Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) remained noncommittal yesterday about building a pop music center in Kaohsiung, despite Mayor Chen Chu's (陳菊) request for help to make the plan a reality.
The Democratic Progressive Party’s Chen led cultural groups in a silent sit-in at Kaohsiung Harbor on Wednesday night to protest the Ministry of Transportation and Communications’ opposition to the NT$4 billion (US$131 million) plan for piers 16 and 17.
The protest came after the city government received notification from the Council of Cultural Affairs that the ministry had urged the council to rethink the project because of the size of the piers and the project’s impact on the maritime industry.
Executive Yuan Spokeswoman Vanessa Shih (史亞平) told the press conference after yesterday’s weekly Cabinet meeting that Liu had instructed Council for Economic Planning and Development (CEPD) Chairman Chen Tian-jy (陳添枝) to mediate between Kaohsiung City and the central government agencies.
Shih said the CEPD had ruled in April that land acquisition for the project had to be completed by the end of this month so the government could decide whether to proceed with the plan.
The council said the project would not go ahead if the city did not obtain the two piers from the Kaohsiung Harbor Bureau by the end of this month.
The mayor said yesterday that the Executive Yuan had approved the project last September when the DPP was in power, but after the Chinese Nationalist Party government took office the budget was slashed from NT$2.4 billion to NT$200 million and the ministry turned against the plan.
“It is regrettable to see a major policy come to a halt because of the change of power,” Chen Chu said before the Cabinet meeting.
She said the production volume of piers 16 and 17 accounted for 0.19 percent of the harbor’s total volume and the free trade harbor zone had been shifted to the No. 6 Container Center.
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) told her that he would “keep her suggestion in mind” when they met in Kaohsiung on May 20, she said.
Chen Chu said she wanted to know who ordered the change of plan and how Ma expected to keep the promise he made to Kaohsiung residents.
She said she was afraid the plan would fall through if the city could not acquire the land by the end of the month.
If Taipei has a pop music center, she said, it only makes sense to have another in Kaohsiung.
CHANGE IN PLANS
Vice Minister of Transportation and Communications Chang Chiu-chuen (張邱春) told reporters that the center was originally planned for the harbor’s piers 18 to 20 but then changed to piers 16 and 17.
The Kaohsiung Harbor Bureau was against the project because piers 16 and 17 are used for transporting staple goods and their usage rate was more than 90 percent, he said.
The ministry has allocated piers 11 to 15 to the city for similar purposes but they have been left idle, Chang said.
Amounting to 2.7 hectares, piers 16 and 17 were too small for the proposed 4 hectare music center, he said.
Although the legislature has ruled the project must not proceed if the central and local governments fail to reach an agreement, Chang said the ministry had asked the CEPD to keep the budget.
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