PSFI executives with Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez and El Nido town mayor Edna Lim for the inauguration of the Palawan Eco-Agri Park (PEAP) in Sitio Calampinay, Barangay Pasadena. (Photo courtesy of PSFI)

(UPDATED) An 11.48-hectare Palawan Eco-Agro Park (PEAP) aimed at increasing farm productivity and food sustainability of the growing tourism industry in El Nido town and its neighboring municipalities was inaugurated Monday, October 7.

PEAP is a project initiated by the Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc. (PSFI) in 2018, accomplished under a partnership agreement between the Palawan provincial government and the municipal government of  El Nido.

Cesar Romero, country chair of Shell Companies in the Philippines credited the partnership between them and the provincial government as crucial in the realization of the project.

“This would not have been possible if not for some of the core values that we actually have in Shell. A few of these important core values are actually being a good neighbor and being a partner in nation-building,” he said.

In his speech, Palawan governor Jose Chavez Alvarez lauded the project as a successful public and private partnership.

Alvarez proposed that the farm maximize its production of rabbits mainly for foreign tourist consumption.

“Ang rabbit napaka-mahal na karne nyan sa Malaysia, Europe, malaki po ‘yan kasi ang rabbit halos dalawang kilo. Ang rabbit po ay napaka-mahal sa Europe, mas mahal pa ang karne ng rabbit kesa manok, baboy at saka kambing or baka. It is a very nice meat and very healthy,” he said.

PEAP has an area for livestock, poultry, and agricultural production.

Guests and beneficiaries listen to the speakers during the program proper in the inauguration of PEAP. (Photo courtesy of PSFI

Located at Sitio Calampinay in Barangay Pasadeña, El Nido, PEAP produces organically-grown vegetables such as lemongrass, squash, Baguio beans, calamansi, chili finger, cucumber, eggplant, mint leaves, okra, squash, string beans, bitter gourds, carrots, mustasa, watermelon, mango, lettuce, arugula, sweet basil, native pechay, banana, hot chili, green and red and bell pepper, saluyot, kangkong, avocado, tomato, cabbage, sweet gold, pineapple, sayote, upo, coli flower, and honeydew.

Meats, eggs, feeds, and breeders are also some of the main products of the farm.

PEAP also promotes food processing, organic food production, nursery, and organic fertilizer and pesticide production.

In the present time, PEAP also raises a total of 63 rabbits of which 10 are males, 18 of females, and 35 kittens. The population of rabbits is in a fast-paced and continuous growth.

The farm also houses a total of 145 chickens wherein 38 are males, 56 are females, and 51 are chicks.

PSFI deputy executive director Marvi Trudeau in her speech Monday said it was in 2018 when she realized how expensive the agricultural products are in El Nido town.

“Nakakapang-hinayang kasi na sabihin na wala tayomg gulay and agricultural products dito sa ating bayan sa El Nido,” Trudeau said.

The initial discussion with the provincial government started in March 2018, followed by a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) signed on August 9 of the same year.

The project was presented to Governor Jose Alvarez on October 26, 2018, who immediately responded through sending staff for re-surveying, clearing, planning, and design of the area.

An agreement with the provincial government was signed on December 10, 2018, and was followed by farm development.

Trudeau added this area was also agreed with the Western Philippines University (WPU) to be used as their agricultural laboratory, where they can conduct their studies for agriculture and further technologies.

Challenges encountered

Trudeau said PEAP has experienced four typhoons with flooding and a drought season yet continued to flourish.

In their records acquired by Palawan News, PSFI indicated 7,000 kilograms of vegetables destroyed by typhoons.

Some of the challenges were the unorganized farmers and the agricultural workforce transferring to the tourism industry, Trudeau said.

PSFI team cuts the ribbon for the spillway constructed by the provincial government for PEAP. (Photo courtesy of PSFI)

El Nido town mayor Edna Lim said in her speech during the inauguration this project would not have materialized without the aid of PSFI and the provincial government.

Lim said the El Nido LGU alone is not capable of accomplishing this as she expressed her thanks to their partners.

“Napakasaya ng bayan ng El Nido dahilang ito ay hindi lamang eco-agro park kundi magiging tourism area and destination. Ipo-promote namin ito na isa ito sa dapat puntahan ng ating mga turista,” said Lim.

“On behalf of the local government unit of El Nido, Palawan, thank you so much Pilipinas Shell Foundation Incorporated at especially kay governor at sa kaniyang vice-governor at board members. Aasahan namin, gob, na ang tulong mo ay ibibuhos mo sa bayan ng El Nido bago sa ibang bayan ng lalawigan ng Palawan,” said Lim.

Lim said they will still ask for huge fundings from the provincial government for the concretion of a farm-to-market road from Brgy. Pasadeña to New Ibajay.

“Para hindi na mahirapan ang ating mga farmers na magdala ng kanilang produkto sa ating pong bayan, ganoon na din ang ating mga farmers dito sa ating Palawan Eco-Agro Park, nadadalhin sa bayan at ibebenta sa atin pong mga hotels and restaurants sa ating nasasakupan sa bayan ng El Nido,” said Lim.

Instead of giving a full speech, PSFI executive director Sebastian Quiniones Jr. has chosen instead to just present and acknowledge all the members of the team who worked hard for the project to materialize.

He said this is for each of them would have the privilege to be properly acknowledged.

“Makakaasa po kayo na ang team natin na ito ay inyong partner sa lahat po ng mga gagawin dito. Ito pa lamang po ay pasimula. Ang sinasabi po ni Marvi model farm po ito. Titingnan natin kung ating mare-replicate. Ibig sabihin noon, sa ating mga farmers kung puwede nating ilipat ang teknolohiya at paggagawa ng paraan doon sa iba’t-ibang lugar ng Palawan. So una po ito, marami pa po ang susunod,” said Quiniones.

Quiniones also reiterated the tagline of the park “Sama-samang Pagtulong, Sabay-sabay sa Pag-sulong” as he thanked everyone who attended the program.

In an earlier statement sent to Palawan News, Jeri Abenoja, the research and communications officer of PSFI, said they are happy to see how the prices of vegetables are slowly dropping in the town market.

He said they consider this as a positive impact of the project for the El Nido residents and its tourists.

“We at the Pilipinas Shell Foundation will continue to work hard to achieve our mandate to enable the disadvantaged to become productive and responsible members of society. Sama-samang pagtulong, sabay-sabay na pasulong,” said Abenoja.

Abenoja said PSFI, in partnership with the municipal and provincial government, envision PEAP to be the “Center of Agricultural Innovation and Research” not only in the MIMAROPA region but in the entire country as well.

PEAP as a center for integrated community-focused training

In the present, there are 258 farmer-beneficiaries of the project, of which 46 percent are sellers.

The beneficiaries of PEAP are expected to develop their management skills for the implementation of income-generating projects and enterprises and agricultural business, farm tourism and the integrated farming system.

This is to increase family income and raise the quality of life of the local farmers through time.

Through collaborations between PSFI and municipal and provincial governments, the beneficiaries will continuously provide skills training, enterprise development, post-training assistance, including its monitoring and evaluation.

PEAP as municipal wastes utilization and disposal model

Towards finding sustainable solutions to environmental degradation, waste management, and its utilization, the farm as well aims to be a model for the municipality.

This is through turning biodegradable wastes into fertilizers and plastic wastes into bricks.

On the other hand, the El Nido town local government unit (LGU) under their partnership is responsible to assist in the complete segregation and trucking of solid waste.

PEAP as  farm tourism and nature park

Aside from being a “demo farm”, it also offers park and farm tours for visitors, lodging and accommodation for tourists, and even available food and canteen services.

Along with this is the PEAP agri-kiosk wherein beneficiaries sell learning materials, farm inputs, renewable energy supplies, seeds, seedlings and farm produce.

Also, the farm has its own warehouse, spillway, and food processing and training centers.

Renewable energy powered farm

PEAP is a solar-powered farm run by 10.4-kilowatt (KW) solar panel, 48 V 500 Ah Lithium batteries, and a 10 KW inverter.

On the other hand, a 15 KVA diesel generator is used to back-up the provision of the farm’s energy consumption when the sun’s energy is low.

Patric Jayrelmarc Guzman, PSFI project officer, said the solar energy is enough to power the lights needed in the park.

“Pailaw [lang] most, kung makikta niyo may mga street lights, then dito sa mga guest house,” said Guzman.

Guzman added the park is well-irrigated by a local stream tapped from its mountainous areas.

Goals for the next coming years

As it handles the day-to-day operations of the Palawan Eco-Agro Park, PSFI targets to establish a venue for eco-camps (ecological campings), increase its rabbit and chicken heads to 500 each, start the composting/organic fertilizer production, and add organic pig to its livestock.

PSFI also looks forward for food production training, more farmers training, production of plastic bricks, nursery sales, and to engage in aquaphonics and vermiculture.