- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy
Looking for a vacation destination featuring sun, sand, and thumbing your nose at China’s geopolitical ambitions? Have you considered the Spratlys?
The Philippines plans to develop a disputed island in the South China Sea into a tourism centre with a 100-metre (330-ft) concrete wharf, officials said on Monday, a bold assertion of its sovereignty that is bound to rile China.
Last week, China protested the planned construction of a beaching ramp by the Philippines on the coral-fringed island, the second largest in the Spratlys and the biggest occupied by the Philippines in the contested region.[..]
A Philippine navy commander said local authorities planned to transform military-held areas of the Spratlys into tourist attractions, including potential diving spots.
In the 1990s, Japanese tourists frequented the area for its pristine beaches and coral reefs, ferried by yacht from Cebu Island in the Philippines.
But the military will first build a pier on Thitu, possibly by the second half of the year, Juan Sta. Ana, head of the Philippine Ports Authority, told Reuters. A panel of defence, tourism and transportation and communications officials will finalise a development plan for the island after April 8.
China claims “indisputable sovereignty” over the area based on historical records, a claim that just might be motivated by the estimated 213 barrels of oil in the South China Sea. Various sections of the uninhabitable 250-island chain are claimed by China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei, though only China claims all of them. The dispute has sometimes become violent: at least 70 sailors were killed in a skirmish between the Chinese and Vietnamese navies over a disputed reef in 1988.
But hey, why let that get in the way of some good diving?