TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The Coast Guard Administration (CGA) spent NT$600 million (US$21.3 million) on fuel from January through November in order to chase away 3,969 illegal sand dredging vessels from China, reports said Wednesday (Dec. 23).
The practice has been going on for some time but caused extra concern in September when more than 100 Chinese ships showed up simultaneously near the outlying Matsu Islands, hampering local maritime traffic and raising environmental and national security concerns.
The CGA has posted one of its larger patrol vessels in the area 24 hours a day. In the event of further incidents near Matsu or the outlying island county of Kinmen, it can now also contact China to take action, CNA reported.
Lawmakers questioning CGA officials at the Legislative Yuan Wednesday pointed out that the number of Chinese ships dredging illegally in Taiwanese territory has increased from 71 in 2018 to 600 in 2019 to 3,969 so far this year. While the CGA has strengthened its presence, the scale of the problem is frightening, legislators said.
Officials said that the Chinese authorities have cooperated with them 64 times to try and root out the problem near Matsu, though they would not be allowed to do so further inside Taiwan’s maritime area, such as Penghu, which lies in the middle of the Taiwan Strait.