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New law needed to regulate nation's petrochemical pipes

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- It has been a week since the deadly explosions took place in downtown Kaohsiung, and yet not a single governmental agency is willing to hold itself accountable over the incident.

Vice Economics Minister Duh Tyzz-jiun (杜紫軍) confessed that currently Taiwan does not have any particular bills to govern the nation's petrochemical pipelines, which means that the government has abjectly failed to manage this potential, and recently all-too-real source of destruction.

While the entire nation is mourning the loss of life from last Thursday's late night explosions, which also left more than 300 citizens injured, the central government and Kaohsiung are busy arguing with each other over matters of funding and jurisdiction.

In the wake of the fatal incident, many are eager to know whether it is the Kaohsiung City Government or a particular government agency that should have inspected and managed the city's underground petrochemical pipes. Unsurprisingly, no one has thus far claimed responsibility.

Kaohsiung said that it does not know its underground pipeline network because some of the pipelines were installed decades ago and all the related information is in the Ministry of Economic Affairs' (MOEA) hands.

The Executive Yuan argued that it is impossible for Kaohsiung to not know its own underground pipeline system because it is written into law that any underground pipes needs the city government's approval before being installed.

The port city requested that the government allocate emergency funds of NT$1.9 billion for reconstruction efforts; the Cabinet responded by saying that the city should exhaust its own resources and funds before asking for assistance from the government. Many criticized the central government for being “cold blooded” on the matter.

Apart from the money issue, in order to prevent any similar incidents from happening again, should not the government learn a lesson from the incident and examine the safety of the entire nation's petrochemical pipelines and make a new law to govern the issue.

The Executive Yuan, nevertheless, said it currently does not have any intention to make a new law to regulate the issue. Cabinet spokesman Sun Lih-chyun (孫立群) said the MOEA, the Ministry of Labor (MOL), Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) and each local government have their own set of regulations to govern the underground pipes. Sun said as there are “a lot” of regulations, there is no necessity to make a new set of laws.

Just because there are so many regulations does not mean it is unnecessary to have one to govern the nation's underground petrochemical pipes. What would happen if the country does not have a law to regulate the issue is that when an incident occurs, all governmental agencies would try to shirk responsibility, which is exactly what is happening now.

Five firefighters, including retired and volunteered firefighters, and one former borough warden, gave their lives in an attempt to save others during the explosions. Their heroic stories will always be remembered. As for the government and the politicians who are fighting about who should bear the responsibility, their behavior will also be remembered.

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