MANILA –The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) gave a go signal to the Kalayaan municipal government to allow tourists to travel to the Kalayaan island group, which included islands situated in the disputed Spratly archipelago.
“The municipality has the plans (to develop tourism). This will need an interagency effort,” AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. said during his first visit to Pag-asa island.
Catapang inspected the facilities of the island and also took the time to preside over a flag-raising ceremony. He was accompanied by other AFP officials.
The Kalayaan government aimed to materialize its tourism plans by next year. Showing its full support, the AFP demilitarized its air strip in the island, allowing commercial planes to bring tourists in.
“We need to have the airstrip to be a rated aerodome to allow civilian aircraft that will bring in tourists and provide support,” Kalayaan Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon Jr. said.
“We really don’t have a budget set aside for this, but we can accommodate 30 persons at a time on the island. Many tourists actually already expressed interest to visit and everything is still in the planning stage but we plan to start next year,” he added.
Aside from the air strip, ports were also opened for civilian use. Thus, tourists can travel to the island by choice of a plane or a ferry. They will then be toured in the Kalayaan’s Lawak, Likas, Pag-asa, Panata, Patag islands and Ayungin shoal.
The Kalayaan government believed that the tourism plan will be a ‘backyard business,’ starting small and then attracting more investors later on.