Rep. Edward Hagedorn of Palawan’s 3rd District is pushing for Kalayaan Island in the disputed West Philippine Sea to be designated a protected area.

This would strengthen the Philippines’ claim to the region, even though China might not like it, he said during his speech Friday, delivered as a special guest at the general membership meeting at Holiday Suites of the Puerto Princesa Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (PPCCII).

“Siguro next week ipapasa na namin—pinag-aaralan na ng abogado natin, yong declaration ng Kalayaan Islands Group (KIG) as a protected area. Maraming nag-attempt, pero hindi lumusot,” Hagedorn said.

“Kasi kapag na-declare natin na protected area yon, talagang mae-establish natin yong ating claim ng ownership under the UNCLOS ) United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) decision na atin yan. Kaya lang wala naman tayong ginagawa para sabihin na atin yan,” he added.

Hagedorn knew that China would be upset if the KIG was named a national area of significance, but he said that the Philippines had the right to claim the area.

“Lahat gagawin natin para mapasa yong bill na yan,” Hagedorn said, hoping it would not be overlooked.

Business sector’s help needed in lobbying
Hagedorn urged the PPCCII to assist in achieving this objective by persuading all of their contacts in the House to support the legislation. Additionally, he stated that the city’s business community can help by spreading the word about why Kalayaan should be designated a protected area.

“Definitely maglo-lobby yan (China). Kaya nga importante mas malakas yong lobby natin. Kinakailangan nating makumbinsi lahat yong powers that be sa ganda ng ating proposal. Kasi kung ako man ang China, ‘aba teka muna, bakit ko papayagan?’ Kapag na declare yan as a protected area, lalo na silang mahihirapan na kontrahin yong desisyon base sa UNCLOS,” he explained.

“Sa lobby group baka puwede kayo–baka may mga kakilala kayong mga, of course, senador. Umikot na ako sa Senado, halos napakaraming magbibigay ng support sa atin. Sa inyo siguro yon ding information dissemination,” he said, adding chair of the Senate’s environment committee Sen. Cynthia Villar will also support the bill.

Dr. Ben Malayang III, professor emeritus of Environmental Policy and Governance Institute of Environmental and Marine Science at Siliman University, stated during the recent 2nd Marine Protected Area (MPA) Summit that the WPS should be designated as a protected seascape due to the value of its ecosystem services and marine biodiversity, which are crucial for both the country and the rest of the world.

“While others are looking at WPS for its territorial jurisdiction, we look at its ecosystem services. It is a concern of all who value WPS and SCS as maritime domains. On this ground, it is recommended that using existing mechanisms and procedures, WPS or any of its part like the Kalayaan Island Group and Bajo de Masinloc be declared as a Philippine Protected Seascape. And we work towards this, even as we continue addressing the matter of territorial claims,” he said.

Earlier this month, the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) declared a portion of Lawak Island as a protected area, noting it to be a habitat of endangered birds and a nesting site for sea turtles.

The PCSD passed Resolution No. 2022-827 on September 8, which designates 3.79 hectares of the 5.53-hectare island in Kalayaan as a protected area.

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