The Executive Yuan hopes to hold a referendum on the country's entry into the World Health Organization (WHO) by next May when the World Health Assembly (WHA) holds its next annual meeting.
"Since China successfully foiled our efforts [to join the international health body] this year during the WHA annual meeting, we're setting our goal on next year," said Cabinet Spokesman Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍).
Lin said that while the government prefers to join the organization with the name of Republic of China on Taiwan, other names such as "health entity" or any other medical or political entity are also acceptable.
Lin, however, was vague about what kind of referendum the Cabinet plans to hold.
"We can hold a non-binding referendum if there is no legal basis for hold a binding one," Lin said. "We can hold a binding referendum in accordance with the law if there is one."
The legislature's reviewing committees are still deadlocked over which types of issues could be addressed through a referendum while the Cabinet and legislative caucuses have presented several versions of the draft referendum law.
On March 28, 2001, the Cabinet approved a draft bill of the initiation and referendum law (
The TSU and some DPP legislators have proposed that controversial issues such as the nation's identity and the fate of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant should be decided by a public vote.
In an apparent change of heart, President Chen Shui-bian (
Following the nation's failed bid to join the WHA, Chen on Tuesday asked government agencies and opposition parties to propose a referendum on the country's entry into the WHO.
Meanwhile, amid calls for the declaration of an emergency decree to restrain the SARS outbreak, Lin yesterday said that the Cabinet will respond quickly as the epidemic develops.
"However, I don't see the necessity of doing so at present if the SARS prevention act and the Communicable Disease Prevention Law (
The SARS prevention act, passed by the legislature on May 2, empowers the government to requisition medical supplies and facilities.
The act also mandates a special fund totaling NT$50 billion to be used for subsidizing SARS-related medical expenses and to mitigate the economic impact on local industries.
To supervise the implementation of the laws, Lin said Cabinet officials will be dispatched to southern, central and eastern Taiwan.
While Lee Ming-liang (
In related news, the Kaohsiung Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, Kaohsiung Medical University Hospital, Taipei Municipal Hoping Hospital and Taipei Jen Chi Hospital yesterday each received a NT$1.5 million fine for concealing information about the SARS outbreak.