Chinese mainland does not control effectivelysome of Spratly islands and reefs until 1988. Before 1988, some countries, suchas Vietnam and the Philippines,have occupied all the islands and reefs which have survival advantage. Comparedwith China, they are closer tothe Spratly Islands, but these islands still veryfar from the coast. For those soldiers who have guarded here for many years,they are always accompanied by hardship and loneliness. Recently, a Philippine mediareported the life of these soldiers. The photo was taken in November 2012.
Spratly Islands Renai Reef（仁爱礁, Philippines called KarajanIslands Ayungin Reef）is probably the loneliest place that one soldier is enough to guard.There is no land. Freshwater is limited. It seems that they are living in theirown water world. The dispatch team which only seven people guarded here isfacing a very unique situation: the survival place is just an old warship.(Editor's Note: This picture was taken by the Guangdong Maritime SafetyAdministration in March 2013. According to the Philippine media reports, theycurrently do not withdraw the soldiers of this landing ship.)
The Renai reef is 176 sea miles from Palawan, Philippines.May 9, 1999, number "57" of the old tank landing ship of PhilippineNavy claimed to be "leaky bottom" so that soldiers can be sent to guardin turns and controlled. This American landing ship was built in 1944. It is 100meters long and has been donated to the Philippines by American afterretiring in 1976.
Number "57" landing ship is tooold so that it has covered with rust. It is too dangerous to live for anypeople.
There are traces of rust everywhere on the landing ship. The Philippines is one of the most poorest countries. And the military forces is very week because of the financial limitations. Many of the weapons are old.
Satellite antenna on the deck is difficultto receive signals. The life here is very boring. Most of the time, soldiers onlycan fishing, listen to the radio and patrol. There is no cell phone signal or cableTV.
Five of the seven soldiers are Marines, andthe other two are the Navy. Their duty is daily maintenance of landing ship.
These soldier's activities only areconfined on the ship. Castro, a sergeant of this ship, said: "Life here isvery difficult. There are no trees or land. But we adapted to it, anyway."
For months, soldiers always living in thiswarship and nearly do not have other food to eat except fish.
November 22, 2012, their Executive Sabanvisited suddenly and surprised soldiers here. He brought them a bucket of ice-cream.These soldiers have eaten dried fish for a few months. When they saw theice-cream they were happy as children.
The same situation also occurred on theother Philippines controlledSpratly Islands. Saban also brought a bucket ofice-cream to the soldiers who stationed in MahuanIsland (Philippines called Lawak). Usually,they can only eat rice and fish. But that day they ate up the ice-creamimmediately
The soldiers of Mahuan Islandwere so happy when they saw the ice-cream. Flores,a 49 years old soldier said, “we are very lonely. I miss my children.”
Mahuan Island wasstationed by 12 soldiers. Their living usually depends on fishing. Althoughthese soldiers are not facing to any threat of attack, they still need to face tothe changeable weather and extreme loneliness.
Mahuan Island is about 5 hectares. The mangrove forest flourished. The island'sofficers Man Guen said that he always encouraged soldiers to do sports anddiscussion. He added, "We need to make ourselves busy, or it will beboring. And I also let them to call their family. Everyone has one minute totalk."
The soldiers on Mahuan Islandplanted mang trees during their spare time.
Mahuan Island is the nearest one fromthe Palawan Island. There are white beaches and beautifulcoastal scenery.
Saban thinks that Mahuan Islandcould be an excellent place for travelling. He said, "We would like tobuild a runway to transit the airplanes. It only spend one hour by air from hereto Puerto Princesa (Palawan capital). If thereis a runway for plane, there would be hotels and refrigeration equipment for fishrestore. What a wonderful thing! "
Feixin Island (Philippines called Patag) which is near the Mahuan Islandis only about one hectare. It can also be a good place for travelling. This islandcontrolled by the Philippinesin 1970.
Xiyue Island is about 0.18 square kilometers. It is secondly only to Zhongye Island. It is the third largest islandin the Spratly Islandsand occupied by the Philippinesin 1963.
Saban is giving a speech to the soldiers.Kenneth who is a Marine Sergeant on Xiyue Island has been here sixtimes. He has been sent to this island several times since 2005. He admitted thatthe task is not easy, but he still thought it is a great honor!
The facilities on the island are verysimple and crude. Some soldiers sleep on the bed like this.
Nearly all these islands have dogs which wereraised by soldiers. They are good friends of these soldiers.
On the Xiyue Island,barracks were shaded by coconut trees.
Xiyue Island also hasa beautiful white beach. Saban said that although the Government has notdeveloped the resources here, soldiers will stay here. It is not only toprotect the national territory, but also to enjoy the rich natural resources.
Beizi Island (Philippines called Parola) is about 240 nauticalmiles from Palawan bay. It is the farthestisland of these Philippinescontrolled islands. Philippinesoccupied Beizi Island in 1971. So far, the island hasnot been developed and the resources have not been exploited.
Nanzi Island is just a fewkilometers away from Beizi Island. At night, you canfind out the differences between these two islands. Vietnamese built somebuildings while the Beizi Island is a dark place.Natives said that Vietnamese built a NavalSchool on Beizi Island.
Beizi Island’s beachis still a pure place. Saban said: “I was the chief of the island 31 years ago.Our island is better than theirs (editor's Note: Kanako Island).We have more soldiers and the environment is good, too. But now, it seems thatour island has fall behind. ”
The only one diesel generator is too old toues. Unfortunately, the proposal of developing the island still maintains. Itis just still just a proposal. The supplies only can satisfied the basic needs.Madrid is responsible for the safety of the Beizi Island.He admitted that he is jealous of the development of Nanzi Island.
The names carved in stone were the soldiers’name. After decades, these names were blurred.
On Beizi Island,the meals of these soldiers are fish. For the boring life on the island, thesoldiers do not have any trouble to the current situation. Most of the time,they fish, plant trees and vegetables, and participate in some leisureactivities. They use their own way to develop the island.
Saban thinks it is very important to sendsoldiers to guard these disputed islands. It means that we want to let othercountries to know that these areas belong to Philippines. Saban said, "Wedo not have confrontation. But we have to let people know that this is thePhilippine territory and our territorial sovereignty should be respected. "
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