Skip to main content

The safest place to be... Palawan but......

Those of us in the Philippine environmental science profession learn in undergraduate geology that Palawan is the most aseismic place in the whole country. For one thing, the island is a piece of the Eurasian continental crust that was ripped from the mainland as a result of the formation of the South China Sea more than 30 million years ago. Palawan is a continental island as compared to the other Philippine islands, which are called "oceanic" meaning their origin is from the oceanic crust. Volcanism built these islands.

In graduate school, we had to pass the master's level course on geological oceanography. I was fortunately under Dr Margaret Goud-Collins (who is now affiliated with Woods Hole) who had not a few class days devoted on how the formation of Palawan. I fact the evolution of this island is linked with the evolution of the Sulu and South China Seas. Palawan is relatively aseismic since it is far from any plate subduction zone. In contrast the islands of oceanic Philippines are seismic since they are near these zones and as a consequence, are volcanic. But before Filipinos complain of the bad reputation, the islands came to be due to volcanism. There would be no Philippines without volcanoes. Filipinos depend on their very existence in the archipelago to volcanoes.

The final exam only had one question. How did Palawan form? If that sounded easy, think again. It took me more than three hours to hand in the examination paper!

Now comes the Philippine Daily Inquirer with its banner headline on Palawan. The reporters interviewed Dr Mahar Lagmay, one of our productive volcanologists having published many scientific studies on the discipline. While it is good that the public will have an idea of that scientific fact, we have to be more circumspect. Before we promote Palawan as the next real estate, "earthquake free" development destination, let us remember that

1) Palawan has a unique biodiversity from the rest of the Philippines
2) It is also the most forested island we have left
3) Palawan has also problems with resource extraction
4) Palawan also has a water problem (which is related to rapid population growth)

With only about 682,000 people, (population density of around 47 per sq km) Palawan is the second to the least populated province in the Philippines. Only another geologically, ecologically and biologically distinct province, Batanes, beats Palawan in this category. Also Palawan is the largest province at 14,649.7 sq km.

If Palawan follows a development route that encourages migration to the island, the island's ecosystems may be stressed. As a continental island, Palawan's soils are less fertile than those found in oceanic Philippine islands. Thus the island cannot produce enough food more than the population that now exists. Ecosystem degradation in the Visayan islands have caused a lot of people to migrate to Palawan. The estimated population growth rate is close to 5%, with half of that attributable to migration. The lack of major rivers (since the island is so narrow, but long) and a distinct monsoonal climate contributes to the water problem.

Palawan thus is a threatened island ecosystem. What it least needs is the influx of uncontrolled real estate developments (with seasonal migrants Metro Manila and other urban centers) which can contribute more to the water problem as well as the waste disposal problem. While tourism can and is a real cash earner for the island economy, this has to be balanced with the aim of maintaining ecosystem integrity.

I hope the Philippine Daily Inquirer counterbalances its banner headline with one specifically discussing Palawan's threatened environment.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

President Manuel Luis Quezon's Code of Ethics

Being a denizen of Kyusi, in honour of the man who gave my city its name and for being the most colourful prez the Philippines ever had, I have the pleasure to post Manuel L Quezon's Code of Ethics on his birthday. Let us profit from the wisdom of the Kastila.

1. Have Faith in the Divine Providence that guides the destinies of men and nations.

2. Love your country for it is the home of your people, the seat of your affection and the source of your happiness and well-being. It's defense is your primary duty. Be ready to sacrifice and die for it if necessary.

3. Respect the Constitution which is the expression of your sovereign will. The government is your government. It has been established for your safety and welfare. Obey the laws and see that they are observed by all and that public officials comply with their duties.

4. Pay your taxes willingly and promptly. Citizenship implies not only rights but obligations.

5. Safeguard the purity of suffrage and abide by the decisions of the…

Simoun's lamp has been lit, finally.. not by one but by the many!

"So often have we been haunted by the spectre of subversion which, with some fostering, has come to be a positive and real being, whose very name steals our serenity and makes us commit the greatest blunders... If before the reality, instead of changing the fear of one is increased, and the confusion of the other is exacerbated, then they must be left in the hands of time..."
Dr Jose Rizal "To the Filipino People and their Government"
Jose Rizal dominates the Luneta, which is sacred to the Philippine nation as a place of martyrdom. And many perhaps all of those executed in the Luneta, with the exception of the three Filipino secular priests martyred in 1872, have read Rizal's El Filibusterismo. Dr Rizal's second novel is a darker and more sinister one that its prequel but has much significance across the century and more after it was published for it preaches the need for revolution with caveats,  which are when the time is right and who will instigate it.

Flame trees in bloom

The hottest summer courtesy of El Nino in at least 10 years gave runners and walkers in the University of the Philippines Diliman campus a visual treat. This year the flame trees Delonix regia are in full bloom!
In past summers it wasn't as hot and dry so the trees did not shed their leaves and few blooms were produced.
It is the tropical version of the Japanese Hanami or the Cherry blossom viewing season. While Hanami tells us the fragile impermanence of beauty, the flame tree hanami tells us that summer burns but soon it will all be over.