Map of Palawan showing the location of Kalayaan
|Region||MIMAROPA (Region IV-B)|
|District||1st District of Palawan|
|Founded||June 11, 1978|
|• Mayor||Eugenio B. Bito-Onon Jr.|
|• Total||290 km2 (110 sq mi)|
|• Land||0.79 km2 (0.31 sq mi)|
|• Density||0.77/km2 (2.0/sq mi)|
|Time zone||PST (UTC+8)|
|Income class||5th class; rural|
Kalayaan municipality, which includes the Pagasa (Thitu) island, is 280 nautical miles Northwest of Puerto Princessa (Palawan) and 579 miles Southwest of Metro Manila. According to the 2010 census, it has a population of 222 people and is one of the poorest towns in The Philippines, consisting of a single barangay located on Pag-asa Island, which also serves as the seat of the municipal government.
The town has a dilapidated airstrip, a 5-bed lying-in clinic, and a small elementary school.
Chinese texts of the 12th century record these islands, including the larger island of Palawan, as being a part of the Ming dynasty and that they were used earlier (206 BC) as fishing grounds during the Han Dynasty. There are records of the island having been inhabited, at various times in history, by the Chinese and by people from the Champa Kingdom of Vietnam, and during the second world war, French Indochina and Imperial Japanese troops. However, there were no large settlements on these islands till 1956, when a Filipino lawyer / businessman / adventurer Tomas Cloma decided to " claim" a part of Spratly islands as his own, naming it the " Free Territory of Freedomland".
In 1946, Vice President Elpidio Quirino reiterated that the Southern Islands, the forerunner name for Kalayaan, as part of the Philippines.
On May 11, 1956, together with forty (40) men, Tomas Cloma took formal possession of the islands, lying some 380 miles west of the southern end of Palawan and named it “Free Territory of Freedomland." 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 (10)days after he sent his second representation to the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, 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 the Republic of China (ROC; on Taiwan since 1949) 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. It would only be much later, in 1974, that Cloma would "cede" his rights over the islands for one peso, after being imprisoned by Ferdinand Marcos.
Presidential Decree 1596
President Ferdinand E. Marcos created the Municipality of Kalayaan by signing PD 1596 into law on June 11, 1978. This established what the document described as “a distinct and separate municipality of the Province of Palawan.”
PD 1596 defined the boundaries of the municipality as follows:
From a point [on the Philippine Treaty Limits] at latitude 7º40' North and longitude 116º00' East of Greenwich, thence due West along the parallel of 7º40' N to its intersection with the meridian of longitude 112º10' E, thence due north along the meridian of 112º10' E to its intersection with the parallel of 9º00' N, thence northeastward to the intersection of parallel of 12º00' N with the meridian of longitude 114º30' E, thence, due East along the parallel of 12º00' N to its intersection with the meridian of 118º00' E, thence, due South along the meridian of longitude 118º00' E to its intersection with the parallel of 10º00' N, thence Southwestwards to the point of beginning at 7º40' N, latitude and 116º00' E longitude;
Republic Act 9522
Republic Act 9522, which defined the archipelagic baselines of the Philippines, claimed sovereignty over the Kalayaan Island Group under Section 2, sub-paragraph A which described the territory as a "Regime of Islands"—a concept defined in the United Nation Convention on Law of the Sea for similar bodies of land.
In addition to the Philippines, China, Taiwan, Vietnam claim all claim the Spratley Archipelago either as a whole or in part. The Philippines only occupies 10 reefs and islands. The People's Republic of China presently occupies seven (7) reefs. The Republic of China (Taiwan) solitary island is the largest in the archipelago at approximately 43 hectares. Vietnam occupies 21 islets and reefs. Malaysia claims 7 reefs to include Layang Layang which currently hosts a naval base and a diving resort. Interest in the archipelago was reportedly triggered by Cloma’s declaration and subsequent assertion by the Philippines.
In March 1976, President Marcos issued the Letter of Instruction (LOI) No.1-76 organizing the AFP Western Command based in Palawan in response to the heightening conflict of interest in the region and to abate any untoward incident.
|Part of a series on the|
Spratly Islands military occupations map
The Municipality of Kalayaan is located in the western section of the Province of Palawan. It is composed of six (6) islets, two (2) cays (parts of larger reefs) and two (2) reefs with aggregate land area of approximately 79 hectares. They are:
- Pag-asa, 32.7 ha
- Likas, 18.6 ha
- Parola, 12.7 ha
- Lawak, 7.9 ha
- Kota, 6.45 ha
- Patag, 0.57 ha
- Panata, 0.44 ha
- Balagtas Reef, 0 ha
- Ayungin Reef, 0 ha
- Rizal Reef, 0 ha
Pag-asa Island (Thitu Island) has the biggest area, which is 37.2 hectares. The airstrip in the 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. Kota was designated a marine turtle sanctuary on June 8, 1982 by virtue of Ministry of National Resources (MNR) Administrative Order No.8
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. Panata was designated a marine turtle sanctuary on June 8, 1982 by virtue of Ministry of National Resources (MNR) Administrative Order No.8
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 Reef (Commodore Reef) is 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.
Ayungin Reef (Second Thomas Reef) is located nearest to Mischief Reef. It is also a typical reef lying underwater and is now being manned by a military contingent based and established in the area. Their shelter is the grounded BRP Sierra Madre, a Philippine naval vessel.
The islets that comprise the Municipality are generally flat. The highest ground elevation is approximately two (2) meters above sea level.
|Population census of Kalayaan|
|Source: National Statistics Office|
Pag-asa island hosts a 1,300 meter runway constructed in the early 70s on orders of MGEN Jose Rancudo, Commanding General of the Philippine Air Forces. In February 1992, the Armed Forces of the Philippines named the runway "Rancudo Airfield" in honor of its architect.
Smart Telecommunications established a cell site, connected to its main network via VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal), on the island in 2005 making normal GSM-based cellphone communication with the island possible. The first call on the system took place on June 12 at 5:18 PM between the mayor of the municipality at the time and a Smart Telecom executive. The company completed a maintenance visit to the cell site in 2011, thus ensuring continued operation of the facility.
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” on 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 Mayor Rosendo L. Mantes won the election on May 14, 2001.
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