Thu, Aug 13, 2009 - Page 1 News List

MORAKOT: THE AFTERMATH: Officials agree: No state of emergency

ALL IN THE ACT Cabinet and legislative officials said everything needed to deal with the disaster are already covered in the Disaster Prevention and Protection Act

By Flora Wang, Shih Hsiu-chuan and Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTERS

The daughter of a missing Taitung police officer, Chiang Wen-hsiang, stands at the side of a flooded river and cries out for her father in Taitung yesterday.

PHOTO: CNA

The Legislative Yuan and the Executive Yuan yesterday decided against calling on the president to declare a state of emergency.

Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) said after a meeting with Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) and the three legislative caucuses that they believed the government could handle disaster and relief procedures based on the provisions listed in the Disaster Prevention and Protection Act (災害防救法).

Wang told reporters that the officials also agreed that there was no need for the Executive Yuan to file a special budget request for reconstruction because the Cabinet still has NT$40 billion (US$1.2 billion) at its disposal for relief work and reconstruction.

But the speaker said the Cabinet promised to have its subordinate organizations estimate the budget they need for reconstruction.

If the Cabinet decides to propose a special budget, legislators across party lines will hold an extraordinary session to complete the review within a short period, Wang said.

Speaking about the decision, Liu said: “At this stage, we don't think an emergency decree is necessary. We compared the emergency decree and the Disaster Prevention and Protection Act and found that the act already covers what is written in the decree.”

The Act was promulgated after the Sept. 21 Earthquake in 1999.

Liu said he respected President Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) authority to choose to implement the decree or not.

Asked about mounting complaints that the government failed to act promptly to rescue victims, Liu said he did not agree.

“In contrast with the disaster relief after the 921 Earthquake, we acted swiftly this time. I didn't enter the earthquake-affected areas [as vice premier then] until Sept. 28 when comprehensive relief work was launched,” he said.

“It is unavoidable that there be complaints, and we will make improvements,” the premier said. “But overall, we have acted swiftly.”

“If you interview local commissioners, they would say the same thing,” Liu said.

Liu said that weather conditions impeded rescue efforts, and that delays were not the result of government not sending enough military personnel, equipment and vehicles.

Yang Chiung-ying (楊瓊瓔), the secretary-general of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus, said earlier yesterday the legislature was ready to hold an extraordinary session.

With the death toll from Typhoon Morakot rising and hundreds of people still stranded in areas wiped out by mudslides, lawmakers questioned President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) leadership and the government's disaster relief effort.

KMT Legislator Tsao Erh-chang (曹爾忠) said the whole administrative network should be dedicated to disaster relief, adding that the absence of senior government chiefs at disaster-hit areas was “unacceptable.”

KMT Legislator Lo Shu-lei (羅淑蕾) said the president should have ordered full military involvement in disaster relief.

“I expect President Ma to exercise his power as commander-in-chief as soon as possible,” Lo said.

KMT caucus Legislator Lu Hsueh-chang (呂學樟) said the government's disaster relief policy was problematic and should be reviewed.

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Chen Ting-fei (陳亭妃) questioned Ma's leadership, saying that only about 8,000 soldiers had been mobilized since the typhoon struck.

Huang Huang-hui (黃煌煇), vice chancellor of Cheng Kung University in Tainan, told the KMT Central Standing Committee the only way to get the government to understand the situation would be to flood the Presidential Office.

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