This Little Island in Palawan Rejected China's Proposal for Joint Exploration

Pag-Asa Island may be small, but it is the most geopolitically valuable island in the Philippines.

The Municipality of Kalayaan in Palawan may be one of the Philippines’ smallest towns in size and population, but it is certainly one of the most significant—geopolitically. The barangay is centered on Pag-Asa Island, the country’s farthest town in the west, located more than 200 nautical miles off the western coast of Palawan. 

Strategically, Pag-Asa Island props up the Philippines’ claim on the West Philippine Sea because it is the center of what the Philippines claims is a regime of islands. A Regime of Islands is a group of islands treated as if they and the waters surrounding them were lands. According to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas, a regime of islands has its own territorial sea, contiguous zone, EEZ, and continental shelf, and is not constrained by the country’s baselines, unlike the majority of islands in the archipelagic state. 

On September 20, the Municipality of Kalayaan opposed China’s proposal to the national government to jointly explore the resources around the waters of Kalayaan. In an interview with Inquirer, Kalayaanyaan town council member Maurice Phillip Albayda said such an agreement would be the equivalent of giving China an opportunity to assert its claims on Philippine territory. 

“We’d like to oppose [Padilla’s resolution], and the idea is not to single out China,” he told Inquirer

The Philippines views the Municipality of Kalayaan as a regime of islands called Kalayaan Islands Group. It has jurisdiction over seven islets and two reefs.

Photo by Municipality of Kalayaan.

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