The Philippine Dwarf Catigan seedlings were taken from PCA-Palawan’s nursery in Brooke’s Point and brought over to Kalayaan by WESCOM.

In alignment with the national tree program initiated by the Philippine Coconut Authority, various organizations collaborated to plant coconut trees across three islands within the municipality of Kalayaan.

The combined endeavor acts as a symbolic gesture, affirming the nation’s control and authority in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

The symbolic coconut tree planting on September 9 was sponsored by the Palawan branch of the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), and included planting 600 coconut seedlings, 400 which were done in Brgy. Pag-asa, while 100 seedlings each were planted along two other islets.

Arlo Solano, senior agriculturist for the PCA office in Palawan, said that the seedlings were initially cultivated in their coconut nursery in Brooke’s Point before being transported to Kalayaan. However, due to the distance, the tree planting program was delayed for several weeks because of transportation issues.

Photo from PCA-Palawan

“Dapat nagawa ito last week of August, kasabay sa pagdiriwang ng National Coconut Week ng PCA,” Solano noted.

All 600 coconut seedlings were of the Philippine Dwarf Catigan variety, a coconut species indigenous to the country. Dwarf Catigan coconut trees have an elongated, oval-like nut that is known to yield good quality coconut water and high content of coconut oil. The species is commonly used in Palawan as a major source of copra.

Board mMember Ariston Arzaga noted that the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) has not fully recovered from the effects of Typhoon Odette, noting that the swath of coconut trees along with houses and infrastructure were not fully repaired on the island.

KIG is found 480 km northwest of Puerto Princesa City, one of the main fishery resources of Palawan. While the waters around KIG were normally rich enough to feed 1.6-2.3 million Filipinos, the local fishermen are being eked out of national territory by larger fishing boats by China and other countries.

According to the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea, 240,000 kg of fishery resources are stolen daily from fishermen in KIG by Chinese vessels skirting the territory in a show of intimidation.

Arzaga said that the program was to show that the province of Palawan was in full support of the KIG, and the province’s sovereignty over WPS.

The program had the theme, “Pagtatanim at pangangalaga ng niyog: handog sa kinabukasan ng mamamayan ng Kalayaan”. In attendance were representatives from the Philippine Coast Guard, the Philippine Navy, WESCOM, the local government units of Kalayaan Island Group, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the office of the Provincial Agriculturist, Philippine Air Force, Philippine National Police, National Power Cooperative, Kalayaan Palawan Farmers and Fisherfolks Association, and Spratly’s Strong and Brave Women’s Association.