Tue, Sep 22, 2015 - Page 3 News List

Soong touts emergency management agency

By Chen Wei-han  /  Staff reporter

People First Party Chairman and presidential candidate James Soong speaks to the media at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei yesterday morning after proposing the establishment of disaster prevention and response measures.

Photo: Chen Chih-chu, Taipei Times

People First Party (PFP) Chairman and presidential candidate James Soong (宋楚瑜) yesterday proposed the establishment of a central emergency management agency to improve inter-ministerial coordination as a disaster prevention and response measure.

The proposal was introduced to coincide with the nation’s 16th anniversary of the 921 Earthquake that killed 2,415 people in 1999.

Saying the nation is more frequently hit by disasters that require compound disaster prevention and response measures, Soong added that if he is elected president in January’s election, he would establish a central emergency management agency and make amendments to the Disaster Prevention and Rescue Act (災害防救法).

Referring to last year’s gas pipeline explosions in Kaohsiung, and the Formosa Fun Coast (八仙海岸) water park disaster this year that killed 12 people and injured hundreds, Soong said the division of responsibility between government units is confusing and ineffective, adding that different units must be integrated under a fully adequate and authoritative agency.

Prior to the establishment of such an institution, ministers without portfolios would be tasked with coordinating different governmental agencies to speed up disaster response and post-disaster reconstruction, Soong said.

Aside from revamping the reserve emergency fund system to allocate budgets in advance to immediately assist disaster victims, Soong also pledged to establish a national database to integrate geological, meteorological and population distribution data to build up a disaster simulation program.

Former minister of the interior Lee Hong-yuan (李鴻源) at the same news conference yesterday added that Soong’s campaign pledges include drawing up an urban renewal project for disaster prevention by repurposing vacant or underutilized public land into earthquake-resistant housing complexes to replace old and structurally weak buildings.

Such projects would first be conducted in disaster-prone areas in the nation’s six special municipalities, Lee said.

The housing units would be sold at reasonable prices to lower the rising cost of housing and meet the housing needs of young people and minorities, he said, adding that the projects could also help finance the government’s disaster prevention operation.

Saying that many disasters are man-made, such as those caused by overdevelopment in geologically sensitive areas, Lee added that humans are responsible for inadequate disaster prevention and rescue measures.

Former National Fire Agency director Chao Kang (趙鋼) said that the government should also train disaster prevention officials at grassroots levels in addition to establishing a top-level agency, as residents often rely on borough wardens in the event of a disaster, but local officials are usually clueless about rescue and evacuation protocols.

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