The right questions to ask on the eve of the second anniversary of Typhoon Morakot should be how much effort the government has made in rebuilding rather than how many times President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has visited affected areas, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said yesterday.
Ma said he has visited hard-hit areas in southern Taiwan on 82 separate occasions since the typhoon struck in August 2009, killing hundreds of people and wiping out the former Siaolin Village (小林) in Greater Kaohsiung, the DPP’s presidential candidate said on the campaign trail in Pingtung.
However, what is more important is how many issues have been resolved, she said.
Even more crucial for residents is how to restore the local economy and develop Aboriginal industries in the affected areas, she said, not how many nights Ma has stayed in Aboriginal villages.
Ma’s re-election campaign office denied that his visits to devastated areas were political.
Local media and politicians yesterday blasted comments by Ma, who described the scenery at Majia Farm in Pingtung County, where he spent the night, as “feeling like the southeastern region of Provence in France.”
“Does President Ma think he is on vacation?” DPP spokesman -Chuang Ruei-hsiung (莊瑞雄) asked.
Ma campaign spokesman Ying Wei (殷瑋) said Ma made the comments because of the well-planned environmental and architectural design of the village.
Ma spent the weekend in Greater Kaohsiung and Pingtung County, the two areas hardest hit by Morakot.
DPP spokesman Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) cited reconstruction work under the supervision of the Council of Indigenous Peoples as an example, saying only 37 percent of planned rebuilding projects had been completed as of July 31.
Responding to the criticism, Ma said that 90 percent of the permanent housing units designated for Morakot-affected families had been built, adding that he was hopeful all families could be resettled by the next Lunar New Year.
According to a Cabinet committee established to coordinate post-Morakot rebuilding, a total of 3,309 permanent housing units are being built in 39 locations in central, southern and eastern Taiwan to house those who lost their homes in the storm.
However, many of the typhoon’s victims remain unhappy with the government’s response.
Of 6,419 post-disaster reconstruction bids, 98.6 percent have been contracted out and 95 percent completed, the Executive Yuan’s Morakot Post-Disaster Reconstruction Council said.
About 90 percent of the NT25.14 billion (US$870 million) in relief donations from the government and private sector have been spent, data released by the Ministry of Interior’s Department of Social Affairs shows.
Morakot made landfall over Taiwan on Aug. 7, 2009, and caused catastrophic flooding and landslides across southern parts of the nation the next day, killing more than 700 people. More than 400 people died or went missing in Siaolin alone.
Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) is scheduled to attend an international press conference today to brief the media on the progress of the post-Morakot reconstruction.
Additional reporting by CNA