West York Island

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West York Island
Disputed island
West York Island, Spratly Islands.png
West York Island
Position of West York Island
Position of West York Island
Location South China Sea
Coordinates 11°30′N 115°00′E / 11.5°N 115.0°E / 11.5; 115.0 (West York Island)Coordinates: 11°30′N 115°00′E / 11.5°N 115.0°E / 11.5; 115.0 (West York Island)
Archipelago Spratly Islands
Administered by
Claimed by
 People's Republic of China
 Republic of China (Taiwan)

West York Island is also known as Likas Island Tagalog: Likas, simplified Chinese: 西月岛; traditional Chinese: 西月島; pinyin: Xīyuè Dǎo, Vietnamese: đảo Bến Lạc) and several other names. Having an area of 18.6 hectares, it is the third largest island of the Spratly Islands chain in the South China Sea, and is the second largest island among the Philippine-occupied islands. It is up to 530 yards (485 m) wide, and 330 yards (302 m) long. Its highest elevation is 30 feet (9 m).

The island is administered by the Philippines as part of Kalayaan, Palawan; it is located 47 miles (76 km) northeast of Pagasa Island (Thitu Island), the town proper of Kalayaan. Likas is the Tagalog rootword of kalikasan which means nature. Several Filipino soldiers are stationed on the island.

The island is also claimed by the People's Republic of China, the Republic of China (Taiwan) and Vietnam.

Structures and environment[edit]

West York Island is covered with low vegetation and scrub. Outcrops are visible on the southern and eastern portion of the island during low tides. It is a sanctuary for giant sea turtles that lay their eggs on the island all year round. The high salinity of the ground water in the island retards the growth of introduced trees like coconuts, ipil-ipil, and other types. Only those plants indigenous to the area, (mostly beach types of plants), thrive and survive the hot and humid condition, especially during the dry season.

There are no buildings on the island, except for the ruins of houses built by Japanese soldiers during World War II, and a small Philippine observation post where Filipino soldiers are stationed.


West York Island (Likas) is part of the Municipality of Kalayaan, Palawan. However, because there is no civilian population on the island, it cannot qualify for any political subdivision that the Philippines has. Kalayaan, Palawan is the only municipality in the Philippines to have a single barangay. Barangays are political subdivisions that comprise Philippine municipalities and cities. Kalayaan's lone barangay is Pagasa Island (Thitu) which has a civilian population of about 300 people.

Because it is the second largest island among Philippine-occupied Spratly islands, Kalayaan municipal officials proposed that this island be populated with civilian settlers within the coming years. If accomplished, Likas will be the second barangay of Kalayaan. However, Likas' land area is only 50% of Pagasa's and only naval vessels are currently capable of reaching the island. An estimate of 300 million pesos (US$7.5M) will be needed to construct an airstrip, a docking site, some land reclamation and other structures necessary to support an isolated community.

See also[edit]