Thu, Jun 08, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Lawmakers push for maritime ministry

ON HIGH SEASOcean acidity levels and garbage in the sea are not included in EPA surveys, an academic said, adding government organizations need to communicate

By Yang Chun-hui and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

A fishing boat operates near Kaohsiung yesterday.

Photo: Huang Hsu-lei, Taipei Times

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers yesterday urged the government to submit plans to create a ministry for maritime affairs within one year.

Additionally, a basic law governing maritime affairs should be passed by late next year, lawmakers Lai Jui-lung (賴瑞隆), Chen Man-li (陳曼麗) and Kolas Yotaka told a news conference at the legislature.

The measures are to help integrate maritime policy across sustainable development, research and sea tourism, they said.

Directorate-General of Personnel Management official Yang Hsiu-chen (楊秀珍) said the government is to complete a draft bill for review at the next session of the Legislative Yuan.

In June 2015, the legislature passed the Organization Act of the Ocean Affairs Council (海洋委員會組織法), which would have mandated the creation of the ocean affairs council in July last year.

However, the legislators who took office in March last year passed a resolution to suspend the council’s promulgation.

Lai, Chen and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Apollo Chen (陳學聖) laster proposed amendments to the law that would upgrade the ocean affairs council to a ministry-level organization.

Distributing responsibilities over environmental protection, tourism and other maritime issues to multiple agencies has the effect of diluting the government’s efforts, said Lai, a former Kaohsiung Marine Bureau director.

“On the day before World Oceans Day, I call on the Executive Yuan to accelerate the establishment of the ministry for maritime affairs; only a powerful, responsible agency can promote policies,” he said.

Lai said Indonesia and Sweden have a ministry-level agency to supervise maritime affairs, while Japan and Canada have a basic law governing oceanic issues.

As a maritime nation, Taiwan urgently needs a ministry of maritime affairs, Lai said.

Lawmakers suspended the council because they believe the President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) administration should have a ministry-level establishment overseeing seas, Lai said.

Kolas Yotaka said a maritime affairs ministry is symbolic of Taiwan’s identity as an independent state and would help many Aborigines who live by rivers and the ocean.

Calls to create a maritime affairs ministry have been raised many times over the past two decades, National Taiwan Ocean University Institute of Marine Affairs and Research Management dean Julia Huang (黃向文) said.

The fishing industry’s use of oceanic resources are poorly regulated and are misunderstood by the government, she said.

Ocean acidity levels and marine debris in the nation’s seas are not included in Environmental Protection Administration surveys, Huang said.

There are a large number of international laws regulating the use of the sea that the government has yet to implement, she said.

“Although Taiwan prides itself as a maritime nation, government organizations are poorly coordinated and communications between them is spotty,” she said.

“The public has gained more ocean awareness and there are many initiatives by private citizens to clean beaches or protect the ocean. The government should not fall behind the people’s lead. A ministry of maritime affairs should be created as soon as possible,” she added.

Greenpeace Taiwan oceans campaigner Yen Ning (顏寧) said the past two administrations had both affirmed the importance of the ocean, but did little to resolve the competing needs of resource use, conservation and development.

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