Sun, Jul 20, 2014 - Page 1 News List

Aircraft relocation spurs rebuke

PLANE DEALINGS:The Control Yuan blasted a NT$9.8 billion plan to move the nation’s fleet of P-3C Orion maritime surveillance aircraft from Taoyuan to Pingtung County

By Lo Tien-pin and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

President Ma Ying-jeou addresses the air force’s 439 Composite Wing as the military shows off a Lockheed P-3C Orion aircraft in Pingtung County on Oct. 31 last year.

Photo: CNA

The Control Yuan has blasted the cost of a plan by the Ministry of National Defense (MND) to relocate the operating base for its fleet of 12 Lockheed P-3C Orion maritime surveillance aircraft. The proposed change would bring about estimated expenses totaling NT$9.8 billion (US$326 million).

The US government in 2007 approved the sale of the 12 P-3Cs, with T-56 turboprop engines and related equipment and services, for US$1.96 billion.

Taiwan received the first P-3C aircraft in September last year. Three more arrived later last year. The air force said that five more P-3Cs are to be delivered to Taiwan this year, followed by another three next year, when the fleet would be commissioned.

The ministry said earlier this month that it was transferring the base of operations for the P-3Cs from Taoyuan County to Pingtung County, on account of the development of the Taoyuan Aerotropolis project.

Intended to create an industrial, commercial and residential development alongside a free economic pilot zone near Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, as well as expand the airport itself, the Aerotropolis project is estimated to require the seizure of more than 3,000 hectares of private land, affecting more than 12,000 households.

In a report issued last week, the Control Yuan quoted experts as saying that China poses the greatest national security threat to Taiwan and that basing the P-3C Orions in Taoyuan is the best choice, both to counter China’s East Sea Fleet and to better protect Taiwan’s exclusive economic zone.

The location was chosen more than a decade ago, but is being abandoned for political reasons — due to election concerns and “the lack of general nation development by the politicians,” the report quoted experts as saying.

The relocation of the base would be better internationally — as it would help the US observe the Bashi Channel between Taiwan and the Philippines — but was next to worthless in terms of domestic national security to the north of the nation, the report quoted the experts as saying.

The relocation would also necessitate multiple revisions to building plans and create conflicts due to operational requirements, the report said.

In the plan, national resources are poorly allocated and also caused the US, the nation’s staunchest military ally, to question the domestic levels of determination in terms of national defense, the report said.

In response, the ministry said the decision was made based on the ministry’s principle of sharing resources across all armed forces, due to limited manpower and resources, adding that it also coincided with national economic construction policies.

Meanwhile, the report said that rumors that the Taoyuan Aerotropolis project was sparking real-estate speculation were rampant, damaging civilian confidence in the government.

The local government should ensure the integrity of construction policies, efficient promotion and communication between the government and civilians and the transparency of the project, the report said.

In response, the Taoyuan County Government said it would work on making land seizures more transparent and would step up efforts to relocate displaced residents.

The county added that it would work with the Ministry of Transportation and Communications to minimize land speculation, as well as follow national industrial development policies as much as possible.

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