Enriching a ‘fantastic jewel’ of the Philippines: Italian Government supports sustainable eco-tourism development at the Puerto Princesa Underground River, Palawan
Puerto Princesa City—A community-based initiative supported by the Italian government to preserve the Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR) and promote sustainable eco-tourism initiatives in the province of Palawan was officially launched here recently by the local government of the city and the Embassy of Italy in Manila.
Italian Ambassador to Manila Massimo Roscigno and the TagBalay Foundation, in partnership with the Puerto Princesa city government, led the recent launching of the “Support for Sustainable Eco-Tourism at the PPUR Area,” a two-year project of TagBalay Foundation, in collaboration with the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park-Protected Area Management Board (PPSRNP-PAMB) and the La Venta Esplorazioni Geografiche, a group of Italian cave explorers, under the Philippines-Italy Debt for Development Swap Program (PIDDS).
Under the PIDDS, which was formalized between the governments of Italy through the Italian Embassy, and the Philippines through the Department of Finance (DOF), the country’s debt obligation of 2.9 million Euros (about US$3.7 million or P160 million) was converted into a grant for the implementation of development projects in the Philippines’ poorest areas.
These projects, one of which is the PPUR initiative, focuses on environmental protection and poverty reduction with the participation of local communities.
Ambassador Roscigno, describing the Underground River as “a fantastic jewel of the country,” expressed confidence that the PIDDS-supported project will help sustain the natural beauty of the PPUR and promote it not only as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Natural Heritage Site but also as a top global tourist attraction.
L-R: Mr. Marco Spada, Program Expert from the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation; Mr. Anthony Abaya, President of TagBalay Foundation; Mr. Antonio De Vivo of La Venta; Italian Ambassador H.E. Massimo Roscigno; Mr. Paolo Forti of La Venta
Photo credits: PPSRNP-PAMB
“It is close to my heart since almost 30 years ago, [I was a young diplomat in Manila then], I came to discover the beauty of Palawan and visited the Underground River. It impressed me so much. That is why I am particularly proud that we can leave today the name of our country with the future success of this great natural attraction,” Ambassador Roscigno said.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III lauded the project for its potential to provide sustainable eco-tourism opportunities in Palawan and alternative livelihood options that is in sync with good environmental practices.
“This project supports inclusive development by enabling partnership between non-government and government entities to fund community-based tourism and livelihood opportunities for communities,” Dominguez said.
He said the project was aligned with the Duterte administration’s 10-point socioeconomic agenda, which, aims to ensure inclusive growth, by among others, increasing rural productivity and tourism.
The PIDDS awarded TagBalay and its partners with a grant of P14.2 million with an additional 2.3 million provided as counterpart of TagBalay.
In its efforts to further preserve the Underground River, the project aims to support the communities surrounding the protected area through sustainable eco-tourism by providing them alternative tourism sites.
The project also utilizes Italian cave expertise, in collaboration with local cave experts, to further explore the cave and find ways to preserve it, and also provides assistance to local stakeholders on cave management.
The project began implementation in September 2016 and is expected to end in the first quarter of 2018.
H.E. Massimo Roscigno with the project implementers and partners from TagBalay, PPSRNP-PAMB, and La Venta, DOF, and project stakeholders.
Photo credits: PPSRNP-PAMB
Some 100 partners and stakeholders representing the PPSRNP-PAMB, La Venta, Gaia Exploration Club, the academe, tourism services, the Association of Banca Operators, and community leaders attended the official launching of the project.
Local leaders present during the event included City Councilor Nancy Socrates representing Mayor Lucilo Bayron, and Maribel Buñi, Provincial Tourism Officer, representing Governor Jose Alvarez.
The project launching also included a pre-expedition forum where the TagBalay Foundation, La Venta, the Gaia Exploration Club presented their programs and activities to preserve the PPUR area.
Paolo Forti from La Venta explained the scientific expedition to be done as part of the project.
3rd Call for Proposals Now Closed
We are pleased to announce that the Philippines-Italy Debt for Development Swap Program received 14 proposals from Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) from all over the Philippines in response to the Program’s 3rd Call for Proposals which was launched on August 15, 2016 and closed on September 15, 2016.
Of the 14, 4 proponents have proposed projects to be implemented within the major river basins in Luzon; 1 in Visayas; and 9 in Mindanao.
An acknowledgement receipt was sent via email to proponents whose proposals were received within the deadline.
The evaluation of the proposals is currently in progress. Proponents will be contacted via email in case of any clarificationon their submissions.
Regular updates on the status of the proposals review will be announced by the Program Secretariat. Announcement of the final result is targeted to be within the month of October 2016.
Italian Embassy and DoF witness the Project Launching of BCDI and its partners in Ligao City, Albay
Bicol Region, Philippines – On September 17 (Thursday), the Bicol Consortium for Development Initiatives, Inc. (BCDI) formally launched their project for the protection and conservation of the Burias Pass, a body of water located in the province of Albay and known to be a huge fishing ground and a site for rare and endangered species.
The project, a “Partnership for the Sustainable Management of Municipal Waters in Burias Pass, Bicol Region for the Benefit of the Disadvantaged Sectors” involves and benefits 8 municipalities, namely, Ligao City, Pio Duran, Oas, and Libon in Albay Province, Donsol and Pilar in Sorsogon, and Claveria and San Pascual in the island province of Masbate.
The project aims to improve the quality of life of around 13,800 small fishermen in the communities surrounding Burias Pass through strengthened policy advocacy and the sustainable management of coastal and marine resources, regeneration of marine resources and near-shore forests, the improvement of access to clean water, and increased income levels among the small fishermen and their families.
This project is one of the community-based initiatives chosen under the Philippines-Italy Debt for Development Swap Program (PIDDS), a debt conversion program in accordance with the Programming Guidelines and Directions of the Italian Government Cooperation for 2011-2013. With a total project cost amounting to Php 35.2 million – Php 32.8 million of which is given as grant, while the remaining Php 2.4 million serves as the counterpart – this project is one of the two large projects funded under the Program.
L-R: Cong. Fernando Gonzales of the 3rd District of Albay, Asst. Secretary Maria Edita Tan of the International Finance Group, Department of Finance, Italian Ambassador H.E. Massimo Roscigno
The Italian Ambassador, His Excellency Massimo Roscigno, and the Department of Finance (DoF), represented by Asst. Secretary Maria Edita Tan of the International Finance Group and members of the PIDDS Program Secretariat, witnessed the project launching held at Brgy. Catburawan, Ligao City, Albay.
In attendance were more than 100 partners and stakeholders, including the small fishers from the communities whom BCDI engaged as project partners and beneficiaries. Ms. Nonie P. Enolva, Marine Fisheries Resource Management Section Chief at the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) Bicol Region provided the assembly with a situationer on the Burias Pass covering, among others, the state of biodiversity in the area and concerns surrounding the livelihood of the local fisherfolks.
The project partners and stakeholders pose for a photo opportunity with H.E. Ambassador Massimo Roscigno.
Among the local leaders present in support of the initiative were Rev. Fr. Jojo Opinio, Executive Director of Caritas Masbate and Board Member of BCDI; Ms. Caroline Manguiat-Ubalde, Executive Director of BCDI; Fr. Rex Paul Arjona, Executive Director of the Social Action Center of the Diocese of Legazpi; Cong. Fernando Gonzales of the 3rd District of Albay; former Ligao City Mayor Hon. Linda P. Gonzales; Hon. Henry P. Callope, Mayor of Pio Duran; Hon. Elsa Llanto, Councilor of Pio Duran; and Don Mape, Municipal Administrator of Oas.
Top-Left: Cong. Fernando Gonzales of the 3rd District of Albay; Bottom-Left: Police Superintendent Mario Sanchez Meneses; Bottom-Right: Capt. Adelius Bordado of the Philippine Navy
Local security forces, through the messages of support from Police Superintendent Mario Sanchez Meneses and Capt. Adelius Bordado of the Philippine Navy, acknowledged their crucial role in ensuring the success of the initiative. Aside from the BFAR, Asst. Regional Director for Technical Services Al Orolfo of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) was also present, and representing the academe was Dr. Agnes Nepomuceno of the Bicol University.
This assembly also gave the local fisherfolks a unique opportunity to communicate the problems confronting them and the improved conditions they are aspiring for.
Through the stories shared by Frederick A. Timog of Cagmanaba, Oas, Albay; Roberto G. Alburo of Dao, Pilar, Sorsogon; and Jun Dela Cruz of Nonoc, Claveria, Masbate, the stakeholders developed a shared understanding of the realities of life in the communities surrounding Burias Pass, and with much hope in this partnership, the small fishers look forward to the time that they are no longer called a “disadvantaged” sector of society; rather, as one of the most valuable contributors to the Philippine economy.
The next day, September 18 (Friday), Amb. Roscigno, together with the Program Secretariat and the BCDI Project Team, paid a visit to one of the participating barangays – Brgy. Punta, Waling-Waling, Dalisay (PWWD) in the municipality of Donsol, Sorsogon – for the opportunity to interact with the barangay leaders involved in project implementation and to see the PWWD Mangrove Park. Donsol Mayor Hon. Josephine A. Alcantara-Cruz accompanied Amb. Roscigno in a short tour by the municipal water sidelines.
Before flying back to Manila, Amb. Roscigno paid a courtesy visit to Albay Governor Josemaria “Joey” Salceda at the Albay Provincial Tourism and Cultural Affairs Office, Albay Astrodome Complex, Legazpi City.
End of submission of proposals
The Philippines-Italy Debt for Development Swap Team is pleased to announce that 126 proponents expressed their interest to avail of the development funds intended for environmental protection and poverty reduction.
Nevertheless, among the 126 proposals received, only 101 met the deadline and only these proposals will proceed to evaluation. An acknowledgement receipt was sent to the proponents whose proposals were received within the deadline.
Of the 101 proposals, 57% were for large projects (above Php25 to Php35M), 28% were for medium-sized projects (Php10M to Php25M), and the remaining 15%were for small projects (below Php10M).
Status of evaluation
As of 12 December 2013, all of the qualified proposals already went through Administrative Compliance Check, Eligibility Evaluation and Experience Evaluation. About 90% of which are already finished with the Technical Evaluation and about 10% has gone under Financial, Co-Financing and Priority Areas Evaluation.
Almost all of the proposals are currently undergoing Technical, Financial , Co-financing and Priority Areas Evaluation.
Technical Committee deliberation
Management Committee approval
Proponents will be contacted via email in case of clarifications to their submissions.
Announcement of qualified projects will be within the first quarter of 2014.