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  1. #1

    Palawan island No. 1 getaway spot in the world

    Palawan island No. 1 getaway spot in the world
    By: Jocelyn R. Uy
    Philippine Daily Inquirer

    BEST HOLIDAY DESTINATION Ariara island boasts of 600 meters of soft, white sand, one of the reasons it topped the British edition of Vogue Magazine’s 100 best holiday destinations in the world. The fun in the Philippines is definitely starting to pick up with a private getaway island in Palawan province taking the top spot in the British edition of Vogue Magazine’s 100 best holiday destinations in the world. The Department of Tourism (DOT) on Monday announced that the magazine, which named Ariara Island—a 103-hectare “private paradise” snuggled among the untouched Calamian Islands—as the world’s No. 1 getaway spot, will hit the stands in August. In a statement, Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. said Philippine tourism would surely benefit from the worldwide recognition. “What is remarkable is that the entire resort is a testament to the unique artistry and skills of Filipino designers and artisans,” Jimenez said. “The use of local materials and traditional techniques serves as good advertising for Filipino craftsmanship and world-class products,” he added. “Tourism is not just about counting tourist arrivals … more importantly, it is about building opportunities on the ground and improving lives, in communities, in very real places.” The resort is owned by British property developer Charles McCulloch and his wife, Carrie. The United Kingdom remains to be one of the Philippines’ biggest tourism markets, registering over 104,400 tourist arrivals last year, which the DOT noted was a record.

    Ultimate destination

    Ariara Island’s eco-friendly structures, its luxurious and spacious villas and cottages, were designed by renowned Filipino architect Jorge Yulo. Every piece of furniture that adorns these structures was handcrafted and upholstered by local carpenters. Some had also been outsourced to Filipino artisans. The DOT said the resort’s wooden baths employed traditional boat-building techniques, while marble baths were hand-carved from single blocks of Romblon marble. Cushions were crafted from Mindanao’s vivid tribal fabrics and its wallaccents featured heliographs and ceramics created by Filipino artist Ugu Bigyan. The tropical island resort has been described as “the ultimate off-the-beaten-track destination,” which offers guests—a group of up to 18 people—an all-inclusive package of exclusivity, relaxation, 24-hour service, excellent cuisine and a wide array of amenities. For $295 (P12,000) a night per person, guests can relax in its posh villas and cottages and enjoy an unbroken view of the neighboring islands and the clear blue waters of Palawan. Guests will be made to feel like royalty even in the bedroom, which is adorned with a private terrace and a garden, hanging chairs and hammocks, afour-poster bed, a walk-in closet, a large bathroom and an open-air shower. Out in the sea, they can enjoy jet-skiing, windsurfing, canoeing, snorkeling or scuba diving to discover Calamian Islands’ rich diversity of marine life.

    Intensified promotions

    Lucky visitors may even spot some of the world’s endangered species of sea turtles such as Hawksbill, leatherback, Olive Ridley and green turtles crawling along Ariara’s main beach to lay eggs. Guests who are avid bird watchers may turn to the island’s unspoiled forest for relaxation. It is home to eagles, owls, kingfishers, woodpeckers, egrets and flower peckers, among other bird species. “The resort’s properly planned development and low density show the owners’ respect for the environment,” Jimenez noted. “We want to see more of this type of investment which supports the principles of responsible, ethical and sustainable tourism,” he added.

    From January to May this year alone, British tourist arrivals continued to grow, yielding 50,347 arrivals. This was “one notch higher” from its previous 10th place, according to the DOT. It also said that British tourist arrivals were expected to improve with the ongoing promotional efforts in the United Kingdom via London cabs, double-decker buses and posters mounted in strategic places in time for the Queen’s recent diamond jubilee and the 2012 Olympics. Changing The Face of The Game!

  2. #2
    Major int’l publications agree Philippines is ‘hottest’ destination

    1:55 am | Sunday, January 13th, 2013

    MANILA, Philippines—The Philippines is at it again.

    After the successful “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” tourism campaign, which observes its first anniversary on Saturday, two more respected international publications have included the country on their list of the top destinations in the world for 2013.

    New York-based Travel+Leisure Magazine, the rival of Condé Nast Traveler, named the Philippines as one of the 13 “Hottest Travel Destinations of 2013” in its January issue.

    On Friday, The New York Times also placed the country at number 17 on its list of “46 Places to Go in 2013,” ahead of Bangkok, Paris and Casablanca.

    “A surfing and beach destination goes luxe … Idyllic white sand beaches, secluded, little-known surf towns and pristine reefs are among the natural draws of this country made up of over 7,000 tropical islands,” The New York Times said.

    “Now in addition to the more upscale choices cropping up in former backpacking enclaves like Boracay, there is a new generation of luxury hotels opening even further afield,” it added.

    The paper noted the new Dedon Island resort on Siargao, adding that it was “close to one of the world’s best surf breaks, Cloud 9, (of which famous American surfer Kelly Slater is a fan), and has an outdoor cinema along with spa and paddle board classes.”

    “And the private island resort of El Nido Pangulasian opens this month in the Unesco biosphere of Palawan, right by some of the world’s most pristine diving spots,” it added.

    The New York Times said that while the Philippines has been subject to travel advisories in the past, “they mostly focus on Mindanao in the south.”

    “For extra security, outfitters like Asian expert Remote Lands organize private transfers and local guides,” the paper said.

    Travel+Leisure Magazine, which has 4.8 million readers, noted that while there were safety concerns before about the Philippines, it was now “safe to visit once again.”

    “Two countries written off in recent years—Zambia and the Philippines—are safe to visit once again, and thriving with new safari camps and island thatched-roof villas,” Travel+Leisure said.

    “The archipelago of Palawan, a Unesco biosphere reserve in the Philippines, just added a resort with a scuba center; hop a two-hour flight from Hong Kong, and you’ll soon be diving with the sea turtles,” it added.

    The magazine particularly mentioned El Nido Pangulasian Island and the 125-acre private island of Ariara in Palawan, and the Eskaya Beach Resort and Spa in Panglao, Bohol.

    “Boracay hogs the spotlight, but there are thousands of other islands to lure beach lovers,” Travel+Leisure added.

    Serious player

    Tourism Assistant Secretary Benito Bengzon Jr. said endorsement from these top publications showed that the Philippines was now “a serious player” in global tourism.

    “This is a very good development for our country. It is a very concrete proof that foreigners now have a high awareness and appreciation of the great travel potentials of the Philippines,” Bengzon said.

    “It shows that we are now a serious player,” he added.

    Bengzon said the awareness of foreigners about the country was heightened by the launching of the “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” campaign in January last year.

    “We’ve advertised and conducted our marketing campaign in all our major markets like Asia-Pacific, North America, Europe, India, Korea and China. And in 2013, we will be even more aggressive,” he said.

    Bengzon said the Department of Tourism (DOT) expected the number of tourist arrivals for 2012 to reach 4.2 million to 4.3 million.

    This is higher than the 3.9 million registered in 2011 but is lower than the 4.5-million target that the DOT set in 2012.

    “There was a slowdown from our Chinese market but this is against picking. For 2013, we are targeting 5.5 million and we are very positive that we can reach that,” Bengzon said.

    Very positive

    “The feedback to [the “It’s More Fun in the Philippines”] campaign has been very positive not just in terms of tourist arrivals but also in the response of the private sector, from the airlines, travel agents, the hotels and resorts. More hotels are opening this year,” he added.

    The other places that made it to Travel+Leisure’s list were Bahia Ballena in Costa Rica, Basilicata in Italy, Puerto Rico, Minneapolis in the United States, Reunion, Nepal, Charlevoix in Quebec, Uco Valley in Argentina, Zambia, Amsterdam, Australia’s Gold Coast, and Marseilles.

    The magazine said it initially considered “40-odd places” for its list of top destinations this year.

    “To determine which destinations … are coming up on the radar, T+L asked safari experts and art dealers, cutting-edge chefs and even branding agencies where they’re seeing a new neighborhood emerge or wineries getting more acclaim,” Travel+Leisure said.

    “What started with 40-odd places we distilled down to a baker’s dozen: the hottest travel destinations of 2013,” it added.

    World’s 5th Best Hotel

    In the same issue, the magazine also named the Discovery Shores Hotel in Boracay as the 5th Best Hotel in the World.

    “Barefoot elegance is undoubtedly the vibe on this tiny island, where the 2 1/2-mile stretch known as White Beach is often singled out for being the softest in the world,” the magazine said.

    It said that Discovery Shores’ 88 spacious suites all have large glass walls that look toward a scenic rock garden, “but chances are you’ll spend more time by the water.”

    “Take a dip in the infinity pool, or jet-ski on the crystalline sea. For people-watching, head to The Sandbar, where they stir up delicious mojitos, infused with local flavors like lychee and mango,” Travel+Leisure said.

    “Once you’re sufficiently refueled, karaoke your heart out, with over 1,000 songs (mostly in English) to choose from at the resort’s recreation lounge,” it added.

    The endorsement from Travel+Leisure came as the UK edition of its competitor, Condé Nast Traveller Magazine, also named the Philippines as one of the top 10 hottest new travel destinations for 2013.

    “For travelers willing to go the extra thousand miles for a deserted beach, the Philippines has around 7,000 of the most heavenly islands in the world. It’s still not the most obvious beach-holiday destination, but it soon will be,” Condé Nast Traveller said.

    Sorry, Maldives

    “Sorry, Maldives… We love you, but we’ve got a new flame,” it added.

    The magazine said the Philippines was becoming particularly popular among serious divers, who visit for “the incredible underwater life, unspoilt coral gardens with rainbow-bright fish, green sea turtles and dugongs.”

    “In Bicol you can swim with the biggest fish in the world, the whale shark. While fish-fans of a different nature can go deep-sea fishing in one of the deepest trenches in the oceans, not far from the little-known island of Siargao,” the magazine said.

    “The archipelago of Palawan ticks all the boxes: palm-fringed white-powder beaches, crystal-clear turquoise waters, natural lagoons for wild swimming on Miniloc Island—all of it protected by Unesco,” it added.

    Condé Nast said Bacuit Bay in Palawan was something like Halong Bay in Vietnam, “only without all the tourists—for the time being, at least.”

    “There are just a handful of resorts, which are tasteful and deliberately low-key. Two of the newest are Ariara Island and El Nido Pangulasian Island, a private-island resort with palm-thatched villas, a spa, its own dive center and sea views to melt the heart,” the magazine said.

    Palawan in top 10

    “Another super-stylish new opening is Dedon Island, on Siargao; it’s owned and designed by contemporary furniture brand Dedon. And a perennial favorite is Amanpulo, yet another high-design private-island hotel on Pamalican Island,” it added.

    In October, Lonely Planet, reputedly the largest travel guidebook and digital media publisher in the world, also named Palawan among the top 10 best regions to visit in the world for 2013.

    Lonely Planet said Palawan was “the ultimate archipelago for adventurers” and best for being “off the beaten track,” adventure and culture.

    “Palawan incorporates thousands of sparkling, rugged islands and is fringed by 2000 km of pristine coastline. So far, Palawan’s natural marvels have only been sampled by plucky backpackers. Not for much longer,” Lonely Planet said.

    “The trail these pioneers have blazed is set to explode, with regional airlines waking up to Palawan’s potential and clambering to schedule direct flights to the capital,” it said.

    “Throw in the mushrooming growth of style-conscious boutique hotels normally found in places like Ko Samui or Bali, and you can feel that Palawan is ready to hit the big-time in 2013,” Lonely Planet added.

  3. #3
    El Nido town on a budget

    InFlight –

    Mon, Jan 28, 2013

    With its stunning beaches and limestone cliffs, El Nido on the northwestern side of Palawan is a dream destination. Luxury and bottom-end resorts abound, but mid-range resorts are on the thin side. Ferdz Decena lists a few good ones.


    Marina Garden Beach Resort at the center of El Nido town right along M. Quezon (formerly Calle Hama) is a mid-range type resort with both native cottages with basic facilities for budget travelers (starting at P780 per night) and concrete country villa rooms with air-conditioning and hot showers (starting at P1,750 per night). There’s a small café and restaurant. WiFi is available. I found their beachfront the best stretch of beach in El Nido Bay, ideal for lounging and swimming.; +63917/ 624 7722 or +63908/ 884 3711.

    For budget travelers, check out Cliffside Cottages (Rizal St.; +63919/ 785 6625) just beside the towering limestone cliffs of El Nido (Room rates range from P500 to P700). It’s a seven-minute walk to the beach but its basic cottages are clean, decent and are best value for long stays in town.

    Lualhati Lodge (; +63919/3196683), a few minutes’ walk from Cliffside Cottages, has a quiet and peaceful garden (rooms start at P700). They have spartan rooms and the kitchen is free for guests to use if they prefer to cook their own food. Breakfast is also available.

    Hadefe Cottages fronting Caalan Beach further north of El Nido town has a tropical setting with spacious native cottages with fans and clean toilet and bath. It’s a 15-minute walk to town but the view along the way is scenic.\

    El Nido Garden Beach Resort just before Caalan Beach is quiet and cozy with its own pool and fitness room. Their homey rooms start at P4,000 (breakfast included). Visit

    For a private, luxurious experience, El Nido Resorts has premiere accommodations on Lagen and Miniloc islands. Stylish rooms and cottages are built on stilts. The resorts also offer activities like kayaking, windsurfing and diving. Visit


    The Alternative Center on Serena Street, Barangay Buena Suerte has an extensive menu of delicious vegan cuisine from soups to entrees plus exotic teas. Meat dishes are also available. There’s a bar and cozy lounges on the second floor. Free WiFi for diners.; +63917/ 896 3408.

    Artcafe is at the end of Serena Street. They are known for their pancakes, fresh muesli and homemade yoghurt. WiFi available.

    It’s hard to resist the inviting smell of grilled squid when passing by Squidos Restaurant on the corner of M. Quezon and Abdulla Streets. Its French owner lent a French touch to Filipino favorites. People also swear by how good their burgers are.

    If one doesn’t mind the distance, the restaurant of Stunning Vista Beach Resort in Corong-corong serves good food. Try their lemon pepper tuna or Cajun maya-maya while enjoying the sunset. Definitely worth the trip. Visit

    An institution in itself, Balay Tubay on Real Street serves Filipino and European cuisine, and comes with live performances from local musicians. +63917/ 842 1971


    About 45 limestone islands make up Bacuit Bay, so choosing which ones to see first can be daunting. Several tour operators in El Nido can take you to these different islands. El Nido Boutique and Art Café ( is the more established tour operator in town with the following premium rates:

    Tour A costs P800 per person. Itinerary includes Miniloc Island, its lagoons and the scenic secret lagoon beach. There is a snorkeling stop on Simisu Island and a sunset beach stop on 7 Commandos Beach. A nice starter tour.

    Tour B includes the Cudugnon Cave and Cathedral Cave, the winding stretch of beach of Snake Island, Lagen Island, and Inabuyutan Island. Tour costs P900 per person.

    Tour C includes Matinloc and Tapiutan Islands, which are farther from town (P1000 per person). The adventure of swimming through a crack to find a beach is worth it. The Matinloc Shrine has a grotto with a nice view of the channel between the islands and the scenic Hidden Beach behind picturesque towering limestones which probably inspired Alex Garland to write the bestseller, The Beach.

    If you’d rather go on individual island hopping trips, it is easy enough to hire a boat and a guide. Whatever you do, stop by the Big and Small Lagoons in Miniloc Island.


    As a break away from the beach, tour operators offer a number of inland activities. An hour’s hike after a 14 kilometer ride from El Nido town proper is the Nagkalit-kalit Falls in the town of Pasadena.

    Five kilometers further is the undeveloped Makinit Hotspring purely for sightseeing. There’s the two-hour hike to Bulalakaw Falls in Villa Paz, 15 kilometers from El Nido town.

    Seven kilometers from El Nido town proper is Ille Cave with its archaeological artifacts dating back 10,000 years.

    The waterfalls are best visited during the rainy season via tricycle. Within El Nido town, one can climb the Taraw Cliff for a magnificent panoramic view of El Nido and Bacuit Bay.

    For more information, get in touch with El Nido Tourism Office on Facebook. Contact Arvin Acosta, El Nido Tourism Officer +63917/ 8417 771

  4. #4
    Palawan named a top tourist destination

    By Kim Arveen Patria | Yahoo! Southeast Asia Newsroom

    After its Underground River had been named one of the new seven wonders of nature, Palawan again grabbed global attention, this time by making it to a well-known travel website's recommended destinations.

    Lonely Planet called Palawan the "ultimate archipelago for adventurers" as it ranked the group of islands 8th in a list of top 10 travel regions for 2013.

    "Palawan incorporates thousands of sparkling, rugged islands and is fringed by 2000km of pristine coastline," the website said.

    It also noted an increasing number of direct flights to Palawan as regional carriers realize the area's tourism potential.

    "So far Palawan's natural marvels have only been sampled by plucky backpackers. Not for much longer," Lonely Planet said.

    "Throw in the mushrooming growth of style-conscious boutique hotels normally found in places like Ko Samui or Bali, and you can feel that Palawan is ready to hit the big-time in 2013," it added.

    Topping the list was Corsica, France which will host the centenary of the Tour de France next year.

    It was followed by the Negev, Israel & the Palestinian Territories; Mustang in Nepal; the Yukon in Canada; Chachapoyas and Kuelap in Peru; the Gulf Coast in U.S.; and Carinthia in Austria.

    Rounding out the list of 10 are Inland Sea in Japan and Campania in Italy.

    Lonely Planet also listed best travel countries in 2013, topped by Sri Lanka which it said is "emerging as one of the planet's best-value destinations" after its recovery from a tsunami and over two decades of civil war.

    Others in the list were Montenegro, South Korea, Ecuador, Slovakia, Solomon Islands, Iceland, Turkey, the Dominican Republic and Madagascar.

    As for cities, San Francisco emerged "best in travel 2013", with Lonely Planet highlighting how it "continues to attract kindred spirits, eagerly embracing all newcomers to the bosom of its cultural mélange."

    It was joined in the top 10 by Amsterdam, Hyderabad, Londonderry, Beijing, Christchurch, Hobart, Montreal, Addis Ababa and Puerto Iguazú.

  5. #5
    PH inks multi-million Palawan airport deal

    By Kim Arveen Patria | Yahoo! Southeast Asia Newsroom

    Tourism in Palawan will soon receive a lift not only from the province's world-renowned Underground River but also from a new airport development that has moved closer to completion.

    The government has inked a $71.6-million deal with South Korea to fund the project, the Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement Wednesday.

    The news comes amid rising tourist arrivals to Palawan owing primarily to the Underground River, which was recently named as one of the "New Seven Wonders of Nature" based on a global poll.

    Puerto Princesa Mayor Edward Hagedorn earlier said that Palawan received 425,000 visitors in 2011, a huge leap 2009 figures of 150,000.

    "Under the loan agreement, the Republic of Korea, through KEXIM (Export-Import Bank of Korea), will provide... $71.612 million to finance the improvement and rehabilitation of the gateway airport of the Province of Palawan," the DFA said.

    The deal was signed Aug. 23 by Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima and KEXIM Chairman and President Yong Hwan Kim.

    The project, which will be implemented by the Transportation department, involves the construction of a new passenger terminal and a new access road.

    It also includes the runway improvements and the provision of navigational aids to accommodate increased domestic and international flights.

    "The project is also expected to revitalize the transport and trade linkages under the Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines – East ASEAN Growth Area and boost tourism and economic growth in Puerto Princesa City as a Special Zone of Peace and Development," the statement said.

  6. #6
    Clear and critical danger

    Philippine Daily Inquirer

    10:10 pm | Monday, March 4th, 2013

    As their name indicates, Philippine cockatoos can be found only in this country—but they are now a critically endangered species. The birds used to be widely found on many islands; by 2008, however, their number was down to less than 1,000, with about a quarter of the population now concentrated on Rasa Island and its surroundings in the municipality of Narra in Palawan. Rasa is a declared wildlife sanctuary and is of global importance for conservation because of not only the Philippine cockatoos but also the high number of threatened flora and fauna.

    On Feb. 22, the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) gave the green light to a plan to build a 15-megawatt coal-fired power plant in the eastern coast of Narra fronting Rasa Island about a kilometer away. The PCSD granted the so-called Strategic Environmental Plan (SEP) clearance to the power facility to be put up by the Consunji-led DMCI Power Corp. This clearance is provided for by a special law that applies only to Palawan (Republic Act No. 7611) and is a condition prior to the grant of an environmental compliance certificate by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

    The PCSD is chaired by Palawan Gov. Abraham Mitra. Its members include the lawmakers representing the two districts of Palawan; representatives of the Office of the President, DENR, National Economic and Development Authority, and Department of Agriculture; the city mayor; the president of the League of Municipalities of Palawan; the head of the Liga ng mga Barangay; and representatives of the Palawan Provincial Board, nongovernment organizations, military, business, tribal sectors, and the Philippine National Police provincial command.

    Conservation groups were quick to denounce the PCSD action. Elizabeth Maclang, advocacy officer of the Palawan NGO Network Inc., which has a seat in the council, said powerful politicians had influenced the vote to allow the project despite the formal opposition of the municipality of Narra, conservation groups, and even the PCSD’s technical evaluators. “This decision also shows the failure of the SEP Law … considering that political and personal interests hold sway in the council,” she said. She warned that her group would challenge the PCSD decision in court.

    Indira Dayang Lacerna-Widmann of the Katala Foundation Inc. (the Philippine cockatoo is called “katala” in Palawan) expressed “deep shock” at the PCSD decision, which she described as “a reflection of political maneuvering and vested interests …. that completely ignor[ed] scientific evidence and social acceptability.”

    Experts say the coal plant will result in bird casualties due to collisions and electrocution at the feeder power lines. Even more seriously, they note, the power plant will block the flight path of the birds from Narra on the mainland to Rasa, which will result in a reduction of the carrying capacity of the island for the species because parent birds will not anymore be able to provide sufficient food to their young.

    Those who live close to the proposed project site also face health risks. The community’s primary means of livelihood is fishing, and thermal pollution from cooling water fallout can lead to adverse effects in the marine ecosystem. Also, the impurities in coal include heavy metals like mercury, which is known to accumulate in marine food chains and, if ingested, can lead to severe health problems involving the immune, circulatory, digestive and nervous systems.

    Because of the serious impact of the project and the opposition it generated early on, the PCSD technical staff had presented its evaluation and recommendations to the council’s environment and natural resources committee headed by former Palawan Vice Gov. Dave Ponce de Leon. The recommendations consisted of 15 mitigating measures, including a relocation of the site (Narra had reportedly offered another location for the project), complete trapping of carbon emissions through reforestation, a cleaner source of coal, better monitoring, and a plan for rehabilitation after the plant is abandoned. But none of these was considered in the PCSD’s decision.

    Given that most decision-making bodies rely on their technical staff to present intelligent and well-studied recommendations, what could have driven the PCSD to set aside the 15 mitigating measures and approve the plan to build the coal-fired power plant? The people, and not only of Palawan, deserve an explanation.

  7. #7
    The Lopez Family’s environment war

    Wednesday, 06 March 2013 00:00

    Written by DUCKY PAREDES

    Gina, the pseudo eco-warrior, and her bunch of noisy allies are now meek as lambs.’

    SAGITTARIUS Mines Inc. (SMI) waited three years for an Environmental Clearance Certificate (ECC) before it could start its $5.9 billion copper-gold mine project in Tampakan. This, despite the fact that SMI was the country’s single largest foreign direct investment ever. SMI is already two years behind schedule, and still no one knows when it can expect to start operations in Tampakan, a small, impoverished town in South Cotabato.

    When a portion of a mining pit in Semirara Island collapsed and left five workers dead and five others missing last February, the President told the Department of Energy (DOE) to suspend the operations of Semirara Coal and Mining Co.

    When a typhoon-induced accident led to a non-toxic leak in one of the tailings ponds of the Padcal mine in Benguet last August, DENR Secretary Ramon Paje ordered its closure and directed the operator, Philex Mining, to pay over P1 billion in fines. The Pollution Adjudication Board (PAB) also dunned Philex another P92.8 million in fines for violations of the Clean Water Act for a non-toxic leak!

    Clearly, this government is not large-scale mining’s best friend!


    So, why is government being soft on the Energy Development Corp (EDC)? A landslide last week in its geothermal power facility in Leyte left at least five of 45 workers dead and nine others missing.

    A statement issued by EDC, a corporation of the Lopez family, says that a landslide occurred in its Upper Mahiao geothermal project in Barangay Lim-ao, Kananga, Leyte where its contractor, First Balfour Inc., was doing civil works.

    First Balfour is also a Lopez-controlled firm. The dead and injured were employees of First Balfour’s subcontractor.

    The Upper Mahiao plant is one of four production wells belonging to EDC’s Leyte Geothermal Production Fields, considered to be the biggest wet steam field in the world with a geothermal reservation spanning 107,625 hectares. EDC’s three other wells are Tongonan 1, Malitbog and Mahanagdong.

    Acting Leyte Gov. Mimiette Bagulaya, albeit indirectly, implies that force majeure could not have been the cause of the EDC landslide.

    She says that the province will investigate to find the real cause of the landslide. She says that the area is not landslide-prone and points out that “this is the first time” for the area.


    If Government, as it should, cracks down hard on EDC, civil society groups should also join in with their fiery rhetoric usually reserved for companies they demonize as scourges of the environment.

    The incidents in Padcal and Semirara brought out “pro-environment” groups denouncing these accidents as the latest evidence of Big Mining’s being a bane to the environment. Even when the DENR finally issued an ECC to SMI, they still accuse SMI not only of destroying the environment but also of dislocating indigenous communities and sponsoring military atrocities in the area.


    Using outdated or skewed data and misleading information, left-leaning activists, with lots of support from civil society groups led by self-styled “eco-warriors,” go against the mining sector as its favored bete noir.

    Human rights violations and military bashing being no longer in vogue, militants need whipping boys to bash during their street protests to justify the continued flow of foreign funds to their so-called “foundations” and “civic organizations.”

    But intriguingly, these armies of activists and eco-warriors are now silent on the Kananga landslide when they should be marching on the streets denouncing the EDC.

    Five people died and nine other workers are still missing. Why don’t we hear one peep from this army of “eco-warriors?” Could it be because among these “eco-warriors” is Gina Lopez of the powerful Lopez clan, which owns the EDC?


    If Gina, the pseudo eco-warrior, and her bunch of noisy allies are now meek as lambs, can we, at least, expect something from the Senate, considering that Sen. Sergio Osmeña III had earlier called for an exhaustive probe of the mine tailings spill in Padcal? Right?

    Wrong? The Senator is married to a Lopez–Isabel “Bettina” Mejia Lopez. So, maybe not!

    Even in the Lopez-controlled ABS-CBN network, the EDC landslide has not merited the reportage the network gave other similar disasters with human casualties. On its website, ABS-CBN posted just one story per day on the EDC landslide compared to as many as two to three stories daily on the Semirara incident immediately after the landslide in Antique.


    The government should not hesitate to impose a heavy fine on EDC, as it did with Philex.

    EDC can well afford a hefty fine. After all, its revenues continue to grow at a steady pace, despite the Kananga incident and the temporary closure of its 150-megawatt Bacon-Manito plant in Bicol. “We know there will be steady growth until 2017,” EDC finance officer Nestor Vasay proudly proclaimed last weekend as he projected EDC’s gross revenues to soar to an aggregate of P30 billion this year from P26 billion in 2012.


    Government regulators ought to watch EDC like a hawk on this matter in view of the Lopezes’ dismal record in ecological protection despite Gina Lopez’s image as a poster girl for the environment..

    Consider the following examples:

    1. The Northern Negros Geothermal Power Plant (NNGPP) in Mt. Kanlaon, another firm managed by EDC cut down thousands of trees and dislocated wild flora and fauna in the area.

    The Save Mt Kanlaon Movement has asked the President to order the closure of NNGPP!

    2. Then, there is the continuing nightmare of occupants of the West Tower Condominium in Bangkal, Makati City due to a blunder of yet another Lopez-owned company–the First Philippine Industrial Corp. (FPIC).

    FPIC says that the fuel leak in its pipeline buried under the condominium is now down to “contaminant plumes”, even as the building’s residents claim otherwise.

    FPIC’s claims are prominently reported by ABS-CBN and FPIC has made it appear that there is now nothing to worry about.

    An expert, Dr. Carlo Arcilla of the UP Diliman National Institute of Geological Sciences (UPNIGS) says otherwise. While the FPIC commissioned a third party to clean up the contaminated water underground, 25-30 percent of the leaked fuel remains as a gas cloud of contaminants that cannot be easily removed. (Makati City sought the help of UP-NIGS as consultants in handling this environmental disaster). Dr. Arcilla describes the residents’ situation as a case of “what-you-cannot-see-could-really-hurt-you.”

    Even as the leak occurred three years ago, the leak continues to pose a threat to the health and safety of the unit owners in West Tower Condominium and other residents of Bangkal. This even becomes a bigger threat in the future because the “principal causing force” in this disaster is still present even if remediation and cleanup are ongoing.

    3. Brooke’s Point in Palawan is yet another example of the Lopez double standard.

    Gina Lopez has been ranting about protecting our environment from mining firms, yet her own ABS-CBN Foundation Bantay Kalikasan has been accused of illegally occupying an area considered as sacred tribal ground in Brooke’s Point. Gina’s resort in Sabsaban Falls has cut down trees to build cottages without the consent of the indigenous peoples in the area.

    At least four lodging structures have been put up in Gina Lopez’s resort, which she calls a Glamping (glamour camping) project. The ABS-CBN Foundation, of which Lopez is managing director, has reportedly been charging P25,000 for a day’s stay in the resort, on top of collecting fees for crossing a bridge that tribal groups built long before Gina and the Lopez foundation invaded Brooke’s Point.

    Gina claims to have secured the appropriate local government permits to desecrate Brooke’s Point and turn it into a socialite’s idea of a camping site.

    The Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) disagrees and wants Gina’s resort padlocked because of the absence of a permit from the Council. Republic Act 7611 which created the PCSD, mandates that a Strategic Environment Plan (SEP) clearance from the PCSD is required for any private or government project in Palawan’s forest areas.

    The DENR has ordered a probe into the reported tree cutting and takeover of ancestral lands in Brooke’s Point without the approval of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), but that’s the extent of the national government’s action in protecting the environment against the likes of Gina and the family Lopez’s environmental misdeeds.

  8. #8
    El Nido Resorts awards usher in fresh opportunities for PH

    Philippine Daily Inquirer

    11:57 pm | Saturday, March 9th, 2013

    More opportunities for Philippine tourism in the global market are likely to open up following the inclusion of El Nido Resorts, the cluster of eco-resorts in Palawan, as one of 12 finalists worldwide in the 2013 Tourism for Tomorrow Awards (TTA), one of the most prestigious and highest accolades in the global travel and tourism industry.

    Besting 133 other applications from destinations and businesses from more than 46 countries on six continents, the four eco-resorts in the municipalities of El Nido and Taytay that carry the El Nido brand was nominated for the Community Benefit Award. It is one of only three finalists in this category. Other categories in the awards aimed at recognizing best practices in sustainable tourism are: Destination Stewardship Award, Conservation Award and Global Tourism Business Award. El Nido Resorts was also a TTA finalist in 2007.

    Organized by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), a forum of business leaders including multinational corporations, airlines, hotel chains and the like, the Tourism for Tomorrow Awards is deliberated on by 15-20 judges representing a wide range of professional backgrounds and expertise in the industry. Three finalists are shortlisted for each category with the final four to be announced in April at the WTTC’s 13th Global Summit in Abu Dhabi, UAE. The winners benefit from outstanding international media exposure.

    One of El Nido Resorts’ four destinations, Pangulasian Island, was also recently named by Conde Nast Traveller, Travel+Leisure, and The New York Times as one of the must-visit destinations in 2013 indicating keener interest in the Philippines following its economic upsurge.

    The municipality of El Nido is a small archipelago of 45 islands. In 1981, Ten Knots Development Corporation established Miniloc Island Resort within the archipelago. A second resort with 51 rooms was constructed in 1998 in Lagen Island, while the third was opened in 2010 on Apulit island, which is in the municipality of Taytay, and has 50 rooms. The fourth resort with 42 villas on Pangulasian Island opened its doors a few weeks ago.

    Laurent Lamasuta, president of Ten Knots Development Corporation, explains the company’s commitment to environmental protection: “We safeguard the vital resources upon which our business is founded. In so doing, we create long-term value for our shareholders and our host communities.”

    The group of resorts has been operating for the past 30 years and proof of its commitment to sustainability is the fact that snorkeling in Miniloc Island, where its oldest property is located, remains a spectacular showcase of biodiversity.

    Mariglo Laririt, El Nido Resorts’ director for sustainability, observes: “That can only have been made possible by the fact that we have a well-maintained sewage treatment plant and a solid waste program that is uncompromising. That is also because we have well-trained nature guides who steer snorkelers’ fins away from the fragile corals while sharing with them scientific names.”

    Moreover, the harmonious relationship between the operators of the four eco-resorts and of the locals “has enabled us to continue with business unhindered, purchasing, recruiting and promoting from among them,” she says. Ninety percent of all the employees are locals and turnover rate at the resort has remained low.

    All employees likewise go through a program on environmental conservation called Be GREEN (Guard, Respect, Educate El Nido). This same program has been adopted by some of the local elementary and high schools. Better yet, El Nido Resorts supervisors are required to run programs for locals on food and beverage, kitchen and housekeeping skills among others. Although not all trainees are hired by El Nido, participants get a training certificate issued by local NGO partner El Nido Foundation thus, increasing their chances of employment in the other resorts in the area.

    Some years ago, El Nido Resorts made a decision to offer a more sustainable menu to guests, according to its website This meant using as many local organically-grown ingredients as possible to contribute to the growth of the local economy. Today, as much as 58 percent of all ingredients used by the resorts are sourced from locals.

    Known in the province of Palawan to have pioneered in island resorts development, El Nido Resorts’ standards has become over the years a template that has been acknowledged by the local government as well as other resort operators.

    For inquiries and bookings, visit

  9. #9
    Away from the madding crowd

    By Pocholo Concepcion

    1:30 am | Saturday, March 9th, 2013

    It’s very tempting to do nothing and just laze away on Lagen Island, one of four high-end properties owned and operated by El Nido Resorts in Palawan. After all, this is as close as one can get to Eden—or its modern incarnation.

    But then again, there’s much to get busy with in this land of rugged, natural beauty where the past, present and future converge.

    First, some history lessons: The cliffs that bookend the cove of Lagen Island are 250 million years old, according to Jamie Dichaves, the resort’s environmental officer. Made of limestone, they are home to swiftlets—the bird species whose edible nests are made into “Nido soup” and where El Nido got its name.

    These cliffs, seen in an edition of the French franchise of the popular American reality TV show “Survivor,” provide a good challenge for rock-climbing enthusiasts.

    Scuba-diving and snorkeling gear are laid out in a room along the walkway that leads to the resort premises.

    The first-time visitor immediately feels at home; the Lagen Island staff, 80 percent of whom are locals, break into radiant smiles and greet guests upon eye contact.

    What to do at the refreshing sights of the beach and a swimming pool? But before we could take our clothes off for a quick dip, lunch beckons.

    The Romaine lettuce in the vegetable salad is crunchy good. “Those are organic, raised in our own greenhouses,” says Joey Bernardino, El Nido Resorts director of sales and marketing. He proceeds to explain the importance of responsible, sustainable tourism or eco-tourism which the resort promotes.

    “You can enjoy the sea without destroying it and its surroundings,” he points out, adding that the resort’s GAMS (Guest Activity and Marine Sports) coordinators, who take guests to sightseeing and island-hopping tours, are very careful that the motorboats they ride in do not harm the coral reefs that abound in the area.

    The forests that cradle Lagen and its three sister-islands, Miniloc, Apulit and the newly-opened Pangulasian, are all protected areas, he says.

    Which is why lots of birds, fish and an assortment of mammals and reptiles have become happy neighbors at El Nido Resorts.

    The crashing waves from the sea and tweets from birds are musical sounds that punctuate the soothing peace and quiet here.

    There are only 50 cottages and suites in Lagen, which means guests are limited and privacy is valued. On our visit, there were about 130 domestic and foreign tourists billeted, but we saw some of them only at dinnertime in the clubhouse.

    Water in the resort is desalinated and what comes out of faucets is safe for drinking. Although most guests still order bottled water, Joey says these will soon be phased out.

    Recycled water is used in flushing toilets.

    In the absence of electricity on the island, the resort is powered by engine-generator sets and solar panels.

    There’s more to be proud about, adds Joey. After winning a number of accolades from various international award-giving bodies, El Nido Resorts has been picked as one of three finalists in the Community Benefit category of the Tourism for Tomorrow Awards—handed out annually by the World Travel and Tourism Council, whose select members are chairmen, presidents and CEOs of 100 of the world’s foremost travel and tourism companies.

    The group votes for Community Benefit nominees whose “companies and organizations directly benefit local people, supporting community development and enhancing cultural heritage.”

    Among the locals who have been gainfully employed at Lagen is Julie Badajos, a GAMS staffer for the past six years. He’s the official guide during our four-day stay. Apparently he loves his job and says his young son understands the vital link of environmentalism to daily life.

    The Big and Small Lagoons near Lagen, Julie says, are the best spots to feel “kalmado … kasi yung tubig ganun din.”

    His comment is validated as soon as the boat we’re riding enters the area, which looks like a sanctuary for stressed-out souls. The still waters have a calming effect indeed, even as a couple of female Caucasians in a kayak come slicing through.

    Short visits to the neighboring Pangulasian and Miniloc Islands give us a glimpse of why the discriminating few prefer to stay at El Nido Resorts.

    Pangulasian is like an exclusive-membership island; among its amenities is a private swimming pool. The more reasonably-priced Miniloc is for families and couples who also want to enjoy the beach away from the madding crowd.

    “Look, that’s an Eastern Reef Egret,” says Kitsie Torres, the resort’s environmental officer. She’s pointing to a black bird with a long beak which lands on the Pangulasian beach. Kitsie, who took veterinary medicine at UP Los Baños, says she has worked in Australia and other countries, but came home only because she knew that working for El Nido Resorts would be fun and fulfilling.

    The scene in Miniloc: Small families soaking up the cool breeze while riding kayaks; a mother and her child sitting around wearing coconut hats that locals teach how to make; a lone Asian-looking woman drinking beer at 10 a.m.; a group of three Europeans playing billiards.

    It is almost dusk and time to go back to Lagen. On the boat, Julie says there are 45 islands surrounding El Nido town, a number of them uninhabited, but all of which he and the rest of the GAMS team try to monitor to protect flora and fauna.

    We finally get to swim in the pool, our lungs heaving a sigh of relief after years of enduring air pollution in Manila.

    Dinner is served at the poolside. We join the LOOK magazine team which is doing a fashion shoot here. Iza Calzado shows up with her Filipino-British boyfriend, Ben Wintle. Turns out they are billeted at Pangulasian.

    After a couple of beers, a succulent sample of fresh, grilled squid and red snapper, and humorous conversation with the LOOK team and Iza, we make a French leave.

    It’s rare for us to be up and about at 6 a.m., but we are— that’s how energizing the vibe is on this land, often called the country’s Last (Ecological) Frontier. A Long-Tailed Macaque, said to be the only species of monkeys in the Philippines, scampers when our eyes meet. We also spot another black bird which, like the Macaque, seems rattled when it senses our presence.

    Julie guides us on a short hike up the forest at the back of Lagen. An Australian couple overtake us. We stop every so often as Julie points to several endangered species of trees like the Dau, whose bark and roots are so large and wide they resemble a wall panel.

    What’s great about this hike is that we perspire after only five minutes of climbing over rocks and soil. Our shirt gets soaking wet at the end of the trail which leads to an isolated beach. The Australian couple are enjoying the view; the guy says, “it’s been an awesome experience” they’ve been having for the past few days.

    Later Jamie takes us on a nature walk around the resort; she names some of the plants and flowers that line the walkway, pointing out that all of them grow here naturally.

    Jamie and the rest of the efficient resort staff are fine examples of Filipinos who care for the history and present state of El Nido for the next generation of tourists to behold.

    Watching the sunset at Lagen, our mind’s eye tells us: On a clear day you can see forever in this blessed land.

    A 75-minute direct flight on the Island Transvoyager Inc. (ITI) plane from Manila and a boat transfer from El Nido Airport will take you to Lagen Island. Log on to, e-mail, or call 813-0000.

  10. #10
    3 PH beaches make it to CNN’s list of world’s best

    By Philip C. Tubeza

    Philippine Daily Inquirer

    7:54 pm | Thursday, May 30th, 2013

    Kayaking is one of the many pleasures offered by El Nido Resorts, a cluster of four eco-resorts in Palawan, which won the prestigious Tourism for Tomorrow Award during the 13th annual World Travel and Tourism Council Global Summit in Abu Dhabi.

    MANILA—The giant news organization CNN has included three Philippine beaches on its list of the best 100 beaches in the world.

    The issuance of the list coincided with an announcent by the government that tourist arrivals in the country increased by 10 percent in the first four months of 2013.

    The Atlanta-based cable news channel said Puka Beach in Boracay, El Nido in Palawan, and Palaui Island in Cagayan were among the best destinations for beach bums around the globe. It listed Palaui on No. 10, the only Southeast Asian beach in the Top 10.

    “Glorious white sands meet volcanic rocks and blue-green waters topside, while coral gardens and a rich marine reserve meet divers under the surface. Palaui is all about raw beauty,” CNN said of the island off the northeastern tip of Luzon.

    “Treks to get there require battling thorny grass, muddy ground and a mangrove forest…. With no resorts or hotels, Palaui has only two real options: camping under the stars or home stays,” it added.

    El Nido, which supposedly inspired author Alex Garland to write the novel “The Beach,” landed on No. 14, or five notches above Maya Bay in Ko Phi Phi, Thailand, where the novel’s movie adaptation starring Leonardo DiCaprio was filmed.

    “El Nido is the gateway to adventure, ‘the last frontier’ of the Philippines, as it has been dubbed,” CNN said.

    “Powder-fine beaches and gin-clear waters complement the stunning views of karst limestone formations, empty lagoons, marble cliffs, prehistoric caves and waterfalls,” it added.

    CNN also noted that El Nido surrounding waters contain more than 50 species of coral and attract whales, whale sharks, sea cows, manta rays, dolphins and endangered turtles.

    And while it has received flak recently for being overcrowded and for being a disappointment for some travel writers, Boracay island, particularly Puka Beach, still made it to No. 84.

    “Making a respectable claim to its ‘tropical paradise’ reputation, Boracay has powdery beaches, water sports and spas. Puka Beach is named for its Puka shells, meaning the sand here is coarse,” CNN said.

    “Puka is the second-longest beach on Boracay and relatively empty most times, with no resorts and a limited number of restaurants,” it added.

    International publications like Travel+Leisure Magazine and the New York Times earlier named the Philippines among the hottest tourism destinations for 2013.

    On Thursday, the Department of Tourism ) said foreign visitor arrivals during the first four months of 2013 reached 1,649,458 million, or a 10.12 percent increase from the same period in 2012.

    “The first four months represent 30 percent of the target arrivals for 2013, with the month of January yielding the largest volume of 436,079 visitors and February generating the highest growth of 15.52 percent,” the DOT said.

    For the first four months of the year, South Korea contributed the largest arrivals with 406,595 visitors, keeping its undisputed pole position with the biggest market share of 24.65 percent of total inbound traffic and a double-digit growth of 23.08 percent.

    The DOT said the United States came in as the second biggest source market with 246,011 visitors or a share of 14.91 percent.

    “Japan is third with 148,950 or 9.03 percent of the overall visitor volume. China has kept its position as the fourth biggest market with 132,307 or an 8.02 percent share. Australia is fifth with 72,015 arrivals, constituting 4.37 percent of the total visitor count,” the DOT said.

    Arrivals from Taiwan declined by 8.3 percent with 68,654 visitors and this was before public anger in Taiwan over the killing of a Taiwanese fisherman by members of the Philippine Coast Guard.

    The other top tourism markets for the Philippines were Singapore with 55,096 (15.90 percent); Canada with 50,352 (4.25 percent); Hong Kong with 45,734 (12.87 percent); United Kingdom with 43,055 (3.10 percent); Malaysia with 35,069 (8.36 percent); and Germany with 28,799 (9.16 percent).

    Other markets that registered double-digit gains included Russia (30.33 percent), India (23.13 percent), and France (20.10 percent).

    “This growth is an affirmation of our various marketing and destination development activities, strengthened by partnerships with the various stakeholders. While the upsurge may primarily be attributed to the summer season, it is also a clear indication that the nation has galvanized its reputation as an attractive destination,” said Tourism Secretary Ramon R. Jimenez, Jr.

    “We have been seeing a sustainable increase in arrivals since last year. This building enthusiasm for the Philippines, aided by our government’s good governance agenda, gives us the confidence to achieve our target of 10 million tourist arrivals by 2016,” he added.

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