The legislature yesterday passed an amendment to the Local Government Act (地方制度法) that will allow cities and counties to integrate into special municipalities. The amendment paves the way for the elevation of the status of a merged Taichung City and Taichung County.
The amendment states that the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) or a city or county may initiate a merger plan and that plan needs the approval of the Executive Yuan.
“Cities and counties interested in a merger are welcome to file their application by May 31 after obtaining permission for a merger plan from their city or county council,” Minister of the Interior Liao Liou-yi (廖了以) told a press conference yesterday.
Liao said his ministry would not take the initiative to suggest any mergers and the amendment “was not tailor-made for the merger of Taichung City and Taichung County.”
“All applications will be treated equally without discrimination. The Executive Yuan will consider each application in a fair, impartial and public way,” Liao said.
The amendment, however, was still widely viewed as a move to deliver on President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) campaign promise to merge Taichung City and Taichung County into a municipality, part of his plan to redraw administrative districts to create three metropolitan areas and 15 counties.
Lu Shiow-yen (盧秀燕), a Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislator from Taichung City, treated lawmakers to candy after the bill was passed, while her colleague Yang Chiung-ying (楊瓊瓔) displayed an artificial string of firecrackers while expressing thanks for the passage of the bill.
Integration of cities and counties will enable them to meet one of the requirements — a population of more than 1.25 million — needed to upgrade their status to a special municipality, which will result in a substantial increase in the budget allocated by the central government.
The amendment was also supported by the Democratic Progressive Party, but the party called on the Executive Yuan to be impartial in considering the subject.
“We are happy to see upgraded status for a merged Taichung City and Taichung County, but we hope the KMT will support mergers for Tainan City and Tainan County, and Kaohsiung City and Kaohisung County and elevate both of them to special municipalities as well,” DPP Legislator William Lai (賴清德) said.
If the plan to merge Taichung City and Taichung County is approved by the Executive Yuan, the terms of the Taichung City mayor and Taichung County commissioner, as well as village and township chiefs, will be extended by one year to the end of next year, Liao said.
DPP Legislator Chen Ying (陳瑩) of the Puyuma Aboriginal tribe said she wasn’t happy about the amendment.
“The new version of the law did not mention anything about protecting Aboriginal rights in mountain Aboriginal townships after counties merge with cities to become directly administrated cities,” she said.
The current Local Government Act stipulates that mountain Aboriginal township heads must be Aborigines. For example, the mayor of Taichung County’s Heping Township (和平) — an Atayal township — must be an Aborigine.
However, once Taichung County merges with Taichung City to become a new expanded Taichung City, Heping Township would become Heping District within the city and the head of Heping District would be appointed by the mayor.