Palawan lawmaker denies link to Ilonggo group in jet ski brouhaha

A photo from a Facebook post of the Iloilo Watercraft Association during their controversial trip to Palawan. The post has been taken down after Palawan residents slammed their trip for jet skiing in protected areas of the province.

By Joseph B.A. Marzan

A lawmaker from Palawan denied his connection to an Iloilo-based watercraft group that allegedly jet skied over a marine protected area without the necessary permits.

Zanie Seracarpio from the office of Palawan 1st district Rep. Edgardo Salvame told Super Radyo Palawan on Tuesday that the Iloilo Watercraft Association (IWA) did not coordinate its activities with their office.

Locals from El Nido, Palawan have claimed that IWA invoked the name of Salvame after local authorities questioned the group’s jet ski activities in some islands and waters covered by the El Nido-Taytay Managed Resource Protected Area (ENTMRPA) more than a week ago.

The areas where they were spotted included some portions that were supposedly off-limits to human activities, as these pose a danger to coral reefs and marine species there.

Seracarpio said that Salvame’s office did not receive any notice on the jet ski activities, either directly from the group or the representative’s office at the Batasang Pambansa.

He cited as proof the lack of tarpaulins banner provided by Salvame’s office to organizers of activities they support or have coordinated with.

The IWA went on a 10-day trip to areas covered by 3 Palawan towns, including El Nido, Taytay, and Linapacan, the latter being the location of their medical mission on June 5.

Aside from the ENTMRPA, they were also spotted at the Pangalatan Island Marine Protected Area (PIMPA), a privately maintained protected area, also in Taytay town.

Palawan Council on Sustainable Development (PCSD) spokesperson Jovic Fabello told the same radio station on Wednesday that IWA should have secured permits from the local government units (LGU) which have jurisdiction over the protected areas.

The ENTMRPA covers El Nido and Taytay towns, both of which are also part of the province’s 1st legislative district.

Fabello shared that they have not received any formal report over the incident yet, but he suggested that an inquiry or investigation may start with the tour or travel agency where IWA sought assistance for their trip.

“[The IWA] should have touched base with either the Municipal Tourism Office or any office or agency that is concerned with the areas they are going to,” Fabello said.

“Whichever tour agency they had used, we can start the reckoning there, on identifying the persons [who used the jet skis], and on which permits they secured for that activity,” he explained.

Fabello added that IWA may have jet skied in ENTMRPA at the time when there were no enforcers patrolling the area.

“In Marine Protected Area Management Plans, there are enforcement and patrolling services, but their problem there is that patrolling the waters is costly, and maybe at that time, they may have been unaware that [the IWA] slipped through and were able to jet ski [over the ENTMRPA],” he stated.

Board Member Bryan Maminta, chairperson of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Palawan’s Committee on the Environment, said Wednesday that whoever may have been involved in the jet skiing activities over the protected areas must be held accountable.

Seracarpio said that they would defer any legal action to the ENTMRPA’s Protected Area Management Board (PAMB), where Salvame also sits.

Reports of the IWA’s jet ski excursions at the ENTMRPA and PIMPA have been widely criticized on social media. Also, photos of their humanitarian activities in Linapacan town have been taken down from their social media accounts as of this posting.

The personal Facebook profile of the group’s founder, Vincent Tajanlangit, has also taken down public posts mentioning their trip to Palawan.

Various local media organizations have reported that it had been confirmed that the group did not secure the necessary permits from the PAMB.

Section 20(g) of Republic Act No. 7586 (National Integrated Protected Areas System or NIPAS Act of 1992, as amended) requires a permit issued by the PAMB before the motorized conveyances, referring to motorized transport, can be operated over protected areas under the law.

The Department of Natural Resources named the ETMRPA as a protected area under the National Integrated Protected Areas Program (NIPAP) which was supported by the European Union.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Office (UNESCO) World Heritage Convention’s website indicates that the area is home to the Malayan Pangolin and 16 bird species that are endemic to Palawan, including threatened species such as the Palawan Peacock Pheasant, the Palawan Hornbill, and the Palawan Scops Owl.