Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) yesterday reiterated that drilling for oil off Itu Aba Island (Taiping Island, 太平島) could benefit the city’s finances, even though the CPC Corp on Tuesday said that there is not petroleum or gas around the island.
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate, in Monday’s Kaohsiung City Council meeting, denied having proposed drilling for oil off Itu Aba during his campaign last year for mayor, after Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Kaohsiung City Councilor Kao Min-lin (高閔琳) asked him if he was planning to budget for oil exploration.
“Who said anything about drilling for oil?” Han said, adding: “Have you ever seen it in writing?”
Photo: Huang Chia-lin, Taipei Times
While the idea was not listed as one of his planned policies in the official election paper, Han had proposed drilling for oil off the island to improve Kaohsiung’s finances during a mayoral candidate debate on Nov. 19 last year.
The idea was praised by former president Ma Ying-Jeou (馬英九) as a valuable and “unprecedented” platform.
During a visit yesterday to the DPP caucus at the city council, Han was asked by Kaohsiung City Councilor Lin Chih-hung (林智鴻) to clarify what he said on Monday.
Whether to explore for oil is up to the central government, Han said, adding that CPC conducted a test in 2013 to look for petroleum near the island.
“I was concerned on a daily basis about solving Kaohsiung’s financial difficulties and one day it occurred to me that Itu Aba Island falls under Kaohsiung’s jurisdiction,” he said.
The idea would be possible if the central government and neighboring countries agreed on an exploration bid, and if they could secure international funding, he said.
“If they are going to drill for oil, I really hope Kaohsiung would not be left out of the process,” he said. “It is common sense, as the Kaohsiung City Government has neither the ability nor the equipment to drill for oil.”
CPC on Tuesday said it was confirmed 38 years ago that the island has no oil or gas reserves, adding that it did not conduct a test in 2013 and had no plans to do so.
Company employees visited the island in 2013 to assert the nation’s sovereignty over it amid rising tension in the region and to conduct geographic tests which did not include drilling for oil, it added in its statement.
In related news, if too many city councilors have questions for the mayor at a two-day interpellation session that begins today, they will have to draw lots, as a new rule requires council meetings to end at 6pm.
Under the rule passed by the KMT-controlled council on Friday last week, only 29 councilors — out of the 66 — would be allotted 15 minutes each to question Han and 20 minutes each to question other city officials.
The Kaohsiung City Council has always determined by lot the order in which councilors would conduct interpellation, the council said yesterday.
However, in the past almost every councilor has had a chance to raise questions, but the new time restriction means that some councilors could lose their chance to interpellate the mayor, the council said.
Additional reporting by Wang Jung-hsiang
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