Tue, Jun 18, 2019 - Page 2 News List

Han appeals for more dengue fever funding

ALL FOR SHOW?Critics accused the mayor of using the disease as an excuse to draw public attention, while the CDC rebutted his allegations of lack of assistance

By Wang Jung-hsiang and Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporters

Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu, left, speaks to reporters at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Liao Chen-huei, Taipei Times

Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) showed up unexpectedly yesterday morning at the Legislative Yuan to appeal for more funds to deal with dengue fever, spurring accusations of grandstanding as a prelude to his presidential bid.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) earlier this month said that eight indigenous cases of dengue fever had been confirmed so far this year, all in Kaohsiung.

Han made the visit as lawmakers were holding a special legislative session.

He said that the city’s nine legislators have failed to speak up for Kaohsiung about the spread of dengue fever, so he decided to visit the nine, as well as the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus, to call for more subsidies from the central government to help the city combat the disease.

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Chao Tien-lin (趙天麟), one of the nine, said that all lawmakers representing the city have been fighting for more funding from the central government to help the city fight the disease.

“The issue is whether Mayor Han’s heart is in Kaohsiung,” Chao said. “Is the safety of the city’s residents truly the priority in your heart when your attention is divided, traveling across the nation for [your] presidential bid?”

Han, one of five competing to represent the KMT in next year’s presidential election, has been holding rallies nationwide in the past few weeks for his presidential campaign.

New Power Party Kaohsiung City Councilor Huang Jie (黃捷) accused Han of using the disease as an excuse to travel to Taipei again.

In a news release on Sunday, the CDC said that it has granted a total subsidy of NT$15.239 million (US$483,471) to Kaohsiung for communicable disease prevention this year, including NT$8.61 million for dengue fever — the highest among all cities and counties.

The Communicable Disease Control Act (傳染病防治法) stipulates that the dengue fever prevention budget should be allocated by local governments and the Executive Yuan can provide a subsidy for assistance, but the Kaohsiung City Government had mistakenly thought it could receive the subsidy by merely making a proposal at regular meetings, the CDC said.

“The central government did not reject the Kaohsiung City Government’s application in two meetings, and the subsidy approved was not lower nor did it come later than in previous years,” it said.

Local governments must follow a standard procedure in applying for the subsidy, including proposing a prevention plan for review, the CDC said.

Kaohsiung proposed a subsidy of NT$5.3 million at the Feb. 19 meeting and NT$4.6 million on May 21, it said.

The CDC said it has told Kaohsiung to submit the required documents for review during the two meetings, and informed it that if the budget for disease prevention runs out, the CDC would apply for the Executive Yuan’s secondary reserve fund.

While Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) had proposed using the secondary reserve fund to grant additional subsidies, the CDC only received Kaohsiung’s official proposal on Friday, and Chen and CDC officials worked during the weekend to review the documents.

As soon as the Executive Yuan approves use of the secondary reserve fund, the CDC will immediately extend its support to Kaohsiung, it said.

The CDC is fully committed to assisting Kaohsiung in disease prevention and there is no difference in its efforts to assist any local government, it added.

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