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"New Taiwan airport sparks political squabble"


 
Saturday, March 6, 2004

Taichung's new airport sparks political squabble 
eTaiwan News - Taipei,Taiwan


Opposition lawmakers wearing no trousers tried to hijack the president's
inauguration of a new airport yesterday, saying their incomplete attire
matched how Chen Shui-bian was using the unfinished facility as a
campaign stunt ahead of March 20 elections. 

When he was elected four years ago, Chen promised to build the airport
in Taichung, the island's third-largest city. Chen said he fulfilled his
pledge yesterday when a China Airlines flight took off from the airport
for Tokyo. 

The inauguration ceremony also marked the completion and service
commencement of the first phase development of the Taichung
International Airport - the first of its kind in central Taiwan. 

Addressing the ceremony, Chen lauded the efficient completion of the
international airport's first phase development in a short period of six
months as a flexing of the government's executive muscles. 

Chen said the inauguration of the airport demonstrates that the
administration is delivering on one of his major campaign promises in
2000 to central Taiwan residents to accelerate business and industrial
development in the central part of the country. 

But opposition politicians argued that the airport was unfinished and
that Chen was rushing its opening to help his re-election bid. They
noted that international charter flights could take off from the
airport, but that the facility wasn't scheduled to handle arrivals until
2008. 

The two domestic air carriers that have been given approval to use the
Taichung International Airport for international charter flights are
China Airlines, with one flight per week to Tokyo, and Far East Air
Transport Corp., with one flight per week each to Palau and Phuket. The
return flights, however, need to land at Chiang Kai-shek International
Airport in Taoyuan, northern Taiwan or at Kaohsiung International
Airport in southern Taiwan, officials said. The Civil Aeronautics
Administration said that a variety of factors have delayed the airport's
full opening. Buildings and a second landing strip still need to be
built, and air force planes still have priority at the airport, the CAA
said. 

To cope with the situation, Taichung Commerce Association officials
said, highway transportation back to the Taichung area from CKS
International Airport and Kaohsiung International Airport has been
arranged for passengers using the Taichung International Airport
chartered flight services for their overseas trips. 

To protest yesterday's event, the lawmakers showed up at the
inauguration half-dressed, wearing suit coats and ties but no trousers. 

"This international airport is only half an airport," Nationalist Party
lawmaker Chi Kuo-tung said. "I have to take part in this ceremony, but
my whole suit couldn't get ready on time, so I'm only wearing half a
suit and a pair of shorts," Chi said. 

Another opposition lawmaker, Feng Ting-kuo, took reporters on a tour of
the terminal building, pointing out wet paint on the walls. He bumped
his head into panels and water sprinklers that he said had been fixed
too low. 

In his opening speech, the president rejected the opposition's
criticism. 

"Don't politicize it (the airport) because of the elections. This is a
happy occasion for the region," Chen said. 

His supporters said the opening symbolized his government's efficiency
and contrasted it with previous governments. Ruling party lawmaker Tsai
Huang-lang claimed the opposition was just jealous. 

"They couldn't do it, but the president did it," Tsai said.

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