President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has released photographs of soil and water samples he brought back from Itu Aba Island (Taiping Island, 太平島) in the South China Sea, as part of ongoing efforts to prove to the international community that the island is far from a “rock” as the Philippines has claimed.
One of the photographs, published on Facebook late on Monday evening, features Ma holding a handful of soil he collected from Itu Aba during his visit on Thursday last week, against the backdrop of a map depicting the Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島).
In another picture, Ma is seen holding a small jar of water from Itu Aba’s No. 5 well, from which he allegedly drank water.
“The soil in my hands reminds me of veteran crooner Fei Yu-ching’s (費玉清) song Send You a Handful of Earth (送你一把泥土). A section of its lyrics read: ‘Do not forget about this handful of earth from your hometown. Other than your constant feeling of missing me, please safeguard this piece of sacred territory,’” Ma wrote.
Ma said he brought the soil back from Itu Aba, the largest island in the Spratly Islands, which were “recovered” by the armed forces in 1946, along with the Pratas Islands (Dongsha Islands, 東沙群島) and the Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島).
The military also erected a stone tablet on Itu Aba to mark the recovery of the land mass, where military personnel have been stationed since 1956, Ma said.
“However, in November last year, lawyers representing the Philippines in an arbitration case against China in The Hague, the Netherlands, contended that Taiping Island is merely a ‘rock’ instead of an ‘island,’” Ma said.
If the court accepts that fallacy and rules in favor of the Philippines this year, it could cause Taiwan to lose a large part of its exclusive economic zone, which is equal to about 11 times the size of Taiwan proper, Ma said.
“That is why I had to visit the island in my capacity as president to draw the attention of the international community and the Permanent Court of Arbitration and underline the fact that Taiping Island is undoubtedly an island,” he said.
Ma said that the water from Itu Aba’s No. 5 well was found to be similar to that sold by French mineral water company Evian in terms of quality, adding that it tastes just like any other bottled water on the market.
Ma said it was further proof that Itu Aba has ample sources of drinking water and is “a pearl in the South China Sea” that is full of life.
The president shrugged off criticism regarding the timing of his visit, saying it was his duty as president to defend the nation’s territory.
“The visit was as legitimate as it was necessary and had to be done urgently. I will not be a passive caretaker or neglect my duties just because I have only four months left in office,” Ma said.
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