The Spratly Islands archipelago of about 100 reefs, islets and islands occupies less than five square kilometres and spread over more than 400,000 square kilometres of sea between the Philippines and Vietnam. It is a disputed part of world as several countries claim it, and military personnel from China, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam are present on some of the islands, according to Travelmole.com.
The archipelago has a strategic position in the South China Sea near several primary shipping lanes, and the area is also a rich fishing ground. It is also believed to have gas and oil deposits.
The majority of the islands are uninhabited and being a military base makes them unreachable for ordinary people, plus accessibility is poor. There are no indigenous people only soldiers and civilians from the involved states.
The only island with a regular air service is the Malaysian controlled Layang Layang. Some islands could be reached by irregular cargo services but for the mostpart logistics are difficult and only for the very determined traveller.
However, the tropic archipelago has a tourism potential with coral reefs and sea life fit for divers. At present there is virtually no economic activity taking place on the Spratly Islands but it may change for experts are studying the possibility of transforming the Philippines controlled Pag-Asa Island into a tourism destination.
According to Agence France-Presse (AFP) the army would participate in the transformation and the navy would carry tourists to the destination.
Rosendo Mantes, mayor of Pag-Asa, the Philippine town established on the island, was quoted as saying the area has good diving sites, many of which are still unexplored. However the area lacked tourism infrastructure, with no hotels or resorts.
AFP reported that the Philippine army hopes the area will encourage eco-tourists appreciating the pristine nature of the island.
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