Sun, Nov 26, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Taipei mayoral candidates slug it out in TV debate

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

With election day approaching, Taipei's six mayoral candidates clashed in a televised debate yesterday as they touted their platforms for transforming the city while pledging to take care of all its citizens.

The candidates discussed issues including whether or not to upgrade Taipei Songshan Airport into an international airport, action to be taken to clean up the Danshui River and ways to improve the city's elderly welfare system in the debate held by the Central Election Committee on the Public Television Service.

Arguing that suspending the operation of the airport would create a business opportunity of about NT$300 billion (US$ 9 billion) around the area, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) proposed converting the airport into a park, as a rail link to be launched in 2012 will reduce travel between Taipei City and Taoyuan International Airport to 35 minutes.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) candidate Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌), on the other hand, pledged to turn the airport into an international hub to serve as the terminal for cross-strait direct flights.

Both candidates' policies on the airport, however, met with criticism from independent candidate Li Ao (李敖) and Clara Chou (周玉蔻), who was stripped of her Taiwan Solidarity Union membership earlier this month.

"As a local government, the Taipei city government has no authority to determine the future of the airport," Chou said.

On dredging the Danshui River, Hau pledged to spend a total of NT$12 billion to clean it up within four years. Independent candidate James Soong (宋楚瑜), however, criticized Hau's promise as nothing but "bragging."

"The dredging work can't be done with only NT$12 billion. It's easy to tell that Hau Lung-bin has inadequate experience," Soong said during the debate.

Asked by one of the debate's guests, journalism professor at National Chengchi University Bonnie Peng (彭芸), to offer solutions for the elderly welfare issue, Soong, Hsieh, Hau and Chou all proposed to take care of the growing elderly population by setting up welfare centers in the community.

"Establishing elderly welfare centers in local communities will allow the elderly to be taken care of close to home," Hau said.

Li argued that the city government would have to fight central government to get more budget before care for the elderly could be expanded in Taipei.

Independent candidate Ke Tsi-hai (柯賜海), the controversial self-styled career protester and defender of stray dogs, said the government should invite the private sector to join efforts to take care of the elderly.

All candidates also offer different policies on turning Taipei into an international city.

While Hsieh proposed that Taipei host the 2020 Olympic Games, Hau pledged to develop the city in order to attract international companies to set up headquarters in the city.

Soong vowed to improve Taipei residents' English skills, while Li stressed that local government should strive for more resources from central government.

Ke, on the other hand, offer no solutions, but promised to protect the city's stray dogs, regulate the media and "develop Hualien as Taipei's backyard" if elected.

The committee will hold a televised platform on Tuesday for mayoral candidates, with each getting 30 minutes to promote their policies.

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