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Taipei spent NT$15 mil. on UN culinary application

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Taipei city councilors lashed out at the city government on Tuesday for spending NT$15 million of taxpayers' money to apply for a designation given by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) — an honor the city may not even qualify for.

The “City of Gastronomy” title honors cities with a rich culture of traditional foods and sustainable agriculture, and is currently held by four municipalities worldwide, including Popayan, Colombia; Chengdu, China; Ostersund, Sweden; and Jeonju, South Korea.

In response, Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) yesterday said the money was spent mainly on city promotion.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Taipei City Councilors Wu Su-yao (吳思瑤) and Liang Wen-chieh (梁文傑) said the Taipei City Council had warned the city government in 2011 that the application would very likely fail due to the fact that Taiwan is not a member of the United Nations.

Liang said once the Taipei City Government submitted the application, it will likely face two possibilities regarding the result: either Taipei will be seen as part of China and the application will be delivered to China's National Commission at UNESCO, or the application will be rejected.

Wu said that despite the slight chance of success, the city government insisted on applying for the title of “City of Gastronomy.” She added the city government has spent NT$15 million on the project over the past two years.

Wu said that according to the budget compiled by the city government, NT$5.61 million was spent on writing the application proposal and gathering relevant information. Also, NT$8.86 million was contracted out to a public relations company for promoting Taipei's gourmet in France and South Korea.

The Taipei City Government also spent NT$530,000 on a conference for local gourmet experts for the application, Wu added.

In response, the mayor said the budget of NT$15 million was spent on city promotion, and Taipei City will not follow through with the “City of Gastronomy” application if the city is considered part of China.

When a reporter asked how likely it is that the application would be rejected on account that Taiwan is not a member of the United Nations, Hau noted that Taiwan's capital city has received a UNESCO honor in the past. In 2003, Taipei Baoan Temple (台北保安宮) was successfully inducted into the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards for Culture Heritage Conservation.

Hau said Taipei city government will keep its dignity while applying for the UNESCO designation.

Taipei City Office of Commerce official Chen Hsiu-hua (陳秀華) said while Taipei City were holding a gourmet expo in France in March, the city government tried to contact UNESCO regard the application, however, UNESCO did not reply.

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