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‘Declare Pag-asa Island a special eco-tourism zone’

Pag-asa Island, located 480 kilometers off southwestern Palawan, is the second largest island in the Kalayaan Island Group (Spratlys) in the West Philippine Sea, and is the only island in the Spratlys that is effectively occupied by the Philippines. AP

MANILA, Philippines - A bill has been filed in the Senate seeking to declare Pag-asa Island in Palawan a special ecological tourism zone to help promote and develop the area as a tourist destination while protecting its natural resources.

“With its impeccable beauty, the island is an ideal tourist destination. The rich biodiversity and Filipino heritage of the island truly reflects the beauty of a paradise that our country should be proud of,” Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara said in his Senate Bill 2938.

Pag-asa Island, located 480 kilometers off southwestern Palawan, is the second largest island in the Kalayaan Island Group (Spratlys) in the West Philippine Sea, and is the only island in the Spratlys that is effectively occupied by the Philippines.

The Kalayaan island town is a fifth-class municipality of Palawan and is home to around 300 people.

Palawan was recently hailed as the top island destination in the world for the second straight year by Conde Nast Traveler, an award-winning US travel magazine, in its Readers’ Choice Awards 2015.

Angara noted that Kalayaan Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon Jr., who has been the island’s chief executive for six years now, hopes to have the Pag-asa Island Cluster included in Palawan’s top tourist destinations.

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“Thus, our proposed measure seeks to provide the necessary support for such efforts of the municipal government of Kalayaan by declaring it an ecological tourism area,” Angara, vice chairman of the Senate tourism committee, said.

The bill seeks the creation of the Pag-asa Island Ecotourism Cluster Governing Board that would rationalize all efforts pertaining to environmental protection and tourism industry promotion.

The board shall be composed of the provincial governor as chairman, the congressional representative of the first district of Palawan as co-chairman, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) regional executive director for Region 4-B as vice chairman, the Department of Tourism (DOT) regional director for Region 4-B as co-vice chairman.

Members of the board are the mayor of the municipality of Kalayaan, the barangay chairman of Pag-asa, the commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Western Command, a member of a non-government organization advocating environmental preservation, a member of the academe, a representative of the business sector and a representative of the private sector.

SB 2938 also seeks to declare the islands of Parola, Kota and Panata as protected areas under the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS).

“The Board, in coordination with the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA), is mandated to prepare, develop and implement an ecotourism master plan to ensure environment and ecosystem protection and preservation, and to promote tourism and job generation to boost the economy of Kalayaan,” Angara said.       

 

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