The frontline islets of Dadan (大膽) and Erdan (二膽) are to be transferred from the military to the local government of outlying Kinmen County tomorrow, after which the military is expected to reduce its presence and turn over defense of the islands to the Coast Guard Administration and the police.
Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) is to preside over the handover ceremony.
It is hoped that the transfer will reposition the Kinmen Archipelago islets as a tourist destination and boost the local economy, as well as give the public easier access to an important part of Taiwan’s history, the government said.
Dadan and Erdan were the focus of heavy artillery battles with communist Chinese forces in 1950 and again in 1958.
Just over 4km from the Chinese city of Xiamen, the islets are known as “the front line of the front lines.” Their distance from the main island of Kinmen is nearly three times as great.
Besides attending the ceremony, Jiang is to be briefed by Kinmen County officials on planned tourism projects on the islets, including a duty-free center, part of a vision outlined by Kinmen County Commissioner Li Wo-shi (李沃士) in a plan last year to turn the county into a “duty-free island.”
Upon completion, the center is expected to be the largest of its kind in Asia, county government officials said.
On Friday, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said during a Kinmen inspection tour that by developing shopping malls, the county has become a place with enormous business opportunities. He made the remarks at the opening ceremony of a terminal complex at Kinmen Airport.
Citing the influx of Chinese tourists that began with direct flights between Taiwan and China in 2008, Ma said that the Ministry of Transportation and Communications had invested more than NT$10 billion (US$334.6 million) between 2009 and this year in major land, sea and air infrastructure and construction projects on Kinmen, including the new Kinmen Bridge and Liaolo Harbor renovations, as well as an airport expansion.
Ma also said that since Li assumed the commissioner post in 2009, he has been pushing the development of two international shopping centers and is seeking further development for Kinmen.
Minister of Transportation and Communications Yeh Kuang-shih (葉匡時) said the airport will serve an estimated 2.28 million passengers this year, while the new terminal building will allow it to serve 3.9 million passengers annually.