Ma lays into plans to ease restrictions

SAFETY WORRIES: Ma Ying-jeou was speaking following a report that the MOTC is proposing to change a 60m height restriction on buildings near Songshan Airport

By Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Mon, Nov 05, 2007 - Page 3

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) slammed the Cabinet yesterday over its plan to relax the height limit on buildings around Taipei's Songshan Airport.

"I think we should give priority to flight safety. Other concerns are of minor importance," Ma said in Taipei County's Rueifang Township (瑞芳).

Ma was asked to comment on a Chinese-language China Times story published yesterday, that said the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) had completed a proposed amendment to the height limit of buildings in the areas surrounding the airport at the request of the Cabinet.

The story said the MOTC proposed to change the current 60m height limit to 90m, which would apply to buildings within a 3km radius of the ends of the runway -- east to Nangang Train Station, west to the Danshui River, north to Dazhi (大直) and south to Zhongxiao E Rd.

The new regulation would allow structures that are about 10 stories higher than existing buildings within the area, the report said, adding that this could boost real estate prices.

However, height restrictions between Minquan E Rd and Minzhu E Rd, which are adjacent to the airport, would remain because aircraft must be at least 90m above ground for pilots to estimate descent distances with the naked eye, the story said.

Nevertheless, Ma said yesterday that relaxing the limit was an "incorrect" move.

"I don't support relaxation of the height limit because this could compromise flight safety," he said, adding that the Cabinet could be using the issue for electoral reasons.

The story also cited an unidentified "plane expert" as saying that the Cabinet's plan may make it impossible for the airport to handle cross-strait flights because the concentration of tall buildings surrounding the airport may prevent larger planes from taking off and landing there.

Asked to comment, Ma, who has proposed the direct flight airport policy, reiterated the positive effects on local businesses that could result from allowing the airport to operate direct flights to South Korea, Japan and China.

Ma also dismissed speculation that the KMT's removal of the so-called "1992 consensus" from its draft mission statement for next year had resulted in friction with former KMT chairman Lien Chan (連戰).

"There is no wrangling between different approaches within the party," Ma said. "Our not including it [the consensus] in an annual document led to some misunderstanding that we may have changed this policy, but this is not the case."

"The `1992 consensus' is written into our party platform. It will not change, so it's a non-issue" Ma said.