Island (pop. 2000: 707,668) of the Visayan group, central Philippines. The V-shaped island occupies an area of 1,262 sq mi (3,269 sq km); its capital is Masbate (pop., 2000: 71,441). Explored by Spain in the late 16th century, it was ruled by the Spanish until the Spanish-American War, when the U.S. gained control. It was occupied by the Japanese during World War II but was recovered by the U.S. in 1945. Gold has been mined for centuries near Aroroy in the north.