spratly island

Firstly, there was the maritime controversy over the entire disputed ownership of Spratly islands in West Philippine Sea (formerly South China Sea), and then in Kalayaan and recently, on one of the islets, the Ayungin Shoal (located 105.77 nautical miles from Palawan and known internationally as Second Thomas Shoal, is well within the 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone of the Philippines under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea).  Secondly, for a patrol mission by marines, the islet has become some kind of a land-based military station where Philippine Marines live hermetic lives on a 100-meter vintage amphibious vessel.  The presence of military troops invites an equal military response from Chinese government.  Thirdly, in an objective estimation, this is not constructive possession but some kind of aggressive occupation.


Why not utilize the islets as penal sub colonies instead?  Prisoners to be sent to such places should be granted a reduced penalty schedule while serving time.  Prison officers after a period of their tour of duty will likewise earn their promotional spurs earlier and easier than their counter parts in the main land.  These are incentives, which can be dangled for a specific purpose.  Prison establishments will have decongested its facilities through transfer.  The territorial integrity of the country will be preserved since utilization of the islands presuppose constructive possession and therefore indicates ownership.  And the presence of the penal institution will never pose a military challenge to any nation trying to cast their moistened eye on the property.


Prisoners under minimum-security status, those who are about to be released in a year’s time are ideal to be sent in said locality.  After spending three months, they may qualify to be released already.  If the island can accommodate a settlement area, these prisoners to be released may be able to be granted a specific area on which to start life anew once released.  There are schools of thought that explore the possibility of sending incorrigible prisoners in said areas.  The unfortunate incident that visited the first contingent in Iwahig penal colony, where maximum-security prisoners were shipped and in the course of the transfer exploded a mutiny, is instructive.  Succeeding transfer of prisoners was made only on those whose penalties are considered medium security risk.


Back in 1995, I was Superintendent of Iwahig Penal Colony.  At that time, the Spratly controversy had not reached fever pitch yet.   I went to see the AFP Wescom Commander and suggested that we take up with our respective organization the possibility of using the islands as penal sanctuary or penal settlement areas.  During the period, Wescom and Iwahig had a corporate partnership.  Prisoners in Iwahig maintain military grounds and in exchange, I was given access to use trainer planes and helicopters.  That was the time when I was able to see up close not only the vast boundary of the 30 thousand hectare penal reservation of Iwahig but also the Spratly islands.  The group of islands and islets were picture perfect and in an ideal world, it is also in my perspective, an unspoiled area to organize a penal settlement.  At that juncture, I was also tinkering with the possibility of designing a correctional community in Spratly islands and at the same time, preparing the vast idle area of Iwahig to be transformed into the biggest sugar cane plantation in Southeast Asia—a singular economic activity which would have eradicated unemployment in the whole Palawan province.  I was excited in presenting the projects to the prison leadership.  Unfortunately, politics intervened and my superiors in the agency reassigned me to another penal institution.  What could have been institutional legacies became out rightly a figment of imagination.


Then the intriguing part brought about by present day satellite imaging disclosed that the area where the Spratly group of islands is situated boasts of an unexplored region where billions of fossil fuels are deposited.  A fraction of its resources could have brought the entire Philippine economy on top of the First World status.  True, the islands belong to the country but how come, if it is indeed our property, we are not physically in possession.  Then warships and commercial fishing trawls of neighboring countries began to march towards the islands and suddenly, out of nowhere, we also began to try to sound off our interests on the islands too.


We are never excited to see the raw talent in our shores until it is recognized by another country.  It is only then that we try to claim as our own that which has been renowned somewhere else.  As the adage goes, no prophet is ever believed in his own country.  It goes true as far as our natural resources are concerned.  We are back where we came from.



About vjtesoro

A perpetual student of Corrections

Posted on June 2, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. glenda tensuan

    Your ideas and projects would have been great sayang nman….too much politics here in our country…




  3. Perhaps after July 1 you can present anew your plans and proposals of 1995. New faces will be at the helm of local palawan politics by then.


  1. Pingback: Philippines news: BuCor exec suggests setting up penal colonies on Spratly Islands | Pinas news library

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