President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said that Taiwan would not send marines to defend the Itu Aba (Taiping Island, 太平島) in the South China Sea and would uphold its policy of having the Coast Guard Administration (CGA) protect the country’s claims to the islet.
However, the CGA has had a hard time finding volunteer soldiers and officers to serve on the island, which lies about 1,600km southwest of Kaohsiung.
As the country has decided to move from conscription to an all-volunteer military service system by the end of next year, the CGA has been carrying out a recruitment program since the beginning of this year.
To date, the agency has managed to recruit three volunteers to serve on the Pratas Islands (Dongsha Islands, 東沙群島) in the South China Sea.
CGA officials said the agency has come up with an incentive program to facilitate its recruitment project.
According to the officials, the agency is seeking the Executive Yuan’s approval to increase the subsidy for personnel serving on the Dongsha Islands from the current NT$9,790 (US$330) to NT$12,000.
The CGA also suggested that the subsidy for those serving on Taiping Island be increased from NT$12,360 to NT$20,000.
If the program is approved, a soldier stationed on Taiping Island will be able to earn NT$49,625 a month and a second lieutenant can get a monthly salary of nearly NT$66,000.
The CGA has posted more than 100 service members on the Taiping Island which covers an area of 0.49km2.
The islands are believed to be rich in natural resources, including oil, and are also claimed by China, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei.
As tension in the region has been escalating in recent years over neighboring countries’ conflicting claims, the CGA has intensified personnel training to fulfill its mission of protecting the country’s sovereignty claims to the region.
CGA officials said they hope the Executive Yuan would approve its new incentive program soon to facilitate personnel recruitment.
According to the officials, the CGA has installed sports and recreational facilities on the Donghsa and Taiping islands to offer its personnel better living conditions.