■ Executive YuanConservation fee proposed
The public will be charged a water-resource conser-vation fee if draft amend-ments to the Tap Water Law (自來水法) pass the legislature. According to a Cabinet official who asked not to be named, the draft, which is scheduled to be approved by the Cabinet during the weekly closed-door Cabinet meeting tomorrow, would authorize the Ministry of Economic Affairs to consult with local governments while mapping out the fee struc-ture. The draft would also mandate the establishment of a supervisory com-mittee to oversee the fund. "Taxa-tion levied on the water resources is different from other fees paid to the government agencies because it requires a more transparent mechanism to supervise the use of the fund," the official said.
New passport draws flak
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday it is checking with officials in Bosnia and Slovakia over reports from local travel agencies that the two countries have refused to recognize Taiwan's new passport. "We are trying to understand what exactly has happened there, and are telling them that the new passport has nothing to do with politics," said ministry spokesman Richard Shih (石瑞琦). His comment came after travel agencies reported that both countries had recently barred the entry of visitors using the new passports. The government began issuing the new passports earlier this month. The new pass-port includes the word "Taiwan" in Roman script on the cover, underneath the nation's official title "Republic of China." Shih said the government has informed other countries of the change, telling them that it was merely for the convenience of Taiwanese travelers.
■ Cross-strait ties
Smugglers turn to marriage
Police reported yesterday a new scheme by human smugglers, known as "snakeheads," to import Chinese women to be used for prostitution. Police said snakeheads recently approached three Aborigi-nal men in Fuhsing village, Taoyuan County, and offered them an expenses-paid month in China plus NT$30,000 (US$887) apiece. The trio traveled to China, where the snakeheads arranged marriages for them with Chinese women. The women then came to Taiwan and registered their marriages and were then free to move around the country. Police said that the three men had knowingly helped the women come to Taiwan and had committed forgery. They were turned over to the Prosecutors' Office after an initial investigation. Police vowed to step up a crackdown on marriages of convenience.
Vietnamese group to visit
Thirty-five Vietnamese journalists and businessmen from the tourism industry will arrive in Taipei today for a five-day visit at the invitation of the Tourism Bureau. A bureau official said yesterday that there is ample room for the devel-opment of tourism between the two countries because their trade relations are getting closer. There are about 30,000 Taiwanese doing business in Vietnam and many Vietnamese laborers work in Taiwan. There have also been many marriages between Viet-namese and Taiwanese.
The visitors will call on the China External Trade Development Council and visit several tourist attrac-tions during their stay.