Mon, Jul 18, 2016 - Page 3 News List

CAA snubs suggestion to promote Itu Aba tourism

Staff writer, with CNA

Following calls to promote tourism on Itu Aba Island (Taiping Island, 太平島) in the wake of a controversial arbitration ruling on the South China Sea, the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) yesterday said the idea offered little economic benefit.

Citing the results of previous assessments, the CAA said the Taiwan-controlled island, located 1,600km south of Kaohsiung, must have an airport capable of accommodating mid-sized single-aisle passenger planes such as B737-800s, A320s, A321s or MD82s.

The runway on Taiping Island is only 1,200m long, meaning only smaller 19-seat Fairchild-Dornier 328s or 72-seat ATR72s can land there, but the 1,600km distance is beyond the flight ranges of those aircraft, the CAA said.

Even if the runway was extended to allow larger airplanes to land, the island lacks a fuel delivery system to refuel aircraft for their return flights to Taiwan, it added.

The CAA said that the only alternative would be for planes to carry less passengers to save fuel so that they can have enough fuel to fly back to Taiwan.

The CAA’s comments came after the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled on Tuesday last week that all high-tide features in the South China Sea, including Itu Aba, are “rocks” rather than islands.

The case was brought by the Philippines against China in 2013 over the latter’s claims in the South China Sea, and by calling Itu Aba a “rock,” the court invalidated claims of 200 nautical mile (370.4km) exclusive economic zones around any of the Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島).

The ruling has caused an outcry in Taiwan and many people have urged the government to act boldly and swiftly to protect national territory and Taiwan’s interests in the region.

Some politicians have suggested developing eco-tourism on the island to prove that it can support economic life on its own, one of the criteria for defining an “island” under international law.

Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lee (李大維) said in a legislative hearing on Wednesday last week that the government could consider developing tourism on the island.

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