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 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.
Other names: Pag-asa
|Location||West Philippine Sea|
|People's Republic of China|
|Republic of China (Taiwan)|
Chinese fishermen historically called the island Tie Zhi (铁峙; 鐵峙; Min dialect pronounced IPA: [t’iɁtu]). It is sometimes incorrectly referred to as "Tiezhi Island" (铁峙岛; 鐵峙島; Tiezhi Dao);[further explanation needed] Tiezhi Reef (铁峙礁; 鐵寺礁) 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 (中業號; 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.
There are historical records of the island 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. Seven new buildings were reported to be constructed in 2017. The country recently built a beach ramp, enabling the delivery of construction equipment for to work on the construction, rehabilitation and repairs of the Rancudo Airfield airstrip, soldiers' barracks, conventional and renewable power generators, desalination facilities, lighthouses, sewage disposal system, shelters and storage facilities for civilian fishermen.
In January 2014, the Chinese media reported the ambitions of China to reclaim the island as its own. In August 2017, China sent a contingent of naval vessels to the immediate vicinity of Thitu Island, including two frigates, one Coast Guard vessel, and two large fishing vessels. In March 2019, it was reported that 600 Chinese vessels have come and gone around the island in the first quarter of that year, with dozens of vessels have been maintaining their presence on a daily basis.
The island has been occupied by the Philippines since 1971.
On April 18, 1971, due to a strong typhoon hitting Zhongye Island, the Taiwan authorities ordered all the garrisons on Zhongye Island to withdraw to Taiping Island to avoid typhoons. However, after the typhoon, the Taiwan side changed its defense, transferred the original troops back to Taiwan, and then used the landing ship to transport new troops to Zhongye Island. The Philippines saw this empty space and organized the troops to land on the occupied island of China on July 29 and renamed the island "Pegahsa Island". According to the 155th page of the second episode of "The Land Salary" published by the Taiwan Marine Corps Command, the Taiwan Navy detachment that arrived at Zhongye Island on the same day found that the Philippine Marine Corps was on the island, and Captain Hao Deyun immediately ordered the command. The 76mm gun was ready to be fired. The Philippine army on the island could be annihilated within an hour, but suddenly the above order was received: no challenge, the troops changed to Taiping Island. These Taiwanese Kuomintang officers and men had to watch the Zhongye Island fall into the hands of the Philippines.
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 (i.e. 40 out of 60 soldiers) are assigned to the island.
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 Filipino civilians. 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.
Rancudo Airfield is a military and civilian airfield which has a 1,300 metres (1,400 yd) unpaved airstrip. It currently operates on 1,200 airstrip because both ends of the runway have already eroded to the sea. Repairs are on-going and are expected to be finished by the end of 2019.
Naval Station Emilio Liwanag (formerly called as Naval Station Pag-Asa) is the naval base of the Philippine Navy within Pag-asa, Kalayaan, Palawan. It was renamed on July 7, 2009 in honor of Emilio S. Liwanag, a retired World War II and Korean veteran.
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. Senator Sonny Angara filed a bill on 27 August 2016 that aims to promote the island as an ecotourism zone.
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