Post-disaster reconstruction bill clears Legislature

Taipei, Aug. 27 (CNA) The Legislative Yuan passed an urgent special statute Thursday authorizing the executive branch to raise a special budget of up to NT$120 billion (US$3.64 billion) for reconstruction in the aftermath of Typhoon Morakot.
The statute also calls for the establishment of a reconstruction commission to lead and guide relevant work, with the premier and vice premier serving as its head and deputy head.
It further stipulates that the number of those who represent affected residents and aboriginal tribesmen should not be less than one-fifth of the commission's complete roster.
Morakot pummeled Taiwan Aug. 7-9, triggering the worst flooding in 50 years in certain places in southern Taiwan and leading to landslides that buried remote mountainous villages and tribal settlements.
The special statute authorizes governments at all levels to impose compulsory relocation of villages or tribal settlements from areas vulnerable to floods and landslides to safer areas.
The ruling Kuomintang-controlled Legislature completed a third reading of the bill at the conclusion of a three-day extraordinary screening session.
The Executive Yuan originally planned to raise a special budget of NT$100 billion to finance various reconstruction projects, but the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) proposed that the fund be increased to NT$200 billion. The KMT also came up with a proposal that funding should be capped at NT$120 billion.
The KMT proposal prevailed. The method of fundraising was also changed to the floating of state bonds or borrowing instead of selling government stakes in state-run banks as had been proposed by the Cabinet.
As the outstanding government debts are approaching the legal ceiling, the statute exempts the government from restrictions set forth in the Public Debt Law in this respect.
Regarding mortgage balances on houses rendered uninhabitable or washed away during the storm's onslaught, the statute stipulates that lending banks should absorb all such losses.
Financial institutions should also exempt borrowers from having to repay outstanding mortgages on farmland and aquaculture ponds destroyed or washed away during the storm, with the government offering them subsidies equivalent to a maximum 80 percent of the total amount.
On relocation of the hardest-hit villages and tribal settlements, the statute prescribes that central and local governments should consult with residents to reach a consensus on resettlement or relocation. No flood- and landslide-prone areas should be available for habitation any longer.
The statute also stipulates that land development and rezoning in selected sites that have passed environmental impact assessments will not be subject to restrictions imposed by existing urban planning laws or regulations.
During the legislative screening process, some representatives from Namasia township in Kaohsiung County -- one of the hardest-hit disaster zones -- voiced strong opposition to the compulsory relocation regulation, but were bundled out of the conference hall by policemen and security guards.
The legislature also passed a resolution demanding that the Executive Yuan submit a draft package within one month on national land protection and restoration, as years of rampant overdevelopment of mountain slopelands and river catchment areas have made many parts of Taiwan vulnerable to landslides and mudslides.
The resolution also demands that the central government set up service centers in various typhoon-affected areas to offer mental health counseling as well as employment and education services.
In terms of driftwood cleanup, the resolution stipulates that a week after the implementation of the special statute, typhoon victims should be allowed to pick up driftwood that the Council of Agriculture has not already marked.
(By Sofia Wu)

Updated : 2021-03-05 02:12 GMT+08:00