Metro Manila, Philippines — The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is studying plans to set up a marine research station on Pag-asa Island in the remote town of Kalayaan in Palawan.

Following her visit to the island, Environment Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga said the department and its partner groups discussed plans “to expand research and monitoring” on Pag-asa Island and nearby areas

Loyzaga and a research team visited the research station of University of the Philippines-Marine Science Institute (UP-MSI) on the island to check the crushed corals littered on the beach.

“This further facilitated our discussion on the partnership between the DENR Biodiversity Management Bureau and UP-MSI in establishing a DENR marine research station on Pag-asa Island,” Loyzaga said in a statement.

During her stay, Loyzaga met and tackled the expansion with Kalayaan Mayor Roberto Del Mundo, Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Command head Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos, and UP-MSI experts Dr. Fernando Siringan, Dr. Jose Fernando Alcantara, and Dr.Rolando Tolentino.

“The discussion was on the environmental sustainability of the island and the research needed for understanding marine environments and the value of these ecosystems to livelihoods, food security in the Philippines and the region, and the global need to ensure the ocean’s climate regulatory functions,” Loyzaga said.

“Given the implications, we need to actually determine an ecological boundary rather than administrative lines,” she added.

The DENR chief and the mayor also discussed possible interventions for the priority needs of the municipality’s residents and the sustainable development of the island, which include water, sewerage, and solid waste management systems.

Pag-asa Island serves as the hub of the municipality of Kalayaan—the smallest in the Philippines with a population of 193, but the largest in terms of jurisdiction, with an area spanning almost 65,000 square miles.