The local government of Kalayaan assured the safety of the 40 anticipated participants in the inaugural voyage of “The Great Kalayaan Expedition 2023,” which aims to promote “adventure tourism” in the island features owned by the country in the contested West Philippine Sea.
During the regular session of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, Kalayaan tourism officer Khenjap Hupanda explained that they have been in constant coordination with the Area Task Force-West (ATF-West) and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) regarding the safety of the participants in the expedition.
“We are in constant coordination, in fact, ang ATF-West po at Coast Guard is an active part ng Technical Working Grouo (TWG) for the development of this tourism product. At ang sabi nga po nila sa amin, ‘there is no greater catastrophe than living in constant fear.’ So, kung kami ay patuloy na mamumuhay na may takot ay wala pong mangyayari sa amin. That is why, sinusuportahan tayo ng Coast Guard. May mga contingency plan at security plan na kaakibat ang package na ito,” Hupanda said.
The members of the provincial board have previously expressed their concern about the safety of the guests, particularly in light of the recent aggressive actions that locals have experienced at the hands of Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) vessels.
“Ang conceptualization po, of course, ay binuo ng isang competent na TWG. Ang TWG na ito ay binubuo ng mga eksperto sa turismo, tapos may academe representative, may eksperto tayo sa environmental protection and conservation, which is ang Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD), at saka meron din tayong security,” he said.
“Lahat ng aspeto ng product na ito ay dinivelop ng hindi lang isang tao kundi ng isang technical working group,” Hupanda stressed.
Before the expedition officially takes off in March, an experience journey will first happen on February 18 with the members of the TWG, travel agency representatives, influencers, non-government organizations, and other invited guests.
No media representatives were invited by the organizers to the event.
The trip will last for seven days and six nights, during which time the participants will have the opportunity to travel to and explore the islands of Lawak, Patag, Likas, and Pag-asa.
It is also a part of the local government’s plan to make Kalayaan a “center of adventure tourism in Palawan by 2040.”
At the end of the presentation, the provincial board reiterated its backing for the town’s efforts to further develop its tourism industry.