More than 1,000 people have signed up for Mid-Autumn Festival tours of Itu Aba Island (Taiping Island, 太平島) in the disputed South China Sea next month, an online travel agency said yesterday.
Taipei-based TaiwanXing.com.tw said it organized the tours so people could explore the beauty of Itu Aba and to raise awareness of Taiwan’s claim to sovereignty of the island.
TaiwanXing said that it had filed an application with the Ministry of National Defense on Monday last week to approve aircraft landings on Itu Aba, because permission is required 45 days ahead of a visit.
That permission had not yet been received, it said.
The package was announced two weeks ago on the company’s Web site and the travel agency said it had received more 1,000 applications.
Three one-day tours are planned for Sept. 16, Sept. 17 and Sept. 18, with tourists to fly to the island by chartered aircraft to observe the full moon on the Mid-Autumn Festival, the agency said.
An adviser to the company, Lee Chi-yue (李奇嶽), said that the tour was launched after the island — which is controlled by Taiwan — was mentioned on July 12 in a ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in a case brought by the Philippines against China over maritime disputes.
The tribunal found that Itu Aba is legally a “rock,” sparking protests from Taipei, which rejected the ruling, saying the formation is an island and is therefore entitled to a 200-nautical-mile (370.4km) exclusive economic zone.
Lee said the tours could be a way for Taiwan to assert its sovereignty over Itu Aba, adding that the island is beautiful and he hopes the government will give the tours the green light.
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