The nation would be “through” if it fails to complete the Taoyuan Aerotropolis Project, Minister of Transportation and Communications Yeh Kuang-shih (葉匡時) said on Friday, adding that allowing Chinese tourists to transit through Taiwan would be key to the project’s success.
“The project would be the nation’s most important one in the next four or five decades,” Yeh said. “And if we fail, I am afraid we are going to have to say: ‘Bye bye, Taiwan.’”
Yeh said the nation has mobilized all of its resources, both from the central and local governments, to make the project work.
A failure to complete the project would show that the nation has fundamental issues, he said.
Yeh made the comments during an interview with radio host Tang Hsiang-long (唐湘龍) in his morning show on Friday.
The Taoyuan Aerotropolis, surrounding the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, is the nation’s largest urban development, Yeh said.
It requires expropriation of about 3,200 hectares of land near the airport, which is about half of the total land area expropriated in the past 60 years.
About 40,000 people are to be relocated for the project, Yeh added.
The expropriated properties would be used for housing projects, logistics centers for multinational corporations, an international healthcare zone as well as other businesses, Yeh said.
An estimated 200,000 jobs would be created through the project, he said, adding that it would also expand the airport zone with the construction of a third runway from 1,200 hectares to 1,800 hectares.
Yeh said that people would start seeing the emergence of the Taoyuan Aerotropolis through the construction of the airport’s third terminal and the soon-to-be-launched Airport Rail from Taipei to Taoyuan.
Yeh added that allowing Chinese tourists to transit through Taiwan would be key to the success of the Taoyuan Aerotropolis project, as the measure would boost the airport’s passenger volume by at least 30 percent.
The only problem was the attitude of Beijing, which has been blocking the proposal using “technical reasons,” he said.
“Based on international protocol, passengers can transit through the airports if they hold valid passports. However, Chinese tourists entering Taiwan must have entry permits from the Chinese government, which need to be applied for one to two weeks prior to travel. Some people may consider it a hassle if they need to go through all these procedures just to transit through Taiwan,” Yeh said.
“Beijing, on the other hand, defines cross-strait flight service as part of its domestic flight service. It would have to acknowledge the cross-strait flights as international flights if they allow Chinese tourists to hold only their passports for having just a layover in Taiwan,” he said.
Yeh said that a majority of the transit passengers are business travelers, and they can be allowed to make transit stops in Taiwan as long as they can also present flight tickets to a third country.
He said that both sides are set to consider this proposal in the next two months, adding that allowing Chinese tourists to make layover in Taiwan would also encourage some visitors from Europe and North American to do the same.
It is easier to go to China via Taiwan now because there are 828 cross-strait flights per week, he added.
At present, Taiwanese flight passengers can transit in China en route to other countries, but China has prohibited its nationals from doing so in Taiwan.