Mon, Dec 29, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Penghu ready for growth, with or without a casino

By Joy Su  /  STAFF REPORTER

Lin also said that several residents had expressed their concern over the validity of the results.

"I have to go by the results of the referendum even if only about 20 percent of eligible voters voted, because there is no other way of fairly gauging public opinion," Lin said.

However, while those who did not vote gave up their right to voice an opinion, the lack of participation has influenced the overall outcome of the referendum. Scant participation has had the effect of casting doubt as to the county government's mandate in pushing through the legalization of casinos.

"The results speak for themselves. They basically indicate that a percentage of a small percentage of Penghu agrees with legalizing casinos. That is hardly representative," Kao said.

problem

He pointed to another problem embedded in Penghu's democratic culture.

"The local press is funded by the county council, which is largely in favor of building casinos. Most of what gets printed advocates legalizing casinos," Kao said.

Another point of contention touches on whether Penghu county has the right to decide on the legalization of casinos given its impact on the entire nation. In a press statement released in response to the referendum results, Shih stressed that the legalization of casinos could only be decided by a referendum that took into account the voices of all Taiwanese voters, after thorough discussions had made clear what was at stake.

TOURISM PLANS

Opponents of legalizing casinos also said that the referendum had no legal force and served only as reference material for the central government when formulating policy.

Even Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Pin-kun (林炳坤), a long time supporter of legalized casinos, agreed that in the future a nation-wide referendum on the issue should be staged in accordance with the Referendum Law (公投法).

Despite the results of Saturday's referendum, however, Penghu's department of tourism is prepared to battle the county's economic decline with or without the casinos.

"We've drafted two different plans for the development of tourism in Penghu -- one assumes we legalize casinos, the other that we do not," Lin said. He explained that tourism was one of Penghu's primary sources of income.

The tourism department's current tourism strategy includes plans to launch at least one full-scale golf course, promote its marine wildlife and establish a museum featuring ships that sank in the Penghu area. In addition, domestic and foreign companies have been contracted to build five-star hotels and country clubs in the area.

"If casinos are not legalized, tourism plans will be geared toward leisure activities. If they are legalized, then we will focus more on entertainment," Lin said.

However, Lin clarified that if casinos are legalized, a lot of the current tourism facilities and attractions would be insufficient, given the estimated growth in tourism figures.

"With casinos, we expect about 20,000 tourists per day during the peak season. Without casinos, the current development plans would allow for about 6,000 tourists each day during the peak season in about seven years' time," Lin said.

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