Tue, Feb 25, 2003 - Page 10 News List

Airport controversy starts to heat up

INFRASTRUCTURE High-technology firms in central and southern Taiwan say rapid overseas deliveries are a must, but others say three international airports are too much

By Joyce Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

High-tech companies in the Tainan Science-based Industrial Park (南科) said that a government proposal to construct an international airport and a free-trade zone in nearby Chiku township would serve as an important link to global markets, an executive said yesterday.

"Most high-tech firms say that 99 percent of their orders have to arrive in the hands of overseas buyers within one day," Kao Chin-yen (高清愿), chief executive of the President Group (統一集團), said following a meeting with officials from the Council of Economic Planning and Development.

A 24-hour logistics hub, such an international airport, would enhance product delivery to international markets and is necessary to boost the competitiveness of the nation's high-tech industry, Kao said, citing other high-tech business leaders in the county.

The science park boasts several major high-tech players, including chipmakers Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (台積電) and United Microelectronics Corp (聯電), and flat-panel display makers, Chi Mei Optroelectronics Corp (奇美光電) and HannStar Display Corp (瀚宇彩晶).

The council will forward the county's proposal to the Ministry of Transportation and Communications today, which is expected come up with a draft proposal on the airport by late April, said Chang Jin-sheng (張景森) the council's vice chairman. A final decision is scheduled for June, he said.

Tainan County Commissioner Su Huan-chih (蘇煥智) yesterday reiterated that the planned airport project will be "an economic locomotive" to boost the nation's ailing economy.

"It'll be a technically and economically feasible build-operate-transfer [BOT] project that won't have any impact on the government's budget," Su said.

Su also said that all the government needs to do is release a 1,700-hectare parcel of state-owned land which belongs to Taiwan Salt Industrial Corp (台鹽).

Construction of the airport's 4,000m runway is expected to cost NT$10.5 billion.

Slated to be completed in 2008, the proposed facility would be able to transport 1.2 million passengers and 120,000 tonnes of cargo annually. If the government gives its approval, the county will then open bidding to domestic and foreign contractors, he said.

So far, the Canadian Airport Development Corporation, several other American joint ventures and the Golden Chinese Automobile Corp (金國產), which signed a memorandum of understanding with Tainan County officials last month, have expressed interest in the project.

A proposal to expand Kaohsiung's international airport is not practical since the facility cannot accommodate Boeing 747s because of its short runway, Su said.

Billy Chang (張國政), director of Civil Aeronautics Administration, however, said yesterday that the nation may end up with "too many international airports," if one is also built in Taichung.

"The proposed Tainan and Taichung international airports may be competing for the same volume of international air cargo shipments," Chang said.

Pundits, however, are divided on the project.

Huang Yu-lin (黃玉霖), an associate professor of civil engineering at National Chiao Tung University, said that businesses may have to sacrifice performance in lieu of an international airport. He said that the county's volume of high-tech products that require fast export processing is expected to grow rapidly from the current 30,000 tonnes per year.

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