Tue, Sep 23, 2008 - Page 1 News List

MOTC chief’s resignation offer over bridge rejected

By Shih Hsiu-Chuan And Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) yesterday rejected Minister of Transportation and Communications Mao Chi-kuo’s (毛治國) offer to resign over the collapse of Houfeng Bridge (后豐橋) on Sept. 14, which caused three cars to plunge into the river.

The bridge collapse was not so severe that Mao would need to step down to take responsibility, Executive Yuan spokeswoman Vanessa Shih (史亞平) quoted Liu as saying last night.

Liu praised Mao for giving the green light on May 22 to a request from the Directorate General of Highways to go ahead with a bridge restoration project despite the lack of funding, Shih said.

The Houfeng Bridge was listed as damaged in 2005, but its restoration was suspended because of the soaring costs of materials.

Department of Railways and Highways Director Chi Wen-jong (祁文中) said Mao sent a letter of resignation along with a report reviewing the bridge’s collapse to the Executive Yuan yesterday.

Earlier in the day Mao had apologized to the public.

“I took up my post only four months ago,” he told the legislature’s Transportation Committee. “As a transportation minister, I am nevertheless responsible for this and am willing to apologize.”

Mao said director-general of the Directorate General of Highways (DGH) James Chen (陳晉源) had resigned over the incident.

Chen was disciplined on Friday, with two demerits added to his record.

“At the time of our review of the incident, he [Chen] had already submitted his resignation, which I didn’t approve at first,” Mao said. “But he said he was responsible for the incident and wanted me to approve [his resignation]. So I did.”

Chen’s resignation came to light when Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Huang Chao-shun (黃昭順), chairwoman of the committee, checked the list of ministry officials scheduled to attend the meeting.

Chen did not attend, but was replaced by DGH Deputy Director-General Wu Rui-long (吳瑞隆).

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Kuo Wen-chen (郭玟成) accused Mao of trying to pin blame on the DPP when he said earlier that the Council for Economic Planning and Development under the previous government had offered only half the funding needed for bridge and road projects, asking the DGH to cover the rest. Mao said this had caused a delay in fixing dangerous bridges.

Five people in three cars fell into the river when part of the bridge that connects Houli (后里) and Fengyuan (豐原) townships collapsed after torrential rains brought by Typhoon Sinlaku. Two of the bodies were recovered.

A search for the remaining victims ended yesterday without success.


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