Filipino scientific research station opens in Pag-asa Island in West Philippine Sea

Jervis Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 25 2021 04:57 PM

The Pag-asa island research station. Photo by Jervis Manahan, ABS-CBN News
The Pag-asa island research station. Jervis Manahan, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — A group of scientists from the UP Marine Science Institute recently opened a research station in Pag-asa island, in a bid to improve fishing systems and find exciting discoveries. 

Called the Pag-asa Research Station or PIRS, the hub is envisioned to be an innovative center of scientific research in the middle of the West Philippine Sea.

Experts will study how to improve fishing systems in the West Philippine Sea, minimize plastic pollution in the island, among others. 

The research facility would also hopefully open opportunities for exploration of Kalayaan Group of Islands, which is home to valuable marine resources. 

Starting next year, the facility will be manned by Filipino scientists 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 

UP MSI said there was much to explore and study in the West Philippine Sea, specifically in Pag-asa Island, which is home to a small community of Filipinos.

"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," said Dr. Fernando Siringan of the UP Marine Science Institute.

Research in the island will also be beneficial to the community.

"I think we have to recognize the fact na 'yung Pag-asa hindi na siya inhabited island, na lumalaki na 'yung komunidad. I think we have to invest more sustainable approaches, more sustainable methods, and more sustainable living systems dito sa isla," said Dr. Deo Florence Onda of the UP MSI.

Due to the distance from mainland Palawan, it takes several days for sea vessels to reach the island. Currently, there's no regular commercial transportation available in the area, so supplies for everyday living is a common problem among residents.

ASSERTION OF SOVEREIGNTY

On top of the scientific pursuit, building the Pag-asa Island Research Station is also a form of asserting our 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," said Dr. Fernando Siringan of the UP MSI.

Presence of numerous foreign vessels have been documented around Pag-asa Island.

With only the naked eye, one can see around 20 to 30 Chinese ships around Pag-asa Island.

But unlike other features in the West Philippine Sea, there's no Chinese settlement in Pag-asa island yet.

"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," said lawyer Jay Batongbacal, executive director of the UP Institute for Maritime Affairs and the Law of the Sea.

The team of scientists are hoping that through these efforts, the government will allocate more resources for research in the West Philippine Sea.

"Sana makita ng gobyerno ang importance ng siyensya at pag-aaral at sana maraming suporta regardless kung kaninong administration man yan, 'yung mga ginagawa ng mga scientists para sa bayan, it goes a long way at para ito sa mga Pilipino," Onda said.

(We hope the government would see the value of science. We hope to get enough support regardless of whoever is in power, because what scientists do go a long way.)