On a one-day visit to Penghu, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday was greeted by protesters who called for fairer treatment from the central government for travel expenses and medical coverage.
Accompanied by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) county officials, about 100 local residents gathered outside the venue where Ma was having lunch with local dignitaries.
To shouts of “30 percent off [plane] tickets, improve medical care,” Penghu County Councilor Yang Yao (楊曜) of the DPP said Penghu residents could not keep quiet any longer.
“We are taking to the streets because county commissioners, legislators and the president have turned a blind eye to our problems,” Yang said. “We are not asking much. We just want fair treatment.”
Shouting “Let’s use our ballots to support Penghu,” a female protester said Penghu had long been ignored by the central government, adding that Kinmen — another outlying island — has better benefits because it was where the Kinmen Brewery is located.
In response, Ma said his administration should be able to finalize a subsidy program for Taihwa Lun by April. Taihwa Lun is a shipping service partly subsidized by the government to carry passengers between Kaohsiung and Makung (馬公) in Penghu County.
On government subsidies for plane tickets, Ma said that at present the central government subsidizes 20 percent of travel costs, while the local governments, such as Penghu and Kinmen, cover an additional 10 percent.
However, local governments, which have been hit hard by the financial crisis, no longer had the finances to offer the 10 percent subsidy, Ma said.
Non-Partisan Solidarity Union Legislator Lin Pin-kun (林炳坤) is also planning to amend the Civil Aviation Act (民用航空法), Ma said, which would increase government subsidies for Penghu and Kinmen residents flying from certain airports from 20 percent to 30 percent.
Matsu residents receive subsidies of 30 percent and Penghu residents flying from certain airports as well as residents of Orchid Island (蘭嶼) and Green Island (綠島) receive 40 percent subsidies for air travel.
“Everyone concerned is still working to at least increase the subsidy to 30 percent,” Ma said.
Ma also reiterated his government’s resolve to develop Penghu into a low-carbon dioxide emitting island.
He said the Council for Economic Planning and Development had given the green light to the installation of submarine cables between Penghu and Taiwan proper, which would allow residents of Penghu to sell the extra power generated from wind turbines to the Taiwan Power Co.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CNA