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Lawmakers freeze NT$200 mil. from Taiping island wharf expansion budget

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Lawmakers yesterday froze part of the budget that the Coast Guard Administration (CGA, 海巡署) proposed to be spent on upgrading the wharf and air strip on Taiping Island in the South China Sea, citing the need for an environmental impact evaluation.

The Legislative Yuan's Internal Administration Committee made the decision to freeze NT$200 million of the total NT$3.3 billion CGA budget on the grounds that the government has yet to conduct environmental impact assessments on whether the construction could have a serious ecological impact on the island.

According to the CGA's proposal, the NT$3.3 billion will be used to make improvements to the island's wharf, allowing larger vessels to make port. Another part of the budget would be spent on upgrading the airstrip to ensure safer landings and takeoffs.

Lawmakers yesterday said the CGA-proposed upgrades are necessary to enhance Taiwan's presence in the disputed South China Sea.

However, the CGA needs to conduct an environmental impact assessment before conducting the improvements, they said.

The CGA should also consult with related government units such as the Ministry of National Defense and Ministry of Transportation and Communications to make sure the expensive upgrades are cost-effective, lawmakers said.

In response, CGA Minister Wang Ginn-wang (王進旺) promised yesterday during the same committee session that the CGA will work together with other government branches in making the upgrade project possible.

“The wharf expansion project is aimed at showcasing the Republic of China's sovereignty claim in the region,” he said.

According to the CGA's proposed timetable, the project will begin in 2014 and is scheduled will be completed by the end of 2015.

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