November 16, 1904, the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm in Palawan Province was Established
On November 16, 1904, Governor Luke Wright authorized the establishment of a penal colony in the province of Palawan, where offenders sentenced to banishment were exiled. It was designated for this purpose during the Spanish regime but was only implemented until the American occupation.
A specific area of Puerto Princesa was selected as the site for a correctional facility. The American military carved out a prison facility in the rain forest of Puerto Princesa. The institution had for its first Superintendent Lt. George Wolfe, a member of the U.S. expeditionary force, who later became the first prisons director.
This penal settlement, which originally comprised an area of 22 acres, originally served as a depository for prisoners who could not be accommodated at the Bilibid Prison in Manila. In 1906, however, the Department of Commerce and Police (which later became the Department of Public Instruction) moved to turn the institution into the center of a penal colony supervised in accordance with trends at the time. Through the department’s efforts, the Philippine Commission of the United States government passed Act No. 1723 in 1907 classifying the settlement as a penal institution.
The settlement was at first beset by attempted escapes. But under the supervision of Col. John R. White of the Philippine Constabulary, who would become superintendent of Iwahig in 1906, the colony became a successful settlement.
Unlike most prisons and other penal institutions, Iwahig’s minimum security prisoners are not locked up behind bars. Only those classified as either medium or maximum security prisoners are subjected to tight monitoring. Iwahig’s minimum security prisoners engage in agricultural work and live in dormitories. If permitted by the Bureau of Corrections, some of the inmates are allowed to live with their families and can also work at Iwahig’s vast land.
A merit system was devised for the prisoners and vocational activities were offered. These included farming, fishing, forestry, carpentry, and hospitalparamedical work. Prisoners could choose the vocational activities they wanted.
To generate income, some of them even set up shops and sell handicrafts handmade by prisoners. The inmates can even access educational opportunities and skills training.