Developing Pag-asa

Since June 1978, the Kalayaan island group in the Spratlys, including Pag-asa island, has been part of the first district of Palawan. Ferdinand Marcos had taken Pag-asa from a Filipino businessman who laid claim to the island after World War II. Starting out as a military installation, Pag-asa has become the smallest barangay in the country, with the island serving as home to civilians, military personnel, support groups and their families.

Pag-asa, the seat of the Kalayaan municipal government, now has its own small elementary school, a clinic and an airstrip. While the facilities befit only a fifth-class municipality, they are better than what many remote areas in the country enjoy. And the facilities can still be improved, not only to stimulate economic development in the municipality but also to reinforce the country’s claim over the area.

A common proposal is to develop eco-tourism in Kalayaan. Palawan should be no stranger to this; the provincial government is heavily dependent on eco-tourism earnings. The government has reportedly set aside P1.6 billion for development efforts in the island group. Upgrading the airstrip and seaport should be a priority; connectivity with Puerto Princesa, the provincial capital, should boost tourism. The private sector can be invited to participate in setting up tourism infrastructure in Kalayaan.

Palawan and the Spratlys are blessed with some of the best sites for snorkeling and diving. A marine research facility can also be set up in Kalayaan. In claiming the island group as part of Philippine territory, we should develop it into an area that can be a source of pride for the nation.

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