Taiwan News: Military Pension Bill Passes, Earthquake Rocks Taichung

Taiwan News: Military Pension Bill Passes, Earthquake Rocks Taichung
Photo Credit: Reuters / TPG

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Your daily bulletin of Taiwan news, courtesy of ICRT.

Lawmakers have passed a third reading of the government's pension reform bill for retired military officers and non-commissioned officers after a final vote on the controversial bill at 11:30 p.m. last night.

Under the bill, the focus of passionate protest during earlier readings, the base rate for military pensions will be set at NT$38,990 (US$1,292) per month after 20 years of service.

While the repayment rate is set at 55 percent of the monthly salary at that point, it will increase by 2 percent annually, depending on the length of time retired personnel served in the armed forces. Lawmakers have also agreed to scrap the the 18 percent preferential interest rate on savings accounts over a period of 10 years.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislative caucus whip Ho Xin-chun said her party is pleased lawmakers finally reached consensus on the bill despite the angry scenes that have marred recent legislative committee meetings, as well as the streets outside the Legislative Yuan, Taiwan's parliament.

Kuomintang legislative caucus secretary-general Li Yan-xiu said her party tried hard to protect the rights of retired members of the military and made every effort to address their concerns during legislative discussions on the pension reform bill.

However, People First Party legislative caucus whip, Li Hong-jun voiced concern about the bill passing its third reading, telling reporters he believes the pension reforms will result in less people choosing a career in the military as a result of the reduced incentives.

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No damage or injuries are being reported following a magnitude 4.2 earthquake that rattled the Taichung area this morning.

The quake struck at 1:09 a.m. and was centered 26 km east-northeast of Taichung City Hall at a depth of 33 km.

It was felt strongest in Taichung's Wufeng and Dadu districts as well as in parts of Changhua, Nantou and Yunlin counties – where it registered a magnitude 2 on the Central Weather Bureau's intensity scale. The quake was also felt in parts in Miaoli and Hualien counties where it registered a magnitude 1 on the scale.

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蔡英文總統
Photo Credit: 蔡英文總統臉書
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen is concerned over the potential negative impacts of a US-China trade war on Taiwan.

President Tsai Ing-wen has met with National Security Council (NSC) Secretary General David Lee to discuss the possible impact of a trade war between the United States and China.

According to Presidential Office spokesman Alex Huang, the meeting was a result of the president's concern over the potential knock-on effect of a trade war between the two powers.

The NSC has established a task force to monitor developments amid growing tension between the world's two largest economies and Tsai is requesting the council outline a series of response measures.

Analysis suggests that a 25 percent tariff announced by the U.S. on US$50 billion worth of Chinese imports, primarily focused on vehicle and machine parts and vegetables, will have little effect on Taiwan's related industries and Taiwanese companies based in China.

However, there is concern Taiwan's economy could be impacted if the the Trump administration follows through with threats to levy a 10 percent tariff on US$200 billion worth of "list two" Chinese goods such as petrochemical products, semiconductor products, car parts, and machine tools.

President Trump has threatened to escalate the tariff war if he does not see evidence of China rectifying what he deems to be unfair trade and intellectual property practices.

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The Unregulated Masses arts group, already the focus of scrutiny following the murder and dismemberment of a 30-year old woman at the Huashan Grasslands site the group is occupying in Taipei, is under further pressure over allegations members of the group trespassed on a disused stretch of rail line near Huashan Creative Park.

The underground track is reserved for use by firefighters seeking to evacuate people in the event of an incident or an emergency.

Photographs of what is being described as an illegal party have surfaced online and the Taiwan Railways Administration has said people found to have trespassed on a fenced off section of track will face fines of up to NT$50,000. Police are also involved in the investigation.

Unregulated Masses denies responsibility for the party, which occurred in the early hours of Saturday morning, saying it was a private event organized by members of the group.

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DPP lawmaker Luo Zhi-zheng is calling on the government to hold further discussions regarding plans for possible litigation to stop Beijing pressuring international airlines to designate Taiwan as part of China.

According to Luo, the government needs to properly review the proposals to take legal action against the airlines as any legal challenge could prove expensive and time consuming.

In late April 2018, Beijing issued a directive to 44 foreign air carriers demanding that they change their designation of Taiwan on their website to “Taiwan, China.” Some 18 carriers, including Air Canada, Lufthansa, British Airways, Finnair, Garuda Indonesia, Asiana Airlines, and Philippine Airlines succumbed to the demands before an initial May 25 deadline. The remainder have until an extended deadline of July 25 to comply.

Luo, who serves on the Legislative Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee, says the government needs to clarify who suffers most from Beijing's actions and look into when to file a possible lawsuit.

And the lawmaker says the government must also consider whether such a lawsuit should be filed at the World Trade Organization or in the countries where the carriers are located.

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Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expressing his thanks to Taiwan for its sympathy and support following Monday's magnitude 6.1 earthquake that struck Osaka and neighboring prefectures. Abe has taken to Twitter to express his thanks.

Writing in Chinese, the Japanese prime minister said "hard times reveal true friendship" and he thanked "the many old friends" in Taiwan for their support.

Abe's Tweet came after President Tsai Ing-wen took to Twitter earlier this week to extended her condolences.

Tsai tweeted she hopes the people injured in the earthquake will recover, that affected areas will return to normal as soon as possible and "in times of need, Taiwan is always ready to help."

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蔡英文  李登輝
Photo Credit:蔡英文 Tsai Ing-wen
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen sits with her predecessor in the post, Lee Teng-hui.

Former President Lee Teng-hui is warning about over-reliance on China. Lee said that economic incentives being offered by Beijing are part of a policy to create subsidies that serve its political agenda.

In an interview published by the New York Times Chinese-language website, Lee said Taiwan's economy has become over-reliant on China and Beijing's agenda is to make the island's economy less competitive by sapping the nation's top talent.

According to Lee, while people in Taiwan have political freedom, they will lose economic freedom and autonomy if Taiwan becomes increasingly beholden to doing business with China.

And the former president went on to say that Taiwan cannot ignore the risks of losing its economic and political autonomy, otherwise it may become an economic colony of China.

Despite the Tsai administration's New Southbound Policy, designed to wean Taiwan's economy off reliance on China in favor of improved trade and other relations with countries in Southeast Asia and South Asia, Taiwan's exports to China in March stood at US$13.4 billion, up 30.9 percent year on year, and representing a a record high of 44.8 percent of the country's total exports.

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Environmental activists are calling on state-owned Taiwan Power Company (Taipower) to scrap plans to build a new nuclear waste storage facilty in New Taipei.

The call comes just over a month after the Supreme Administrative Court ruled that construction of the outdoor site did not meet environmental standards because Taipower modified its original plans.

However, the Atomic Energy Council, the independent agency responsible for atomic safety in Taiwan, has yet to revoke Taipower's permit for the facility, leading environmental groups to caution that the state-generator could move forward with its plans at a later date.

The facility was slated to be built at the Second Nuclear Power Plant in Wanli District and used to store spent fuel rods after the plant is decommissioned sometime between 2021 and 2023.

Taipower has said the outdoor storage facility will only be used temporally while an indoor dry storage area undergoes construction.

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

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Editor: David Green