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Legislators back plan for air links via Taipei airport

Cabinet urges lawmakers to carefully consider national security before approving proposal

Legislators back plan for air links via Taipei airport

More than 110 legislators, including Democratic Progressive Party legislators, support the proposal to open Taipei\'s Sungshan Airport to direct links with Hong Kong and Macau, which is now at the top of the agenda for today\'s plenary legislative session.

But the Executive Yuan urged lawmakers to take national security into account, stressing that authorities may not be able to execute the proposal due to several impracticalities.

Legislators say that more than 3.5 million people travel between Taiwan and China with around 60 percent of them living in the Taipei area and traveling via Chiang Kai-shek International Airport. Many people have been caught in traffic jams that have caused them to miss their flights, it was claimed.

In order to improve the situation, it is necessary to open Taipei\'s Sungshan Airport to direct links with Hong Kong and Macau, the proposal contended.

As Sungshan Airport was once an international airport, it would be amply equiped to handle the traffic, the lawmakers observed.

As for national security, legislators pointed out the government had opened Taichung Airport, which was once an air force airport, to direct links with Hong Kong.

Kuomintang legislative whip Pan Wei-kang said if lawmakers managed to push through the proposal, it would save people a lot of time and money. She also urged authorities to take the people\'s needs into account and disregard tensions between Taiwan and China. If there was the will, the proposal could be pushed through today, she said.

DPP legislative whip Chen Chin-jun (陳景峻) said the DPP would not steer clear of debate with the opposition over the matter today, since the issue related to people\'s livelihoods.

However, another DPP legislator Huang Wei-cher was more positive, saying he disagreed with the contention that opening the airport to links with Hong Kong and Macau would endanger national security, akin to allowing a \"trojan horse\" into Taiwan.

Meanwhile, Taiwan Solidarity Union legislative whip David Huang said the TSU initially blocked the bill from being put on the legislative agenda, but failed due to the pan-blue alliance-controlled Procedure Committee. The TSU is still considering ways to boycott the proposal, he added.

Cabinet Secretary-General Cho Jung-tai (卓榮泰) said that, although it was important to boost economic development, national security - especially the security of the nation\'s capital - had to be taken into account.

Cho also said the Cabinet may find it difficult to implement the proposal if the bill passes, and he urged pan-blue alliance lawmakers not to force the Executive Yuan to accept the bill.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications said the runway at Sungshan Airport can only handle mid-sized or smaller passenger planes. Authorities estimated it can only handle eight to ten flights a day at most.

Currently there are 130 scheduled flights between Taiwan and China daily at CKS International Airport. If these are completely shifted to Sungshan Airport, it will be completely overloaded. Upgrading the airport for direct links with Hong Kong and Macau would take at least a year, the MOTC said.