Senator Sonny Angara has commended the Duterte administration for its plan to make the Pag-asa Island in the Spratlys a tourist destination by giving a facelift to existing structures like the Rancudo Airfield as well as build new facilities for marine activities.
In welcoming President Duterte’s direction to develop the island, Angara called on his fellow senators to support the thrust by approving his bill that will transform the Pagasa Island Cluster into one of the major tourist destinations in the Philippines.
He was referring to Senate Bill 944, entitled “Declaring Pag-asa Island Cluster in the Municipality of Kalayaan, Province of Palawan as an Ecotourism Destination and Protected Area, Providing Funds Therefor, and for Other Purposes.”
“With its impeccable beauty, the island is an ideal tourist destination…the rich biodiversity and Filipino heritage truly reflects the beauty of a paradise that our country should be proud of,” Angara said.
The Pag-asa Island (Thitu), located 480 kilometers off southwestern Palawan, is effectively occupied by the Philippines and the second largest island in the whole of Kalayaan Island Group (Spratlys). It’s the only Philippine-occupied island in the Spratlys that is inhabited by civilians.
Under the bill, the Pag-asa Island Ecotourism Cluster Governing Board shall be created composed of the governor of Palawan as its chairperson, congressman of the First District of Palawan as co-chairperson, regional executive director for Region IV-B of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources as vice chairperson, and the regional director for Region IV-B of the Department of Tourism as co-vice chairperson.
Also to be included as members of the board are the mayor of the Municipality of kalayaan, barangay chairperson of Pag-asa Island, commander of the Western Command of the military, and one each from the pro-environment non-government organization sector, academe, business sector, and the private sector.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana last Friday visited the Pag-asa Island and announced that the government has allocated a total of P1.6 billion- P1.2 billion for the repair of the 1.3-kilometer runway of Rancudo Airfield, and P400 million for the construction of a fish port.
He said that Pag-asa Island can easily be developed into a tourist destination because of its attractive beaches and pristine white sand.