3 contest juicy post in island-barangay
PUERTO PRINCESA CITY — Whoever wins the race for the top barangay post on the disputed island of Pag-asa will get at least P60,000 a month.
A three-cornered fight is under way on Pag-asa Island, the sole village of the town of Kalayaan in Palawan province. Pag-asa Island, internationally known as Thitu Island, is also being claimed by China.
Former Kalayaan Councilor Allan Dellosa, former naval officer Rodrigo Jaca and municipal employee Ma. Teresa Buncag are vying for the votes of 340 registered voters of the island-town in the May 14 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections.
Only one candidate is running for SK chair.
Rogelio Hingpit, the incumbent barangay captain, will not seek reelection. Before he assumed the post, he was caretaker of the Smart Telecommunications facility on the island.
Kalayaan provides administrative services mainly at its satellite office in Puerto Princesa City, the provincial capital, which also hosts the offices of the barangay and local government.
According to locals, rivalry for the post of Pag-asa barangay captain revolves mainly around the perks and benefits of the position rather than managing a typical village or the administrative and political challenge of living on a remote island often patrolled by Chinese naval ships.
The barangay chair receives a salary and other benefits amounting to more than P60,000 a month. The rate, municipal officials say, is equivalent to the prescribed salary of a councilor in Kalayaan, a fifth-class municipality (annual income: P15 million-P25 million).
The position is automatically recognized as the local representative of the Association of Barangay Captains to the municipal council.
“It’s not a bad job at all. For doing almost nothing and living off on government welfare, it’s almost like the best job in the world,” said a senior municipal official, who declined to be identified.
He described the position as “not typical” of the ordinary duties and responsibilities of a barangay leader.
For example, a barangay council meeting of Kalayaan would dwell on dogs freely roaming the island and sometimes biting soldiers and the few people who live there, one official said.
Municipal administrative officer Maurice Phillip Albayda describes the role of barangay chair as “mainly to assist the municipality in the implementation of its local programs.”
“We have zero crime in Kalayaan and there are no barangay disputes to resolve,” he said.
Albayda, who is also the municipal information officer, said the territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea was not being viewed as a local government issue by the municipality and its barangay.
“We let the national government worry with that,”
Pag-asa is the only island occupied by the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea territory.
China, which claims it as part of its expansive territory covering nearly the entire South China Sea, refers to Pag-asa as Zhongye Dao.
The Philippine government formally declared the island a municipality and part of Palawan in 1978.
All residents of Kalayaan enjoy government-subsidized food and shelter.
Rice is rationed regularly. Water and electricity supplied by diesel-fired generators of the government and primary education for children are free.
Islanders take turns living there year-round in houses built by the municipal government. The majority of them are most of the time in Puerto Princesa and work as municipal employees in the satellite office.
The military has set up a permanent detachment on the island, while the Philippine National Police has a station manned by one officer who serves on a rotation tour of duty.
Pag-asa has a civilian population of around 40, including children. Records of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), however, showed a population of 340.
On May 14, most of the island’s registered voters will sail to Pag-asa to cast their ballots, along with Comelec officials who will supervise the polls. After voting, they will travel back to Puerto Princesa.
The island has a military-administered runway, which is currently undergoing repairs.
The municipality has been seeking funding to establish a port facility to handle mainly civilian travel.
Categorized as a fifth-class municipality, Kalayaan has an annual internal revenue allocation (IRA) of around P79 million, a big chunk of which is spent on travel to and from mainland Palawan, and for social services, according to municipal officials.
The barangay and local government shares an IRA of around P1.2 million yearly.
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