Fri, Dec 23, 2005 - Page 3 News List

MND offers new deal on arms bill

BATTLE STATIONS The pan-blue parties will be mobilizing all of their lawmakers to return bills passed by the Procedure Committee on Tuesday

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER WITH CNA

The head of the Ministry of National Defense's political warfare department, General Hu Chen-pu (胡鎮埔), said yesterday that to facilitate the purchase of three weapons systems blocked by the pan-blue camp, the ministry was willing to consider an alternative arrangement.

The 12 P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft, he said, would also be included in the regular defense budget, which would leave the eight diesel-electric submarines, worth NT$299 billion (US$9.0 billion) as the only item in the special budget.

This was the best the ministry could offer the legislature, Hu said.

He said that to have all three systems added to the regular defense budget was not feasible.

Hu's offer came as the pan-blue alliance prepared to send the weapons bill from the legislative floor back to the Procedure Committee for further screening.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Tseng Yung-chuan (曾永權), who is also executive director of the KMT's Central Policy Committee, said yesterday that his caucus had asked all 79 of its lawmakers to attend today's plenary sitting.

Before the Dec. 3 elections, the pan-blue coalition of the KMT, the People First Party (PFP) and blue-friendly independents held 115 seats, while the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and its ally, the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU), held 100.

After the Dec. 3 polls, which saw four KMT legislators win local posts that will result in them vacating their seats, the pan-blue camp will only retain a majority of 111 out of the 220 seats, with independent lawmakers retaining nine seats.

PFP caucus whip Hwang Yih-jiau (黃義交) criticized the pan-green camp for staging a "surprise attack" during Tuesday's committee meeting in order to push through all bills listed on the committee agenda, including the arms procurement package. The bills passed the committee because of a smaller attendance by the committee's pan-blue members.

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In related news, DPP Legislator Chai Trong-rong (蔡同榮), who is vying for the DPP's top job, yesterday vowed to push for a referendum on the stymied arms procurement plan if he should be elected.

While the pan-blue camp will continue to dominate the Procedure Committee, Chai said that the only way to show the nation's resolve to defend itself is to put the arms procurement package to a popular vote and let the people have the final say on the matter.

Chai also pledged to put the party asset bill to a national ballot, as well as the abolition of township chief and village warden elections.

The party asset bill is designed to compel the KMT to return its stolen party assets.

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