Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director General Gregorio Catapang Jr. envisions Puerto Princesa as a “world-class city” and plans to build an agro-aqua industrial food production hub to support food sufficiency.
His top priorities include establishing an agro-aqua industrial food production hub in accordance with President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr’s directive through the Department of Agriculture (DA).
Catapang pointed out that the output of the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm (IPPF) will assist to feed people, particularly during the tourism industry’s recovery period, when the number of visitors in the city is climbing again.
“I am also an environmentalist but I don’t want to see lands that are vacant. I am here because I am also an adopted son of Palawan to make sure that our place will be healthy, environmentally compliant kasi nabalitaan ko na nag-i-import pa pala tayo ng gulay,” he said.
During his time in Palawan, Catapang worked with DA at IPPF and claimed that the department wanted 500 hectares as a test area for food production. It will be used to grow unhusked rice or palay, vegetables, corn, cashew, coconut, coffee, cacao, and even cattle.
He is also now in talks with some individuals asking land areas from IPPF to be used as coconut plantations for food production and environmental protection.
The IPPF has a total area of 28,000 hectares covered by its four sub-colonies in Iwahig, Montible, Sta. Lucia and Inagawan.
“Ito pa lang coconut nyo dito, kapag tinanim sa tabing-dagat ay mas mabilis magbunga, mas productive— For food security and of course poprotektahin yong ating environment dahil kapag nagbagyo, they can be protection of the houses within that area (Your coconut here, if planted near the seashore, they will bear fruit more quickly and be more productive. This is for food security and, of course, to protect our environment because during storms, the plants can serve as protection for the houses in the area),” he added.
He also plans to put up solar power from the resources of IPPF as an additional source to support the power supply in Palawan. Around 100 hectares will be dedicated for the project, which further details have not yet been provided by Catapang.
The persons deprived of liberty (PDL) will be involved in farming activities and reforestation efforts particularly those inmates to be transferred to IPPF from National Bilibid Prison. Catapang commits to making Palawan contribute to the country’s food security and tourism industry as “vibrant but environmentally friendly.”
“We will look into the soil, how to improve the soil so that kahit kamatis, okra, talong and other ingredients na kailangan. We will make Palawan self-sufficient using technology and the Department of Agriculture, magkakaroon ng joint effort to make our property really productive,” he said.
Meanwhile, Palawan Governor Victorino Dennis Socrates in Arampangan sa Palawan (ASK) on Friday, April 28, told the local media that Catapang has shared with him plans, which include building an airport in Iwahig.
He said Catapang arrived with architects, confirming his determination in making his vision for Iwahig a reality.
“Yong Iwahig ang pinaka malaking ari-arian ng BuCor. Noong nagkukuwentuhan kami, ang kanyang vision ay for Iwahig—kailangan lalo pang pakinabangan bilang food production center. Hindi lang food production, puwede ring may tourism component, puwede ring may commercial, may housing, etcetera—malaki ang kanyang plano, including construction of an airport somewhere in the territory of Iwahig (The Iwahig is the largest property of BuCor. When we were talking, his vision for Iwahig is that it should be utilized even more as a food production center. Not only for food production, there could also be a tourism component, commercial establishments, housing, etcetera – he has big plans, including the construction of an airport somewhere in the territory of Iwahig),” Governor Socrates said.
Socrates added that Catapang intends to make the reformation of convicts more productive as opposed to punitive by integrating them into the labor force in “whatever” industry will suit Iwahig.
Catapang said he assessed the peace and order situation in Palawan during his meeting with Western Command (WESCOM) commander Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos. He was told that insurgency is “about just to fade away” with the help of developments established in the area.
The bureau also plans to assist in securing the Seven Line Reef in Aborlan town. He also discussed the idea of borrowing WESCOM’s assets including helicopter and navy boats to regularly patrol the area.
After learning that BuCor’s property is left abandoned in Brgy. Sta. Lucia and not developed, Catapang plans to take back the area.
“With the law, 2013 pa yan. It’s only now that there is really a serious effort to implement that law. And under that law, all lands that were given to the city and if not developed for the next five years can be taken back,” he said.
“I think that area, napuntahan ko yon, nagpunta kami walang tao, nagtaka kami na abandoned (I went there, but there was no one; we were wondering why it’s abandoned). We want to get it back, of course we will have to talk with the mayor,” he added.
Catapang was in Puerto Princesa City to also join the inauguration of the UV disinfection facility of the city water district on April 28.