OCTOBER 24 2007 17:57h
Britain announced a plan last week to boost its Antarctic claim ahead of a U.N. deadline of May 13, 2009.
Sen. Roberto Munoz said after meetings with Chile's navy chief that the dilapidated Arturo Prat base on Greenwich Island, closed five years ago in a budget crunch, would be reopened early next year.
"The budget will be approved now, in November and the funds will be channeled automatically, especially with these announcements from other countries about increasing their territory in Antarctica," Munoz told Reuters on Wednesday.
He said the plan had the backing of all political parties as well as the armed forces.
Britain announced a plan last week to boost its Antarctic claim ahead of a U.N. deadline of May 13, 2009, for nations to outline their claims on the territory.
Chile said it will stand by its claims to Antarctica despite the British bid.
Antarctica is thought to hold unknown riches ranging from oil and gas to seabed marine organisms but all claims to the territory are theoretical because it is protected by the 1959 Antarctic Treaty, which prevents mineral exploitation of the continent except for scientific research.
"We feel it is fundamental that this base be returned to the hands of the Chilean navy, with the backing of the executive and the funds necessary for its operation," said Sen. Sergio Romero of the rightist opposition in Congress.
Romero met with Chile Navy Chief Adm. Rodolfo Corvina on Tuesday evening to discuss the reopening of the base.
"We expressed our agreement in reopening this base as soon as possible," he said in a statement to the Senate.
The Arturo Prat naval base, named after Chile's greatest naval hero, will be operated in conjunction with Chile's Antarctic Institute and will host a research center.