Government urged to turn disputed island into tourist spot-A A +A
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
AMID the ongoing territorial dispute with China, a lawmaker wants Pag-asa Island, which is part of the Spratly Islands group, to be turned into a Philippine tourist spot.
Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez made the proposal during Tuesday's House plenary deliberations on the proposed budget of the Department of Tourism (DOT) for next year.
The Pag-asa Island lies 527 kilometers (285 nautical miles) west of Palawan. A boat trip to the island could take the entire day, depending on the sea condition.
Over the weekend, the Chinese state media reported that Sanya City, a tourist destination in the Chinese province of Hainan, is planning to expand its cruise route to include Nansha or the Spratly Islands group and Zhongsha or the Macclesfield Bank. This proposal is under a 10-year tourism development plan.
"I was encouraged because in the papers, it was reported that China is making it (Spratlys) a tourist destination. We should not be defeated. Let's develop Pag-asa. We have a school there. There is an airport," Rodriguez said.
Spratly Islands is one the areas in the West Philippines Sea being claimed by China and other Southeast Asian countries.
"Let's take a slice of the DOT budget to put up a good airport and build a good port. Put up a hotel, and develop our frontier in our area as a tourist destination," he added.
Rodriguez also pledged P1 million of his priority development assistance fund (PDAF) or pork barrel to develop the Pag-asa Island. He said his brother, Abante Mindanao party-list Representative Maximo Rodriguez, is also willing to contribute P1 million from his PDAF.
"The seas there are very pristine, the island is untouched. We can absolutely do that. We are not possessing another island. That's already our possession," Rodriguez said.
The Philippine government has been in control of the Pag-asa Island since the time of the late President Ferdinand Marcos.
Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez said the Executive department is yet to discuss Rodriguez's proposal.
"The area in question is now under direct control of the President of the Philippines. We will take our cue from him. Any motion in that area we should consult with our president first," Jimenez told reporters. (Kathrina Alvarez/Sunnex)