Team of PH scientists now headed to Pag-asa Island
MANILA, Philippines—A team of scientists from the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute (UP MSI) is bound to Pag-asa (Thitu) Island in the West Philippine Sea to oversee repairs on a research station and conduct marine surveys.
The scientists, aboard research vessel MY Panata, started their voyage last Saturday (Oct. 2).
In a statement, UP MSI said the team would supervise repairs and installation of new features in the research station that would include a solar power system and automatic identification system, or AIS.
The scientists now on their way to Pag-asa are Dr. Cesar Villanoy, Dr. Fernando Siringan, Dr. Deo Florence Onda and Dr. Hazel Arceo (UP Cebu), as well as their research associates. Dr. Dennis Tanay, of the National Fisheries Research and Development Institute, Dr. Jay Batongbacal, of UP Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, and their staff are also on board.
Efforts to restore the Pag-asa Island Research Station (PIRS) were revealed last August by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., who also chairs the National Task Force–West Philippine Sea.
The station has been neglected for years since it was built in 1997. From the last assessment of UP MSI in early 2021, the PIRS was found to be in a “sorry state,” reviving interest in repairing it and making it fully functional.
The UP MSI said in one of its published articles that the research center was key in understanding the West Philippine Sea’s marine resources and their sustainable use. It would also be a gesture of asserting Philippine sovereignty on Pag-asa Island.
The PIRS will be open to Filipino researchers who wanted to work within the island or the West Philippine Sea. It will also be opened to foreign researchers in the future, the UP MSI said.
Pag-asa, the biggest and most strategically important Philippine outpost in the Kalayaan Island Group, is 400 kilometers from mainland Palawan province. It is the only Philippine-held feature with a civilian community, while eight other islands and reefs are occupied by Filipino troops.
Just some 26 kilometers from Pag-asa is Zamora Reef, a Chinese-occupied artificial island turned into a military base with a 3-kilometer airstrip.
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