Taiwan to expand Taiping Island runway in move against Philippines

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Taiwan will expand the runway of the airport on the disputed Spratly island of Taiping in a move directed against the Philippines, reports said Wednesday.
Taiwan is one of several countries, including China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei laying claims to mostly uninhabited reef islands in the South China Sea.
Taiping is the largest of the Spratly Islands and the only one where fresh water is available. Lying 1,600 kilometers from Kaohsiung, under which it officially resorts, the island also has an airport completed in 2007.
Taiwan will first build a pier on the island this year allowing larger engineering ships to dock, then fill up part of the sea before extending the airport runway to 1,500 meters from 1,200 meters, according to a report Wednesday in the Chinese-language United Evening News.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement Tuesday condemning a decision by the Philippines to work on the airport strip on the Spratly island of Zhongye. Since Taiwan held sovereignty over the islands in the South China Sea, it could not accept the illegal move by Manila, MOFA said. Any move by another country to occupy or develop an island unilaterally would not be accepted, the ministry said.
The Taiwanese work on the Taiping runway was being coordinated by the Coast Guard Administration, the Ministry of National Defense and the Ministry of Transportation and Communications. The Control Yuan, the nation’s top government watchdog, reportedly disciplined the military on previous occasions for quality problems on their previous Taiping projects, illustrating the need to involve other government departments, reports said.
A working group had reportedly already arrived on the island for preliminary studies on how to extend the airport, the United Evening News reported.
The project reportedly did not warrant an environmental impact report because the extension to the runway did not exceed 500 meters and did not involve a move for the runway as a whole.
The extension would allow more military C-130H transport planes to land on Taiping and bring necessary goods. There is a population of about 600, mostly Taiwanese military personnel.