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Spratly Islands military occupations map
Thitu Island (Tagalog: Pagasa, literally "hope"; simplified Chinese: 中业岛; traditional Chinese: 中業島; pinyin: Zhōngyè Dǎo; Vietnamese: Đảo Thị Tứ; Pangasinan: Ilalo), having an area of 37.2 hectares is the second largest Spratly Island and the largest of all Philippine-occupied Spratly Islands. It lies about 300 miles (483 km) west of Puerto Princesa City. It is claimed by the People's Republic of China, the Republic of China (Taiwan) and Vietnam.
Chinese fishermen historically called the island Tie Zhi (铁峙), sometime misrefered as "Tiezhi Island" (铁峙岛 Tiezhi Dao); however, Tiezhi Reef (铁峙礁) refers to another rock in South China Sea, 7.5 km northeast of this island. The modern Chinese name of the island was taken from the one of the battleships "Chung-yeh" (Chinese: 中業號; pinyin: Zhongye Hao) sent by the Chinese government during the Republic of China era to regain control of the island in 1946. A tiny joss house built by Chinese during the Qing Dynasty still stands in the middle of the island.
From 1930 to 1933, French colonial Government in French Indochina sent naval troops to Spratlys, including Thitu Island. On 21 December 1933, Gouverneur M. J. Krautheimer in Cochinchina (now Vietnam) decided to annex the Spratlys to Ba Ria Province.
During 1970–1971, Philippines sent troops to occupy Thitu Island and some others in Spratlys.
The island was occupied by the Philippines since 1970s after the government purchased the whole Free Territory of Freedomland from Tomás Cloma. Being one of the largest, just after Taiwan in 1946 occupied Itu Aba Island, which is 46 hectares, it is tightly protected by the Philippine forces. 40 out of 60 Filipino soldiers stationed in all Philippine-occupied features are assigned in the island. It has a 1.4 kilometres (1,531 yd) unconcretized airstrip (named as Rancudo Airfield) which serves both military and commercial air transportation needs. It was the only airstrip in the whole Spratly chain that can accommodate large aircraft, such as Philippine Air Force's (PAF) C-130 cargo planes, until the ROC constructed an airstrip on Itu Aba in 2007. PAF regularly sends fighter jets from Palawan to make reconnaissance missions in Philippine-controlled regions in the Spratly chain. The presence of a long airstrip in the island makes such reconnaissance missions easier.
In August 2009, the Philippine Navy renamed Naval Station Pag-Asa in the Kalayaan Islands in the province of Palawan as Naval Station Emilio Liwanag as one of several bases, facilities, and stations renamed thru-out the country. This commemorates its naval history by honoring several naval officers who served with distinction, who fought for the protection of the country's sovereignty, territorial integrity, democracy, and the maritime interests of the country.
The island serves as a town proper to the Municipality of Kalayaan. Only this island among all Philippine-occupied Spratly islands is currently inhabited by civilian Filipinos. The civilian population, about 300 which includes children, was introduced in 2001. However, less than 200 civilian Filipinos are present in the island at a time.
The island is the only Philippine-occupied island to have a significant number of structures. These include a municipal hall, multi-purpose hall, health center, school, water-filtration plant, engineering building, marina, communication tower, and military barracks. The residents raise pigs, goats and chickens and plant crops in an alloted space to supplement their supplies of goods provided by a naval vessel which visits once a month. By day, the residents get electricity from a power generator owned by the municipality. By night, they shift to stored solar power which comes from 1.5V solar panels installed in the island.
The municipality has a long-standing policy of protecting the island's environment. Aerial photos (by Google Maps) of the island reveal that more than 70% of the island is still covered with trees; this is in contrast with islands occupied by Vietnam where many trees were already cut down.
There are numerous plans for the island. One of the plans, proposed by the Philippine Navy since 1999, is to create a long causeway that leads all the way to a deep water region. The island is completely surrounded by its expansive shallow coral base. This caused the Philippine Navy's BRP Lanao del Norte (LT-504), to run aground during a failed attempt to dock near the island in 2004. The damaged ship currently remains at the site of the wreck. Additionally, the Philippine Navy has proposed a naval base be built on the island, specifically for the purposes of training the Philippine Navy's elite Special Warfare Group (SWAG) and Navy Seals.
In contrast, the municipality proposes that the island be developed for tourism. The island has a white sand coastline, is filled with trees, and is a sanctuary of several species of sea birds. Its wide coral base can serve as a good diving spot.
- 吕一燃 (Lu Yiran), 2007. 中国近代边界史 (A modern history of China's borders), Vol. 2. 四川人民出版社 (Sichuan People's Publishing), pp.1092-1093. ISBN 7220073313
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