Sun, Jul 31, 2016 - Page 3 News List

Taiwanese flotilla scheduled to return from Itu Aba today

Staff writer, with CNA

Four Taiwanese fishing boats that sailed to Itu Aba Island (Taiping Island, 太平島) in disputed waters in the South China Sea earlier this month are scheduled to arrive back in Taiwan today, after departing the island on Tuesday.

The fishermen aboard the vessels from Pingtung County sailed to the island to highlight Taiwan’s sovereignty over the formation and surrounding waters and to assert their right to fish in the area.

They set sail for Itu Aba after an award from the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands, declared that Itu Aba is not an island, but legally a “rock,” meaning that Taiwan — which has controlled the island since 1946 — is not entitled to claim a 200 nautical mile (370.4km) exclusive economic zone in the waters surrounding the island.

The ruling was part of a case the Philippines brought against China. The international court ruled that all high-tide features in the Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島), including Itu Aba, are legally not islands.

The Taiwanese fishermen are bringing back 21 canisters of water obtained from the island.

They are scheduled to hold an event after their arrival in Pingtung County, when attendees are to be invited to drink the water they brought back as proof that the island is not just a rock, but has a source of potable water and is therefore suitable for human habitation, fishing boat owner and organizer of the trip Cheng Chun-chung (鄭春忠) said in a statement.

Some of the group visited the island’s medical clinic for treatment of minor ailments before they departed on Tuesday.

The fourth fishing boat was not allowed to dock on the island — where there is a military base — because a crew from Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV station were aboard.

No Taiwanese reporters were allowed to cover the activities of the fishermen.

The fourth boat anchored in waters off the island before joining the other three and returning to Taiwan.

After the arrival of the flotilla in Pingtung County’s Yenpu Port today, Cheng is scheduled to make a speech at an event that is to be attended by other participating fishermen to share their feelings about the trip with the public.

At the event, Chan Che (詹澈), a poet and advocate of the nation’s fishermen, is to read a poem he wrote for the fishermen who landed on Itu Aba, while Chen Mei-hsia (陳美霞), the widow of the organizer of a movement to claim sovereignty over the disputed Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) and surrounding waters in the East China Sea, is also to address the public.

Cheng said in a statement that the trip to assert the nation’s sovereignty over Itu Aba was not sponsored by any political party and it is a shame that some have criticized the expedition as being prompted by China.

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