To facilitate direct charter flights across the Taiwan Strait, the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) plans to open up eight airports to Chinese airlines and has urged China to reciprocate by allowing Taiwanese airlines to fly to four major Chinese cities, Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) Chairman Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤) told a European Chamber of Commerce Taipei luncheon yesterday.
The eight Taiwanese airports would include Taipei’s Songshan Airport (松山機場), the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport (桃園國際機場), Kaohsiung’s Hsiaokang International Airport (小港機場), Taichung Airport (台中機場) and Hualien Airport (花蓮機場), Chiang said.
The four Chinese airports would be in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Xiamen, he said, adding that “more airports may be included.”
Chiang said the government also intended to facilitate direct sea links for cargo transportation.
He said that Taiwan would open its ports in Keelung, Taipei, Taichung, Kaohsiung and Hualien, while encouraging China to open its ports on the eastern coastal cities of Guangzhou, Tianjin, Shanghai, Qingdao and Dalian.
Taiwan will further open up its ports in Anping and Budai “if the market demands it,” Chiang said.
Meanwhile, a Chinese-language news report said yesterday that Beijing had agreed to start sending tour groups to Taiwan on July 4.
The report said that Taiwanese and Chinese tourism representatives, through unofficial talks, had reached a consensus and would sign a formal agreement this month.
The document will be signed by the SEF and its Chinese counterpart, the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait.
The Commercial Times said that China plans to send an inaugural tour group headed by Zhang Xiqin (張希欽), vice chairman of the China National Tourism Administration, along with the chiefs of the six Chinese airlines that will take part in the direct charter flight program.
The six Taiwanese airlines and six Chinese airlines picked to operate the charter flights are applying for flight permits from Beijing and Taipei respectively, the report said.
The launch of Chinese tour groups would coincide with the opening of weekend charter flights between Taiwan and China.
Taiwan has banned direct flights with China since 1949 for national security reasons, but Ma has made direct flights a key policy to ease tensions and boost the economy.
The weekend charter flights will be expanded to daily charter flights and eventually to regular flights.
Ma has also called for opening the door to Chinese tourists to boost Taiwan’s stagnant tourism industry.
SEF Vice Secretary-General Kao Koong-lian (高孔廉), who saw off the China-bound 16 member delegation led by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄), yesterday expressed his confidence in the planned direct links and tourism exchanges.
“Progress has been made,” Kao said, adding that “official agreements will be inked in mid-June to kickstart the links and to lift the ban on Chinese tourists to visit Taiwan on July 4.”
But the government’s target of allowing 3,000 Chinese tourists into Taiwan daily may not be met in the early phase given restrictions in different Chinese provinces, Kao said.
In related news, about 5,000 couples from China will get their wedding photos taken at Taiwan’s world-renowned studios as part of a travel agreement, an industry source said yesterday.