A Council of Agriculture (COA) investigation suggested that Itu Aba Island (Taiping Island, 太平島), Taiwan’s largest territory in the disputed Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島) in the South China Sea, is an island, rather than a “rock” as alleged by the Philippines, which said Taiwan was not entitled to claim territorial seas stretching 12 nautical miles (22km) from Itu Aba.
An investigation team consisting of experts from the fields of hydrology, soil, vegetation and laws arrived on the island on Friday last week to evaluate its natural environment and agricultural production on Itu Aba to determine whether it is an island, the council said on Saturday.
A Philippine lawyer in November last year argued that Itu Aba is not an island, but a “rock” incapable of sustaining human habitation, at an arbitration hearing concerning the South China Sea in The Hague, Netherlands, which the council said was the Philippines’ unilateral interpretation.
Hydrology, soil, agricultural potential and human activity data the team collected on the island were enough to prove that Ita Abu satisfies the definition of an island specified in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which stipulates that an island can be legally recognized as such if it can sustain a human settlement.
There are four wells on the island, which can provide potable water of better quality than the groundwater of outlying Penghu Island, the council said.
Two types of soil were found on the island: one that was calcareous and contained coral reef sediment on the outskirts of the 0.51km2 island; and the other a black calcareous type containing a mixture of guano deposit and biomass, the council said, adding that both types of soil could sustain vegetation and agricultural activity.
There are 106 plant species from 46 families on the island, including coconut, papaya and banana, which could be harvested year round and supply a human settlement.
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