The government will start revamping infrastructure on Itu Aba (Taiping Island, 太平島) in the South China Sea next year to protect the safety of Taiwanese fishermen in view of the rising sovereignty disputes over the Spratly Islands, (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島), the National Expressway Engineering Bureau said yesterday.
Itu Aba is under the administration of the Greater Kaohsiung Government, which is about 1,600km away from the island. However, China, the Philippines and Vietnam also claim sovereignty over the small island, which is currently home to about 100 people, a majority of whom are military and coast guard personnel.
The bureau’s acting chief engineer, Chen I-piao (陳議標), said the project, approved by the Executive Yuan in July, would involve building a completely new pier for the island and reinforcing its runway, which was built by the Ministry of National Defense.
Construction is scheduled to start at the beginning of next year and should be completed by the end of 2015, with costs estimated at NT$3.3 billion (US$111 million), the bureau said.
“About 60 percent of the construction costs would be spent on transportation, because the materials needed for the construction would have to be shipped from Taiwan proper. The transport cost for the materials is about NT$9,000 per tonne,” Chen said.
“Based on our experience on the Dongsha Islands [東沙群島, Pratas Islands], we will have to pay about 1.5 times the average wage to encourage construction workers to come and work on the project,” Chen said.
He said the bureau would improve the runway, including building drainage facilities.
“The military needs the runway to land C-130 military transport aircraft,” he said. “The runway needs to be able to dry out quickly to facilitate landing for such aircraft.”
However, the main focus of the project would be the construction of a new pier to facilitate the shipping of goods and materials, he said, adding that once the pier is completed, 2,000-tonne vessels would be able to dock directly on the island’s coast, he said.
He added that the Environmental Protection Administration has said that the construction would be exempt from being reviewed by the Environmental Impact Assessment Committee, per the Environmental Impact Assessment Act (環境影響評估法).