Mon, Jul 18, 2016 - Page 3 News List

Ma’s office shrugs off criticism over ‘advice’

TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE?Lawmakers have questioned why the former president did not carry out any of the suggestions he made in an op-ed piece while he was in office

By Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter

Former president Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) office yesterday shrugged off criticism directed at Ma over the advice he recently issued on safeguarding the nation’s sovereignty over Itu Aba Island (Taiping Island, 太平島), saying Ma had already endeavored to implement most of the suggestions while he was in office.

“Itu Aba had been free of crises until the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, the Netherlands, ruled on Tuesday last week that Itu Aba was merely a ‘rock’ rather than an ‘island,’” Ma’s office said, adding that Ma had acted on the majority of the suggestions he listed in a recent opinion editorial and only hoped that they would be continued in the future.

The office made the remarks after Ma offered 10 pieces of advice to President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on “ways to uphold Taiwan’s rights in the South China Sea and the status of Itu Aba” in an opinion editorial published by the Chinese-language United Daily News on Saturday.

Among the 10 suggestions, Ma said the Ministry of the Interior should map and make public Itu Aba’s base point, baseline, contiguous zone, territorial waters and 200 nautical mile (370.4km) exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Pan-green lawmakers have questioned why Ma, who spent most of his final months in office defending the legal status of Itu Aba, did not carry out the suggestions while he was still president and chose to “offer counsel” to Tsai after stepping down from the presidency.

The office said the ministry has been mapping the Republic of China’s (ROC) territorial sea baseline, territorial waters and contiguous zone since 1999, but it has yet to include the Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島).

“However, the situation is different now and our continued exclusion of the Spratly Islands on such a map could send a misleading signal that the ROC knows that justice is not on its side or that it does not attach importance to the matter,” the office said.

At a time when the tribunal’s ruling could lead the Philippines to perceive the waters between Itu Aba and Palawan Island as its own EEZ, it is all the more necessary for the ROC to map and make public Itu Aba’s base point and baseline to safeguard the nation’s interests, the office said.

There would not have been an urgency for the publication of such a map were it not for the “Itu Aba crisis” this time, the office said, adding that different actions should be taken in response to the new situation in the South China Sea.

Ma visited the island in January in an attempt to refute the Philippines’ claims that Itu Abu is merely a “rock,” because of its inability to sustain human habitation, and therefore is not entitled to a 200 nautical mile EEZ.

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