Angara bill: Declare Pag-asa Island an ecotourism destination
MANILA, Philippines – Senator Juan Edgardo Angara has filed a bill seeking to declare Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) a special ecological tourism zone.
Angara said in a statement on Saturday, August 27, that Senate Bill 944 aims to "promote and develop the island cluster as a tourist destination while protecting its natural resources."
"With its impeccable beauty, the island is an ideal tourist destination," said Angara. "
The government should provide the necessary support to promote the island’s rich biodiversity and Philippine heritage that our country should be proud of," he added.
The Pag-asa island cluster – composed of the islands of Pag-asa, Parola, Kota, and Panata – are part of the municipality of Kalayaan, Palawan.
Pag-asa Island is the second largest and the only Philippine-occupied island inhabited by civilians in the Kalayaan Group of Islands or the Spratlys. (READ: The residents of Pag-asa: Life on a disputed island)
Angara's proposed measure seeks to create the Pag-asa Island Ecotourism Cluster Governing Board, in coordination with the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA).
The said governing board will be mandated to prepare an ecotourism master plan "to ensure the island's tourism promotion, employment generation, livelihood development, and the protection and preservation of its environment and ecosystem."
If Angara's bill will be passed, the islands of Parola, Kota, and Panata would also be declared as protected areas under the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS).
The Philippines recently won a historic case against China in the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague over the dispute in the West Philippine Sea.
In light of this victory, Angara took note of the opinion of Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio that the government "should push for a peace agreement with China and other claimants in the Spratlys by declaring the area as an international marine park and protected area, as originally suggested by American marine biology professor John McManus." – Rappler.com