Settlers of tiny Pacific island go nuts


The Spratlys island chain consists of hundreds of tiny islands in the South Pacific. The LA Times calls it "the most disputed island chain on Earth."

The Philippines government, in an attempt to bolster its claim to ownership of the Spratlys, has been sending civil employees to live on Pagasa, a 75-acre Spratlys island since 2002. But the forced settlers hate living on the tiny rock, which can be walked around in 30 minutes.

In a nation where half the 90 million residents endure grinding poverty, Pagasa volunteers get free food and housing and guaranteed work. But there's also guaranteed boredom. Many who inhabit Pagasa consider the calendar their worst enemy. Others mark off time on the wall like stir-crazy convicts.

With a main port named Loneliness Bay, the island can take such a psychological toll that one inhabitant stabbed himself just to escape it. Another hanged himself two days after he arrived.

"The happiest day on Pagasa is when the boat comes to take you off," said Robles, who after three months on the island last year has returned home here, only to dread his next Pagasa assignment. "Next is seeing the plane arrive with supplies. The sound of those engines means cigarettes and alcohol."

Squatters in paradise say it's job from hell