Palawan Business Club president Quentin Jose Pastrana gives his welcome remarks during the opening of Sulong Palawan Business Forum on Wednesday.

The provincial government and the business community convened on Wednesday in a forum aimed at discussing investment trends, sharing ideas, and exploring possible collaborations to strengthen Palawan’s economic landscape and propel growth in the locality.

Co-hosted by Governor Victorino Dennis Socrates’ administration and the Palawan Business Club (PBC), the 2nd Sulong Palawan Business Forum was carried out to open a wide array of opportunities for potential investors and expand available choices.

Governor Socrates emphasized that this year’s business forum has a specific focus on nurturing inclusive and sustainable growth through the vehicle of good governance, a concept that stands at the core of his administration’s priorities.

“Among the many socio-economic concerns that I am sure most of you would understand better than me, I would like to highlight the fact that more than 40 percent of Palawan’s land area is classified as forest or timberland, or otherwise non-alienable and non-disposable land as public domain despite being settled and built upon,” Socrates said in his message during the forum.

“Thus, in many cases, possession and ownership of land is a farming issue where might prevails in the absence of right. But then, it can only be addressed at the level of national legislation,” he added.

He said Palawan, often recognized as the nation’s “last ecological frontier,” presents a combination of advantages and disadvantages. In terms of remaining ecologically untouched, this aspect offers particular advantages, especially for the tourism sector.

However, due to its lack of development and its peripheral location in relation to civilization, the province encounters challenges. These include marginalization, aligning with the present definition of poverty, exclusion from productive networks, and limited participation in economic exchange.

The label of being “the last ecological frontier” also carries the implication of being the least affluent and least developed province, he said.

Taking into account the province’s topography, Socrates noted that although Palawan holds the distinction of being the largest province in terms of land area, it paradoxically exhibits the lowest population density. Nonetheless, it experiences a higher population growth rate of 2.14 percent annually, surpassing the national growth rate of 1.5 percent per year.

Despite the province’s low population density, nearly half of its inhabitants continue to reside below the poverty line, a concern that Socrates highlighted as requiring heightened attention.

“It is at this point that we all know that development is a moral imperative. We need to improve the quality of life of our people. Or to use the language of our national plan, ang vision natin for 2040, we are also after matatag, maginhawa, at panatag na buhay for all,” he said.

Meanwhile, Dr. Bernie Villegas, a professor at the University of Asia and the Pacific, expressed that attaining inclusive and sustainable growth is readily attainable with appropriate guidance and concentration.

“I’m sure all of us here are supporters of the principle of subsidiarity, which states that what can be done at the lower level starting with the family, business, and local government, should not be taken over by higher bodies specially an all-powerful state,” Villegas said.

“As long as we use what is in our power, the principle of subsidiarity will lead to sustainable and inclusive growth,” he said.

PBC president Quentin Jose Pastrana likewise said in his opening remarks that inclusive and sustainable growth can easily be achieved in Palawan.

“Because good governance is the foundation of sustainable and inclusive development, this makes a powerful platform of finding ways to make a bigger difference in this wonderful community,” he said.

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