PH: No problem with extension of Taiwan runway

Posted at 07/16/2012 12:19 PM | Updated as of 07/16/2012 6:13 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Foreign Affairs has no objection to Taiwan's plan to extend its runway on Taiping Island in the Spratlys.

Speaking to ANC, DFA Spokesman Raul Hernandez said Taiping Island is not one of the 9 islands being claimed by the Philippines in the Spratlys region.

"This is not part of what we possess now in the Kalayaan Island...We are concentrating our claims on several islands that we now possess," he said.

A Liberty Times report earlier said Taiwan plans to extend by 500 meters (1,640 feet) the runway on Taiping Island, the largest in the disputed waters and some 860 miles (1,376 kilometers) from Taiwan,
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"The national security authorities lately convened a meeting to evaluate the proposal as the situation in the South China Sea has been getting ever complicated," it cited an unnamed national security source as saying.

Tensions in the South China Sea have risen recently, with China and the Philippines locked in a maritime dispute over the Scarborough Shoal, a reef off the Philippine coast.

The runway, currently 1,150 meters (3,773 feet), was built in 2006 despite protests from other countries with claims in the potentially oil-rich area, including Vietnam, Brunei, China, Malaysia and the Philippines.

Calls for an increase of Taiwan's defense capability on the disputed area have been on the rise as the claimants have deployed more troops and added military facilities there.

In May Taiwan's coastguards said that the number of intruding Vietnamese boats surged to 106 last year, up from 42 the previous year.

In the same month Taiwan formed a special airborne unit capable of scrambling to the South China Sea in just hours, after a visit by three legislators and several top military officers in a trip intended to renew their territorial claim amid mounting tensions in the area. With Agence France-Presse