Lately, I’ve been spending some time researching a future home. I’m still working and living in Batam, Indonesia, but I’ve found it’s always a good idea to keep your options open. You never know when your circumstances might change.
Previously, I explored (online) the Cebu area of the Philippines, which is a large island in the middle of the country. Bogo City, north of the province capital of Cebu City, seemed like a good prospect. Here I’m looking at another island, Palawan. Here’s some info from the Web:
Palawan is an island province of the Philippines and is the largest province in the country in terms of total area of jurisdiction. The islands of Palawan stretch from Mindoro in the northeast to Borneo in the southwest. It lies between the South China Sea and the Sulu Sea. The province is named after its largest island, Palawan Island, measuring 450 kilometers (280 mi) long, and 50 kilometers (31 mi) wide.
Palawan is composed of the long and narrow Palawan Island, plus a number of other smaller islands surrounding the main island.
Palawan’s almost 2,000 kilometers (1,200 mi) of irregular coastline are dotted with roughly 1,780 islands and islets, rocky coves, and sugar-white sandy beaches. It also harbors a vast stretch of virgin forests that carpet its chain of mountain ranges. The mountain heights average 3,500 feet (1,100 m) in altitude, with the highest peak rising to 6,843 feet (2,086 m) at Mount Mantalingahan. The vast mountain areas are the source of valuable timber. The terrain is a mix of coastal plain, craggy foothills, valley deltas, and heavy forest interspersed with riverine arteries that serve as irrigation.
The capital is Puerto Princesa, officially City of Puerto Princesa. As of 2010, Puerto Princesa had a population of 222,673 people, making it the least densely populated city in the Philippines. In terms of land area, the city is the second largest geographically after Davao City with an area of 2,381 square kilometers (919.32 sq mi). Today, Puerto Princesa is a popular tourist city with many beach resorts and seafood restaurants. It has been acclaimed several times as the cleanest and greenest city in the Philippines.
Puerto Princesa is known as the eco-tourism center of the Philippines. In recent years, the city has seen a remarkable increase in the number of tourists, bringing with them trade and businesses for the city. Many hotels, ranging from basic to five-star luxury accommodations, have been developed since the 1990s to cater to a growing number of foreign and local tourists in the city. There are also a large selection of restaurants, bars, and shops, including the recently completed Robinsons Place Palawan shopping mall.
Most tourists come to Puerto Princesa to visit the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park located 50 km north of the city. It was named one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature. The city is also the jump-off point for exploring the Tubbataha Reef.
Waves of migrants from other Philippine provinces, and even other countries, have turned Puerto Princesa into a melting pot of various cultures. Among the original inhabitants are the Cuyonons, who have a rich legacy of folklore and traditions.
Three fourths of the population resides in the city proper, an urban settlement on the shores of Puerto Princesa Bay. The predominant language is Tagalog; English is also widely spoken.
The city is just one and half kilometers from the Puerto Princesa International Airport. Puerto Princesa is accessible by direct flights from the major Philippine cities Manila, Cebu, Davao and Iloilo.
The province has two types of climate. The first, which occurs in the northern and southern extremities and the entire western coast, has two distinct seasons – six months dry and six months wet. The other, which prevails in the eastern coast, has a short dry season of one to three months and no pronounced rainy period during the rest of the year. The southern part of the province is virtually free from tropical depressions but northern Palawan experiences torrential rains during the months of July and August. Summer months serve as peak season for Palawan. Sea voyage is most favorable from March to early June when the seas are calm. The average maximum temperature is 31 degrees C with little variation all year.
Palawan’s economy is basically agricultural. The three major crops are palay, corn and coconut. Mineral resources include nickel, copper, manganese, and chromite. Logging is also a major industry. Palawan has one of the richest fishing grounds in the country. About 45% of Manila’s supply of fish comes from here. Having natural gas reserves of approximately 30,000 trillion cubic feet, the province is the only oil-producing province in the country. Pearl diving used to be a significant economic activity for Palawan until the advent of plastics. The economic and agricultural business growth of the province is at 20% per annum. Coconut, sugar, rice, lumber, and livestock are produced here.
Four telecommunication companies provide local and international direct distance dialing and fax services. Inter island communications is available through the government’s telegraph network and the Provincial Radio Communication System. In addition, there are 19 post offices, and a number of cargo forwarders provide air parcel and freight services.
The province has access to two satellite-linked television stations. Cable television in the City of Puerto Princesa offers dozens of foreign channels, while smaller firms provide cable services in selected towns. Individual cable facility is available locally. Seven radio stations are based in Puerto Princesa, four on the AM and three on the FM bands. Community-based radio stations operate in some of the municipalities in the north and south of the province. Two mobile phone companies are operating in the province. There are three Internet Service Providers in the Province.
There are nine provincial government hospitals, two national government hospitals, one military hospital and nine private hospitals in the province.
My understanding is that there are a number of expats, including Americans, living on Palawan. The capital city has western amenities and a steady flow of tourists.
Of course, the main issue for consideration is the cost of living., mostly rent. From what I understand (and I am still trying to connect with people living there), rent for a 2-bedroom house would be less than $400/mo, for a 1-bedroom apartment $250/mo. Not sure if those rates apply to the capital, where you can expect rents to be higher, or if those rates would be that low close to the shoreline or beaches.
Food would be much less, overall, than in the U.S., although western-type items that have to be imported would be costly. Overall, the cost of living is about 40% that in the U.S. from what I can tell.
An important consideration, also, is healthcare. If I were in the U.S., I would be using the VA for my medical needs. Because of the past presence of the U.S. military in the Philippines and the large contingent of retired American service personnel in Manila, the U.S. VA Administration operates a VA hospital in Manila, a one-hour flight from Palawan.
Another consideration is visa restrictions. I’m still exploring this but it looks like I can stay on my passport for 60 days before I have to renew my visa. This can be done in-country (and hopefully in Palawan), rather than the usual practice of having to leave the country and then re-enter. You can do this forever or use one of the permanent visa options available. More on this later as I gather more information.
Since a round-trip flight from Singapore to Palawan is only about $400, I might even take a trip later this year to investigate. At any rate, Palawan gives me a third option, along with Cebu and Khari Khan in Thailand, should I need a new home. Of course, at that point I will not be earning a salary and will have to survive on my retirement check. Makes it a little more interesting – but – later this year I can start taking money out of my two (meager) 401k accounts, giving me a little more income to live on. This aspect was already planned for, by the way, when I first decided to leave the U.S. four years ago.
Pura vida amigos