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Wed, Dec 08, 1999 - Page 2 News List

Farmers protest in favor of fewer land restrictions

AGRICULTURAL DEVELOPMENT LAW Farmers demonstrated outside the Legislative Yuan yesterday in support of a KMT-sponsored package to allow more extensive deregulation of farmland construction

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Demonstrating farmers climb onto the front gate of the Legislative Yuan during yesterday's protest in Taipei.

PHOTO: CHU YO-PING, LIBERTY TIMES

Over 10,000 farmers from around Taiwan gathered in front of the Legislative Yuan yesterday to protest against a reform package on farmland that they claimed was too restrictive and to lobby for an alternative proposal supported by the KMT.

The protest came just two days after the formal resignation of Council of Agriculture (COA) chairman Peng Tso-kwei (彭作奎) over what he called a flip-flop by the government over its decision to back the KMT version over another package currently in the legislative process.

Last week, a COA version of the agricultural land reform measures, passed by the cabinet, was overshadowed by the new package -- promoted by KMT lawmakers from rural constituencies -- that promises to open up land for development to a greater extent than that of the COA proposal.

Yesterday -- one day before the legislature was to review a set of amendments to the Agricultural Development Act (1A業發展條例) -- farmers from 21 counties gathered at CKS Memorial Hall, and later proceeded to the Legislative Yuan, to appeal for liberalization of regulations governing farm land transactions, farm house construction and farm land division.

Tsai Pi-chan (1/22碧詹), the leader of the Chunghua Farmers League, said they were demonstrating in support the KMT's proposal.

"Over the past 40 years, only 390,000 hectares of farmland have been included in farmland development schemes," he said. "We would like to see another 400,000 hectares included over the next five years," he said.

"This would provide us with better irrigation, drainage and traffic systems. Now we are forced to obtain underground water for irrigation, which costs a lot of money; and we must carry farming tools and equipment ourselves because roads are not allowed to be built," he said.

Tsai said they would also like to see an abolition on limitations to the sub-division of farmland.

"Current law stipulates that only land larger than 10 hectares can be divided into five-hectare plots. The KMT proposal will allow land larger than 0.5 hectare to be divided into 0.25 hectares plots. But we don't want limitations at all," he said.

Tsai added that one of Peng's main policy contentions -- that houses on farmland be built only in communities, leaving greater areas of farmland intact, made no sense to him.

"I would like to live on my own land where I can go to work right after getting up and go right back home after finishing my job," he said.

Showing their support for the farmers, about 30 KMT and DPP lawmakers and government officials showed up at the scene.

While COA interim chairman Lin Shiang-nung (林享能) reiterated his support for the bill proposed by the council, KMT legislator Hong Yun-chin (洪玉欽) voiced a different opinion.

"The KMT's version is a comprehensive proposal," he said. "We include the construction of groups of houses and the construction of farm houses on individually owned farmland if the construction does not affect the farming environment and the development of farming villages, and we also propose to provide incentives to encourage farmers to do so," he said.

International relations graduate research fellow at National Cheng-chi University, Hung Mao-hsiung (洪-Z雄), however, said the protest is nothing but a political game.

"It was staged by political farmers," he said. "The only thing they want is to serve their own interests."

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