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Cagayan island may be next ’Survivor’ site

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FISHING boats line the beach of Sta. Ana, Cagayan, the jump off point for the island of Palaui seen in the background. Palaui Island is the next location of the international television series “Survivor.” RICHARD BALONGLONG / INQUIRER NORTHERN LUZON

STA. ANA, Cagayan—An island at the tip of Luzon mainland is being considered the next location of the British reality television series, “Survivor,” drawing mixed reactions from officials, civil society groups and residents of this coastal town.

Palaui Island, located about 500 meters off Barangay San Vicente, will be the location of the 26th season of “Survivor,” said an Inquirer source, who asked not to be named for lack of authority to speak on the matter.

“Everything has been finalized, and a memorandum of understanding among the concerned parties will be signed on March 6,” said the source, who was among those who attended the meeting of the Protected Areas Management Board (PAMB) in Tuguegarao City on Wednesday.

The 7,415-hectare island, which is within the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport (CSEZFP), has also been declared a marine reserve under Proclamation No. 447, issued on Aug. 28, 1994. It is jointly managed by the PAMB and the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (Ceza).

Since 2006, Palaui has been opened to local tourism, with the ruins of a 120-year-old lighthouse sitting on top of a hill at the northern edge, the white beaches of Cape Engaño and the scenic forested mountain landscape, as the main attraction.

This early, however, controversy looms as residents and other environmentalists have expressed concern over the possible environmental impact of the event on the island.

“[People living on the island] are against it, fearing the possible adverse impact that the presence of the entire entourage will have on their lives and their environment,” Mayor Darwin Tobias said.

Palaui is mostly forested area, which some parts covered as naval reserve, officials said. At the southern side is Sitio Punta Verde, a community of about 150 families. Thirty of the families belong to the Agta tribe.

Among the sites being considered for location shoots are Cape Engaño and Siwangag coves in Palaui, as well the white beaches of Anguib and Pozo Robo on the northeastern tip of the mainland.

Filming will start on May 19 and will last for about six months.

During this period, Palaui and the nearby village of San Vicente will play host to an entire production entourage of about 600 people, consisting of the cast, cameramen and audio personnel, and members of the medical team, transportation, art and logistics department.

Officials of the Department and Natural Resources (DENR) in Cagayan Valley and Ceza, the two agencies pushing the project, have been tight-lipped on the matter.

“I cannot comment yet because it should be the event organizers who should announce if this will push through,” said Benjamin Tumaliuan, DENR regional director and PAMB chair.

Joyce Jayme, Ceza information officer, declined to confirm the report, saying any announcement may preempt the decision of the show’s producers.

“We at Ceza welcome and fully support this project, aware of the long-term benefits it can bring to [the free port] in terms of tourism promotion, as well as on employment and the local economy. But [the organizers] have yet to make the final confirmation, as they are still considering other sites,” she said.

Last week, PAMB members voted to endorse the event, even as others, including representatives from people’s organizations in the area, have expressed reservation.

Sister Minerva Caampued, a pastoral worker from the Saint Anthony Parish, said the residents were objecting because organizers supposedly did not conduct consultations with the Agta families on the island.

“We were never formally notified about it. The PAMB meeting was seemingly conducted as a mere formality, when everything has already been finalized,” Mayor Tobias said.


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