Taiwan News: Tsai Holds Firm on Anti-nuclear Vow, Govt Defends Coal Plant Plan

Taiwan News: Tsai Holds Firm on Anti-nuclear Vow, Govt Defends Coal Plant Plan
Photo Credit: Reuters / TPG
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President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) is dismissing claims Taiwan should continue to use nuclear energy until the renewable energy industry matures, insisting instead the island will not face power shortages after it goes nuclear-power free by 2025.

The statement comes after former President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) urged the public earlier this week to support two referendum proposals that seek to reject Tsai's policy of decommissioning all Taiwan's nuclear reactors by 2025.

Ma based the call on what he said were doubts as to whether renewable energy will become a viable alternative source of energy.

Speaking at an international forum on new energy Taipei, Tsai described that argument as "specious" and "outworn" and contrary to advanced concepts in energy development.

According to Tsai, Taiwan will not encounter any electricity supply problems after 2025 when it has no nuclear-generated power in its energy-mix portfolio and the transition will make Taiwan's energy system more advanced, resilient and efficient.

Figures from Taiwan's Ministry of Economic Affairs' (MoEA) Bureau of Energy show that in 2017 nuclear power accounted for 8.3 percent of Taiwan's total energy generation while 4.3 percent was sourced from renewables.

The Tsai government aims to raise the proportion generated by renewables to 20 percent by 2025.

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攝影:陳文姿
Economics Minister Shen Jong-chin (left) is defending the government's decision to press ahead with the planned re-opening of the Shenao coal-fired power plant in New Taipei.

Economics Minister Shen Jong-chin (沈榮津) said Thursday that the government will continue to negotiate with residents of New Taipei's Ruifang District as it seeks to allay concerns about the planned re-opening and expansion of the Shenao Power Plant.

According to Chen, it is his office's responsibility to negotiate with the community, with compassion, before going ahead with the plan, which will involve upgrades to the partially demolished facility.

The statement follows reports the Cabinet is now considering stopping expansion work at the plant after the Presidential Office intervened in the matter due to public criticism.

However, the Presidential Office is denying any interference, saying the MoEA is solely responsible for making a decision based on its "authority and professionalism."

The decision earlier this year to re-open the coal-fired plant in order to deal with growing demand for power, with electricity use on Wednesday hitting a record for daily usage, has been heavily criticized as running contrary to the government's environment and energy policies.

The original Shenao Power Plant began operations in 1960 and was decommissioned in 2007, before a new larger facility, expected to increase the electricity generating capacity from 200 MW to 600 MW, was commissioned in 2011.

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The government is set to introduce new relaxed rules on student loans from next month.

According to Cabinet spokesperson Kolas Yotaka, the decision comes after a briefing by the Ministry of Education.

Under current regulations, new graduates are entitled to defer their student loan principle and interest payments for up to one year, while people from certified low or middle-income households or who make less than NT$30,000 (US$978) per month may apply for a grace period of up to four years.

As a result of that briefing, the existing one-year grace period during which all borrowers are required to make only interest payments, can now be extended for up to four years.

During the interest payment period, borrowers will pay a maximum interest rate of 1.15 percent for one to four years depending on the terms of the loan, without being obliged to repay the principal.

The Cabinet spokeswoman said the move is expected to benefit about 90,000 students each year and a total of 500,000 students are likely to benefit over the next nine years.

Vice Education Minister Yao Leeh-ter (姚立德) said it is estimated the new measures will cost NT$600 million in the first year, with the figure peaking at NT$1.54 billion in the ninth year.

The overall cost will drop to NT$1.29 billion annually from the 12th year as a result of the island's declining birth rate.

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Credit: David Green
Unions are campaigning for higher increases in Taiwan's minimum wage for private sector employees.

Officials from the Ministry of Labor are slated to meet labor representatives and business leaders on Aug. 16 in an attempt to reach an agreement on private sector wage hikes.

The meeting comes three months after the Cabinet put forward a series of proposals aimed at improving working conditions for low-paid employees, including a suggestion to raise the hourly minimum wage from the current NT$140 to NT$150.

However, business leaders and labor representatives failed to reach a consensus on a minimum wage increase at the time.

The Taiwan Confederation of Trade Unions is calling for minimum hourly wage to be raised to NT$164 and the minimum monthly wage to be raised from the current NT$22,000 NT$28,862.

However, the Chinese National Federation of Industries, which represents the majority of manufacturers here in Taiwan, said the government should respect market mechanisms and is warning that wage increases will have a negative effect on the job market.

Read More: ANALYSIS: Taiwan Is Better than Selfish Bosses and Their Heartless Wage Threats

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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is recalling 24 million tablets of the heart medicine Valsartan supplied by the Zhuhai Rundu Pharmaceutical in China following confirmation they contain possible cancer-causing ingredients.

The recall was triggered after it was discovered that drugs supplied by the Chinese company contained NDMA, a potential carcinogen.

Four types of medicine are affected.

And the FDA said it could take up to a month before all of the tainted pills are withdrawn from circulation.

The move follows a recall in July when more than 10-million tablets from six types of Valsartan medicine supplied by another Chinese company were also found to tainted by NDMA.

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The government is thanking the U.S. Congress for its bipartisan support in passing an annual defense policy bill that includes provisions supporting Taiwan's defense needs.

Foreign ministry spokesman Andrew Lee (李憲章) said the Tsai administration will continue to work closely with the U.S. government to strengthen security cooperation and ensure peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.

The bill directs the U.S. Secretary of Defense to review, with Taiwan, ways to boost the island's military forces, especially its reserve forces, and to report recommendations and planned actions to Congress within one year.

It includes ways to strengthen bilateral cooperation and seeks to expand U.S.-Taiwan joint training, military sales, security cooperation and senior-level military-to-military engagement.

And it calls for a service secretary or member of the joint chiefs of staff to visit Taiwan, in keeping with the newly-passed Taiwan Travel Act.

The bill also requests timely reviews and action on Taiwan arms sales and reaffirms the Taiwan Relations Act and Six Assurances as being key to Taiwan U.S. relations.

The bill has been sent to President Donald Trump for signing.

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Photo Credit: Reuters / TPG
A soldier salutes (L-R) Director of the Institute for National Security Studies Feng Shih-kuan, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, and Minister of National Defense Yen Teh-fa after the joint military academies graduation ceremony, in Taipei, Taiwan June 29, 2018.

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The National Taiwan University presidential selection committee is continuing to stand-by its election of Kuan Chung-ming (管中閔), saying there were no major flaws in the process used to select the university's president.

According to the committee, it handled Kuan's selection process in accordance with relevant regulations and all the issues raised about the process were addressed and did not impact his qualifications to serve as president.

The committee is also expressing its thanks to efforts by new Education Minister Yeh Jiunn-rong (葉俊榮) to settle the dispute since taking office last month following the sudden resignation of his predecessor, Wu Maw-kuen (吳茂昆) in May.

Speaking to reporters, Yeh said the statement by the university's presidential selection committee represents a gesture of goodwill and progress has been made on finding a resolution to the stalemate.

And the minister went on to say that any resolution should focus on the selection system itself rather than targeting Kuan.

Read More: TAIWAN: Does NTU's Academic Autonomy Rally Reflect Democracy’s Failure?

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The Shilin District Prosecutors' Office said the father of a 21-year-old girl from Hong Kong who police believe was murdered by her boyfriend during a trip to Taiwan in February has now collected her belongings.

Sources said the victim's father also collected the remains of the unborn baby his daughter was carrying at the time of her death.

The victim traveled to Taiwan with her boyfriend in February and the couple checked into the Purple Garden Hotel in Taipei.

Reports have said they had a heated argument, which police believe could have led to the woman's murder.

And the boyfriend is alleged to have dumped the woman's body near Zhuwei MRT Station, where it was found on March 13 after he had already returned to Hong Kong.

An autopsy revealed the remains of the three-month-old fetus.

Prosecutors here in Taiwan have asked the authorities in Hong Kong to provide a sample of the suspect's DNA to confirm whether he was the father, but they have failed to respond to that request.

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The Taipei Department of Health (DoH) has confirmed the city's first indigenous case of dengue fever this year.

Health officials said the patient is a woman who lives in Wenshan District.

She started showing symptoms of fever and diarrhea Sunday, sought medical treatment the following day and was later diagnosed with dengue fever and immediately hospitalized.

The health department said the patient has not traveled abroad for the past 12 months, but had been to an area in New Taipei where dengue fever cases have been reported.

The DoH has conducted inspections of the 488 families who live in the same building as the woman, but found no one else there was suffering symptoms of the disease.

An investigation is ongoing into the source of infection.

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Taiwan is one of the top searches for Asian holiday makers looking for travel destinations, according to the results of a survey by online travel search company Skyscanner.

Taiwan was second in the number of searches in Hong Kong, third in Japan, fifth in China, and sixth in South Korea. And it also ranked high in searches in the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

However, the survey indicates that Taiwan could do more to attract Asian tourists.

Singaporean and Malaysian holiday makers said the lack of halal-certified restaurants is a concern, something that is also reflected in the number of visitors from Indonesia.

Vietnamese and Filipino holiday makers complained that visa applications are inconvenient, while South Koreans cited Taiwan's hot summer weather as being a turnoff to visiting the island.

Read Next: CARTOON: Flagging China's Hypocrisy and Weakness

This news bulletin was provided courtesy of International Community Radio Taipei (ICRT), Taiwan’s leading English-language broadcaster.

Editor David Green (@DavidPeterGreen)