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Gov't wary of creating Hsinchu int'l airport

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- In response to the Hsinchu City Government's proposal to turn the local airport, Hsinchu Air Base, into an international airport, Transportation Minister Yeh Kuang-shih (葉匡時) said there might not be a market for it and his ministry does not intend to grant the go-ahead right away.

The Hsinchu City Government recently suggested turning Hsinchu airport into an international airport, and invited civil airlines to operate cross-strait flights from there. This issue has turned controversial ahead of elections. The Legislative Transportation Committee is set to visit Hsinchu today to examine local transportation and communication infrastructure.

According to the Hsinchu City Government, up to 60 percent of local firms require the service of direct flights to mainland China, and if the Hsinchu airport becomes operational it will alleviate the workload of the nearby Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport.

The Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) has not decided on the matter. It would not be a easy task to turn the airport, currently used by the military, into a facility which can be operated by civil airlines, said the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) under the MOTC, adding that there may not be a market for it.

MOTC chief Yeh Kuang-shih is conservative about the idea as well, pointing out that the airport is currently used by the military and lacks the needed facilities. In addition, the airport is close by Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport. The MOTC will conduct a feasibility study only if there are airlines that intend to schedule flights on a daily basis, Yeh said.

Turning Hsinchu airport into an international airport would require the military's approval. It would also require much construction work, as well as setting up needed quarantine and customs services and making environmental conservation investments. It might also impact the development of Taoyuan Aerotropolis, as Taoyuan County is located right below Hsinchu.

Local scholars concurred that it is not necessary to make another international airport in Hsinchu. The government should focus its development efforts in airports located in Taoyuan, Taichung, Taipei and Kaohsiung, they said.

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