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Pedra Branca (formerly referred to by Malaysia as Pulau Batu Puteh and now as Batu Puteh) is an outlying island and also the easternmost point of Singapore. The name means "white rock" in Portuguese (Template:IPA-pt), and refers to whitish guano (bird droppings) deposited on the rock. The island consists of a small outcrop of granite rocks with an area of about Template:Convert. During the low water spring tide it measures, at its longest, Template:Convert and has an average width of Template:Convert. It is situated at 1° 19′ 48″ N and 104° 24′ 27″ E, where the Singapore Strait meets the South China Sea. There are two maritime features near Pedra Branca. Middle Rocks, under the sovereignty of Malaysia, consists of two clusters of small rocks about Template:Convert apart situated Template:Convert south of Pedra Branca. South Ledge, which is Template:Convert to the south-south-west of Pedra Branca, is a rock formation visible only at low-tide.

Pedra Branca was known to sailors for centuries. It was originally within the territory of the Johor Sultanate which was founded in 1528, and remained under the new Sultanate of Johor under the British sphere of influence following the signing of the Anglo–Dutch Treaty of 1824 between the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. Between 1850 and 1851, the British built Horsburgh Lighthouse on the island without informing the Johor authorities of their decision to do so or seeking consent for its erection. From that time, the island was administered by the Straits Settlements and after its dissolution in 1946, Singapore. On 21 September 1953, the Acting State Secretary of Johor, responding to a query from the Colonial Secretary of Singapore about the status of the island, stated that "the Johore Government does not claim ownership of Pedra Branca".

On 21 December 1979 Malaysia published a map which showed the island to be within its territorial waters. This ignited a 29-year territorial dispute which, together with the issue of sovereignty over the nearby maritime features of Middle Rocks and South Ledge, was presented to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for resolution. On 23 May 2008 the ICJ ruled that Pedra Branca is under Singapore's sovereignty. Although the island had originally been under the sovereignty of the Johor Sultanate, the United Kingdom and Singapore had carried out various acts of sovereignty in respect of the island. The failure of Malaysia and its predecessors to respond to these acts, and other actions which demonstrated their acknowledgment of Singapore's sovereignty over the island, meant that Singapore had gained sovereignty over Pedra Branca. On the other hand, Middle Rocks remains part of Malaysian territory as Singapore had not manifested any acts of sovereignty in respect of it. The Court did not rule definitively on the remaining outcrop, South Ledge, merely declaring that it belongs to the state in the territorial waters of which it is located. Malaysia and Singapore have established what they have named the Joint Technical Committee to delimit the maritime boundary in the area around Pedra Branca and Middle Rocks, and to determine the ownership of South Ledge.

In the 1980s, Malaysian Marine Police boats entered the waters around Pedra Branca on several occasions. However, both Malaysia and Singapore acted with restraint, the Singapore Navy having been given strict instructions not to escalate matters. In 1989, the then Prime Minister of Malaysia Mahathir Mohamad made an unannounced visit to the vicinity of the island. His boat was intercepted by Singapore naval vessels. To avoid an international incident, he directed his boat to leave.[1]

With effect from 27 June 2002, Pedra Branca was declared a protected area within the meaning of the Protected Areas and Protected Places Act.[2] Consequently, a permit from the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore is required for access to the island,[3] and unauthorised presence there is a criminal offence.[4] On 6 October 2008, a Singaporean man, Roger Lee, was convicted of illegally landing on Pedra Branca. In court documents, he said he had gone to Batam, Indonesia, in 1998. He later married and started a family with an Indonesian woman, but she left him in 2007 due to his unstable income and inability to hold down a job. As he had illegally overstayed in Indonesia, and had been cheated of his passport and other personal documents by a friend, Lee hatched a plan to pretend to be a lost fisherman in the hope that the Police Coast Guard would rescue him and take him back to Singapore. On 5 February 2008 he paid a boatman to transport him out to sea in a motorised sampan. As he did not see any coast guard or navy patrols he disembarked on Pedra Branca and was arrested by staff stationed there. Lee pleaded guilty to illegally entering Singapore via an unauthorised landing place. A second charge of being found in a protected place without permission was taken into consideration for sentencing purposes. In mitigation, Lee's pro bono lawyer said that there was no sign on Pedra Branca warning against trespassing on the island. Lee was sentenced to six weeks' imprisonment.[5]

Speaking at the Singapore Energy Conference on 4 November 2008, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew mentioned that the Singapore Government had considered reclaiming land and building a nuclear power plant on Pedra Branca. Such a plant could not be built on the main island of Singapore as international standards require a safety zone of Template:Convert around the plant. However, it was recognised that this was probably not feasible as Pedra Branca is less than 30 kilometres from the Malaysian coast.[6]

There are plans for the Downtown Line to be extended into Pedra Branca.


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