Gov’t pushing to develop areas in West PH Sea as tourist destination
PAG-ASA ISLAND, West Philippine Sea—The Philippines has expressed plans to develop disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) as tourist destination.
This was announced by Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Gen. Gregorio Catapang Jr. in his visit here on Monday. Pag-asa is one of the nine detachments of the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea with a community of about 200 people.
“The mayor has concrete plans for it. We will just like to reinforce it. What we want to happen is from Palawan, we can pass by Patag Island, Lawak, Likas then Pag-asa. From Pag-asa we can go back via Panata, Kota and then Ayungin shoal,” Catapang told reporters in a press briefing.
“It can be a good tourism effort lalo na kung mga yacht (especially if there are yachts),” he added.
Kalayaan Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon Jr. said they had been planning the tourism and development but the lack of funds had always been a setback.
“Matagal na namin pino-promote ’yung Pag-asa sa tourism kaya lang backyard approach kasi local government kami, hindi naman ganun kalaki ang pondo namin but we already have a roadmap for developing tourism,” Bito-onon said.
He mentioned of a plan to buy a steel boat worth P10 million to ferry tourists. They also plan to put up a lodging house and a souvenir shop.
“For more than 20 years, people have been dying to come here but cannot because of inadequate and lack of regular transportation,” he said.
“We don’t have much of a budget,” he added. “We do it slowly,”
Pag-asa (Thitu Island) is a fifth class municipality and is the biggest Philippine-claimed territory in the disputed seas.
China has been doing massive reclamation work in the West Philippine Sea including in nearby islands within the Philippine exclusive economic zone—Zamora (Subi) Reef and Panganiban (Mischief) Reef.
Recent satellite images show the progress of the construction activities by China in the disputed seas in recent months.
“Our message to to our FIlipino brothers and sisters is to help Mayor Bito-onon to jumpstart his tourism for peace because you know if there will be tourism, you will help the economy here,” Catapang said.
During the turnover of donations from nongovernment organizations to residents of Pag-asa island, the AFP chief mentioned that he sought President Benigno Aquino III’s help for the island.
“We will make a report to the President and ask him to ask the other government agencies to put up their own facilities to expedite the progress of Pag-asa,” he said.
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