Wed, May 07, 2003 - Page 2 News List

TSU pans Chang's plans for charter cargo flights

By Sandy Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

The TSU legislative caucus yesterday voiced opposition to the idea of opening charter cargo flights between Taiwan and China, saying that such cross-strait service would become a loophole in the nation's fight against the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

"We found it rather puzzling that anyone would want to push for cross-strait charter cargo flights with China at a time like this when Taiwan itself is facing the SARS threat that originated in China a was spread from there," said Chien Lin Whei-jun (錢林慧君), legislative caucus convener for the TSU.

Chien's comments were directed at KMT legislator John Chang (章孝嚴), who spearheaded a campaign Monday that urged the government to quickly approve charter cargo flights between Taiwan and China in a bid to diminish SARS' impact on Taiwan's economy.

"The task at hand should be finding out how to upgrade and improve Taiwan's investment environment to expedite the return of Taiwanese businesspeople in China and not to again bring up the fallacy of how establishing direct transportation links with China is the best way to salvage Taiwan's economy," said Chien Lin.

She charged that Chang was merely using the SARS outbreak as another excuse to push forward a long-held objective of the KMT and PFP pan-blue camp: implementation of full direct transportation links with China.

Chien Lin slammed Chang's proposal as a policy that would encourage Taiwanese businesspeople to continue the risky practice of investing in China.

What's more, Chien Lin said, establishing cargo links now with the region that has been hardest hit by the plague would greatly put the health and lives of the Taiwanese public at risk.

"The TSU therefore is totally against the promotion of charter cargo transportation with China," she said.

For his part, Chang, claimed that statistics have already shown sign of the negative impact SARS is having on Taiwan's cross-strait trade. He said that motive behind his proposal was to minimize the impact the disease was on Taiwan's economy.

Flights to China via Hong Kong have dropped 40 percent while those going through via Macao have dropped 70 percent since the outbreak, Chang said.

"Assembly line plants operated by Taiwanese businesspeople in China ... have been affected due to the decrease of these flights that carry both passengers and cargo," he said.

Chang argues that the charter service he is pushing would not only meet the immediate needs of Taiwanese people operating plants in China, it would also help to expedite the distribution of their merchandise. In addition, he said, it would assist Taiwan in achieving its goal of becoming an "Asian Pacific Logistic Center."

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 Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) last week.

Chang was referring to statement made by Chen over a high-level national security meeting discussing various strategies for coping with the impact of SARS on Taiwan. During the meeting, Chen noted that "the administration should draft a blueprint on the issue as early as possible to safeguard Taiwan's competitiveness.

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