Tue, May 06, 2003 - Page 4 News List

Legislator calls for direct cargo flights to fight SARS

CNA , TAIPEI

Opposition KMT Legislator John Chang (章孝嚴) called yesterday for the opening of cargo charter flight services between Taiwan and China to minimize the impact of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) on cross-Taiwan Strait trade and economic activities.

Claiming that Taiwan should respond swiftly to the issue amid the increased threat of the potentially deadly epidemic, Chang proposed that the government make the move based on the framework provided by the charter flight services permitted for homebound Taiwan businessmen from the China during the Chinese New Year holidays early this year.

Chang was the mastermind of the historic charter services that allowed local businessmen to return from China without having to deplane in Hong Kong or Macau, although all flights still had to land in one of the two places.

While China is Taiwan's largest export outlet and Taiwan businessmen operating there are Taiwan's top earners in terms of foreign exchange, Chang said the spread of the contagion has hampered normal trade and commercial exchanges between the two sides.

He urged the government to allow the opening of cross-strait cargo charter flights as soon as possible as a means of implementing the instruction by President Chan Shui-bian (陳水扁) last week at an anti-SARS national security meeting that "the administration should draft a blueprint on the issue as early as possible to safeguard Taiwan's competitiveness in the Asia-Pacific region."

Chang was slated to call a public hearing on the issue at the Legislative Yuan today.

Officials from relevant government agencies as well as business community leaders and representatives from various airlines will also take part in the hearing.

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