Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou has insisted that Taiping Island is an island from all perspectives, and claims by the Philippine government in an international arbitration tribunal that it is a rock are groundless and without merit.
“Taiping Island can sustain human habitation, has an economic life of its own and fully meets the definition of an island as laid out in Article 121 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea,” Ma said. “In addition to 12 nautical miles of territorial waters, the ROC is entitled to claim a 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone and a continental shelf.”
The President made the remarks while addressing members of the international media at ROC Air Force Songshan Base Command upon their return from a one-day trip to Taiping Island in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) arranged by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
According to Ma, Taiping Island possesses rich natural resources such as fertile soil, fresh water and diverse flora and fauna, with documented history of human activity dating from centuries ago.
Taiping Island, also known as Itu Aba Island, has been administered by Taiwan since 1956, and recent efforts by the government developing it into an island for peace and rescue operations are in accordance with international norms and regulations, he said, adding that it will not raise tensions.
Ma also formally invited the Philippine government and the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague to send representatives to tour the island.
Ma said he proposed the South China Sea Peace Initiative in May 2015 as a solution to the gridlock in the region as it promotes the sharing of resources while resolving disputes.