ECFA may take years: Ma
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said yesterday that the economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) his administration seeks to sign with Beijing could take up to five years to complete. Ma said his administration hoped to sign the economic pact with Beijing and was in the process of holding seminars to promote it and solicit support. He said Taiwan’s overall economy had shown signs of improvement and that the public should rest assured because the fundamentals were sound. However, Vice President Vincent Siew (蕭萬長) yesterday said unemployment could reach 6 percent by September. Whether the economy would rebound would require an increase in domestic demand, US market recovery and opportunities in the Chinese market, he said. Siew warned that economic measures would not guarantee an improvement in the unemployment rate and that it could take at least six months to see the unemployment rate catch up with the economic recovery.
Thailand trips discouraged
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday changed its travel alert to Bangkok and a few selected provinces and areas in Thailand from yellow to orange, urging the public to defer trips to those places. The Bureau of Consular Affairs (BOCA) said the orange alert covers Bangkok, Nonthaburi, Samut Prakan, Pathum Thani, Nakhon Pathom, Ayutthaya, as well as areas in northern Thailand such as Chiangmai, Chiangrai, Phrae, Phitsanu Lok, Lam Pang and Lam Phun, along with the four northeastern provinces. This is the first time that the ministry has issued a travel warning to individual cities and provinces instead of the entire country. The change from yellow to orange came as protesters have agreed to temporarily halt their rallies and many demonstrators have dispersed. Taiwanese nationals who need emergency assistance while in Thailand can contact the representative office at 002-66-81-666-4006.
Sunday rally planned
Pro-localization groups yesterday said they would hold a rally in Kaohsiung on Sunday to protest the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government’s China-leaning policies. The rally is also a “warm up” for a large-scale protest planned for May 17, the groups said. The groups yesterday held a press conference, saying they had conducted 15 rallies nationwide to “wake up” Taiwanese who are suffering from a loss of sovereignty and Taiwanese identity under the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九). Former presidential adviser Koo Kuang-min (辜寬敏) said that even though Ma supported ultimate reunification with China, he still earned more than 7 million votes in last year’s presidential election, and this was a big setback for pro-localization groups. The groups therefore have been holding a number of rallies nationwide to communicate with the public and re-energize the independence movement.
Water heaters pose threat
A sample survey showed that the placement of hot water heaters in 34,000 of 960,000 households could lead to carbon monoxide poisoning, Executive Yuan spokesman Su Jun-pin (蘇俊賓) said yesterday. Su said that the Executive Yuan would subsidize 14,428 households to the tune of NT$3,000 each to relocate the hot water heaters. The survey was conducted by the Ministry of Education last month, with questionnaires given to students in 923 junior high schools.