|Location||South China Sea|
|People's Republic of China|
|Republic of China (Taiwan)|
Thitu Island (Tagalog: Pag-asa, 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 (92 acres), is the second largest of the naturally occurring Spratly Islands and the largest of the Philippine-administered naturally occurring Spratly Islands. It lies about 480 kilometres (300 mi) west of Puerto Princesa City. Its neighbours are the North Danger Reef to the north, Subi Reef to the west, and the Loaita and Tizard Banks to the south.
Chinese fishermen historically called the island Tie Zhi (铁峙), and it is pronounced /T’iɁTu/ in Min dialect. It is sometimes incorrectly referred to as "Tiezhi Island" (铁峙岛 Tiezhi Dao); Tiezhi Reef (铁峙礁) refers to another area 7.5 km northeast of this island. The modern Chinese name of the island was taken from one of the battleships named 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.
From 1930 to 1933, the French colonial government in French Indochina sent naval troops to the Spratlys, including Thitu Island. On 21 December 1933, Gouverneur M. J. Krautheimer in Cochinchina (now Vietnam) decided to annex the Spratlys to Bà Rịa Province.
Chinese texts of the 12th century record the Spratlys as being a part of the Ming dynasty and that they were used earlier (206 BC) as fishing grounds during the Han Dynasty. There are historical records of the island as having been inhabited at various times by Chinese and Vietnamese fishermen, and during the Second World War by French Indochina and Imperial Japanese troops. However, there were no large settlements on the island until 1956, when a Filipino lawyer-businessman-adventurer named Tomas Cloma decided to "claim" a part of the Spratly islands as his own, naming it the "Free Territory of Freedomland".
The Philippines formally established the Municipality of Kalayaan on Pag-asa island on 11 June 1978, by virtue of Presidential Decree 1596 series of 1978.
The island has been occupied by the Philippines since the 1970s, after the government purchased the whole of the Free Territory of Freedomland from Tomás Cloma for 1 peso. Being the second largest of the Spratly Islands, it is tightly protected by the Philippine forces. The island's beaches have unused concrete bunkers which were built in the 1970s, a few years after the Philippine military base was established. Two-thirds of the Philippine military stationed in Philippine-occupied islands (or, 40 out of 60 soldiers) are assigned to the island. It has a 1,300-metre (1,400 yd) unpaved airstrip called Rancudo Airfield, which serves both military and commercial air transportation needs. PAF regularly sends fighter jets[which?] from Palawan to make reconnaissance missions in Philippine-controlled regions in the Spratly chain. The presence of an airstrip on the island makes such reconnaissance missions easier.
In August 2009, the Philippine Navy renamed Naval Station Pag-Asa as Naval Station Emilio Liwanag (after retired navy captain, Emilio Liwanag) as one of several bases, facilities, and stations renamed throughout the country.
In January 2014, the Chinese media reported the ambitions of China to reclaim the island as its own.
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 of about 300, which includes children, was introduced in 2001. However, fewer than 200 civilian Filipinos are present in the island at a time. They live in a few dozen houses, linked with sandy paths.
It is the only Philippine-occupied island in the Spratlys to have a significant number of structures, including 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 allotted 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 that comes from 1.5-volt solar panels installed on the island. The houses do not have running water – water is used from tanks in front of each house.
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, which 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 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 or 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 makes for good diving.
- Note that in 2014 the PRC embarked on a number of reclamation projects in the Spratly Islands. It appears that the largest of these, at Fiery Cross Reef, is of at least 60 hectares, and according to some unverifiable sources, possibly as large as 150 ha. Kristine Kwok and Minnie Chan (2014-06-08). "China plans artificial island in disputed Spratlys chain in South China Sea". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 2014-09-28.
- Tong Wong (2009-03-25). "Who is the owner of the Spratly Islands?(Chinese)".
- 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
- Palatino, Raymond. "The Spratlys and the Philippine claim". Retrieved 2014-06-26.
- http://www.biengioilanhtho.gov.vn/Media/bbg/News/Archives/vie/chu%20quyen%20tren%202%20quan%20dao%20Hoang%20Sa%20-%20Truong%20sa.pdf Archived 5 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine
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- "Timeline". History of the Spratlys. www.spratlys.org. Retrieved 21 March 2014.
- Chemillier-Gendreau, Monique (2000). Sovereignty Over the Paracel and Spratly Islands. Kluwer Law International. ISBN 9041113819.
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- "China and Philippines: The reasons why a battle for Zhongye (Pag-asa) Island seems unavoidable". China Daily Mail. 13 January 2014. Retrieved 21 March 2014.
- "Presidential Decree 1596 s1978". Retrieved 5 April 2015.
- Campbell, Eric (20 May 2014). "Reef Madness". ABC News. Retrieved 23 May 2014.
- Historical Background, kalayaanpalawan.gov.ph
- The largest of the Spratly Islands is the Taiwanese occupied since 1946 Itu Aba (Tai Ping) Island (46 hectares).
Spratly Islands. Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2008. Archived from the original on 31 October 2009.
"回眸︰1946年國民政府收復南沙太平島始末". Retrieved 30 March 2012.[dead link]
- Gupta, Vipin; Bernstein, Adam (May 1999). "Remote Monitoring in the South China Sea". Sandia National Laboratory. Archived from the original on 29 March 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-16.
- Gomez, Jim, Associated Press, "On disputed Spratly isle, boredom is main concern", Yahoo! News, 22 July 2011.
- "Chinese troops to seize Zhongye Island back from the Philippines in 2014". China Daily Mail. 11 January 2014. Retrieved 21 March 2014.
- "Airstrip repair on Pagasa island 'a go' despite China protest –PAF". GMA Network. 19 June 2014. Retrieved 19 June 2014.
- Glionna, John M. (26 July 2009), "Squatters in paradise say it's job from hell", Los Angeles Times, Retrieved 2010-09-06.
- Abaricia, Aimee (16 July 2005). "The Trip To Kalayaan". The Philippine Star (Manila): B–6. Archived from the original (JPEG) on 3 October 2011. Retrieved 2008-02-16.