Palawan is the largest province in the Philippines with an area of 1,489,655 hectares equivalent to 31% of the total land area of Region IV or representing 5% of the country’s local territory. It is dubbed as the Philippines’ “Last Ecological Frontier”. It comprises 1,780 islands and islets with 1,959 kilometers of irregular coastline, with 9,900 sq. km. coral reefs (excluding Kalayaan Island), resulting in numerous coves and bays follow-on to 176 fishing grounds and most notable are Malampaya Sound in the municipality of Taytay, Honda Bay in Puerto Princesa City, Coron Bay, Bacuit Bay in El Nido, Sulu Sea, Kalayaan and Tubbataha as the largest fishing ground with 33,200 hectares.
About 1.5 Million hectares in land area thus geographically situated in a world known as the “coral triangle” and lies along the Sunda shelf where the rich biodiversity in the world can be found. However, nature of Palawan can be considered fragile from its attribute such as its narrow mainland, composed of small islands and steep topography, high erodible soils with small watersheds and short rivers and the soil geology is impermeable.
Due to Palawan’s uniqueness, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), declared it as a “Man and Biosphere Reserve” owing to its vast land area and topography divided by tall mountains ranges such as Mt. Mantalingahan, Mt. Gantung in the southern part and Cleopatra’s Needle in the northern part of the province with an average elevation approximately 1,100 meters. Palawan is also the home of three (3) major indigenous communities namely: Batak which can be located in the central and northern part, Tagbanua in the central, northern and southern part and Pala’wan in the southern part of the province.
Palawan comprises of the following biodiversity:
15 lakes, 42 ponds, 44 waterfalls, 72 natural springs, 9 mineral springs, 28 principal rivers, 43 streams and 165 creeks identified as potential sources of water for domestic consumption and irrigation.
Composed of approximately 690,000 hectares of terrestrial forest
With 42,500 hectares of mangrove forests, having 31 species and 90% of the known mangrove species in the country
8 of the 11 amphibians endemic to the Philippines are found only in
279 species of birds are found in Palawan and 27 are endemic to the country
15 of the 25 marine mammals in the Philippines are found in Palawan
58 species of terrestrial mammals are recorded and 19 or 33% are endemic to the country and 16 are restricted to the Mantalingahan Range
Composed of 24 endemic reptiles and 69 species are found in the corridor
4 of the 5 marine turtles are found in Palawan
2 World Heritage Sites:
Tubbataha Reef in the municipality of Cagayancillo
Puerto Princesa National Subterranean River in the City of Puerto Princesa
Source: Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund Identification of Bio-diversity Hotspot.
Palawan is said to have abundant mineral resources such as marble, silica, limestone, nickel, chromites, copper, iron, pyrite, sulphur, guano and rock phosphates, mercury, gold manganese and oil, strategically located in the entire island province.
In 1991, the Philippine Congress recognizing Palawan’s environment as very critical passed a special law for Palawan through Republic Act 7611or The Strategic Environmental Plan (SEP) for Palawan Act, which became the fundamental law governing Palawan’s natural resources and its framework for development direction. Its strategy for implementation is the delineation of the Environmentally Critical Areas Network (ECAN) composed of the terrestrial or forestlands, the marine or coastal area, and the tribal or ancestral lands. In the SEP manuscript, it was actually mentioned that: “many mine sites straddle major catchments or are dangerously close to ecologically fragile shore and in-shore of marine zones”.
Several studies conducted by local and international geological organizations have shown that the entire mainland Palawan is resting on granitic continental crust and part of the continental block that is geologically vulnerable. Thus, if mining activities in Palawan increases, it could pose serious negative impacts in catchments, shore areas and in the total topography of the province.