The legislature’s Transportation Committee yesterday passed a resolution asking the Ministry of Transportation and Communications to return to the government properties owned by the Telecommunications Association and Postal Association — two subsidiaries under the ministry — or to dismiss these two organizations, adding that the matter should be resolved within three months.
Lawmakers threatened to send the case to the Control Yuan for investigation if ministry officials fail to comply with the resolution.
The committee was scheduled to review the performances of all the subsidiaries under the ministry and National Communications Commission, but lawmakers in the question-and-answer session focused on whether the two agencies should be dismissed.
The lawmakers said that the two associations — which are under Chunghwa Telecom Co (中華電信) and Chunghwa Post Co (中華郵政) — are only in charge of managing the properties they own and function more like real estate companies, adding that the properties managed by these associations belong to the state and could end up being in the hands of private owners.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Cheng Yun-peng (鄭運鵬) said that the committee had already passed a similar resolution in the previous legislative session, but the ministry chose not to do anything about it. Though five of nine seats on the board of directors of the Telecommunications Association are representatives of government agencies, Cheng said that the current chairman of the association also serves as the executive vice president of Chunghwa Telecom.
He asked how the ministry makes sure that these properties would not end up being in the hands of private owners.
“Previously, the ownership of the properties was not an issue, because both Chunghwa Telecom and Chunghwa Post were government agencies. However, the former is now a private company and the latter has been turned into a state-run corporation. They can dispose state property for their own purposes with all these properties in their hands,” Cheng said.
Cheng said that the ministry should dismiss these two associations. If the ministry thinks that it is impossible to dismiss these organizations and their existence is indispensable, he said that the associations should return the properties to the state first, whose operations should be funded by the ministry instead.
DPP Legislator Cheng Pao-ching (鄭寶清) said the Telecommunications Association sits on state properties with market value exceeding NT$20 billion (US$616.48 million).
He questioned whether the supposedly public properties would become private assets, as the association has already put some of its properties up for public tender.
The Telecommunication Association argued that it not only manages properties, but it also represents Taiwan’s efforts to join the International COSPAS-SARSAT Program, a satellite and rescue alert detection and information distribution system established in 1979. The nation would probably never be able to join the international organization again if the association is dismissed, because China could reject the nation’s re-entry, the association said.
However, DPP Legislator Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) said that the association’s claim simply does not hold.
She said that the association has already participated in COSPAS-SARSAT as a private entity and can be replaced by another private organization. She also said that it is better that the Coast Guard Administration and the Fishery Agency join the COSPAS-SARSAT instead, considering the function of the international organization.
DPP Legislator Yeh Yi-jin (葉宜津) said that a similar resolution to dismiss the two associations after they return the properties to the state was passed at the previous legislative session, when the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) was the majority in the Legislative Yuan. This means dismissing these two associations is the consensus reached between the DPP and KMT.
Deputy Minister of Transportation and Communications Tseng Dar-jen (曾大仁) said the ministry would risk facing lawsuits from some of the members of the associations if they are dismissed or asked to return the properties.
Tseng also said that the associations serve actual purposes and the ministry would have no way to oversee their operations if the ministry has lawsuits with any one of them.
“We will respect the legislature’s resolution and continue to seek ways [to dismantle the associations],” he said.
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