Thu, Jun 15, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Cabinet approves new procurement budget for weapons

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Cabinet yesterday proposed a new weapons procurement budget totaling NT$6.3 billion (US$197 million).

"We made some changes in response to lawmakers' and the public's requests. We also hope that the Ministry of National Defense will continue to negotiate with lawmakers and try to approve this new proposal as soon as possible," Government Information Office Minister and Cabinet Spokesman Cheng Wen-tsang (鄭文燦) said during a press conference shortly after the weekly Cabinet meeting.

A special arms procurement budget worth NT$610.8 billion -- including 384 Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missiles, 12 P-3C maritime patrol aircraft and eight diesel power submarines -- was proposed two years ago but has been stalled in the legislature. Opposition lawmakers complained that the weaponry cost too much.

The ministry tried to get the budget passed by amending its proposal three times -- reducing the request to NT$590 billion, then NT$480 billion and now NT$6.3 billion.

However, Cheng said the NT$6.3 billion request will not just pay for new weapons.

In the new proposal, the plan to buy eight submarines has become "the evaluation to buy diesel submarines;" the plan to buy PAC-3 missiles has become "the upgrade of the remaining PAC-2 system." The plan to buy the P-3C aircraft remains as it was in the original.

The revised budget would also cover the cost of building a runway on Taiping Island (太平島), the southernmost point of Taiwan's territory.

Cheng said Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who is also chairman of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), was present at the Cabinet meeting and was asked by Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) to comment on the revised proposal.

Ma "did not make any comment during the meeting," Cheng said.

Cheng said the country needed to be able to defend itself to make sure that its 23 million citizens were secure.

"It is our hope that the legislature would see and comprehend the efforts that we have made here and help us on this one," he said.

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