Welcome to Paradise
Not too many people can experience being greeted by the sign “Welcome to Kalayaan Beach Resort” – except some soldiers, a few civilians and mediamen occasionally brought to the island via military planes and sea vessels.
It was approximately one hour and thirty minutes via C130 from Villamor Airbase to Pag-asa Island where Kalayaan Beach Resort is located. The island is just one of the nine islands in the Spratly Islands (or Kalayaan Islands) which is being claimed by the Philippines. Right now, there are no commercial flights going to the disputed Spratlys. It’s either you are a soldier, a media man, or a relative of a soldier stationed in the island for you to be able to hop into a C130 plane.
It was a rare opportunity for families of Army, Air Force and Navy soldiers to be included in the manifesto of C130 planes. Wives and children of lonely soldiers there would always grab the opportunity to fly to Pag-asa Island courtesy of the military. Even it it were just a day trip, still families would take that grueling flight aboard an ageing C130 plane.
Definitely, the beach can rival that of Amanpulo or Boracay. It just needs a little cleaning to remove some seagrass along the shore. The Kalayaan Island Group is rich in marine life and of course, oil reserves. Maybe someday we will be able to take advantage of these islands - for tourists to enjoy and for our energy requirements. As of now, we have a standing agreement with other claimant countries not to build structures there to avoid possible military confrontations.
We still need some more political muscle from the government to aggressively claim the islands. After all, common sense dictates that the islands should be included in our territory as they are closer to Palawan than any other claimant country. Maybe we should tell our Southeast Asian neighbors to just take a quick look at a world map. But then of course, diplomacy is more than just that.