CONNECTED. Young people and other volunteers undertake a cleanup as part of the  Green Sea Turtles Day Sunday (May 23, 2021) in the Municipality of Turtle Islands, Tawi-Tawi. The island became connected to the rest of the country via the very small-aperture terminal technology installed by the Department of Information and Communication Technology in March this year. (Photo lifted from the Turtle Islands Facebook Page)

ZAMBOANGA CITY – President Rodrigo Duterte made history as the first chief executive of the country to directly address the people of Turtle Islands municipality, the farthest town of the province of Tawi-Tawi.

In a Facebook post on Monday, Emmanuel Piñol, Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) chairperson, said this was made possible through the very small-aperture terminal (VSAT) that the Department of Information and Communication Technology (DICT) installed in March in the municipality.

Piñol said the residents "danced and celebrated" Sunday, the Green Sea Turtles Day, with tens of thousands watching them live on Facebook and via Zoom as they listened to President Duterte in a pre-recorded message beamed via VSAT.

Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go provided a wide-screen television set that was used in projecting the message of President Duterte to the residents.

Piñol said that the VSAT connected the people of the remote islands--who used to get cellular signals from Malaysian telcos--to the rest of the Philippines and they could now send text messages and even call relatives and friends in the country.

The municipality of Turtle Islands is a 5th class town in the province of Tawi-Tawi with a population of 4,724 as of the 2015 census.

The municipality is located within the Sulu Sea at the southwestern tip of the country, at the edge of the international treaty limits separating the Philippines and Malaysia.

“The establishment of the VSAT was a commitment I made to the people of the islands when I went there in March 2020 to become only the second Cabinet-level official to get there, Piñol said.

He said that the satellite connection was one of the issues raised during the consultations with the islanders, with electric power and sufficient supply of potable water listed as the second and third most important needs in the islands.

The MinDA chief said he will coordinate with the Department of Energy (DOE) for the establishment of a Solar Power Generation Facility in the main island, Taganak.

He said that with the establishment of a solar-powered generation plant, a water desalination facility could be set up along with an ice-making facility to boost fish production.

“Hopefully, before the end of the term of President Duterte the people of the Turtle Islands will feel that they are cared for and they belong,” he added. (PNA)