Wed, Aug 09, 2006 - Page 3 News List

More transport officials consider resigning

By Shelley Shan and Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTERS

There were repercussions yesterday from the unexpected resignation of Minister of Transportation and Communications Kuo Yao-chi (郭瑤琪), as other ministry officials reportedly planned to leave.

The Chinese-language United Evening News reported that the Taiwan Area National Freeway Bureau Director-General Yang Hsi-an (楊錫安) has indicated he will resign. Yang, however, was reluctant to confirm the report.

"Unless it has been proven that I am incompetent in handling the situation and that I cannot reach the same understandings as my superiors, then I would not consider leaving," he said

Yang, who previously served on the Public Construction Commission, just took up the freeway bureau job last month.

Vice Minister Tsai Duei (蔡堆) had announced on Monday that he had tendered his resignation.

Meanwhile, there was widespread media speculation that Kuo's decision to leave after a little more than six months on the job was due to differences with Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) about the highway electronic toll collection system (ETC).

According to a United Daily News report, Kuo thought the ETC system should be run by Chunghwa Telecom, while Su has ordered that Far Eastern Electronic Toll Collection Co continue operation.

Since Kuo is seen as one of President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) favorite officials, the media allegations have sparked a rumor that Su is trying to replace the president's favorites with his own.

Government Information Office Minister and Cabinet Spokesperson Cheng Wen-tsang (鄭文燦) denied that there were differences of opinion, and said that Su was trying to get Kuo to reconsider.

He also said that "an administrative team is an administrative team and favoritism has nothing to do with it."

The premier has never asked Far Eastern to continue operating the ETC system, either in private or publicly, Cheng said.

"The issues related to the ETC should be negotiated and evaluated according to the verdict issued by the Supreme Administrative Court," Cheng said. "No company has any advantage."

Tsai stressed that Kuo and Su shared the same goals and views on the ETC system.

The ministry gave an update yesterday on its handling of the system. It has been trying to negotiate with the three contractors who bid initially on the project to see if they want to try again.

The ETC system will be jointly operated by Chunghwa Telecom and Far Eastern for now.

The Cabinet announced yesterday that it would respect the court's decision on the ETC system.

"We will ask the Ministry of Transportation and Communications to renegotiate and select a new partner. If this does not work, we will then take care of this case by following Article 53 of the Statute for the Encouragement of Private Sector Participation in Public Infrastructure Projects (促進民間參與公共建設法)," Cheng said.

Article 53 says that the government should take control of a public construction project when construction is delayed, operations break down or when the project does not make a profit.

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