(Seated) City tourism officer of the City of Puerto Princesa Aileen Amuarao, Palawan Tourism Council president Debbie Tan, Monina Raneses of the Department of Tourism.
MAKATI CITY, 4 February 2015—Palawan is not the first to come to mind when it comes to Philippine World War II history. But for Dr Ricardo Jose of the UP Third World Center Studies, Palawan was one of the most strategic spots in the region.
“It covers the western flank of the Philippines, it covers the West Philippine Sea, and before WWII broke out, the Americans didn’t realize this. There were no significant fortifications in the area,” he said.
Palawan is actually one of the many places in the country with a grim past. On December 14, 1944, American prisoners of war numbering 139 were massacred by Japanese forces in Plaza Cuartel. By jumping off a cliff, 11 soldiers survived and were kept from harm by Palaweños.
As part of the campaign to liberate the Philippines, the US liberation forces invaded Palawan from February 28 to April 22, 1945.
A Palawan special battalion composed of 1,000 Filipino guerillas joined in on the action and helped liberate the island.
To help commemorate the island’s historical significance, a public-private partnership will try to stimulate tourism growth by developing places associated with the liberation.
Once developed, tours within Puerto Princesa will hopefully boost tourist arrival by 10%.
The celebration will invite Family members of the soldiers and show them how the liberation affected the lives of people in the local community.
More tourists, more pressure
The local government is currently trying to convince international carriers to include more direct flights to Palawan to attract more tourists and make the island more accessible.
But the increase in tourist arrivals is putting on a lot of pressure for the local tourism council. In 2014, tourist arrivals increased by 6% to 735,000.
Some activists fear that the influx of tourists may have a negative effect.
Palawan has been the battlefield of environmental issues in the past. It played a big role in stomping out mining in the country.
Chief of staff for the provincial government of Palawan Sonny Magbanua says that there are still ongoing mining operations there.
“The position of the provincial government is to eliminate small-scale mining. But there are still big mining companies there. It’s really the national government which decides on that issue. As of now, there are no new companies going in,” Magbanua says.
He adds that most of the tourism hotspots are located north of the island, while mining companies operate in the south.