Kalayaan Group of Islands
|Region||Western Visayas (Region VI)|
|Mayor||Rosendo L. Mantes|
|Area|| 0.79 km²|
|Total (2000)|| 223|
Kalayaan is composed of only one barangay, Pag-Asa. This island has a 1.3 km airstrip that is used both by the military and civilians. It has a regulated civilian population of about 350, most of whom are fishermen. This civilian population is the result of Philippine government initial efforts to put civilians in the Kalayaan. Once a month, a Philippine Navy Ship goes to this island to drop supplies of goods. This island has a water-filtering plant, power generators, weather stations and a communication tower which is built by the Philippine-based SMART Telecommunications.
The municipal government of Kalayaan is making new projects to promote tourism for the island. Also, they had been successful in convincing many Filipino businessmen to invest in Kalayaan.
In 1947, Tomas Cloma, a Filipino adventurer and a fishing magnate, discovered several uninhabited and unoccupied group of islands/islets in the vastness of the South China Sea, which are not within the jurisdiction of any other states.
Four days later on May 15, 1956, Cloma issued and posted copies of his “Notice to the Whole World” on each of the islands as a decisive manifestation of unwavering claim over the territory.
Then on May 31, 1956, Tomas Cloma declared the establishment of the Free Territory of Freedomland, ten days after he sent his second representation to the Secretary of Foreign Affaris, informing the latter that the territory claimed was named “Freedomland”.
On July 6, 1956, Cloma declared to the whole world his claim and the establishment of a separate government for the “Free Territory of Freedomland “with its capital on Flat Island (Patag Island). His declaration was met with violent and unfriendly reactions from several neighboring countries especially Taiwan when on September 24,1956 it effectively garrisoned the nearby island of Itu Aba and intercepted Cloma’s men and vessels found within its immediate waters. Unable to surmount the difficulties and pressure, he ceded his claim to the Philippines for one peso.
The Spratly Archipelago or the Spratlys is the international reference to the entire archipelago wherein the Kalayaan Chain of Islands is located. In so far as claims are concerned, China, Taiwan and Vietnam claim the entire archipelago. The Philippines essentially claims only the western section of the Spratlys, which is nearest to Palawan. Malaysia occupies five reefs. Brunei claims only a reef in the southern part of the Spratlys which is still underwater. Unlike other claimants, Brunei does not maintain any military presence in the Spratlys.
The dispute exists because of the claims and counterclaims of countries around like China which presently occupies eight (8) islets, Taiwan which occupies only one (1) island which is the biggest in the land area (approximately 42 hectares) and, Vietnam which occupies 25 islands which China had considered a vassal state and subject to Chinese sovereignty. Moreover, the display of active interest in the archipelago was triggered by Cloma’s declaration and subsequent assertion of the Philippines.
In March 1976, President Marcos issued the Letter of Instruction (LOI) No.1-76 organizing the Western Command based in Palawan in response to the heightening conflict of interest in the region and to abate any untoward incident.
To further the claim of the Philippines, on June 11, 1978 President Marcos, by virtue of Presidential Decree No.1596, formally annexed the Kalayaan Islands creating a distinct and separate Municipality known as “Kalayaan” under the political jurisdiction of the Province of Palawan, but under the custody of the Department of National Defense.
The nature by which the Municipality was created by-passed the normal procedures and requirements embodied in the Local Government Code. The Municipality therefore is a creation to facilitate its development and strengthen the Philippine claim.
The first ever recorded election in Kalayaan during the post Marcos dictatorship was on January 30, 1980 where Mr. Aloner M. Heraldo was elected as the first Municipal Mayor.
But the Municipality of Kalayaan was after the Marcos regime created “demilitarized” in January 18, 1988 and the first appointed Mayor was Alejandro Rodriguez who was subsequently replaced by his appointed Vice-mayor Gaudencio R. Avencena.
The first free election in Kalayaan was held on may 11, 1992 synchronized election, where mostly young Municipal officers under the leadership of Hon. Mayor Gil D. Policarpio served for nine years, equivalent to three (3) terms from 1992-2001.
A new administration assumed office on July 2, 2001 when Hon. Mayor Rosendo L. Mantes won the election on May 14, 2001.
The Municipality of Kalayaan is located in the western section of the Province of Palawan. It is composed of seven (7) islets and one (1) reef with aggregate land area of approximately 79 hectares. They are: a) Pag-asa, 32.7 has.; b) Likas, 18.6 has.; c) Parola, 12.7 has.; d) Lawak, 7.9 has.; e) Kota, 6.45 has.; f) Patag, 0.57 ha.; g) Panata, 0.44 ha.; h) Ayungin Reef, 0 ha; and I) Rizal Reef, 0 ha.
PAG-ASA ISLAND (Thitu Is) having the biggest area, which is 37.2 hectares. The airstrip in that island has an area of 5.6 hectares running a length of approximately 1,260 meters
Next in terms of land area is LIKAS ISLAND (West York Is). This island is located 47 miles northeast of Pag-asa and has an area of 18.6 hectares whose outcrops are visible on the southern and eastern portion of the island during low tides. This island is considered a sanctuary for giant sea turtles (pawikan) that lay their eggs on the island all year round.
The high salinity of the ground water in the island retards the growth of introduced trees like coconuts, ipil-ipil, and other types. Only those endemic to the area that are mostly beach type of plants thrive and survive the hot and humid condition especially during the dry season.
Smaller than Likas Island is the PAROLA ISLAND (Northeast Cay), located 28 miles northwest of Pag-asa Island. Parola has a land area of approximately 12.7 hectares and is closer to the Vietnamese occupied Pugad island than to Pag-asa Island. Some of its outcrops are visible on its western side. It has high salinity groundwater and vegetation limited to beach type of plants. The corals around the island were mostly destroyed by rampant use of dynamite fishing and cyanide method employed by foreign fishing boats in the past.
KOTA ISLAND (Loita Is) has a land area of 6.45 hectares and located 22 miles southeast of Pag-asa. It fringes the Laoita bank and reef. Its calcarenite outcrop is visible along its western side at low tide. The present shape of the island indicates sand buildup along its eastern side. The anchor-shaped side will eventually connect with the northern portion as the sand buildup continues thereby creating another mini-lagoon in the process.
The presence of migrating sea birds adds to the high phosphorus contents of the sand found in the island. Occasionally, giant sea turtles are reported to be laying their eggs in the island.
PANATA ISLAND (Lankiam Cay) is located 8 miles northeast of Kota Island. It has a surface area of 4,400 sq. meters (0.44 hectare). A few years ago this island has a surface area of more than 5 hectares but strong waves brought by a strong typhoon washed out the sandy surface (beach) of the island leaving behind today the calcarenite foundation that can be seen at low tide.
The LAWAK ISLAND (Nanshan Is) has a total land area of 7.93 hectares and located 98.0 miles east of Pag-asa. This island is the bird sanctuary of Kalayaan. Its surroundings are highly phosphatized that superphosphate materials can be mined out on a small-scale basis.
Near the fringes of the breakwaters (approx. 2 miles from the island), intact hard coral reefs were observed to retain their natural environment and beautiful tropical fishes were seen colonizing these coral beds of varying colors.
About 6 miles southwest of Lawak Island is PATAG ISLAND (Flat Is). It has a surface area of 5,740 sq. meters (0.574 hectare). Patag Island is an example of a cay. It changes its shape seasonally. The sand build up will depend largely on the direction of prevailing wind and waves. Presently, it takes the shape of an elongated one, three years ago it had a shape like that of a crescent moon, and years back it formed the shape of a letter “S”.
Like Panata Island, it is also barren of any vegetation. No underground water source is found in the island. Presently, this island serves only as a military observation post in Kalayaan.
RIZAL (COMMODORE) REEF
Located nearest to Balabac. It is a typical reef lying underwater and is now being manned by a military contingent based and established in the area.
The islets that comprise the Municipality are generally flat. The highest ground elevation is approximately two (2) meters above sea level.