In 1994, the province of Palawan had a record-high 54,000 malaria cases, and has been known as having the highest number of cases nationwide. The number has been cut drastically. 

In 2016, the tally was 6,132 but this has significantly dropped by almost 50 percent this year with only 3,360 positive cases recorded from January 1 to November 30. That is a 45.21 percent drop, according to the Provincial Malaria Data of Palawan.

At the rate the health problem is being resolved, local health officials are even optimistic the numbers can reach the lowest rates by 2020.

Presently, the highest recorded is in the municipality of Rizal with 1,294 cases. Other towns include Balabac with 686, Bataraza's 656, Brooke's Point with 360 cases, Quezon's 142 cases, and the capital Puerto Princesa City with 91 cases.

One death has been recorded, but the declining trend is obviously a marked improvement.
"This figure is a great improvement in our fight against malaria," said MIMAROPA Regional Director Eduardo C. Janairo, during the 9th Malaria Congress in Puerto Princesa, Palawan. 
In MIMAROPA, a region of island provinces, only Palawan and Occidental Mindoro have malaria cases. Romblon and Marinduque have been declared "free of malaria." Oriental Mindoro will be up for assessment this year before it can earn the status - although it has not logged any case since 2012. 
The cases in Occidental Mindoro - minuscule in proportion - were mainly imported from Palawan. Ninety-nine percent of all the cases in the region is in Palawan, while only one percent is in Occidental Mindoro.
Notably, all four strains of malaria are present in the province. 
Palawan's targets include lowering the cases to 1,500 in 2018, and further to 600 cases by 2022.
Under the health department's malarial stratification, a means to categorize the areas, 73 villages are stable, 83 villages are unstable/sporadic, and 172 villages have 'interrupted' status. 
Based on these data, Director Janairo and health officials are aiming for at least, and an earlier if possible, malaria-free Palawan in 2020.
"There is a possibility that it might be achieved, especially next year because we will give all the support," he said. Possible funding sources are foreign or local aid organizations, he added. What is important is for the regional office to be proactive to support achieving the goal.
At risk population groups, such as indigenous peoples, live in the mountainous areas of Palawan. Often, the challenge is how to persuade them to come down and get tested. The solution has been to send out teams of village volunteers and medical technologists to hike and "hunt" for cases, bringing with them test equipment and medical supplies.
"We have to understand that malaria, its elimination is [also due to] development, or urbanization. All areas in Manila used to have malaria in the past. But now it has almost zero malaria because the breeding areas are no longer conducive for them. Change of environment can cause removal of malaria," he added. MIMS

Read more:

Breathalyzers: The future of malaria diagnostics
Community participation key to malaria prevention, control in Palawan