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10 million signatures to keep Palawan free from mining

palawan

Image by sehmaschine via Flickr

Palawan realities

MANILA, Philippines — There is now a feverish campaign to gather 10 million signatures to keep Palawan free from mining.  What appears to be an advocacy group called Save Palawan Movement is reportedly fronting for the foundation arm of a giant radio-TV network.  Its main campaigner, it appears, is Ms. Gina Lopez.

In an effort to clear things up, the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) sent an e-mail statement to this columnist in what it calls “sifting fact from fiction in Palawan.”

For example, the PCSD, created in 1992 through the Strategic Environmental Plan, ensures the sustainability of Palawan, Lopez says. “Since sustainability is holistic by its very definition,” then PCSD should aim for the “preservation of non-renewable resources.”

In answer, the PCSD statement said the truth is that nowhere in the law does it explicitly provide for “preservation of non-renewable resources.” If that principle applied to the Middle Eastern countries, for instance, many nations would still be living in the Stone Age, since the former would keep their oil resources undeveloped and intact.

It is the policy of the State to protect, develop, and conserve the country’s natural resources and to preserve and enhance the environment while pursuing socio-economic goals. The state can promote sustainable development through proper conservation, utilization, and development of natural resources to provide optimum yields on a continuing basis. In other words, we should use our natural resources in a responsible way.

Lopez claims that under the PCSD, Palawan has actually lost 16 percent of its forest cover compared to other provinces. PCSD was supposed to protect Palawan because of its biodiversity, and yet, she says, among the provinces in the country, Palawan appears to be the most ravaged. What is worse, she added,  is that the 16 percent decline was recorded before the Mining Act was passed.

The PCSD disputes this assertion. In 1992, Palawan’s forest was recorded at 738,886, representing about 52 % of Palawan’s total land area. In 2005, the forest cover went down to 46%, appearing to have declined by about 6%, or 5,500 has. per year for the 13 years from 1992 to 2005. The decrease in forest cover is not due to mining but mostly to conversion of public lands into alienable and disposable to support the government’s land titling and agrarian land reform programs, the statement stated.

The reported forest loss is  comparatively very low as the deforestation rate was  a record high  at 19,000 has./year  in the early 80s before the SEP Law was passed, according to Romeo Dorado, OIC-exec. director of the PCSD staff.

Lopez further claims that opening Palawan to more mining companies will lead to massive deforestation.

The PCSD says the allegation is grossly inaccurate and lacking in well-established data support. PCSD scientific findings directly relate actual loss of the standing trees in Palawan not primarily to mining but to continuing harvest of timber for domestic consumption, forest land use conversion for agricultural development, and continuous establishment of human settlements to accommodate the province’s increasing population growth rate of an average of 3.5% per annum, mostly due to in-migration.

Moreover, according to PCSD, the disastrous forest fires in 1998 that engulfed southern Palawan, particularly Bulanjao Range and Mt. Mantalingahan tip, was aggravated by the El Niño phenomenon.  The 1998 forest fires practically shaved off a substantial portion of the existing natural forest.

Significantly, DAR’s  implementation of the CARP law for the past two  decades which necessitated issuance of CLOAs, including the national government’s land titling program implemented by the Land Management Bureau of the DENR, likewise converted about 35,260 has. of the forest lands in southern and central Palawan into agriculture and development. This forest land use conversion represented almost 50% of the forest loss, the PCSD statement continued.

Lopez argues that mining takes away the right of the people, especially the poor, to fish in the sea and to enjoy nature for free.

The few mining companies operating in Palawan dispute this. MacroAsia, for instance, sponsors on the average 120 scholars every school year. None of the scholars are malnourished, it says. And it also says it has provided 29 jetmatic water pumps to make potable water more accessible to the communities.

Lopez also alleges that mining activities in  Palawan do not enjoy social acceptability. She cites the case of Brooke’s Point, where a  consultation was held in two barangays where a mining company was going to operate. The “No to Mining” side won the vote, she says, but the PCSD proceeded with the project nevertheless.

The mining firm in question maintains that the public consultation in Mambalot was conducted as part of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process, supervised by the DENR and EMB. It was mainly intended to solicit the concerns and issues of the host communities, hence they were encouraged to voice out whatever apprehensions they may have. The meeting was not intended to prove the social acceptability of the projects and voting was not conducted.

MacroAsia claims that its host communities support the project as evidenced by the favorable endorsement from three barangays and the municipality of Brookes’ Point. In addition, the indigenous peoples in the area entered into a MoA with MacroAsia granting their Free and Prior Informed Consent.

By ELINANDO B. CINCO mb.com.ph

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El nido resort in the Top 10 Eco-Friendly Asian Resorts

Agoda, Asia’s leading online hotel reservations company, continues to promote responsible tourism with the publication of its Top 10 Eco-Friendly Asian Resorts for 2009, which recognizes resorts for their innovative environmental policies and practices.

Mr. Michael Kenny, CEO of Agoda, said the Top 10 Eco-Friendly Asian Resorts list helps travelers make informed environmentally-conscious decisions when booking their vacation by highlighting properties with established “green” policies and carbon-reducing practices.

“Since we first launched the list two years ago, we have seen an increasing number of properties supporting sustainable tourism and travel,” said Mr. Kenny.

“Agoda considers it the company’s responsibility to recognize hotels and resorts for their efforts to reduce the tourism industry’s impact on the environment,” he said. “Not only does this provide valuable examples of eco-friendly policies for other resort operators, it also helps our customers do their bit to combat climate change and to conserve nature.”

Agoda’s selection criteria for the list ensures the green policies at these top-rated eco-friendly hotels go beyond simply encouraging guests to reuse their linen or take shorter showers. Hotels are given extra credit for reducing their carbon footprint, empowering local communities and implementing green policies specific to their locations.

1) The Tongsai Bay, Koh Samui, Thailand

This resort near Chaweng Beach was pioneering sustainable policies long before the global trend caught on. When the resort’s late founder, Akorn Hoontrakul, designed the property in 1985 he ensured it accentuated the bay’s natural beauty without needing to fell a single tree. Akorn’s son now runs the property and continues his father’s legacy with the resort’s Green Project, a policy that outlines several initiatives including waste management, recycling and energy conservation. The Tongsai Bay works with the local community where it has built a low-carbon school and it is collaborating with other hotels on the island to ensure Koh Samui preserves its natural beauty for future generations.

2) Alila Ubud and Alila Manggis, Bali, Indonesia

These two Alila Group eco resorts featured in Agoda’s Top 10 Eco-Friendly Asian Resorts for 2007. Alila Ubud was built in the style of an Indonesian hillside village while the Alila Manggis combines traditional Balinese architecture with contemporary design. Both resorts have policies to reduce their impact on the environment and each promotes Earth-friendly activities such as trekking, cycling and Balinese cooking lessons.

3) Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf & Spa Resort, Cambodia

The Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf & Spa Resort is the only hotel in Cambodia to win an Asean Energy Award, which it received in 2005, 2007 and 2009. For more than five years, Accor – Sofitel’s parent company – has partnered with Agrisud International, an NGO which runs a number of poverty reduction programs in Seam Reap. Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf & Spa Resort also buys produce from local farmers, sources locally made products and employs staff from nearby communities — many of whom are trained at the Paul Dubrule Hotel School in Seam Reap (Paul Dubrule is Accor’s co-founder).

4) El Nido Resorts, Miniloc Island, Philippines

the resort on Miniloc Island
Image by permanently scatterbrained via Flickr

This resort, which has won several awards for its nature conservation activities, is passionate about protecting the local wilderness. Surrounded by forests and mangroves, El Nido Miniloc Island Resort minimizes its waste through recycling, operates an energy conservation policy and requires all staff to attend a five-day training seminar called ‘Be G.R.E.E.N.’ (Guard, Respect, Educate El Nido). The property also works with local organizations to conduct coastal clean-ups and monitor the Miniloc Island’s ecosystem. A database of local plants and animals is featured on its website.

5) The Frangipani Langkawi Resort & Spa, Langkawi, Malaysia

This secluded resort is located on a 400-meter stretch of sand on Pantai Tengah Beach, southwest of Langkawi. Its various green programs are integrated to streamline and minimize the environmental impact of its daily operations. The resort helps conserve the local environment by reducing its consumption of resources, minimizing energy use, only using environmentally-friendly detergents and cleaning waste water through wetlands – a natural biological filter.

6) Banyan Tree, Bintan Island, Indonesia

The architects who designed this property took special care to avoid cutting down trees. A conservation lab was built to preserve the surrounding rainforest, where trees are aged from 50 to 100 years and include some rare species. To reduce its impact upon the fragile environment, Banyan Tree Bintan supports a local village and helps preserve indigenous traditions by employing a network of more than 40 village craftspeople and connecting them with project partners throughout the region.

7) Hotel de la Paix, Cambodia

Everything about this hotel says ‘luxury’, but in practice the Hotel de la Paix is an environmental workhorse. Its responsible tourism policy is realistic and sensitive to the local infrastructure and it sponsors many initiatives that benefit local communities, including a Sewing Training Center that provides skills training to disadvantaged Khmer women. The Hotel de la Paix’s sister hotel, Shinta Mani, runs the Shinta Mani Institute of Hospitality, an award-winning capacity building program that supports young Cambodians from high-risk areas. The hotel also offers guests the opportunity to sponsor students or donate bikes, wells and pigs to local families.

8) The Orchid Hotel, Mumbai, India

The Orchid Hotel was Asia’s first property to receive ECOTEL® certification and it has won more than 61 awards since opening 11 years ago. It boasts an environment officer who leads its ‘green teams’, organic rubbish is disposed of in nine ‘vermiculture’ bins (worm farms) and an onsite water treatment facility recycles waste water. Guests have the option of pressing the ‘Green Button’ which increases the room’s temperature by 2 degrees C incrementally over a two-hour timeframe, reducing the air conditioning system’s power consumption. Coat hangers made from sawdust and herbal pesticides are other examples of the hotel’s sustainable policies.

9) Soneva Fushi by Six Senses, Maldives

Sustainability isn’t a buzzword for the award-winning Soneva Fushi, which is on the Agoda green list for a second time – it’s wired into the resort’s DNA. Its list of green initiatives is both long and impressive and includes tree-planting projects, campaigns to ban shark fishing and a carbon offset program to buy a wind turbine in India. Soneva Fushi also has an in-house marine biologist to educate guests and ensure dive trips do not damage the local environment. One of its guiding principles is ‘Slow Life’, an approach which emphasizes ‘slow’ pursuits such as nature walks, star-gazing and non-motorized water sports.

10) Kingfisher Bay Resort and Village, Fraser Island, Australia

Situated on the Unseco World Heritage-listed Fraser Island, Kingfisher Bay Resort and Village is an eco-tourism veteran. Since opening in 1992, it has won several awards for its environmental practices, including the inaugural Steve Irwin Ecotourism Award. In partnership with the University of the Sunshine Coast, the resort runs a research and education center that closely monitors the island’s ecology, while guided eco tours cover everything from mangrove colonies to Aboriginal culture. Waste is sent to the worm farm where it is transformed into fertilizer and then used on the resort’s herb garden.

Note to Editors

About Agoda Company:

Agoda s an online hotel reservations service which specializes in securing the lowest discount hotel prices in Asia. Agoda.com is part of Priceline.com (Nasdaq:PCLN). Agoda’s network includes 8,933 hotels in Asia and more than 50,000 worldwide. The staff of over 300 professionals, located throughout Asia, provides a first-rate reservation service that uniquely combines local knowledge and local connections to provide the best hotel deals to both business and leisure travelers.

In addition, Agoda customers participate in the Agoda Rewards Program, earning further discounts and free stays. Unlike programs that limit travelers to a single chain, the Agoda Rewards Program allows customers to redeem Rewards Points at thousands of hotels around the globe, at any time. A member of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), Agoda’s aim is to promote travel by making it more affordable and more accessible to more people.

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