Press Release
November 2, 2015


Senator Sonny Angara has filed a bill that seeks to declare the Pag-asa Island Cluster in the Municipality of Kalayaan in the province of Palawan as a special ecological tourism zone to promote and develop the area as a tourist destination while protecting its natural resources.

The Pag-asa Island, located 480 kilometers off southwestern Palawan, is the second largest island in the whole of 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 civilian residents.

"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," said Angara in his Senate Bill 2938.

Recently, the island of Palawan was hailed 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.

"While Kalayaan Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon Jr., who has been leading the far-flung island for six years now, is dreaming to add the Pag-asa Island Cluster among Palawan's top tourist destinations, various development projects on the island are still being deliberated. 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," added Angara, the vice chairman of the Senate tourism committee.

The bill mandates the creation of the Pag-asa Island Ecotourism Cluster Governing Board that would rationalize all efforts pertaining to environmental protection and making the tourism industry a major source of livelihood and an avenue for employment generation.

The Board shall be composed of the Governor of Palawan as Chairperson, the Congressional Representative of the First District of Palawan as Co-Chairperson, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Regional Executive Director for Region IV-B as Vice Chairperson, the Department of Tourism (DOT) Regional Director for Region IV-B as Co-Vice Chairperson, the Mayor of the Municipality of Kalayaan, the Barangay Chairperson of Pag-asa, the commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Western Command, a member of a nongovernment organization whose advocacy is environmental preservation, a member of the academe, a representative of the business sector, and a representative of the private sector.

In addition, 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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