MANILA, Philippines – Palawan, the country’s last ecological frontier and a favorite tourism spot, was spared from the wrath of Tropical storm Sendong, residents and officials said.
On Sunday, Dec. 18, 2011, “Sendong” (international code name Washi) hit landfall for the second time in the past two days after it hit northern Mindanao and the Visayas, killing almost 600 people.
It passed Palawan, an elongated island next to the West Philippine Sea, as it continued to exit the country.
Palawan, a favorite tourist destination, is now host to hundreds, if not thousands, of local and foreign tourists who flock to its pristine and tropical islets that dot its eastern, western, and northern areas. December is typically a peak month for tourist arrivals.
“It rained a bit at dawn, then it was cloudy and rainy this entire morning,” said Juliet Kim, owner of Four Season Resorts in El Nido.
El Nido sits on the northwestern part of Palawan and is famous for its picturesque coves, lagoons and limestone cliffs. It is one of the favorites of high-end to middle-market tourists that come as far as Russia and Latin America.
Several tourism establishments in El Nido are already fully-booked, according to local officials.
Port Barton, another tourist destination on the central western side of Palawan that Sendong passed over as it continued westward, is difficult to get to from Palawan’s capital Puerto Princesa, according to Felipe Acosta, the village chief.
The 100-plus kilometer dirt road from Taytay junction, the jump-off point from the eastern side of the paved national road, to Port Barton, which is on the west, is not passable to most vehicles, Acosta said. The dirt road, which has been used by logging companies’ trucks, is full of holes and very bumpy, he said.
Acosta said all island hopping activities have been called off since Friday, leaving foreign tourists stuck with their books or tropical drinks.
Port Barton is part of San Vicente town, which is trying to market the Long Beach, a 12-kilometer sprawling stretch of white beach, as “the next Boracay.”
In Coron, the jump-off point for island hoppers and tourists in Busuanga island town located on the northern tip of Palawan, dark clouds still dominate the scene, according to Judson, who lives and operates a small business next to the port.
“It’s just a bit rainy here, like a typical December day. We’re not worried,” he told Rappler.com on the phone.
Sendong is heading towards the West Philippine Sea at 24 kilometers per hour, with maximum winds of 65 kilometers per hour near the center, and gustiness of up to 80 kilometers per hour.
Weather bureau PAGASA raised Signal number 1 over Cuyo and Coron Group of Islands, while signal number 2 is raised over the rest of Palawan.
In its latest advisory at 10 a.m. on December 18, heavy rainfall is expected within the 300-kilometer diameter of the tropical storm.
Sendong is expected to exit Philippine Area of Responsibility by 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Dec. 18.
Residents in low-lying areas of Palawan were warned of big waves and storm surges due to the storm, and fishermen are not allowed to venture out. – Rappler.com