The online news portal of TV5
MANILA, Philippines - A party-list lawmaker on Saturday said he was looking to allot enough funds to start the construction of a multimillion-peso elementary school on Pagasa Island in Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) in Palawan amid China’s aggressiveness in pushing its claims over the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.
“As China reportedly set up a radar near the Municipality of Kalayaan,a two-storey, six-classroom building on Pag-asa Island in the said municipality in the disputed Spratlys will be constructed with the help of ACT Teachers,” Rep. Antonio Tinio of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), said.
Earlier, China had warned the Philippine government against its plan to construct a school on the island. The Chinese government claims the whole Spratlys, invoking what it calls historic rights.
Pagasa is part of the seven islets and two reefs being claimed by the Philippines in the Spratlys.
The island is inhabited by more than 400 civilian residents. Soldiers, policemen and Coast Guard personnel are also assigned to the island.
Aside from the Philippines, China is occupying seven islets and two reefs; Vietnam, 21 islands; Malaysia, five. Taiwan has the Taiping Island, originally Itu Aba Island, just some nautical miles away from Pagasa; and Brunei remains a non-active claimant.
Pagasa covers 31.5 hectares surrounded by more than 3 kilometers of alluring white sand, just 11.5-hectare smaller than Itu Aba.
Pagasa’s runway that cuts across the 5.6-hectare airstrip needs repair.
The pristine island may be reached by plane -- an hour and 30 minutes’ travel -- from Puerto Princesa City, or close to six hours by a Navy ship. According to civilians living on the island, a C130 arrives once a month; a Navy ship, only once in three months. Boarding to and from Pagasa is free.
Tinio said he has set a portion of the second tranche of his 2012 Priority Development Assistance Fund for the project.
KIG Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon, Jr. had proposed the school project after learning of Tinio’s vow to send assistance to the newly-opened elementary school.
Initial estimates by the municipal engineer set Phase 1 of the school project to cost P4.3 million.
In his proposal, Bito-onon said that it is high time for Pag-asa children’s right to education to be addressed after 34 years.
“A school standing at Pag-asa Island is an earnest affirmation of Philippine sovereignty in the Spratly group of islands—the provision for education, a basic social service. This school will guarantee that the hope of Pag-asa’s children for a better future is secured,” Tinio said.
Tinio invited the national government to also give support to similarly disadvantaged schools in other areas nationwide.