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Friday, April 27, 2018

Qi Palawan: Redefining the Idea of Sustainability


Wazzup Pilipinas!

“It’s way beyond market positioning. It’s what anyone should do.”

—Bettina Rodarte and Ismael Delgado, Founders/owners of Qi Palawan, on reducing carbon footprint 


In a place as glorious as Palawan, it’s just quite imperative that establishments within the area conserve the beauty that houses one of the world’s most stunning pristine beaches and virgin rainforests. Located at the unexploited part of northeastern Palawan, Qi Palawan has become part of this undertaking to preserve the environment and its natural resources by seeking the help of the Zero Carbon Resorts (ZCR) project.

A boutique kite-dive-yoga resort, Qi Palawan currently has eight rooms, two large two-story villas, and six freestanding cottages. Located in San Fernando—a 55-minute drive from the town of El Nido, Philippines—Qi Palawan has opened their resort to tourists and travelers since 2014. The owners Ms. Bettina Rodarte and Mr. Ismael Delgado, though, have long since been members of the ZCR project in 2012, two years prior to their launching of their first and, currently, only branch.

Being the first and only establishment in the immediate area, Qi Palawan
is located 55 minutes from El Nido at the northeastern coast.

Beach view from Qi Palawan with hammocks hanging from the trees

Mr. Delgado and Ms. Rodarte’s reasons for joining ZCR have been highly diversified. Some of which are for economic reasons due to their resort’s predetermined initial budget, while some reasons are as it should be, environmental. The marketing aspect, or their market positioning as an eco-friendly resort, is something with which they are not quite preoccupied. For them, they were just doing what anyone should do. “For us, it was natural,” the owner said.

Villas at Qi Palawan with spacious and eco-friendly interior designs

Going Green Right Off the Bat

Sustainability has always been at the core of Qi Palawan’s ethos. However, going green for Qi Palawan both served as the challenge and the objective when it comes to the resort’s financial facet. In other words, it is both a roadblock and an entryway to making both ends meet. Investing in eco-friendly facilities and adopting green approaches can be very costly at the onset. But doable—and rewarding. In spite of everything, they believed, energy conservation should make economic sense in the long run.

Since the early stage of their operation was not the time for costly investment yet, in support of Qi Palawan’s movement toward a greener operation, they chose to adopt what cost less to implement. For one, based on recommendations during ZCR’s Architecture Training, Qi Palawan adjusted their infrastructure’s roofs to a positioning designed to provide more shading to the building and allow the rainwater to flow easily, protecting the cogon roof from degradation. A high-ceiling design was also adopted to allow for hot air to rise. Still in its objective to operate within its limited capital investment, the resort also built its staff houses based on geometries that allow natural airflow, which in turn promote cooling with less energy consumption, thus providing comfortable living spaces for them.

The initial phase was apparently not the time for solar panels—until their business opened and their financial standing improved. It was then that they knew it was time to reassess things.

nfrastructures have been designed to provide natural airflow to reduce energy consumption for cooling.

Reassessing the Use of Solar Energy

When the resort revisited their cashflow and saw adequate progress, they started reconsidering the concept of solar energy. That was when they reached out again to ZCR for recommendations on installations, making touch points with appropriate solar panel suppliers, and so on. Implementation was hard, but the resort knew it would be worth it.

Finally, solar installations were completed on September 25 this year 2017, and Qi Palawanhas been declared as a 100% solar-powered resort on the following day. Utilizing 40 kWh of solar panels with 128 kWh of batteries—which are sufficient in providing for the resort’s overall energy consumption even during peak occupancy periods—Qi Palawan became the first full-service, air-conditioned resort in the Philippines to use only solar power for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Qi Palawan’s solar panels can sufficiently provide for 24/7 electricity in the resort facilities.

This helps the resort to not only save more than Php33,000.00 a month or Php400,000.00 a year from more than 11,000 L of fuel that two 15-kVA and one 7.5-kVA generators used to consume, but also reduce carbon emission by exactly 29,650.23 kg of CO2. Now, the resort uses only a 25-kVA generator when needed. It is estimated that Qi Palawan’s conversion to solar is the equivalent of planting 996 carbon offset trees each year, helping preserve the currently untouched exquisiteness of northeastern Palawan.


Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle


Despite having their solar energy project materialized, Qi Palawan never dismisses the positive effects that simple but impactful measures can contribute to their sustainability efforts. This is why the resort strictly implements 3Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle.

he use of shampoo and soap dispensers and of eco-bags when resort staff transport things that guests need
To promote local products in the area, bamboo straws are locally made by Qi Palawan’s immediate community.
One of the key practices is to reduce the use of plastic, contamination of chemicals, and consumption of fuel. To do so, the resort management and staff do not serve food and drinks using any form of plastic, such as bottles, cups, plates, straws, and bags, to their guests.

Qi Palawan uses bamboo straws in all their drinks.

They have practically eliminated the use of plastic bags and, instead, promoted the use of locally sourced amenities. They encourage the use of crates and coolers and have implemented a 100% ban on single-use packaging.

Reusable belongings are available in Qi Palawan
Environment-friendly essentials are being promoted.
Since Palawan is a diving spot, the resort offers “reef-safe sunscreen” to their guests during their island hopping and dive trips. They also use natural, biodegradable cleaning supplies and detergent. These practices help prevent chemical contamination in the sea, and even on land.

Bamboo is not only good for creating furniture. Growing bamboo within
the vicinity helps in ventilation and does not require pesticides.
To reduce fuel consumption, the resort has been designed with fuel efficiency and sustainability in mind using bamboo—a fast-growing tree that does not require pesticides—and 100% local materials and labor.


Reuse and recycle go hand in hand within Qi Palawan’s premises. All kitchen wastes go through an anaerobic compost to become soil for the resort’s organic garden. A rainwater catchment system is deployed, and the harvested water is used for the garden, helping save clean water. Recycling of water from air conditioning also contributes to this effort. Old towels, kites, and other lost-and-found materials are being repurposed or donated.

Pail and PVC pipe is for catching the drip from the ACs and can get three or four pails per AC per day for watering decorative plants in the garden
The observation of 100% trash segregation and recycling enables the restaurant to use recycled paper sheets for the restaurant’s office administrative and management purposes, just as recyclable drink containers (except for single-use plastics) are being utilized for service.


Sustainability Is a Constant Undertaking

Infrastructure geometries that allow natural cooling, solar panels that reduce a great deal of carbon footprint, and 3R best practices that help conserve natural resources and prevent hazardous pollution—so, what’s next for Qi Palawan? There’s a lot more to it than meets the eye.

For the resort management, a true commitment to sustainability or zero carbon takes a constant struggle. The next big change for them is the implementation of a specialized tented window that reduces heating and provides privacy. This was also one of the recommendations from ZCR, which during the time of discussion, was still too costly for the resort to implement due to shipping expenses and import taxes. But the management is keeping the project concept in the pipeline, just as much as they constantly think of ways to improve their sustainability efforts.

Pieces of furniture found in the resort are crafted by local carpenters

Likewise, Qi Palawan extends the concept of sustainability to the economic aspect of doing business; that is, to implement the “buy local” idea. This includes the use of amenities and selling of goods that are made in the Philippines, specifically by the locals within the area. That said, the resort uses furniture made by local carpenters and employs locals and trains them as managers, cooks, kite instructors, and dive masters. They even serve vegetables homegrown by the immediate neighborhood, who get paid with prices equivalent to that offered by merchandisers in the far-off town market. This cancels out two round trips, or 160 kilometers, which locals who grow vegetables would have taken if they were to sell their goods in the market.

Constantly, Qi Palawan believes that sustainability is way beyond market positioning. It’s about the establishment. It’s about its people and their livelihood. It’s about economic sustainability. Most of all, sustainability is about everyone’s responsibility to the environment—and making contributions that can result in positive change. And Qi Palawantogether with the Zero Carbon Resorts project want to be certain that they remain part of these efforts, constantly.

(Photo credits: http://qipalawan.com)

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