters.

As a third year high school student at the time, it was really a great experience. Though I was born and raised in Palawan and so, could easily come back any time I wanted, I still got this feeling of longing for its warm and welcoming embrace.

The beauty of nature really surprises you if you're willing to open your heart to the great memories it will offer. Tabon Cave is just one of the splendid wonders of Palawan and I am so grateful for the eye-opening experience. It taught me that we really have to care for the environment, or else our children will not get to witness all this beauty.

MGB suspends Citinickel Mines operations in Palawan

(VS, GMA News)

Citinickel Mines and Development Corp. have been suspended indefinitely from operating its nickel mine in Sofronio Espanola, Palawan because of a silt spill that polluted the rivers in the area, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) said.

The spill happened in Citinickel's Pulot mine on June 5 when the miner's siltation control facilities were breached and caused massive discoloration and build up of sediments in the Pasi and Pulot Rivers, the bureau said in a June 10 suspension order.

On-site reports reaching the bureau showed the breach in the silt pond has not been repaired and traces of laterite sediments were still present in the rivers, MGB director Leo Jasareno said.

“In view of the foregoing, your mining operations at Barangay Pulot, Sofronio Espanola, and Palawan are hereby suspended indefinitely,” the bureau said in the order to Citinickel president Ferdinand Pallera.

Copies of the order were released to the media.

A subsidiary of Oriental Peninsula Resources Group, whose shares are traded on the Philippine Stock Exchange, Citinickel was also suspended by MGB in November 2012 when its Toronto mine also spilled silt.

The silt spill in Toronto nickel mine in Narra, Palawan polluted the Pinagduguan River and affected 6.8 hectares of farmlands when a mining foreman drained the silt into an old sump or an open area in the ground for waste liquid to flow into, according to the MGB.

As a result, mine waste escaped to Pinagduguan River.

Citinickel paid total penalties of P375,000 and the mine operations were suspended from November 26, to December 9, 2012.

Palawan envisions 2 international airports, 3M tourists in 10 years

By Celeste Ann R. Formoso [(PNA), LAM/CARF/UTB]

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, June 12 (PNA) -– The annual convergence celebration “Baragatan sa Palawan,” which is set to officially open on June 16, kick-started the new leadership of the province into announcing some of its big dreams involving the development of its tourism industry for the next 10 years.

In a media conference invited by the Baragatan 2014 committee Wednesday, no less than Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez related some of his leadership’s “dreams and visions” to expand the province’s tourism industry for the next decade for a lot of Palaweños to benefit from.

“This Baragatan celebration this year shall become the representation of what we are dreaming for the people of Palawan,” Alvarez said, committing to work hard in the following years to raise national awareness about the event and make it happen like the Sinulog of Cebu.

Two international airports, regional airport access links

But the governor said bringing the Baragatan annual convergence event to national and worldwide consciousness, like Sinulog so more tourists could come, needs help from the national government.

“We hope that we could have an international access airport in the north between Taytay and El Nido… I am not saying I will build… but the national government can help… and also in southern Palawan between Brooke’s Point and Bataraza to decongest Puerto Princesa,” he said, so that the Baragatan can be yearly celebrated in three areas in the province.

By current trends, the Palawan governor believes that tourists only lands in the city since it has the access, and immediately jumps to boats and other modes of transportation to spend holidays in the municipalities of Taytay, San Vicente, El Nido, and Coron in the north.

With this, southern Palawan is left behind despite the presence of interesting tourist spots in the area, such as Estrella Falls and the great beaches in Narra town, Sabsaban Falls eco-tourism resort in Brooke’s Point, Ursula Island for migratory bird species, and Tabon Caves in Quezon, among others.

Alvarez said there is not only tourism potentials in southern Palawan but also in agriculture, and building an international airport access can encourage investments from nearby countries in Asia through Malaysia.

The two international access airports he is envisioning in the coming 10 years, he said, is aside from the regional accesses that will be provided by the Roll On, Roll Off sea transport between Palawan and Kudat, Sabah, Malaysia to fully connect to Metro Manila.

With these foreseen transport links and accesses, Alvarez is positive that Palawan can attract at least a million tourists from the 3.6 million tourists that Sabah enjoys annually.

“Maybe we can give them a visa that’s exclusive for a week’s stay in Palawan only, or good for 40 days. If God permits, we can have more tourists here to contribute to the development of our economy so Palaweños can get out of poverty,” he said.

3 million tourists in 10 years, but power needed

In 10 years, Alvarez said Palawan can bring 3 million tourists in the province, but this “of course, also needs power.

”Ten years from now, investment here will be continuous, but of course, we need to have power. If there’s no power, no tourist would come,” the governor seemed to lament as the proposed 15-megawatt circulating coal-fired power plant in Aborlan is still unsure following the filing of a case against it in the local court by anti-coal supporters.

Remaining positive however, Alvarez hinted that if oil and natural gas are discovered, exploited, and operated in southern Palawan, the provincial government can spend for a pipeline that would bring it to plants for much-needed power generation.

”If we have three oil, or gas, the provincial government can spend for the pipelines for stable power so investments would continue to come in, and Palawan’s economy would develop and become established,” he said.

If the United States has Hawaii that rakes in millions of tourists from all over the world, the Philippines can have Palawan as a major tourism hub with visitors coming in from other Asian countries.

Even the Chinese people, whose government is at odds with the Philippines because of the West Philippines Sea, can visit since he believes that at the end of the day a compromise is needed among countries.

”There is always an end to it (dispute), whether we lose… or win… or otherwise… or we make a compromise,” he said.

To accommodate residents of China, particularly the affluent ones, Alvarez is envisioning to establish Chinese cities in the province – north and south – that could accommodate them since they are only two hours away through Malaysia.

”From January to March, it’s cold in China, so they go to travel where it’s warmer. Why can’t we have them as tourists? That is my vision,” he said.

Making a “flower tree province” out of Palawan

In 10 years, the governor is also dreaming to plant 1,000,000 million flowering trees in the whole province, like Palawan Cherry and Caballero, or Fire trees, that bloom in April to May.

He said this can be accomplished if tourists, who will visit the province will be enjoined to share in the planting for a future “flower festival just like how it is in Japan” with the cherry blossoms.

”We will put money to do this for groups of tourists, who will come in the future, and wish to share in the planting of flowering trees. Each tourist will have his/her name on the trees that will be planted,” Alvarez said, adding it will be the Provincial Community Affairs (PCA) that would be made in charge since it has the manpower that will be needed.Stable power, peace and order, health services are important

Alvarez stated all the provincial government’s visions and dreams will not be possible without stable and dependable power, peace and order, and security, health services for future tourists and visitors of Palawan, and reliable agriculture that can be a source of food.

On security, the governor said around 30 speed boats with law enforcement components will be purchased at 10 units per year by the provincial government to provide additional search and rescue services in Palawan’s almost 2,000 kilometers of irregular coastline that has over 1,700 islands and islets.

These speed boats will have law enforcement components so security for our tourists can be increased, and no one would dare take them out of Palawan waters while they’re enjoying them,” he said.

On health, the Palawan governor said tourists would be comfortable to visit a tourism destination that would be able to cater to their emergency needs.

Currently, six secondary hospitals are being constructed in the municipalities of Coron, Cuyo, Aborlan, Narra, Quezon, and two more, and all are also projected to provide emergency medical needs to tourists.

A total of 22 secondary hospitals are what the province is hoping to accomplish in the following years.

”Power, security of tourists, being able to provide their emergency medical needs – these are important to the tourism industry that Palawan wants to prosper. We need the tourism industry, and it is very important,” Alvarez said, adding in the next decade, he hopes Palawan to contribute at least 5% of the total Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Baragatan sa Palawan 2014 is set to open officially on June 16 at the Provincial Capitol Compound.

MGB team to verify reports of mine tailings damage in major Palawan river


PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, June 11 (PNA) -– A team of environment experts from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has been sent to Sofronio Española to verify reports that mine tailings from a flawed siltation pond of the Citinickel Mines and Development Corporation (CMDC) have contaminated one of its major river systems.

Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer (PENRO) Juan dela Cruz in a forum with the local press Tuesday confirmed that a team from them and the MGB are currently in Sofronio Española in southern Palawan to check the damage that have been caused to Pulot River by the seeping of mine tailings from a malfunctioning siltation pond of CMDC since Saturday, June 7, due to substantial rain fall.

The river, which is said to be a major source of potable drinking water for residents of Sofronio Española, has now been reportedly inundated with mine tailings from the leaking siltation pond.

An aerial shot taken by a local photographer showed that Pulot River, which snakes through undulating hills, rice fields, forests, palm oil plantations and residential homes, is now creamy-to-pale muddy brown in color up to the estuary that connects it to the sea.

“A team from the MGB is already there verifying the damage, and as soon as it has made its report, we will inform,” Dela Cruz said during the launching of the PIA-DENR Advocacy on Climate Change at the PENRO Office in Barangay Sta. Monica.

Based on information, the mine tailings have now vitally affected around four barangays that are dependent on Pulot River and the water it can supply to homes, stretching 30 kilometers to the Sulu Sea.

Environment lawyer Grizelda Mayo-Anda, in a radio interview earlier, as well as residents of the town, are now calling for the “immediate suspension of the mining operation of Citinickel to prevent further damage".

Dela Cruz said there will be penalties for Citinickel to face should the MGB team find out that it has been negligent in ensuring that its siltation ponds are kept in proper order and safe for the surrounding communities.

“Of course, there will be penalties to impose once it will be established that the mining company has been negligent,” he said.

It can be recalled that in 2013, the DENR held Citinickel responsible and penalized it for a silt spill on rice farms also in Sofronio Española.

The environment department imposed on the corporation P146,745 as penalty, and ordered it to indemnify affected farmer residents with P368,000 for the incident that had affected their livelihood.

Palawan governor wants 60,000-has of dipterocarp forests declared as protected area


PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, June 10 (PNA) -– Many times accused as the cause of degradation of Palawan’s forest cover for owning what once was a thriving commercial logging company in the town of San Vicente, now as the topmost leader of the province, Governor Jose Alvarez is aiming to have the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)’s help in declaring thousands upon thousands of land as protect dipterocarp forest areas.

Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff (PCSDS) Executive Director Nelson Devanadera told the local press Tuesday in a “kapihan” at the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) in this city that Alvarez had already sent a letter to Secretary Ramon Paje of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) request to allow the conduct of “stock taking activities” in 60,000 hectares of land in northern Palawan for eventual declaration as a “protected dipterocarp forest area.”

Devanadera said the expanse of land being proposed is contiguous and across the municipalities of Roxas, San Vicente, Taytay and Dumaran in northern Palawan.

He said Alvarez sent the letter to Paje in May, and is just waiting for the decision of the DENR chief to continue with the ground works of the proposal, and assessment that the PCSDS will lead.

Devanadera said that the proposal came from Alvarez himself after observing personally that slash-and-burn farming are still being conducted in some vital forest areas in northern Palawan, and across the said municipalities.

“If the DENR allows this area to be declared as protected dipterocarop forest area, the governor believes laws against slash-and-burn farming in vital covers will have more fangs to stop unscrupulous residents from degrading them,” Devanadera said.

Dipterocarps are “medium to large resinous forest trees belonging to the tropical plant family Dipterocarpeae. Said to comprise “the main timber trees of tropical Asia,” dipterocarp trees are important as they are the major component of various types of lowland rainforests.

In the Philippines, including Palawan, there are about “45 species in six genera that have been recorded, and 46% are endemic to the archipelago,” according to Habitats of Philippine Dipterocarps study conducted by Edwino Fernando.

One such specie that can be found in Palawan is the Dipterocarpus gracilis, “an important source of timber for medium and heavy construction,” and whose wood oil is extracted and used as a varnish and for illumination.

Another is apitong, or Dipterocarpus grandiflorus, that has been declared critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 2006.

Devanadera said the governor is hoping the DENR would recognize the importance of the request, and the value of sustainably protecting the dipterocarp forests in Palawan.

Coast Guard apprentice seaman joins teachers in Kalayaan Islands school

By Joel Locsin/BM (GMA News)

A Coast Guard apprentice seaman was among the teachers who welcomed students to the first day of classes at Pag-asa Elementary School in Kalayaan town in Palawan, an area disputed by the Philippines and China.

The Coast Guard on Sunday said Apprentice Seaman (ASN) Oliver Mazo was transported to Pag-asa Island via a Philippine Navy Islander in time for the start of the school year on June 6.

In a post on its Facebook page, the Coast Guard said Mazo is a "licensed teacher who took a week-long DepEd K-12 training along with two other Coast Guard personnel in DepEd-Palawan."

Coast Guard Palawan maintains a sub-station in Pag-asa Island.

"The deployment of Coast Guard teachers in Pag-asa Island will likewise augment the manning of the sub-station," it added.

Last April, Kalayaan town mayor Eugenio Bito-onon Jr. and Coast Guard Palawan head Commodore Enrico Efren Evangelista signed a memorandum of agreement for the Coast Guard to provide teachers to augment the existing teaching staff of the elementary school.

In 2012, Bito-onon asserted his authority over some of the disputed Spratly Islands were China formed its new Sansha City.

Bito-onon said Filipinos started to settle in the islands in 1978, while China is forming the government of its Sansha City there only that year.

US to fund infrastructure projects in Palawan

By Redempto Anda (Inquirer Southern Luzon)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Philippines—The United States will be scaling up its assistance to Palawan to finance major infrastructure projects, according to US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg.

“We want to help Palawan develop economically,” Goldberg told the Inquirer after meeting with provincial officials on Thursday, adding that this would be done mainly through an ongoing program being managed by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

“We will help in infrastructure and all things that are needed to help develop economic opportunities here. This is apart from the security issue in the West Philippine Sea, which is also important, because so much is at stake in keeping the sea lanes open,” he said.

The United States said it is committed to increase the capacity of some frontline units operating in the West Philippine Sea, including the Philippine National Police Maritime Group that recently interdicted a Chinese fishing vessel in the disputed Ayungin Shoal.

Some of the projects, including the expansion of the US-supported Special Boat Unit (SBU) that interdicted last month a Chinese fishing vessel in the disputed Ayungin Shoal, would apply to Kalayaan Island, according to plans presented by local officials to the United States.

Goldberg said they would add more boats to the elite SBU unit of the PNP Maritime Group.

“We will provide additional patrol boats to SBU. Good things are going on and we want to see it continued,” he said, following an inspection of the SBU facility in Honda Bay, Puerto Princesa City.

Goldberg, however, stressed the United States has always promoted the peaceful resolution of issues in the disputed areas.

Goldberg also noted that despite sweeping budget cuts on US development assistance, they have been able to keep development funds to the Philippines “in a good level.”

Goldberg explained the US government, having signed the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and supported the Philippines’ bid to resolve the territorial dispute with China on the Spratlys issue within the framework of the United Nations, sees its increased development support to Palawan as an adjunct to its foreign policy stance.

Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez said the US assistance would help develop the province’s tourism industry by financing major infrastructure needs.

US to fund infrastructure projects in Palawan

By Redempto Anda (Inquirer Southern Luzon)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Philippines—The United States will be scaling up its assistance to Palawan to finance major infrastructure projects, according to US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg.

“We want to help Palawan develop economically,” Goldberg told the Inquirer after meeting with provincial officials on Thursday, adding that this would be done mainly through an ongoing program being managed by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

“We will help in infrastructure and all things that are needed to help develop economic opportunities here. This is apart from the security issue in the West Philippine Sea, which is also important, because so much is at stake in keeping the sea lanes open,” he said.

The United States said it is committed to increase the capacity of some frontline units operating in the West Philippine Sea, including the Philippine National Police Maritime Group that recently interdicted a Chinese fishing vessel in the disputed Ayungin Shoal.

Some of the projects, including the expansion of the US-supported Special Boat Unit (SBU) that interdicted last month a Chinese fishing vessel in the disputed Ayungin Shoal, would apply to Kalayaan Island, according to plans presented by local officials to the United States.

Goldberg said they would add more boats to the elite SBU unit of the PNP Maritime Group.

“We will provide additional patrol boats to SBU. Good things are going on and we want to see it continued,” he said, following an inspection of the SBU facility in Honda Bay, Puerto Princesa City.

Goldberg, however, stressed the United States has always promoted the peaceful resolution of issues in the disputed areas.

Goldberg also noted that despite sweeping budget cuts on US development assistance, they have been able to keep development funds to the Philippines “in a good level.”

Goldberg explained the US government, having signed the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and supported the Philippines’ bid to resolve the territorial dispute with China on the Spratlys issue within the framework of the United Nations, sees its increased development support to Palawan as an adjunct to its foreign policy stance.

Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez said the US assistance would help develop the province’s tourism industry by financing major infrastructure needs.

Gov. Alvarez hopes America's ‘huge’ interest in Palawan could redound to development

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

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, June 6 (PNA) – Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez is hopeful that the U.S. government’s interest in the province would not only redound to security, and peace and order, but also to development of the local economy and the people as he welcomed Thursday afternoon Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg at the Provincial Capitol here.

In an interview following a dialogue he and Goldberg conducted with members of the Palawan Chamber of Commerce (PCC) and the Palawan Tourism Council (PTC) at his conference room, Alvarez described the interest of the U.S. government in helping the province develop economically as “huge,” adding he was optimistic of this to translate to development that the province needs badly.

“There interest in Palawan is huge. In fact, it is because of them that the DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways) allocated here over P3 billion for infrastructure,” Alvarez said.

He added this is probably because the U.S. government sees that President Benigno Aquino III is decanting around P 1.3 trillion funds to support infrastructure development, and in Palawan, the local government is aware where this needs to be placed.

“In 2014, and the coming years until 2016, they can see where the President is putting funds, and they’re always discussing where to place this. Here in Palawan, of course, we know how to maximize this and where to place this, right?” he said.

In the cacao, coffee, and rubber projects, where the U.S. government is helping through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-supported COMPETE program, the governor said help is through the laying of ground works and financial support provided through banks that act as “lending institutions.”

“With this, we hope that the support the U.S. government is providing should redound not only to security, and peace and order, but also development of Palawan, and its people,” Alvarez said.

U. S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg, who was in the city for an official visit, expressed that with Palawan’s long historical relationship with the United States, it is important that help is provided to bail out its residents from the throes of poverty.

“A thriving community means, a thriving province, and we’re interested in helping make that happen with the engagement of the local government, like what your governor is doing for your province,” Goldberg said.

Goldberg said the business community’s focus is in the development of the tourism industry, and clearly, it is one where a lot of potentials can be developed.

“Even before I arrive in the Philippines, I already knew about Palawan. I knew about it because there is a great interest, especially with some of the resorts here, where American travelers dive and other great opportunities here in the tourism area,” he said.

From the dialogue with the business community, Goldberg said there is also an interest to move forward to manufacturing, agriculture involving cacao, coffee and rubber farming, information technology, and other industries that can produce jobs for the Palaweños.

“There are great challenges in the health sector, and areas where we can maybe help also… so, yes… our interest also, goes beyond tourism, but it’s really to continue to help our friends and partners here… our great allies as they confront these problems. We have a very great history together… the United States and the Philippines, and here in Palawan, you can see it in microcosm,” he said.

“Suffering together and fighting together during World War II,” Goldberg said “there are all kinds of things that bring the U.S. and the Philippines, particularly Palawan together as people,” and their people-to-people relationship is very strong.”

“We are trying to build on all of that, and our trust is in trying to help the Philippines on many fronts, and because it’s good for us, as well as your country,” he stressed.

Palawan gov't to recognize outstanding municipal treasurers, tax payers

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

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, June 5 (PNA) – The provincial government of Palawan will give recognition to outstanding municipal treasurers and real property tax payers this month during the celebration of its 112th Civil Government anniversary.

The recognition and awards will be given during the Governor’s Citation on June 18 to be led by Governor Jose Alvarez and the Provincial Treasurer’s Office (PTO).

The PTO said Thursday that it has already chosen the the good tax payer-awardees based on their 2013 data.

On the topmost is Seven Seas Resort & Leisures Corporation in the town of Cuyo, 2nd place is the Rio-Tuba Nickel Mining Corporation in Bataraza, 3rd place is Ten Knots Philippines, Incorporated in El Nido, 4th place Ten Knots Development Corporation also in El Nido, and 5th place is Power Source Philippines in Bataraza.

For individual categories, those who will be awarded are 1st place-Erlinda and Jose Jovellanos from Coron, 2nd place-Fe Charito Pedrina of Cuyo, 3rd place-Danilo Dangan of El Nido, 4th place-Josephine Serrano of Cuyo, and 5th place- Edith Pownall of Coron.

Those who will be recognized and awarded as outstanding municipal treasurers, on the other hand, are 1st place-Edelita Aguirre of Bataraza, 2nd place-Laila Dalabajan of Linapacan, 3rd place-Renato De Vera of Culion, 4th place-Maximo Ardona of El Nido and 5th place-Dave Yayen of Cagayancillo.

The PTO said it is giving the recognition and awards “to inspire and encourage tax payers to paying their dues on time, and settling them correctly.

It can be recalled that only last month, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan in Palawan approved an ordinance providing tax relief and incentives to real property owners to settle their dues.

Rebel, 2 soldiers wounded in firefight in Palawan


PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, June 4 (PNA) -– Two troopers from the 44th Marine Company of the 4th Marine Battalion Landing Team (MBLT 4) stationed in Barangay Pancol in the northern Palawan town of Taytay were wounded following a firefight with several suspected members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) early Wednesday morning.

Colonel Vince Blanco, commanding officer of MBLT 4 confirmed to the Philippine News Agency (PNA) in an interview that he believes his troops have, on the other hand, seriously wounded a member of the communist-terrorist group CPP-NPA during the firefight that started early morning in a secluded spot of the road in Pancol.

“Two of our Marines suffered from superficial wounds, and they have been brought to the Western Command hospital for treatment. I believe there’s one seriously wounded on the side of the rebels because our troops saw them carrying one while fleeing the site,” he said.

Blanco, who did not name the two wounded Marines, said the troops from the 44th MC were on their way to their home-base in Pancol from a Unity/Peace Walk at Poblacion, Taytay when they saw around seven communist-terrorists (CTs) seemingly planting an improvised explosive device (IED) on the highway.

“Our troops saw them on approach as if they’re lodging something beside the road. They thought it felt different so they prepared, but the rebels managed to detonate the IED and then a firefight ensued,” he said.

Last April, the MBLT 4, in partnership with the JCI Puerto Princesa Peacock, Inc., held a free medical and dental mission in Pancol benefiting over 1,500 residents.

Blanco considers the remaining pocket members of the CPP-NPA just want to display some force in the area because they can no longer “mislead residents in the area to join the leftist movement or scare them about government troops.”

“Their force has decreased in number, residents no longer believe them and are no longer scared by them, this is probably the reason why they’re doing this,” he said.

Pancol is a fishing community in Taytay in northern Palawan adjacent to the Malampaya Sound Protected Landscape and Seascape.

Driving between Malaysia-Brunei-Philippines possible soon -- Malaysian minister


PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, June 3 (PNA) -– Driving from south Borneo, Kalimantan and Brunei through Kudat, Sabah, Malaysia to Palawan and Manila, Philippines and vice versa via a Roll On-Roll Off (RoRo) ferry service may become a possibility soon once the State Economic Planning Unit (SEPU) succeeds in its ambition to construct a ramp under the Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines-East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) sub-regional economic cooperation initiative.

In a news article published Tuesday by the Borneo Post Online, the largest English news site in Borneo, Minister of Special Tasks, Datuk Teo Chee Kang, was quoted in saying that the SEPU “is pushing to expedite federal allocation to build a ramp for use by a RoRo ferry service that will link the Borneo Island and Philippines.”

The online article, which also shows a photo of Teo with Palawan State University (PSU) president Dr. Jeter Sespeñe and Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez following the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU), stated that once the ramp is realized, “people from southern Borneo, Kalimantan and Brunei could drive to Kudat and utilize the ro-ro ferry service to Palawan, and subsequently board another ferry to Manila.”

This bodes well for the local tourism industry as islands in the Philippines are now interconnected through the RoRo ferry service.

The minister added that they are now working hard to gain the “federal allocation,” and recently just had a meeting with federal officers in Putrajaya, Malaysia. Despite its absence, however, Teo said the sea cargo transportation has been put in place.

Developments in the establishment of the RoRo ferry service came after Alvarez, 17 town mayors, and businessmen in Palawan traveled May 30 to Kota Kinabalu for a cultural trade exchange experience.

Teo described the economy in Puerto Princesa in Palawan as “thriving” with 24 flights linking it to Manila on a weekly basis, and with American, Korean and Japanese tourists as regular visitors.

The minister was also quoted by the Borneo Post Online in saying “the Kinabalu National Park in Sabah and Tubbataha Reefs in Palawan, both World Heritage Sites, are merely one and a half hours apart from each other, and can be a unique selling point if bundled together as one travel package for diving tourists to consider.”

The minister said too, that MASwings, which flies to Palawan thrice a week from Kota Kinabalu since September last year, is expected to increase flight frequency to five times this month as more Malaysians become aware of the tourist attractions and business opportunities in the city and province.

Sabah and Palawan, he held, “should share their resources and establish stronger collaborative ties for mutual benefits,” such as in the eradication of poverty since Sabah has a program that the government could use as reference.

Teo said that the poverty rate in Sabah in 2009 was 19.3%, but in 2012 dropped to 8.1% and still going down.

Alvarez, on the other hand, was cited stating in the visit that he hopes the RoRo ferry service could already be operational early next year so more Malaysians can discover opportunities in Palawan and vice versa.

Also, part of the cultural trade mission under the BIMP-EAGA was the inking of an MoU for an education partnership between PSU and Jesselton College, formerly known as Institut Prima Bestari, a private higher education institution in Kota Kinabalu.

The higher learning institute has five schools, specializing in business, tourism, arts, law and languages.

Under the MoU signed with Sespeñe, student and staff exchange programs, workplace industry placements and education program exchanges can already be rolled in the following months.

In Palawan, Alvarez’ leadership sees great opportunities under the BIMP-EAGA initiative for residents of the province.

He believes it will be able to form part of the provincial effort to bring down poverty in Palawan’s 23 municipalities, especially those in southern Palawan, where a coffee and cacao farming project is expected to start soon.

Alvarez also said that the need for workforce of Malaysia can be filled up by Palaweños, who can be trained to become skilled workers.

Smooth school opening welcomes over 216,800 students in Palawan – DepEd

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

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, June 2 (PNA) -– The Department of Education (DepEd) in Palawan credited the nationwide voluntary effort minor repair and clean-up program Brigada Iskwela for the smooth opening of classes for an estimated 216,800 elementary pupils and secondary students in all 23 municipalities, including this city.

Palawan DepEd OIC Planning Officer Jess Pagliawan said that although their data on the first day of classes will still be completed on June 6, they are already expecting an increase of 15,000 new students this year to top up 651 elementary and 1,507 secondary schools in the province.

“Our quick response desks, as of this time, are yet to receive complaints. I guess, Brigada Iskwela helped a lot in the smooth and orderly opening of the first day of classes for the school year in Palawan,” Pagliawan told the Philippine News Agency (PNA).

In the island town of Coron, where super typhoon Yolanda destroyed many elementary and secondary school buildings, Pagliawan said the opening of classes registered 100% readiness.

“We just came from Coron last week to inspect and make assessments, and the town is very ready. The schools have been repaired, re-painted even, and you will not recognize that a super typhoon had caused crucial destructions there,” he added, saying the remaining families that were evacuated in some schools have long been relocated to make-shift shelters.

In Kalayaan municipality in the disputed West Philippines Sea, Pagliawan said classes have already started as early as 8 a.m. Monday for an estimated over 30 students.

Last year, the far-flung town registered 27 enrollees after a pre-fabricated classroom was established by the Ayala Foundation in cooperation with the Western Command and Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon’s leadership.

Pagliawan disclosed further that out of 300 new teachers, or extension positions, they have hired this year, only a handful are waiting for the completion of their deployment documents to serve in distant municipalities before the end of the week.

“We’re deploying maybe a dozen more extension positions before the end of the week to serve in schools in distant areas; they’re just waiting to complete their deployment documents,” Pagliawan said.

Meanwhile, in Puerto Princesa, City Police Office (CPO) Senior Superintendent Mamerto Valencia deployed around 300 cops as early as 7 a.m. to ensure a secure and peaceful opening of the first day of classes.

Valencia said no untoward incident has been reported so far from schools in 66 barangays of the city, and they expect it to remain the same in the following days.

He called on parents to avoid letting their children go to school with expensive gadgets that can put them at risk of being robbed, and to “always remind that their cellular phones can only be used for important calls.”

“We are on top of the situation, and we will ensure that until classes have comfortably settled, we shall remain securing our students,” he said.

Last year, Pagliawan said the number of elementary pupils enrolled were 147,839 and 57,019 secondary students.

“The trend is an increase of around 15,000 per year since three years ago. This year, it might already be over 216,800 – we are still waiting for reports to come in from the field,” he said.

Environment watchdog confiscates protected mynah birds, civet cat in southern Palawan

By Joel Locsin (LBG, GMA News)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, June 1 (PNA) -- The enforcement team of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff (PCSDS) confiscated Saturday 23 mynah birds and a civet cat in the southern Palawan town of Rizal.

Alex Marcaida of the PCSDS said the confiscation came following tip offs from concerned residents of Sitio Itolos, Barangay Iraan, Rizal in southern Palawan, and a weeklong surveillance.

The suspect, who was caught in the possession of the wildlife haul managed to escape, but Marcaida said they know who he is, and he has been involved in the same illegal activity in the past.

The suspect also reportedly succeeded in escaping with two cages containing an unknown number of talking or hill mynahs.

Marcaida said they will file charges against the suspect, whose name he did not mention, for violating the Philippine Wildlife Act.

The birds and the civet cat (local name musang) have been turned over to the Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center (PWRCC) for observation and safekeeping before they are returned to the wilds.