The government plans to add a lighthouse to Itu Aba Island (Taiping Island, 太平島), part of the Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島) in the South China Sea, where it is expanding a runway and building a port.
“The light it provides will launch the South China Sea Peace Initiative,” an official familiar with the government’s South China Sea policies said.
The official, who requested anonymity, said the design and construction of the lighthouse by CECI Engineering Consultants Inc Taiwan (台灣世曦工程顧問公司) was commissioned by the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, which would verify that the work is on schedule in July next year, or in 2016, if construction is delayed.
Photo: Tsao Po-Yen, Taipei Times
The project’s completion would be significant, the official said, and a ceremony would take place.
The possibility of “President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) attending the ceremony on the island in person” is not excluded, the source said.
The official also said that as China, Vietnam and the Philippines all have competing claims in the area, with some fairly close to the site, the height and “nominal range” of the lighthouse would be adjusted according to suggestions from relevant agencies, to avoid provocation.
China decided to build lighthouses on five reefs in the disputed Spratlys and the Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島), this year, which the US called threatening.
Taiwan is developing infrastructure, said the official, which includes improving runways to accommodate C-130 transport and P-3C marine patrol aircraft.
As for construction of the port, the ships rented to transport caissons and concrete structures to anchor the wharf were found to be Chinese-owned, which sparked controversy and in the end caused the transportation of materials to be halted. However, the ministry has been considering other alternatives and plans to restart and complete the port’s construction as soon as possible.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) said the decision to erect a lighthouse on Itu Aba Island was an olive branch to neighboring countries, a declaration of peace, since a lighthouse would have a positive effect on rescue efforts at sea.
While there are more Philippine and Vietnamese vessels than Taiwanese in the waters near Itu Aba Island, the lighthouse is a political move calling for peace, he said.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Chiu Chih-wei (邱志偉) said that the decision to build the lighthouse was also a political message.
As the nation has Coast Guard Administration personnel stationed on the island, it is important to ensure sovereignty over the island, Chiu said, adding that he hoped the Ma administration would propose concrete measures to provide sufficient manpower, equipment and logistical support to maintain defenses on the island.
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