MANILA - Two officers of the Philippine Coast Guard will help the lone teacher at the elementary school on Pag-asa Island (international name: Thitu Island), the seat of Palawan's Kalayaan municipality, in the West Philippine Sea, the agency said Sunday.
The announcement was made on the eve of the start of classes in public schools all over the country, including the one in Pag-asa, one of the Philippine-occupied features in the disputed Spratlys.
Ensigns Jev Latic, 27, and Arnel Gomora, 24, who are both assigned at PCG Station Kalayaan, are licensed teachers and will help Teacher Realyn Limbo who handles students from Grades 1 to 6 on the island.
“Nakita natin yung pangangailangan ng karagdagang guro sa Isla. Dito nga sa mainland, damang-dama natin yung pinagdadaanang hirap ng mga guro para sa pagbubukas ng klase, papaano pa kaya sa Isla na si Teacher Realyn Limbo lang ang nag-aasikaso ng lahat,” Commodore Rommel Supangan, commander of PCG District Palawan, said in a statement.
(We see the need for additional teachers on the island. We can feel the hardships that teachers on mainland Palawan go through as they prepare for the opening of classes, how much more for Teacher Realyn Limbo who is doing it all by herself?)
“Kaya nakipag-ugnayan tayo kaya Mayor Roberto Del Mundo ng Kalayaan, Palawan para makatulong sa pangangailangan ng paaralan, ni Teacher Realyn, at ng mga estudyante,” he added.
(That's why we coordinated with Kalayaan Mayor Roberto del Mundo so we can extend help to the school, to Teacher Realyn and the students there.)
According to the PCG, Latic and Gomora both completed Bachelor of Elementary Education, and are currently serving as PCG Kalayaan station commander and deputy commander, respectively.
During a visit last year to Pag-asa, ABS-CBN News learned that Pag-asa Island Elementary School had two teachers at that time, handling 23 students from Kinder to Grade 6.
The PCG said that a "PCG-OB (Operation Brotherhood) Community Center" was inaugurated on the island last Aug. 17 during the visit of National Security Adviser Clarita Carlos. Joining her in the launch is Auxiliary Commodore Sara Soliven-De Guzman of the PCG Auxiliary (PCGA) Executive Squadron.
The establishment of the PCG-OB Community Center, with the help of the Operation Brotherhood (OB) Community Foundation Inc., is seen to help in the education of the youth on the island as it houses different learning materials.
“Simula pa lang ito. Marami pa tayong gagawin para mapagbuti ang pag-aaral ng mga kabataan sa Isla. Sa tulong ng PCG Auxiliary, magagawa natin lahat ito," Supangan said.
(This is just the start. We have more plans to improve the learning of the youth on the island, with the help of the PCG Auxiliary.)
"Kahit malayo, kahit mahirap, patuloy tayong makikiisa sa pagbibigay ng kapaki-pakinabang na edukasyon sa mga kabataan ng Pag-asa Island dahil naniniwala tayo na malaking bagay ang edukasyon sa pagkakaroon ng magandang kinabukasan,” he added.
(Even though they are far and it's difficult, we will coordinate efforts to deliver meaningful education to the youth of Pag-asa Island because we believe that education matters a lot in securing a bright future.)
The 37-hectare island, which is located 285 nautical miles west of mainland Palawan, had its first and only elementary school in 2012.
Late last year, an official of the Department of Education said the agency has approved the conversion of Pag-asa elementary school into an integrated school that would cater to both elementary and junior high school (JHS) students.
Although occupied by the Philippines, Pag-asa is also being claimed by China, calling it Zhongye Dao. Beijing's claim over almost the entire South China Sea, within which is the West Philippine Sea, has been adjudged as having no legal basis.
The Philippines created Kalayaan municipality in 1978.
- with report from Jervis Manahan, ABS-CBN News