Mon, Feb 11, 2019 - Page 3 News List

FEATURE: CGA sets first line of defense in Kinmen

GUARDIANS:The agency’s duties range from protecting the nation’s territorial waters and watching against disease outbreaks to making sure elderly residents are cared for

By Lin Chia-nan  /  Staff reporter

Former Kinmen County councilor Chen Fu-hai, center left, on Nov. 23 last year canvases for votes on Mofan Street in Jincheng Township, Kinmen County, which is lined with Republic of China and People’s Republic of China flags.

Photo: CNA

Some say that the Coast Guard Administration (CGA) is the easiest assignment for soldiers, as its personnel are often seen on beaches, but for those stationed in Kinmen County, cross-strait tensions can take different forms — from disease prevention to maritime defense.

Clad in fluorescent orange uniforms, coast guard personnel might appear distant to many Taiwanese, partly because they include military, police and administrative officers whose duties mainly cover emergency response.

The agency has drawn increasing public attention since a pig carcass was found on a Kinmen beach on Dec. 31 last year and was on Jan. 3 confirmed to be infected with the African swine fever virus.

The Council of Agriculture said that the carcass could have floated from China, where the disease appears to have spread out of control since China reported the first infection in August last year.

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) visited the county to inspect quarantine measures the day after the council announced its test results.

Kinmen, composed of two bigger islands and several smaller unpopulated islets, is more than 300km from Taiwan proper, but about 2km from China, making it a front line for cross-strait exchanges, good or bad.

There are 459 coast guard personnel stationed on Kinmen — 413 male and 46 female — in addition to the army’s Kinmen Defense Command.

The pig carcass cannot have been on the beach for more than four hours, given the coast guard’s patrol schedule, said CGA Kinmen-Matsu-Penghu Branch Ninth Coast Patrol Corps deputy chief Wang Jung-chung (王榮忠), who discovered the carcass.

The carcass is not likely to be a Chinese biochemical weapon as some have speculated, as any vessel trying to dump it would have been intercepted by Taiwanese or Chinese coast guards, the corps’ chief Wu Chien-kuang (吳建冠) said, adding that people who could avoid coast guard patrols would have dumped more carcasses.

The discovery was foreseeable, as northeasterly monsoons often carry trash from China to the county’s beaches, and the corps was the first government agency to alert the council of such a possibility in November last year, Wu said.

With cross-strait traffic via the “small three links” getting busier ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday, government agencies tightened the controls on Chinese visitors arriving at the county’s Shueitou Harbor (水頭碼頭), which receives 47 shuttle boats every day, he said, adding that it takes only 30 minutes to sail from Xiamen to the harbor.

Chinese travelers undergo health and immigration checks before they are allowed into the nation at the harbor, and their luggage is checked by X-ray scanners and sniffer dogs, he said.

However, officers must be vigilant, as non-metal objects, such as live animals, cannot be detected by the machines, Wu added.

Despite the threat posed by the disease, the corps does not feel much extra burden, as it regularly trains for cross-strait animal epidemics, such as avian influenza, he said.

Guarding the nation’s territorial waters against Chinese fishing boats is another day-to-day battle for coast guard personnel.

Given Kinmen’s proximity to China, the exclusive economic zone surrounding the county varies, ending 1.5km off the coast of the county’s Mashan (馬山) area at its narrowest point, Ministry of National Defense’s guidelines show.

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