Rapid-transit lines planned
The government plans to build five more rapid mass-transit lines, a Chinese-language newspaper said yesterday. According to the paper, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications plans to budget NT$300 billion (US$8.8 billion) for the five lines along a high-speed railway. The five lines will be built in Hsinchu, Tainan and Taipei counties, will link CKS International Airport with Taipei City and will extend the Kaohsiung Mass Rapid Transit Line to Pingtung County. The paper did not say when construction of the five lines would begin, but the north-south high-speed railway is to start operating in 2005.
■ Legislative Yuan
DPP sets its priorities
It is urgent for the legislature to ratify the draft bills on economic and financial reform, while a referendum law can be postponed until the next legislative session which begins in September, Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁), DPP legislative caucus whip, said yesterday. While the KMT and PFP caucuses have secured the signatures of 69 lawmakers to hold an extra session in July to discuss the referendum law, the DPP is struggling to initiate an extra session for the ratification of six draft bills on economic and financial reform. An extra session may be held either upon the request of the president or upon a joint proposal by at least one-fourth of all legislators.
■ Cross-strait ties
Chang pushes cargo flights
Taiwan's opposition parties said yesterday they would join forces to push for the cross-Taiwan Strait chartered cargo flights, banned under the no-direct-contact policy toward China. "We plan to get the necessary support in the legislature for our plan to launch the cross-strait cargo flights in October," said KMT Legislator John Chang (章孝嚴). Chang, who yesterday obtained support from his party and the PFP for the proposal, said under his plan the chartered cargo flight would not stop at a third port, but the cargo planes would merely fly through the zone of a third country before reaching their destinations, he said. Chang said flying through a third area should skirt the government ban on no direct flights, and save time and money for the operators.
Denmark eyes visa change
Denmark wants to press the EU to change its visa policy for Taiwan to allow President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and other officials to visit Europe privately, Danish daily Berlingske Tidende reported yesterday. Danish visa regulations were introduced for Taiwan in 1988 because the EU does not recognize it as an independent state. As a result, officials are unable to visit Europe, either for political or private visits. Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller told Berlingske Tidende that he wanted to press the EU to change the regulation because things have changed between China and Taiwan since 1988.
Hsieh off to US
Kaohsiung Mayor Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) was scheduled to leave for New York and Baltimore yesterday afternoon for a brief visit. An official of the Kaohsiung government said Hsieh will study the city-development projects of the two American harbor cities during the visit, because he wants to build Kaohsiung into a modern harbor city. Hsieh is particularly interested in the development of Baltimore's Inner City, which was developed into a major tourist attraction in the 1970s. Hsieh is scheduled to return home on July 8.