View Full Version : Palawan island No. 1 getaway spot in the world

07-17-2012, 03:07 PM
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.

Sam Miguel
01-15-2013, 10:41 AM
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.

Sam Miguel
01-30-2013, 09:50 AM
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. http://www.mgelnido.com/; +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 (athan_lualhati@yahoo.com; +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. http://www.hadefetravel.com\

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 http://www.elnidogardenresort.com/

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 http://www.elnidoresorts.com/.


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. http://www.thealternativeelnido.com; +63917/ 896 3408.

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

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 http://elnidostunningvistas.com/.

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 (http://elnidoboutiqueandartcafe.com/) 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. https://www.facebook.com/pages/El-Nido-Tourism/ Contact Arvin Acosta, El Nido Tourism Officer +63917/ 8417 771

Sam Miguel
01-30-2013, 09:54 AM
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.

Sam Miguel
01-30-2013, 09:55 AM
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.

Sam Miguel
03-05-2013, 08:39 AM
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.

03-06-2013, 08:22 AM
The Lopez Family’s environment war

Wednesday, 06 March 2013 00:00


‘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.

03-10-2013, 08:24 AM
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 www.elnidoresorts.com. 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 www.elnidoresorts.com.

Sam Miguel
03-13-2013, 09:22 AM
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 elnidoresorts.com, e-mail holiday@elnidoresorts.com, or call 813-0000.

Sam Miguel
05-31-2013, 08:45 AM
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.

Sam Miguel
06-03-2013, 09:03 AM
In Puerto Princesa: boutique hotel within a forest

By Amadís Ma. Guerrero

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:53 pm | Saturday, June 1st, 2013

In a secluded forested area a few kilometers from the urban center of Puerto Princesa, capital city of Palawan, you will come upon an elegant, tastefully-designed (with a brown and white motif) boutique hotel garlanded by the multicolors of flowers, the green of leaves, and the brown of the tree trunks.

This is the Palo Alto Bed & Breakfast (www.paloal.ph), owned by entrepreneurs Guido and Lalaine Ylaya. Guido is a civil engineer who designed the hotel himself, while Lalaine heads an insurance agency in Alabang, Metro Manila.

Palo Alto has been given awards for excellence by Trip Advisor twice in a row, along with other awards.

“After working in Manila for 25 years, it has always been our dream to have something like this in Puerto Princesa,” says Guido. The dream began to be realized when they invested P600,000 in the present 1,500 square meter lot, buying it in 1995 at P400 per square meter.

“At first we just wanted a place for ourselves, a family home,” recalls Lalaine. “But then friends learned about it and they started to visit.”

And so the place built around the trees just grew and grew through the years and became a business, and a chic hotel. An events pavilion (with a swimming pool) good for 200-250 persons followed, along with a travel and tours agency.

Total investments for the inn reached P15 million.

Palo Alto’s room rates range from P3,500 for a twin deluxe to P8,500 for a “family deluxe pool view.”

The hotel is made up of acacia and mangium native wood from Australia, rattan sticks, abaca and capiz shells. “We made it as indigenous as possible,” says Guido.

The Ylayas’ daughter, Pauline, 23, a marketing graduate of the Ateneo de Manila, takes care of promoting and marketing the hotel, which also conducts tours to the Underground River, (P1,000); Honda Bay islands (P1,000); City Tour (P500); Maoyon River Cruise (P1,500); Estrella Falls (P1, 400); Tabon Cave (P1,600); and a Dos Palmas Resort day tour (P2,500) in Honda Bay.

Clientele of Palo Alto consist of domestic and foreign tourists, including families, and the hotel (operational since June 2011) has been making a name for itself, winning this and that award.

The occupancy rate, according to the Ylayas, is 60-75 percent and the ROI (return-on-investment) is being eyed within seven years.

Sam Miguel
10-07-2013, 09:52 AM
Palawan’s UN status as eco reserve in peril

By DJ Yap

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:56 am | Saturday, October 5th, 2013

MANILA, Philippines—The country’s last ecological frontier, Palawan, may lose its status as a “Man and Biosphere Reserve” under the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) if a plan to build a coal-fired power plant in one of its towns pushes through, an environmentalist organization warned.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)-Philippines sounded the alarm earlier this week in response to reports that a coal plant would be built in Aborlan town to help meet the province’s increasing electricity needs.

In a statement, the group warned the construction of the coal plant would threaten Palawan’s natural resources and put at risk its special designation as a Unesco reserve.

In 1990, Unesco declared Palawan as a Man and Biosphere Reserve, classifying the province as a “site of excellence where new and optimal practices to manage nature and human activities are tested and demonstrated.”

Palawan hosts two Unesco World Heritage Sites: the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Marine Park and the Puerto Princesa Underground River. Palawan is also one of the country’s most popular tourism hot spots.

On Monday, some 1,500 students at Western Philippines University students marched to Aborlan to protest the plan, said Lita Sopsop, dean of the university’s College of Arts and Sciences.

Sopsop, who has a doctorate in Environmental Science from the University of the Philippines-Los Banos, said a coal plant’s adverse effects on Palawan’s marine ecosystem would be “massive.”

WWF-Philippines said the coal plant was originally supposed to be put up in the town of Narra but it “faced such strong local opposition that the developer was unable to get the local government endorsement it needed to continue with the project.”

It had to transfer the proposed site to the municipality of Aborlan, the group said.

“The question is not whether Palawan should develop. The question is how it should develop,” said WWF-Philippines vice chair and chief executive officer Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan.

WWF-Philippines said it would be highlighting the plight of Palawan through what it called the “Seize Your Power Campaign.” The campaign calls on financial institutions and government to divest from dirty fossil fuel investments and to invest more in cleaner, renewable energy solutions.”

Sam Miguel
10-07-2013, 09:53 AM
Women in forefront of anticoal drive in Palawan town

By Redempto D. Anda

Inquirer Southern Luzon

10:47 pm | Friday, September 27th, 2013

ABORLAN, Southern Palawan—After abandoning its original plan to put up a 15-megawatt coal-fired power facility in the adjoining town of Narra due to intense local opposition headed by its mayor, the Consunji group’s DMCI Powers Inc. has again found itself ranged against mostly women anticoal campaigners in this municipality.

A village council dominated by women, academics from the state-run Western Philippines University (WPU) and relatives of this town’s fallen hero Dr. Gerry Ortega are leading the snowballing campaign against a proposed coal-fired power plant here.

Grace Dantic, barangay captain of San Juan, where DMCI plans to construct the power plant, told the Inquirer that the majority of her constituents and their women-dominated village council was opposed to hosting the coal plant.

“The truth is that most of our constituents don’t want the plant to be put up here. But we will allow DMCI to conduct its information campaign,” Dantic said in Tagalog.

The local Catholic Church, headed by its parish priest Fr. Armando Limsa, has put up tarpaulins around town calling for opposition to the plant, citing its adverse health effects and its threat to the environment.

DMCI, in a letter addressed to the barangay council, has expressed interest in finding a suitable place within the coastal village to put up the plant. It had recently scuttled early plans to set up the facility in Narra after the municipality, headed by Mayor Lucena Demaala, refused to endorse the project.

“As a woman leader, I have an obligation to our people, especially to the women and children, to protect them from the ill effects of the emission of the coal power plant,” Demaala had said.

DMCI then decided to head for neighboring Aborlan and began efforts to solicit support from the local community, holding a series of meetings in its coastal villages.

WPU officials have lamented that the provincial government, headed by Gov. Jose Alvarez, is campaigning for support to the coal plant.

Provincial information officer Gil Acosta confirmed in a radio interview that Alvarez personally spoke with local officials in Aborlan to solicit local endorsement of the coal plant project.

“This was because of the governor’s strong position that we urgently need additional power supply to spur growth,” he said in Filipino, in an interview with local radio station dwAR.

On Monday, the administration of WPU, which is located in Barangay San Juan, submitted its position paper to the municipal council of Aborlan opposing the coal plant project.

Dr. Lita Sopsop, dean of the WPU College of Arts and Sciences, warned the municipal council of the proposed plant’s pollution impact on health and the towns marine resources.

“The project threatens our sole marine sanctuary. We can only hope the municipal council will reject it,” Sopsop said.

The women relatives of murdered journalist and anticorruption campaigner Ortega, including his family, who lives in Aborlan, launched this week an online campaign against the coal plant in a bid to pressure local officials not to allow the project.

“If Kuya Gerry were alive today, he’ll be in the forefront of this campaign,” Ortega’s younger sister, Angela, said.

“We vehemently reject the building of any structure that will snatch away our health, our life and our children’s future,” she added.

The Palawan Electric Cooperative, which awarded DMCI a 25-MW supply contract following an open technology bidding, said DMCI could not meet its mandated schedule to start operations because of its failure to secure permits.

While DMCI had previously secured the support of most political leaders of the province, including the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development, which issues a special clearance to all environmentally sensitive projects in the province, it has yet to hurdle the opposition in the communities.

Sam Miguel
11-13-2013, 08:53 AM
‘Yolanda’ spoils foreign tourists’ vacation

By TJ Burgonio

Philippine Daily Inquirer

4:50 am | Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

CORON, Palawan—Stranded for days, tourists scrambled to fly out of this famed diving and snorkeling haven, lest they get caught in another storm.

As soon as the domestic airport here resumed operations on Monday, hundreds of tourists—foreign and local—made a beeline for the terminal for a flight to Manila and elsewhere.

More than half of the estimated 444 tourists took the first available flight out of Coron, said Mayor Clara Reyes.

“We’ve been coming here since Friday, and they would say go back, and wait for advice,” Russian Kovalenko Vladimir said while waiting for a flight to Cebu on Tuesday.

Vladimir, who flew to Coron with his extended family of 11 on Oct. 28, said they were booked for a flight out of Coron on Friday.

All the flights were canceled that day as Supertyphoon “Yolanda” barreled across the Visayas before swirling out into the West Philippine Sea, leaving in its wake a high death toll and massive destruction.

English Nicholas Dean and Stephanie Hasset, slouched on the floor of the terminal’s predeparture area, said they had been waiting for a flight back to Manila since Friday.

Dean, 31, a construction consultant, and Hassett, 32, said they had to move out from their “guesthouse” after a tree crashed on it. They had earlier moved from another guesthouse on stilts amid fears of storm surge.

“We haven’t seen anything like this. Not in our lifetime. We’re from England and we don’t have typhoons there,” Dean said.

Coron draws an average of 100,000 tourists every year, raking in a conservative P1 billion, local officials said. Divers around the world are drawn to the World War II shipwrecks underwater, while locals prefer to go island-hopping.

Yolanda’s fury, however, has left a deep impact on the tourists.

“We had to cover windows with pillows because of the strong winds. We covered our kids with blankets. We didn’t sleep all night,” said Vladimir, a 37-year-old businessman from Vladivostok. “It was scary.”

Vladimir and his family stayed at Koko’s Nuss, which was in shambles.

“It was fiercer than the hurricane we encountered in Fiji last winter,” he said.

Rehabilitation work

It was the Vladimirs’ second trip to Coron in five years. But given the huge damage left by the supertyphoon, Vladimir said they have no plans of flying back soon.

“It needs more time for recovery,” he said. “It was beautiful then, but not now.”

Mayor Reyes agreed that it may take time before the industry could fully recover. But she acknowledged that businesses have the capability to get back on their feet on their own.

She has called a meeting of all the stakeholders to assess the damage and draw up measures to restore tourism to its old vibrant self.

“We can’t let this halt the local tourism industry,” she said.

At least 11 people, including a 69-year-old Dutch diver, died in Yolanda’s deadly onslaught in Coron. Like the other affected areas, food was a major problem. The municipality’s 45,000 people have only two days’ supply of rice.

The supertyphoon destroyed 85 percent of the houses, power lines, business establishments, crops, livestock and aquaculture. Officials estimated the damage at a minimum P5 billion.

“We were isolated,” Reyes said in an interview inside the sweltering Coron coliseum behind the municipal hall where she supervised relief operations.

She said the National Food Authority in Coron had only 200 sacks of rice left. It didn’t help that 980 of the 1,000 registered fishing boats were damaged.

“That’s why we’re appealing to the media outlets. There’s so much attention on the Visayan region. Of course, they need more. But we hope they will not forget other areas hit by the storm, especially Coron. It’s really hard in Coron; we were totally isolated,” Reyes said.

There are 12,000 people in evacuation centers in the 23 barangays (villages).

Soup kitchens

To deal with the dwindling food provisions, Reyes said she planned to set up soup kitchens, distributing porridge mixed with noodles twice a day.

Sensing their boredom in the aftermath of the storm, Reyes said she had asked tourists to help pack relief goods that came from local businessmen. “Now there’s nothing to pack,” she said.

To prevent prices from spiraling, she said the local government would purchase all the rice, sugar and coffee, and other basic commodities and sell them at the right price.

Since power was down, the municipal government and the rest of the business establishments were relying on generators. It may take two months before the power lines are rebuilt and become operational in the town proper.

Four days after the storm, the town proper was now bustling with activity; the public market, retail stores, souvenir shops and hotels were open for business. The debris from fallen trees is slowly being cleared off the streets.

But the scars remain. From the air, one could see streaks of brown—fallen trees whose leaves have turned brown—across the face of the island’s otherwise green mountains.

Getting off the airplane, the first thing a tourist would see is the blown-off roof of the old terminal of the domestic airport, and then the missing glass walls that had been shattered by Yolanda.

The winding road to and from the airport in the middle of a vast expanse of green remains littered with fallen trees and a stalled jeepney that turned on its side because of the strong winds.

“It’s the fiercest storm in memory,” said driver Joselito Villoga.

Sam Miguel
12-06-2013, 08:06 AM
Tourism back in business in Palawan, Boracay

By Marlon Ramos

Philippine Daily Inquirer

2:20 am | Friday, December 6th, 2013

The tourism industry in Palawan and Aklan has bounced back from the destruction wrought by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” nearly a month after the monster typhoon thumped the two provinces and other areas in the Visayas, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said yesterday.
“Definitely, the tourism industry in Palawan and Boracay is back in business,” Roxas said in a statement.
Along with Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman, Roxas visited Puerto Princesa City in Palawan and the world-famous Boracay island in Aklan last week.
They also visited 13 other towns in Palawan to check on the situation and the needs of typhoon survivors. They then went back to Aklan before flying to Capiz and Iloilo.
Quick recovery
Roxas said the two tourist destinations were not among the worst hit by Yolanda.
“We have met with tourism stakeholders and concerned government officials in Palawan and Boracay who have informed us that they are back in business despite some minor hitches,” Roxas said.
“I’m pleased that the tourism industry has recovered quickly… I admire the resiliency that the people of Palawan and Boracay showed in rebuilding their communities,” he said.
Roxas assured the resort operators and other stakeholders of the government’s support for the local tourism industry, underscoring the need to fast-track repairs of damaged infrastructures in time for the holiday season.
Roxas, vice-chair of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), also reminded the local government units (LGUs) in typhoon-ravaged areas to “build safer communities.”
‘New normal’
Saying “Yolanda (is) the new normal,” the interior secretary said LGUs should review and update their respective Comprehensive Land Use Plans (CLUPs) and Comprehensive Development Plans (CDPs) to minimize the adverse effects of the climate change.
“We have learned an important lesson from this tragedy. Local governments should seriously consider the construction of safer communities,” Roxas said.
“We have no choice but to build safer communities. Every life is important. Time is of the essence. We have to do what we can to save lives.”
He said the review of CLUPs, CDPs and zoning ordinances would help LGUs “come up with a ‘build better’ plan guided by latest geological assessments that will minimize, if not totally prevent casualties, in times of natural disasters.”
Citing the Local Government Code of 1991, Roxas said local chief executives were mandated to prepare, revise and update the comprehensive land use plan of every province and municipality “which shall be enacted through a zoning ordinance.”
“CLUP is a planning document prepared by LGUs to rationalize the allocation and proper use of land resources. It projects public and private land uses in accordance with the future spatial organization of economic and social activities,” Roxas said.

Sam Miguel
01-09-2014, 09:45 AM
Vietnamese cuisine gets acculturated in Palawan

By Micky Fenix

Philippine Daily Inquirer

4:33 am | Thursday, January 9th, 2014

All that remains of the Vietnamese refugee camp in Palawan is a big hut that spells out “Vietville” at the entrance. But that’s not accurate. In the kitchen, there are two elderly Vietnamese ladies who cook the food served at the restaurant. And our waiter, “Jojo,” as he likes to call himself, is also Vietnamese.

I had so wanted to go to the camp during my first visit in the last decade of the old millennium. I wanted to see the herbs planted for the ingredients used in the cuisine such as sawtooth, mint and basil. But, at the time, the place was too far off downtown Puerto Princesa.

Fortunately, on my recent visit to Palawan, Vietville was on the way to Daluyon Resort in Sabang, our group’s final destination. Our host, Butch Tan Jr., wanted us to taste what is now part of Palawan’s cuisine.

Jojo introduced us to his mother, Le-thé Ngoc Minh, who was still doing her prep for the fresh lumpia (goi cuon) which we would have as appetizer. His aunt, Pham thé Anh, learned to cook from his mother, and the elderly duo did their Vietnamese dishes we had ordered. Most of the dishes were familiar to me, having ordered them at restaurants in Manila and in Ho Chi Minh City.


We had two soups because we needed a stomach-warming first meal. The pho bo (beef noodles) was like a warm welcome to the province and a spirit-reviving dish, after the stress of travel and no proper breakfast due to the early morning flight. The other was a shrimp sour soup like our sinigang.

There was pork barbecue (thit nuong) and lapu-lapu in tausi, which, taken with rice, were quite filling. And to think we had another carbo loading because we just had to have the French bread with roasted pork (banh mi thit).

The French bread is baked by Jojo and we were so impressed by the texture and taste that we ordered some to take home. We were to pass by for the bread on the way back to the town from Sabang. Just place them in the freezer, Jojo said, and it can last a long time.

The bread didn’t last that long because the boys at home couldn’t get enough of them. But friends who got their share of the bread said it was still good after two months.

‘Chow lang’

I remembered another visit to Puerto Princesa when tricycle drivers told us that they liked to eat at Vietnamese restaurants because the food was cheap. One of the drivers brought us to Bona’s Chao Long Haus and Restaurant. It was one of the oldest, opened in 1995 by Nguyen Lan, who migrated to the United States after he sold the rights to the Bona family in 2000.

Chao Long turned out to be pho with its noodles, but the soup was orange in color because a daughter-in-law of the Bonas gave it a Chinese twist. The thing is, chao long is Vietnamese porridge, so the name is wrong. We asked Jojo of Vietville to explain, but his answer did not clear things up because he said the name came from Filipinos who said the soup was “Chow lang,” (only food).

Vietville Restaurant opened in 1996. Outside the dining area, what remains of what must have been a big camp are a smattering of houses, a gazebo that honors the Virgin Mary, and another one farther down that has a Buddha statue done by former Vietnamese camp habitués.

The elderly ladies in the kitchen told me that they sailed from Saigon on an American navy boat. One of them married a Filipino journalist she met during the Vietnam War, and she spelled out his name on my notebook. That’s probably why she decided to stay on.

Jojo’s mother seemed to like living in Puerto Princesa, and so made the temporary arrangement permanent.

The two cooks both have two children, who, we hope, will learn to cook from their parents and keep alive the lore that, once upon a time, there were Vietnamese refugees in Palawan.

There’s more of our Palawan sojourn next week, including Sabang that is near the Underground River. But, for me, the main attraction is Filipino food, Palawan dishes that were a surprise to find in a resort.

Sam Miguel
10-22-2014, 08:56 AM
Palawan is ‘top island in the world’

By Matikas Santos |

INQUIRER.net 2:52 pm |

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

MANILA, Philippines—With its world-renowned underground river, the island of Palawan in the Philippines emerged as the top island destination in a poll by an award-winning US travel magazine.

Beating 147 other islands throughout the world, Palawan was voted as “Top Island in the World” in the 27th annual Readers’ Choice Awards of Conde Nast Traveler magazine.

The magazine announced the results on its website Monday October 20 (US Time) after over 76,600 readers cast their votes.

Palawan was given a rating of 88.750 by the readers owing mostly because of the declaration of the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River as one of the new seven natural wonders of the world.

“Palawan’s natural wonder is one of the longest underground rivers in the world, traveling five miles through a subterranean cave system. Guided boat tours take visitors down a portion of the waterway, where karsts, natural rock formations created by dissolving limestone, loom in every direction,” the magazine said.

Boracay Island in Aklan province was also included in the ranking at number 12 and given a rating of 82.683.

“This itty-bitty island (10 square miles) in the Philippines is as close to the tropical idyll ideal as you’ll find in the Philippines, with gentle coastlines and transporting sunsets. Add in a thriving nightlife scene, and you have one of the top tourist spots in the region,” the magazine said.

“The aptly named White Beach is Boracay’s main draw, with powdery white sand and shallow azure water ideal for swimming and snorkeling,” it said.

Palawan was able to beat other world-famous islands such as Bora Bora in French Polynesia (25th), Maldives (19th), Bali in Indonesia (17th), Bermuda (14th), Santorini and Cyclades in Greece (7th), and Maui in Hawaii (3rd).

The Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Survey started in 1988. The 2014 survey got 76,659 responses

“Individual candidates are judged on a set of criteria relevant to their category, based on a standard five-point scale: excellent, very good, good, fair, and poor,” Conde Nast explained in how they are ranked.

Sam Miguel
12-16-2014, 08:13 AM
Palawan, The Most Beautiful Island In The World, Is Sheer Perfection

The Huffington Post |

By Carly Ledbetter

Posted: 11/24/2014 7:00 am EST Updated: 12/08/2014 11:59 am EST

It's hard to believe the Philippines are an under-appreciated tropical travel destination, especially with their extraordinary hiking, diving, beaches and of course -- islands that are THIS beautiful.

And while we'd like to visit every single island in the Philippines, there's one island in particular we're zeroing in on -- Palawan, a hidden piece of paradise that was recently named "The Top Island in the World" by Conde Nast Traveler's Reader Choice Awards.

There, beautiful blue water mixes with emerald green, jungle-filled mountains that appear to rise up from the ocean, and small fishing villages dot the island. Together with its neighboring islands, it creates the Palawan province, aka paradise.

Described as "the last frontier," Palawan has artifacts that date back 50,000 years. The island is accessible by either boat or airplane -- it's about an hour and a half by air from Manila-- although you can also get there from Iloilo and Cebu. Many say the ideal time to head to Palawan is between about October and May, so we suggest booking tickets ASAP.

High points include island-hopping around the Bacuit archipelago for the cliffs, sinkholes and lagoons, venturing to Puerto Princesa for its culinary delights and staying in one of Coron's "otherworldly" luxury hotels.

Incredible (and rare) wildlife can be found on the islands, from purple crabs and Philippine mouse-deer to Philippine pangolin and beautiful butterflies. Just be sure to avoid the creepy-looking Palawan bearcat at night.

We suggest heading into the water and going below the surface. Palawan has some of the best spots to scuba dive in the world -- barracuda-filled shipwrecks, for example, line the bottom of Coron Bay.

If diving sounds too scary, try a tour of Palawan's subterranean river (which UNESCO calls "one of the most unique" in the world) or take a bangka boat to travel between the islands.

Once you're back on land, hop on a "tricycle," one of the preferred methods of transportation on Palawan. We're pretty sure that after all the biking, swimming and exploring you'll do -- you'll never want to leave.


Sam Miguel
12-16-2014, 08:16 AM
Top 8 things to do in Coron

Author: Joan Lopez-Flores

Monday, 01 December 2014

Ways to make the most of your vacation in Palawan’s hidden paradise

Idyllic, scenic and majestic, Coron has been a go-to destination for tourists hoping to get a glimpse of paradise. From pristine white-sand beaches and towering limestone cliffs to agate-blue waters and world-class diving sites, its awe-inspiring scenery alone makes it worth a visit.

But there’s more to Coron than its sightseeing opportunities. It also offers a wealth of fun activities and exciting adventures you’re not likely to experience elsewhere. Here are Skyscanner's favorites:

1. Hop from island to island

If you’re visiting Coron for the first time, then island hopping is an absolute must. It’s your ticket to seeing as much of the area’s natural wonders as you can in a day (or two). You can sign up for tour packages or charter a private boat to take you around. Rates vary based on the destinations to be covered and are typically inclusive of a beach buffet lunch.

Up for an underwater adventure? Make sure your itinerary includes the following:

• Siete Picados, with its abundant and diverse marine life, including massive corals

• Barracuda Lake, home to a 1.5-meter-long barracuda

• Twin Lagoons, which features a small underwater cave leading to an inner lagoon, and the Twin Peaks, sought for its colorful reefs and fish

• Shipwreck dive sites such as the Skeleton Wreck, Lusong Gunboat Shipwreck and Irako Maru. Some are visible at 10 to 30 feet, while others reach depths of 120 to 140 feet.

Prefer taking a relaxing dip or basking under the sun? Do drop by:

• Kayangan Lake, one of Asia’s cleanest lakes. Stop by the lagoon at the midpoint of the trek to this lake. They say it’s Coron’s most photographed site.

• The lovely and idyllic white-sand beaches of Banana Island, Bulog Island, Malaroyroy Island and Malcapuya Island (where you can also camp under the stars!)

2. Experience a slice of Africa in Calauit

Surprising fact: Coron hosts giraffes and zebras from Kenya and you can watch them roaming freely at the Calauit Game Preserve and Wildlife Sanctuary. You can even feed the giraffes yourself by holding out twigs of their favorite leaves!

The 3,700-hectare sanctuary also counts gazelles, impalas and waterbucks among its African residents, along with endemic Philippine species such as the Calamian deer, bear cat and Palawan peacock pheasant. Trust us, it’s worth the travel time (at least two and a half hours from the town proper if you travel by land and three to four hours via boat ride).

3. See the lights float in Malbato

While the tour is called Starry Starry Night, the stars of this boat ride are actually Malbato’s fireflies and planktons and their tiny sparks and luminescent glow (although if you’re lucky, you might catch a meteor shower too). Sign up with Kingfisher Park, and its staff will take you out to the sea at about 7:30 p.m. for an hour of this ethereal light show.

During the day, Kingfisher Park arranges treks to the Lunes Santo mountain and Kaluluwang Falls as well as kayak rides through astounding mangroves. It also welcomes bird watchers.

4. Hit the trail on two wheels

Want to go off-the-beaten path? Rent a mountain bike or motorcycle at one of the town’s shops and explore Coron’s backyard at your own pace. You’ll be traversing a lot of dirt roads, but the scenery that awaits you—from beaches and mangrove forests to waterfalls and rivers—will make it all worthwhile. Just don’t forget to take a look at the suggested routes posted in most shops before you head out.
Biking at Kingfisher Park.

5. Saddle up at Horse Valley

If you prefer taking in Coron’s sights at a more leisurely stride, go horseback riding. The Horse Valley, about a kilometer from town, opens its doors to beginners and experts alike. One of the most popular trails around the ranch passes through the forests at the foot of Mount Tundalara, Palawan’s second-highest mountain. Others weave through farms and over hills, offering equally picturesque vistas.

6. Savor the views atop Tapyas Hills

As long as you don’t mind climbing 700-plus steps to its summit, Mount Tapyas will reward you with sweeping views of the entire town plus the outlying Calamian islands. Among one of the tallest peaks in Coron, it also provides a wonderful vantage point for watching sunsets. So schedule your hike later in the afternoon and wait for the sun to dip below the horizon.

7. Enjoy a soothing or refreshing dip

Cap off an exhausting day with a relaxing dip at the infinity pools of the Maquinit Hot Spring. The waters here actually come from a dormant volcano (Mount Darala), so the temperature ranges somewhere between 38 and 41 degrees Celsius—perfect for those chilly, breezy nights. While you can drop by earlier in the day, the best time to visit is from 5 p.m. onwards.

But if you want to cool down after spending hours under the sun, there’s a small but alluring waterfall in Concepcion that’s worth visiting. Fair warning: It can get really cold!

8. Pay a visit to the Tagbanuas

Did you know that some of Coron’s top attractions (including Kayangan Lake, Twin Lagoons and Barracuda Lake) are managed by the Tagbanua tribe? You can find the stewards of these sites nearby; just look for the small nipa huts on stilts. But their communities can be found in a more remote part of the island. If you want to gain some cultural insight into their way of life, spend one or two days with them. Step into their homes; join the men as they harvest seaweed and catch fish and octopus using spears; learn how kurot (a wild tuber that’s a staple in Coron) is prepared and cooked; and watch them climb cliffs and caves to gather swift nests (nests made from birds’ saliva and the primary ingredient in Chinese birds’ nest soup).


Sam Miguel
05-13-2015, 08:50 AM
I want to put this here as a warning that Palawan could be next if they follow the Boracay model...

Save Boracay

Philippine Daily Inquirer 2:27 AM | Wednesday, May 13th, 2015

As many as 80,000 tourists are estimated to have descended on Boracay during the Labor Day weekend. Last year it was over 50,000, with the majority of the visitors flocking to the 4-kilometer sliver of coastline known as White Beach at the western side of the island. There, revelers typically engage in a nonstop whirl of beach parties, water activities, sports events, music concerts and the like. In 2014, Boracay received a staggering 1,472,352 tourists, both local and foreign, a figure higher by 100,000 compared to 2013. But that number even fell short of the official government target, which was 1.5 million tourist arrivals.

At a mere 1,032 hectares, Boracay is fast approaching its saturation point, if it hasn’t already. The green algal bloom that has regularly coated the island’s waters in recent years is back, tarring the pristine pinkish-white sand that has made Boracay justly famous worldwide. Business establishments have blithely dismissed the algae as a seasonal event that occurs naturally, but environmentalists insist it has a more immediate cause: the indiscriminate dumping of sewage and refuse by residents and visitors directly into the waters, resulting in fecal matter and coliform bacteria polluting the very sea in which hordes of people, many of them children and whole families, swim and frolic. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources has concurred with this assessment; according to Secretary Ramon Paje, the algal bloom is the result of “poor waste management, with sewage being dumped into the waters.”

So what has the DENR been doing about it? In February it warned commercial establishments against further polluting the waters by discharging their waste into the sea—a useful reminder, except for the fact that the problem of water pollution in Boracay, like the algae that appears to be its increasingly frequent manifestation, is not a recent phenomenon. Concerned locals and environmentalists alike have long warned about the dangers of pell-mell development on the fragile island, but as tourism has grown, and with it enormous revenues for both the local and national governments (last year’s tourism receipts were a whopping P27 billion), unregulated infrastructure has continued to rise, tourists from all over the world are streaming in unhampered, and everyone is cashing in on the good times while the waters and the beach that have made Boracay one of the world’s paradise destinations is being run to the ground by overcrowding, carelessness and plain mismanagement.

Some 331 resorts currently jostle for prime space on Boracay’s precious coastline; a 2013 list prepared by the DENR indicated that as many as 293 structures were in violation of the requirement that all buildings should be at least 30 meters from the shore, to protect the beach from subsidence and allow for adequate public access. Many establishments have since complied with the easement requirement, but a more urgent problem remains: Not all structures, whether residential or commercial, are connected to the drainage system being operated by the sole sewerage company operating for the entire island. The sewage system is designed to accommodate only the enormous refuse coughed up by Boracay’s toilets on a daily basis; the garbage generated by visitors is another matter. The Department of Tourism estimates that a tourist is bound to produce at least one kilo of trash; multiply that by the 80,000 “Laboracay” revelers alone that had most recently flooded the island, and you get a waste management problem of nightmare proportions.

The Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, a coalition of at least 40 environmental groups nationwide, is urging the DENR to put a temporary stop to any more development activities on Boracay until the island has had time to breathe and recover. “Aside from mismanagement, Boracay’s environmental problems show that tourism activities have exceeded the capacity of the island’s ecology to rejuvenate itself,” it said.

It’s a sensible suggestion. The alternative—Boracay rapidly going to seed, laid waste by greed and neglect and other wholly avoidable afflictions—is an unacceptable option. Sitio Bulabog at the eastern side of the island has already registered dangerous levels of coliform. If it remains business as usual on Boracay, how long before pollution further spreads to other areas and spells disaster for one of the Philippines’ greatest—and irreplaceable—natural attractions?