The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is aiming to establish a “modest” research facility on Pag-asa Island in the remote town of Kalayaan, Palawan next year.
DENR Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga recently visited Pag-asa Island, some 500 kilometers off Puerto Princesa.
Pag-asa is the biggest of the islands in the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG), which is within the disputed West Philippine Sea (WPS).
The DENR chief said putting up a biodiversity research facility in the area is part of the DENR’s move to start accounting for the country’s natural wealth and measure the country’s treasure to rev up the so-called blue economy.
Yulo-Loyzaga narrated the trip via Philippine Air Force aircraft and later a trip around the islands via sea, together with a team from the University of the Philippines-Marine Science Institute (UP-MSI) was “eventful,” recalling an encounter with several Chinese vessels along the way.
Chinese vessels communicated their usual warning to which members of the Western Command of the Armed Forces Philippines (AFP) responded with a canned response, said DENR Undersecretary for Organizational Transformation and Human Resources Augusto Dela Pena, a former AFP Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans, who proudly said military personnel deployed in the area are brave soldiers who remain steadfast in protecting the country’s territory.
During her visit, Yulo-Loyzaga was met by Kalayaan Mayor Roberto del Mundo and briefly discussed various initiatives, such as how to bring water supply to residents, boost community resiliency, and working together to protect the ecosystem in Kalayaan.
Joining Yulo-Loyzaga and Dela Peña in traveling to Pag-asa were Undersecretary for Finance, Information Systems and Climate Change Analiza Rebuelta-Teh, Undersecretary for Field Operations-Luzon, Visayas and Environment Juan Miguel Cuna, Environmental Management Bureau Director Gilbert Gonzales, Biodiversity Management Bureau Director Marcial Amaro Jr,. and Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Executive Director Teodoro Matta.
Incidentally, the UPMSI marine scientists were also on the island to conduct research in the area.
The team from the UPMSI included Dr. Fernando Siringan, Dr. Jose Fernando Alcantara, and Dr. Rolando Tolentino.
Yulo-Loyzaga said the planned construction of a research facility aims to institutionalize the presence of the DENR in the biodiversity-rich region. The extensive research to be conducted in the region will be done partnership with the UPMSI.
“We are planning to build other facilities in the east, north. We were in Pag-asa as you know, we are also exploring our blue economy, because it is not just the green economy now,” said Loyzaga, who also noted that the region is rich in biodiversity and an important fishing ground, as well as spawning ground of commercially-viable fish.
Without elaborating, the DENR chief said several research facilities will be established next year in other remote islands but the facility on Pag-asa Island will be up and running by next year.
Image credits: Contributed photo