The legislature’s Education and Culture Committee yesterday passed an initial review of a proposed act aimed at governing underwater cultural heritage resources.
If the draft act passes a third reading, it will become the nation’s first piece of legislation to address the protection of submerged heritage sites and relics.
The current version of the draft act states that any cultural resources submerged in Taiwan’s territorial seas or waters, except those from maritime vessels and vehicles or aircraft owned by private individuals or foreign governments, are to be designated as national heritage resources.
To steal, vandalize or knowingly excavate heritage resources without government approval — or having the intent to commit the above — is a crime punishable by a sentence of up to five years in prison, or a fine of between NT$200,000 and NT$10 million (US$6,091 and US$304,580).
An underwater cultural heritage resource is defined as any submerged site, vessel, vehicle, human remains, artifact or any other evidence pertaining to human life which is subject to registration by the Ministry of Culture.
The ministry might also designate submerged content or areas as underwater national heritage resources if petitioned to do so by private individuals or groups.
The draft further states that a governmental organization or public enterprise would have to investigate the presence of any underwater cultural heritage resource before committing to develop an underwater area.
In addition, private groups or individuals engaged in fishing, cable-laying, channel building or marine science research or study in a body of water would, upon the discovery of suspected heritage resources, have to cease all activities and inform relevant authorities to prevent damage to the resources.
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