For the first time in more than three decades, a delegation from the National Defense College of the Philippines (NDCP) landed on Pag-Asa Island on 10 March 2017.
The delegation was composed of Undersecretary for Defense Policy Ricardo A David Jr of the Department of National Defense (DND), NDCP Officials led by its President Rear Admiral (ret) Roberto Q Estioko PhD MNSA and Executive Vice President BGen (ret) Rolando G Jungco, and members of the Master in National Security Administration (MNSA) program Regular Course (RC) 52.
Located in the West Philippine Sea, Pag-Asa Island is one of the barangays of the Municipality of Kalayaan in the Province of Palawan.
The visit is part of the National Security Management module of the MNSA program.
The NDCP delegation boarded a Philippine Air Force (PAF) C130 early morning and flew directly to Pag-Asa Island. The delegation returned to Manila via Puerto Princesa later in the afternoon.
Upon arrival, the delegation joined the local leaders, civilian residents, school children, government agency representatives and soldiers for the flag raising ceremony in front of the Kalayaan Municipal Hall.
Two MNSA students hoisted the Philippine flag: Col Erwin Rommel P Lamzon PA and Ms Maria Jocelyn S Lim of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP).
MNSA RC 52 Class President and Representative of the 1st District of Compostela Valley Maria Carmen Zamora said, “There is a reason we call it Pag-asa Island: To set foot on this land we call ours, to raise our flag together with the soldiers and residents.”
Representative Zamora said, “My tears fell while we faced the flag and sung with our hearts. It was an experience that renewed my commitment to help protect our country and territories like the Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea. Hope springs eternal in Kalayaan.”
At the flag raising ceremony, Rear Admiral Estioko delivered a brief message thanking the residents of Pag-Asa Island for the warm welcome.
The NDCP delegation walked around Pag-Asa Island to gain better appreciation of the area. They visited several facilities including the municipal hall, barangay hall, health center, elementary school, office of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), sub-station of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and naval station.
The MNSA students held four simultaneous small group discussion with the local residents. After the discussion, food packs were distributed as token of appreciation. School supplies for children and medicines were also turned over to the local leaders.
For lunch, soldiers and school teachers joined the NDCP delegation for a “boodle fight” under the trees near the beach at the naval station.
Food packs, sports equipment, books and reading materials were presented to the soldiers.
To cap the full day activity, MNSA students managed to take a brief barefoot walk on the white powdery sand along the beach and quick dip at the cool, crystal waters of the West Philippine Sea.
One of the bureaus of the DND, the NDCP is the government’s highest center for education, training and research on defense and national security.
The MNSA program is NDCP’s one-year graduate program that explores the theory and practice of national security as viewed from a holistic, comprehensive and multi-dimensional perspective. Modules of the MNSA program reflect the six dimensions of national security, namely, political, economic, socio-cultural, techno-scientific, environmental and military (PESTEM).