Mon, Dec 09, 2013 - Page 3 News List

Guesthouse license figures muddled

‘CONFUSING AND DISTURBING’:The Tourism Bureau said that only four Cingjing Farm inns were legal, whereas the Nantou County Government said that 102 were legal

Staff writer, with CNA

Cingjing in Nantou County is pictured on Saturday.

Photo: Tung Chen-kuo, Taipei Times

The Cingjing (清境) mountain resort, better known as Cingjing Farm, has long been known as one of the nation’s favorite holiday destinations, with its beautiful natural scenery and cool weather.

However, the Golden Horse Award-winning documentary Beyond Beauty: Taiwan From Above (看見台灣) has stirred up concerns about densely packed inns and guesthouses taking their on the toll on the environment and even led to questions about the legality of these establishments.

The Ministry of the Interior unveiled on Thursday a map that identified nearly half of the 498-hectare Cingjing Farm as being at “high-risk” for natural disasters, adding that only four of the 134 inns in the area are operating legally.

However, the Nantou County Government said on Friday that there are 102 legal lodgings, and the Tourism Bureau’s Web site said 101 inns and guesthouses in the area have legal licenses, while 18 B&Bs do not.

The contradictory figures have created confusion and led the media to focus more closely on the area’s development.

Many Cingjing residents are descendants of Nationalist-led guerrilla troops evacuated from the then-Burma in 1961.

A number of Chinese fled to the border area between the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan and Burma during the Chinese civil war in the late 1940s.

Many joined a Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)-led anti-communist army corps based in the border area.

The guerrilla corps continued its fight against the communist forces after the KMT government moved its seat to Taipei in 1949. The group, however, suffered a severe defeat in 1960 and the KMT government decided to evacuate the group to Taiwan in 1961.

The 253-member group, consisting of 77 fighters and their families, was later settled in Cingjing in Nantou County.

They formed three settlements — Bowang (博望), Tingyuan (定遠) and Shouting (壽廷).

Among them, the Bowang settlement has been the best preserved, with the Baiyi tribal culture originating in Yunnan dominating the local landscape.

Lu Wen-yin (魯文印), a descendant of the evacuated guerrilla forces who operates a Baiyi-style restaurant in the area, said there has not been a natural disaster in the region over the past 50 years.

“The government’s abrupt announcement that 64 percent of the land in Cingjing classified as high or medium-risk was confusing and disturbing,” Lu said.

Yang Tien-hsi (楊添喜), head of a local community development association, said he has lived in the region for 44 years and has never seen mudslides in the neighborhood.

“The ministry should enhance information transparency to avoid creating turmoil,” he said.

Lin Hsiu-mei (林秀梅), deputy director of the Nantou County’s Tourism Department, said the big gap between its number of legal B&B in Cingjing and the ministry’s figures resulted from different criteria used to come up with the number.

Under the county government’s rules, guesthouses that have obtained a business license are considered legal.

However, the ministry lists a guesthouse as legal only when it also meets strict construction, firefighting, and water and soil conservation regulations, and if it has not added any illegal structures.

An inn that expands its operating scope after obtaining a license would still be deemed as illegal under the ministry’s criteria.

Meanwhile, the county government said the ministry used outdated information to identify some parts of Cingjing as high-risk areas.

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