Estrada calls on Senate to give ‘unwavering support’ for Pag-asa Island’s development

(MANILA BULLETIN) Senator Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada on Monday, May 22 called on his colleagues in the Senate to give their “unwavering support” to the full development of the Pag-asa Island.

In a privilege speech at the Senate, Estrada recalled his visit to the island last May 18, where he observed the current situation of the people living in the small community and the hardships and difficulty they face while living there.

“To this day, the backdrops of what I saw continue to play in my mind. As I stand here, I cannot help but think of our kababayans who face countless challenges on a daily basis,” Estrada said.

“For far too long, our brothers and sisters in Pag-asa Island have lived in constant uncertainty. They have endured the harsh realities of a life cut off from essential services and opportunities that many of us take for granted,” he lamented.

The lack of transportation options, lack of access to medical facilities and basic health care and the lack of telecommunication signal are just among the major problems the residents in Pag-asa Island face.

He also cited the instances where pregnant women have to be airlifted to Palawan months before their due just to ensure their baby’s safe delivery. There are no doctors, nurse or any midwife, who can help them in case of medical emergencies, he pointed out. 

“Imagine dear colleagues being separated from your loved ones for months due to lack of transportation options,” he lamented.

“Two decades after opening the once strictly military installation to civilian settlement, the island has remained fallow. This, despite the construction of the beaching ramp which would allow shallow-draft vessels or those with roll-on/roll-off capability to bring in essential landing engineering equipment and other construction materials for the development of the island,” he said.

He also noted that the repair of the Rancudo Airfield which sustained erosion damage is still ongoing and the 1.2-kilometer airfield that was constructed during the 1970s can accommodate only medium size military aircraft. 

“We still have a long way to go if we are really keen on developing Pag-asa Island into a tourism and fishing destination or even a marine research hub,” Estrada also said.

Upon landing on the island, Estrada also noted the unstable communication signal in the area and mostly comes from neighboring China and Vietnam.

Currently, he said, the missionary telecommunications service is being provided by Smart Communications which covers Pag-asa Island only. The military has a very small aperture terminal (VSAT), a two-way satellite ground station or a stabilized maritime VSAT antenna that uses broadband data for the provision of satellite internet access even in remote areas like Kalayaan.  

“Their access to healthcare, education, and even the basic necessities of life is hampered by their geographic isolation. Their hopes and dreams often seem distant, obscured by the vastness of the sea that surrounds them,” he narrated.

“As a member of this august body that represents the interests of the people of this Republic, it is my duty to bring to the fore their daily struggles and advocate for the attention and assistance they desperately need. Pag-asa is a real island that can sustain human life and community,” he emphasized.

“My dear colleagues, I implore each and every one of you to lend your unwavering support to the cause of our brothers and sisters in Pag-asa Island. During my dialogues, and even during the reporters’ interview with the residents there, they are willing to stay in the island even though they lack so many things,” he said.

“They are more than willing to contribute to the island’s defense, survival and development,” Estrada stressed.

As public servants, Estrada highlighted that “it is our moral duty to uplift the lives of our citizens. We must rise above our differences and collaborate to bring meaningful change and not let our fellow Filipinos in Pag-asa Island be forgotten or left behind.”

“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 will enhance connectivity, healthcare facilities, and educational resources to nurture the development of the next generation,” he reiterated.