Lawmakers want to declare the Pag-asa Island and its adjoining islands of Parola, Kota and Panata in the municipality of Kalayaan, province of Palawan as an ecotourism destination and protected area.
Palawan Representatives Franz Alvarez, Frederick Abueg and Gil P. Acosta Sr. said the Pag-asa Island Cluster should be declared as a special ecological tourism zone to promote and develop it as a tourist destination for domestic and international tourists.
“With its impeccable beauty, the island is an ideal tourist destination. The rich biodiversity and Filipino heritage of the island truly reflect the beauty of a paradise that our country should be proud of,” they said.
Under House Bill 3613, they proposed that the islands of Parola, Kota and Panata be declared as a protected area under the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS).
“This proposed measure seeks to provide the necessary support to the efforts of the municipal government of Kalayaan by declaring it an ecological tourism area,” the Palawan lawmakers said.
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. It is the only Philippine-occupied in the Spratlys that is inhabited by civilians.
House Bill 3613 calls for the creation of the Pag-asa Island Ecotourism Cluster governing board which shall rationalize all efforts pertaining to environmental protection and making the tourism industry as a major source of livelihood and an avenue for the generation of employment. It shall be headed by the governor of Palawan.
The board shall be composed of the Palawan governor 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 Kalayaan mayor, the barangay chairperson of Pag-asa; the commander of the AFP Western Command; Palawan Council for Sustainable Development executive director; a member of a nongovernment organization (NGO) whose advocacy is environmental protection; a member of academe; and a representative from the private sector.
The bill mandates the board in coordination with the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) to prepare an eco-tourism master plan to ensure the promotion of tourism, the generation of employment and the protection and preservation of environment and ecosystem. The plan shall be approved by the President.