Wed, Jun 20, 2007 - Page 3 News List

Chen backs extra pension session

GET IT DONE The proposed increase in the pensions for elderly farmers has the backing of the pan-green and pan-blue camps, but procedural delays have held it up

By Ko Shu-ling and Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTERS

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday urged the legislature to hold an extended legislative session to pass bills concerning the Temporary Statute Regarding the Welfare Pension of Senior Farmers (老年農民福利津貼暫行條例).

Chen said since the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) did not have major differences over the issue, it made sense to pass the legal revisions as soon as possible.

Both the KMT and DPP want to increase the monthly stipend for elderly farmers from NT$5,000 to NT$6,000.

The amendment, however, was prevented from clearing the legislature after the DPP requested that cross-party negotiations be held ahead of consideration on the floor on its second and third reading.

The speaker accepted the request filed by the DPP, which was based on the Law Governing Legislators' Exercise of Power (立法院職權行使法).

Negotiating period

The law stipulates that a bill that does not have the support of all legislative caucuses can only be tackled on the floor for its second reading after a four-month negotiation period.

DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) yesterday said his caucus would seek an extra legislative session, adding that the caucus would seek to deal with many proposed bills, including budget bills for state-owned enterprises.

The proposed pension increase for elderly farmers is also one of the DPP caucus' priorities, he said.

Pan-blue support

Pan-blue legislative caucus leaders yesterday also threw their support behind Chen's call for raising the monthly pension for elderly farmers by NT$1,000.

KMT legislative caucus whip Hsu Shao-ping (徐少萍) said that her party would would be willing to screen the amendment to the Temporary Statute Regarding the Welfare Pension of Senior Farmers in an extra session.

"It was not the pan-blues blocking the pension amendment [on the last day of the just-concluded legislative session]," Hsu said, referring to the fact that the amendment could have passed in the session as it was on that day's agenda.

Not a problem

People First Party director of policy coordination Hwang Yih-jiau (黃義交) said it would not be a problem to pass the amendment as long as the DPP agreed to put it onto the agenda for the extra legislative session.

"The PFP would support any bills aimed at taking care of the disadvantaged," he said.

Meanwhile, the president yesterday also thanked the legislature for passing part of the arms procurement budget bill on Friday, although he said its passage was long overdue.

The Cabinet approved the arms procurement budget in June 2004, but it took the legislature more than three years to pass part of the funding.

Chen said six years was a long time and that the process was a good learning experience for all.

"Only a robust defense capability can truly defend national security," he said. "Peace is not free, nor is it cheap. It takes a lot of time and effort."

Preliminary consensus

He added he was happy to see the governing and opposition parties reach a preliminary consensus on the arms deal.

"It means a lot to see all parties agree on the need for building professional and modernized armed forces," he said. "It reflects the strong intention of the 23 million people of Taiwan to protect national security and sovereign integrity."

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY FLORA WANG

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