President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday launched a last nationwide campaign trip with a packed schedule in Hualien and Taitung counties, where he promised to facilitate the development of the east coast’s transportation infrastructure and create a more convenient environment for local residents.
Ma, who is seeking re-election on Jan. 14, started his trip by making several stops in Hualien County yesterday morning, before traveling to Taitung County, as he sought to drum up support by walking through streets and night markets throughout the county.
During a visit to Hualien’s Mennonite Christian Hospital, the president apologized for delays in construction projects aimed at improving transportation along the east coast, including a long-stalled improvement project for the Suhua Highway and railway developments.
“I am apologetic every time I visit eastern cities and counties because we have failed to take care of the people in these areas. However, with firm policies regarding transportation construction projects, people in the east will soon enjoy convenient intercity transportation. I will carry out my promises,” Ma said.
About 118km in length, the Suhua Highway is the only road connecting Yilan and Hualien. The section between Suao and Chongde, spanning about 77km, often becomes inaccessible during typhoon season because of landslides and other road damage.
After challenges from activists over the construction of a possible Suhua freeway because of environmental protection concerns, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications in 2009 finalized alternative plans to improve the Suhua Highway instead of building the freeway.
The president is scheduled to canvass streets in Pingtung County and Greater Kaohsiung today, and continue his nationwide trip in Greater Tainan and Chuanghua County tomorrow.
With the presidential election less than two weeks away, first lady Chow Mei-ching (周美青) also started campaigning for her husband throughout the nation on Monday.
Chow, who the Ma camp hopes will provide the president with a boost because of her popularity, started her campaign trip in Greater Taichung on Monday and traveled to Changhua County yesterday.
She is scheduled to visit Nantou City and Chiayi County, and her visits will focus on local markets and night markets to attract support from local residents, especially female voters, Ma’s campaign said.