A group of scientists from the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute (UP MSI) opened a research station in Pag-asa Island called Pag-asa Research Station (PRIS).
The hub is intended to be an innovative scientific research center located in the West Philippine Sea. Experts will study how to improve fishing systems on the island and reduce plastic pollution. (Read: Timeline: The West Philippine Sea Dispute Against China)
The PRIS will also allow more exploration of the Kalayaan Group of Islands, which contains valuable marine resources. Starting next year, the research facility will be staffed by Filipino scientists 24 hours a day for an entire week.
Small community on Pag-asa Island
According to UP MSI, there is plenty to explore and study in the West Philippine Sea, particularly on Pag-asa Island, home to a small Filipino community.
“This is very far from the mainland so we’re expecting na we’ll find things na medyo kakaiba kasi ang layo niya sa influence ng ilog, relatively isolated sya. Ine-expect namin na in the near future there will be exciting discoveries in the area,” Dr. Fernando Siringan of the UP MSI said in a news report from ABS-CBN.
The research that will be conducted will be beneficial to the island as the community continues to grow. UP MSI reiterated that people need to invest in more sustainable approaches, methods, and living systems in the island. (Read: LOOK: New Goby Fish Species Found in Philippines, Japan)
The common problem of the residents is the unavailability of regular commercial transportation that affects obtaining supplies for their daily living due to the distance of the island from mainland Palawan.
Sovereignty on the West Philippine Sea
Apart from the scientific pursuit, the PRIS is also a form of asserting sovereignty on the island.
“Yung over-all na objective ay una to assert our sovereignty, and by the way to do that is do things that are necessary for us to discover to understand the resources that are available to us in this area,” Dr. Siringan underscored.
The UP MSI said they had documented numerous foreign vessels on Pag-asa Island with around 20 to 30 Chinese ships. However, there is no Chinese settlement on Pag-asa Island as of now. (Read: Timeline: Duterte’s Stand on the West Philippine Sea Over the Years)
“Para mapakita na may kasarinlan tayo sa isang lugar, dapat itrato natin siya na parang ibang parte ng Pilipinas, na walang problema na mag-conduct ng scientific research, walang limitation sa ating activities kaya itong marine science expedition research nila ay isa sa mga ganung ordinaryong klase ng activity na nagpapatunay na may kasarinlan tayo sa lugar,” Jay Batongbacal, executive director of the UP Institute for Maritime Affairs and the Law of the Sea stated.
The scientists hope that their efforts would persuade the government to allocate more funds for research in the West Philippine Sea.