By: Elena Grace Flores
It has been reported that Chinese cruise ships will regularly bring tourists to the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea by 2020, perhaps as a media propaganda to counteract tensions in the area while waiting for the U.N. Tribunal ruling. Beijing forcibly claimed sovereignty over almost all of the vital channels of South China Sea, despite resistance from neighboring countries including the Philippines.
Chinese cruises are already in operation but for now, they are exclusive for Chinese people only — to the Paracel Islands. Routes to the Spratlys has been proposed as quoted by China Daily, as consigned by the government. The ships will be departing from the southern island province of Hainan. They will be promoting Spratlys using its Chinese name “The Nansha Islands” as virgin territory for China’s tourism industry.
Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, Brunei and the Philippines all have pending claims over portions of the Spratlys. Chinese tourists have been allowed to travel to non-militarised areas of the South China Sea since 2013, but foreign passport-holders are prohibited to join the trips. Some 30,000 people have already visited this new routes, and the controversy even made a lot of people even more interested in visiting the said islands.