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May 27, 2017

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Ma defies critics, to keep rapid transit chief

Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou yesterday defended newly appointed Director Chang Chi-teh of the Department of Rapid Transit Systems (DORTS), although his popularity rating was dealt a blow by the recent floods.

There are increasing pressures for Chang's resignation following severe floods in Sanchung City, Taipei County, and Neihu in Taipei City after two typhoons hit northern Taiwan in August and last week.

Critics said although the two typhoons brought excess rains, the recent floods were aggravated by the DORTS' inadequate supervision of contractors who failed to take preventive measures when constructing the two new MRT lines.

City council members Liu Yao-jen and Lan Shih-tsung of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) made public an evaluation report from the DORTS about the quality of the ongoing construction work on the Neihu line.

They pointed out that the DORTS assigned a high score of 91, although its own appraisal report listed major defects.

The two criticized Mayor Ma for making a deliberate effort to shield Director Chang.

Ma has already given seven officials at the DORTS censures or demerits, while he gave Chang "a severe reprimand in writing," for negligence in monitoring the construction work.

Defying calls to dismiss Chang, the mayor said retaining the new DORTS chief is in the best interests of the people of the city.

Ma said Chang should not be held accountable for political responsibilities, adding that he himself is willing to shoulder all political responsibilities.

He also explained that the floods in the Tunghu area of Neihu in Taipei last week were different from the floods that hit Sanchung City in August.

Only 32 households were affected by the floods in Tunghu, compared with 14,000 families in Sanchung.

The contractor building the Neihu line insisted that the flood in Tunghu was mainly caused by a natural disaster with excess rainfall brought by Typhoon Haima.

But the company agreed to provide compensation to the 32 families.

The successive floods have dragged Ma's approval rating to 66 percent, the lowest level in five years, according to the latest survey by the Chinese-language United Daily News.

Ma said he would humbly accept the people's verdict and strive to make improvements. But he insisted that keeping Chang at the current post is a decision that will benefit the people the most.

Chang assumed the post only in July.

Meanwhile, the Department of Civil Affairs of the municipal government started releasing compensation payments to victims hit by the floods in Taipei City in the afternoon.

The criteria for the payment for victims in the city are same as for flood victims in Sanchung: NT$30,000 for households that hit by flood water under one meter high, and NT$50,000 for those suffering from flood water over one meter.

Less than 500 households qualify for the compensation and total payments would be below NT$7 million.

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