ACT Party-list’s ‘pork’ to fund school on Pag-asa island Spratly

PAG-ASA CLASS OF 2012 The Philippine flag flies in the breeze as Kalayaan town Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon (center) poses with the teacher, schoolchildren and their parents at the opening of Pag-asa Elementary School on a disputed West Philippine Sea island on June 15. AP/OFFICE OF KALAYAAN MUNICIPAL MAYOR

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) party-list group will use the second tranche of its Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), more popularly referred to as pork barrel, this year to construct a two-story six-classroom elementary school building on Pag-asa, the largest island in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) occupied by the Philippines.

ACT Rep. Antonio Tinio said the project was proposed by the local government led by Kalayaan Mayor Eugenio B. Bito-onon Jr. In his proposal, Bito-onon raised the need to address the Pag-asa children's right to education after 34 years.

The school will stand on a one-hectare property provided by the local government. Initial estimates by the municipal engineer set Phase 1 at P4.3 million.

"A school standing on Pag-asa is an earnest affirmation of Philippine sovereignty in the Spratly group of islands—the provision for education, a basic social service," Tinio said.

"This school will guarantee that the hope of Pag-asa's children for a better future is secure," he added.

Tinio urged Malacañang to do the same for similarly disadvantaged schools in other areas nationwide.

Several lawmakers have called on the national government to strengthen its territorial claim on the disputed Spratlys by fortifying existing structures on the island chain.

Pag-asa Island is part of Kalayaan town in Palawan. Home to about 200 Filipinos, the island has been under the Philippine government's control since the 1970s. It has a town hall, a health center, an airstrip and a naval station, among other facilities.

Last week, China warned the Philippines against operating a public kindergarten on Pag-asa.

Hong Lei, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson in Beijing, said that China "opposes any illegal activity that may infringe on China's sovereignty."

He said that Manila should "refrain from taking any measures that will complicate and exacerbate the current situation and affect peace and stability in the South China Sea."

Last week, the Kalayaan municipal government inaugurated a public kindergarten.

The school was inaugurated without fanfare on June 15 with five students, their parents and a teacher. A Philippine flag stood in the schoolyard.

The Philippines and three other Asean member-states—Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei—are among the Spratlys claimants, along with China and Taiwan.

Inquirer 

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