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Pagasa Island is a jewel in the South China Sea. It is the one pictured - an emerald splash in an azure sea slashed by a coral runway - whenever new collisions or confrontations are reported in the news for the region. Occupied continuously by the Philippines since 1971, historical use dates back to the Han dynasty, which many believe forms the basis of the Chinese claim to the island. Each country has it's own interpretation of international law and the Filipinos are clearly banking on the precedence of continuous occupation, at no small expense, as Rancudo Field is the farthest airport from Manila within the Philippine sphere of control.
Surprisingly, the geography of the island serves to capture and retain rainwater, although the aquifer is stagnant and the water must be treated for consumption. Sea life remains abundant, poachers take coral heads and sea turtles. There is a solar farm and recently installed solar street lights, fuel for the generators is a precious commodity this far from the mainland.
Sadly, nature may solve the struggle for possession by withdrawing the island from the arena. It is believed that the construction of the runway may have compromised the islands basic integrity, allowing it to crumble into the sea. Whatever the cause, the evidence is clear. Bunkers built during the Japanese occupation in WWII are already slipping beneath the waves and the rate of salt water encroachment has been recorded at close to 6" per day.
There are some things to explore, the grounded BRP Laneo Del Norte to the west; over to the north near the resort grounds are a dugout fishing canoe and some authentic Philippine bangka boats; you may want to load up and head east to do some low warning passes over the Chinese fishing fleet. Standing at the east end of the field, you can just barely spot the China Coast Guard cutter's smoke on the horizon.
The tower is marked by a bright strobe that fires once every five seconds and at night it is bright enough to guide you back to the island from the distance of the fleet. There are no published procedures and the tower is not staffed. Airport ICAO is RPPN.
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||10th May 2014, 12:21:19