The new mayor of Taoyuan says the project is viable, but needs more transparency and public involvement.
When preparing the report that appeared in the August issue last year on the massive infrastructure development project known as the Taoyuan Aerotropolis, Taiwan Business TOPICS solicited the views of Cheng Wen-tsan (鄭文燦), then the Democratic Progressive Party candidate hoping to become the first mayor of Taoyuan City after the former Taoyuan County’s elevation to the status of special municipality. During the interview, Cheng made clear that he supported the overall concept of the Aerotropolis project, but disagreed with the way it was being implemented.
Though considered the underdog, Cheng swept to victory over incumbent John Wu of the Kuomintang in the balloting last November. TOPICS recently called on him in the mayor’s office to check on the status of the project after the change in administration. The mayor stressed his desire to put the project on a firmer footing, with broader public support, even though building that foundation will mean slowing down the timetable somewhat.
Noting the widespread public criticism of the project in the past, including suspicions that it was enabling special interests to profit from land speculation, Cheng said the new watchwords are transparency and public involvement. Transparency will include the posting on the Internet of price and other information for all land transactions. The role of the semi-official Taoyuan Aerotropolis Co. has also been adjusted to enable the government to exercise greater oversight. The city has now taken over direct responsibility for land acquisition, leaving the corporation with the assignment of investment promotion.
To assure greater public engagement by local residents, numerous rounds of hearings will be held covering the entire land area under the city government’s authority – not just the land currently zoned for agricultural use, for which hearings are mandated under the law. “People have a lot of different opinions and I hope they can all be expressed,” says Cheng. “I’m not afraid of hearing different points of view because the result should be a stronger plan that more people can accept.”
Suggestions will also be sought from prospective investors through a series of forums starting this year for various industry sectors. “In order to come up with the most practical plans, we need to hear suggestions from the private sector and understand their requirements,” says Cheng. Through the forums, for example, he hopes to learn whether a second cargo terminal is needed and whether the facilities planned for logistics operations and aircraft maintenance are adequate.
To ensure proper coordination between the local and central governments – the Ministry of Transportation and Communications is responsible for the airport itself (referred to as the “egg yolk”), while Taoyuan is in charge of planning for development of the surrounding area (the “egg white”) – Cheng is proposing establishment of an office jointly staffed by the two levels of government.
Another of Cheng’s ideas is to incorporate a plan for development of the area around the Taoyuan High Speed Rail station in Chingpu into the Aerotropolis project. The Chingpu plan calls for creation of a Taoyuan World Trade Center with conference and exhibition facilities, as well as office space for rent to “Taishang,” Taiwanese businessmen with operations in China who may also need a base in Taiwan. Incentives will also be offered for the construction of five-star hotels in the zone.