The Cabinet yesterday approved an arms bill to replace the long-stalled "special arms procurement bill," which has been blocked from being put on the legislative agenda 56 times since June 8, 2004.
The new NT$6.2 billion (US$193 million) arms bill was listed as an additional budget item in this year's annual government budget. The stalled "special arms budget" and "special arms procurement bill" will soon be withdrawn.
"The Cabinet sees the bill as a priority and hopes to have it passed by the end of this legislative session," Government Spokesman Cheng Wen-tsang (鄭文燦) said yesterday.
The current legislative session is scheduled to end on Wednesday, although legislators are still divided over whether to extend the session.
Under the new budget bill, the Cabinet earmarked NT$1.6 billion for purchasing P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft, NT$3.6 billion for upgrading PAC-2 anti-missile batteries, NT$200 million for assessing the necessity of submarines, and NT$700 million for building an airstrip on the nation's outlying Tai-ping island.
The new bill was proposed as a revision of the initial proposal, a NT$480 billion package for the purchase of eight diesel-electric submarines, 12 P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft, and three PAC-3 anti-missile batteries.
Cheng said that the revised arms package was the result of the Ministry of National Defense's (MND) incorporation of the legislature's objections to the initial package.
"The ministry has cleared up all the legislature's misgivings about the initial arms package, and discussed the new arms package with many legislators," Cheng said.
Procuring advanced weaponry was not easy, and the Cabinet believed that the proposed purchases would help the nation catch up on its defense needs, Cheng said.