Thu, Jun 15, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Taiwan increases PRC charter flights

BREAKTHROUGH Although the agreement announced yesterday only applies to charter flights for cargo and on holidays, it could pave the way for full transport links

By Chang Yun-ping  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH AP

The government announced yesterday that it will allow more cross-strait charter flights for cargo and passengers, in a key trust-building step toward restoring regular direct flights that were cut five decades ago amid civil war.

Under the agreement, China-based Taiwanese companies will for the first time be allowed, on a case-by-case basis, to apply for cargo charter flights to ship their equipment, machinery and components between Taiwan and their factories in China, the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) said. However, products that are manufactured in China cannot be shipped back to Taiwan using the flights.

In addition, the passenger charter flights that currently provide services on the Lunar New Year holiday will be expanded to include three other festivals: Tomb Sweeping Day, the Dragon Boat Festival and the Mid-Autumn Festival.

The first charter flights under the new agreement are expected to operate for this year's Mid-Autumn Festival on Oct. 7.

Wu said that both governments aim to provide regular charter flights for cargo and passengers on an almost daily basis -- a goal that may materialize in another four or five months.

According to the MAC, the Lunar New Year charter flights will run 14 days prior to and after Lunar New Year's day, while the charter flight services for the other three festivals will be provided seven days before and after the holidays.

The two-way charter flight services will be operated by six Taiwanese airline companies and six Chinese firms, with up to 336 flights via Hong Kong or Macao's airspace every year between Taipei and Kaohsiung and four Chinese cities: Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Xiamen.

The flights will be required to pass through Hong Kong or Macao airspace, but will not be required to land in either place.

The passenger charter flights will be available for Taiwanese citizens, employees or relatives of Taiwanese businessmen in China, as well as Chinese citizens holding a foreign passport.

MAC Chairman Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) yesterday said that the relaxation on the cargo and passenger charter flights are "one step towards providing cargo and passenger charter flights on a regular basis."

"We consider it a small breakthrough on the issue of cross-strait links," Wu said. "It also shows that Taiwan's government has been making efforts to improve transportation conditions between both sides."

Wu made the announcement yesterday at an 11am press conference. At the same time in Bei-jing, China's General Administration of Civil Aviation said that Taiwan and China had agreed "on a framework for charter flights for festivals and special cases," the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

The regular cargo and passenger charter flights will allow the shipment of products manufactured in China back to Taiwan and will also transport Chinese tourists to Taiwan.

The charter flights will include cross-strait flights for medical and humanitarian purposes when emergencies occur.

Legislators across party lines yesterday expressed support for the breakthrough, but pan-blue legislators said the policy hadn't gone far enough.

Democratic Progressive Party legislative caucus whip Yeh Yi-jin (葉宜津) said that the opening proved that the government has been implementing direct links in a pragmatic way, which will protect the nation's sovereignty.

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