(INQUIRER) MANILA, Philippines — Senator Jinggoy Estrada on Monday called on his fellow lawmakers to uplift the living conditions of Filipinos in Pag-asa Island by ensuring their unimpeded access to necessities and government services.
Estrada recalled his visit to the island last Thursday, May 18, where he observed that communities in the area have been suffering a life of “constant uncertainty” due to their lack of access to essentials like healthcare, education, communication, and transportation.
“They have endured the harsh realities of a life cut off from essential services and opportunities that many of us take for granted,” he said in a privilege speech during the plenary session.
Estrada asked for the senators’ “unwavering support” in addressing the plight of residents in Pag-asa Island who are “more than willing to contribute to the island’s defense, survival, and development.”
“It is our moral obligation as public servants to ensure that they, too, will have access to basic necessities such as education, healthcare, and livelihood. We should invest in infrastructure projects that enhance connectivity, healthcare facilities, and educational resources to nurture the development of the next generation,” he said.
Estrada further pressed on the need to boost logistical assistance for the uniformed personnel in the island in the South China Sea, who guard the country against external forces threatening its sovereignty.
“We owe it to them to support their mission by providing the necessary logistical support to carry out their duties effectively,” he said.
The senator noted that BRP Mangyan, a World War II-era Philippine Navy auxiliary ship, is what they use to patrol the West Philippine Sea, where Chinese vessels continue to aggressively occupy.
The BRP Mangyan is also the vessel they use to bring supplies to the Philippine outposts in the disputed waterway, he added.
“Let us not allow the remoteness of Pag-asa Island to be an excuse for neglect. Let us embody the spirit of solidarity and compassion that defines us as a nation,” he said.
Although the remote island looks like a mere speck of land on the map, the senator said its “significance is immeasurable.”
“It is a testament to our sovereignty, the indomitable spirit of our people, and a symbol of our determination of what is rightfully ours. And behind all these, there are human lives – children, families, and individuals who are willing to live there in exchange for a peaceful life. Bigyan natin ng pag-asa ang mga taga-Pag-asa (Let us give hope to the people of Pag-asa),” he said.