No environmental impact assessment is needed for the construction of a new wharf on outlying Itu Aba (Taiping Island, 太平島), the Coast Guard Administration (CGA) said yesterday, citing a letter it received in January from the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA).
The EPA has said that if the wharf construction project does not fall under any category of “recognized standard” development projects, no assessment is needed, the coast guard said.
The EPA had sent representatives to all relevant meetings regarding the wharf’s construction and reached an understanding with the coast guard, and construction companies working on it will come up with conservation measures, the coast guard added.
Yesterday’s statement was an apparent reversal from Coast Guard Administration Minister Wang Jinn-wang’s (王進旺) comment to lawmakers a day earlier.
Wang said an environmental assessment would be “necessary” during a hearing of the legislature’s Internal Administration Committee on the new wharf for the 0.49km2 Taiping Island, the largest of the disputed Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島) in the South China Sea.
The Internal Administration Committee decided on Monday to freeze the NT$200 million (US$6.75 million) budgeted for the project, pending environmental impact assessments.
The coast guard has requested NT$3.37 billion for the wharf and expanding the airport’s runway, of which NT$1 billion is intended for use next year, NT$1.8 billion in 2015 and NT$500 million in 2016.
Wang said the Ministry of Transportation and Communications will be responsible for handling construction, which is set to be awarded to contractors on Jan. 3.
The new wharf would allow the island to accommodate ships of less than 3,000 tonnes, facilitating maritime patrols and rescue operations in nearby areas, Wang added.
Research vessels conducting official business would also be able to dock, though the wharf will not be opened to the public.
Taiping Island is about 1,600 km southwest of Greater Kaohsiung, which officially administers the island.