Premier Frank Hsieh said August 1 that if all goes well, the outlying island county of Penghu may be opened for direct point-to-point shipping services across the Taiwan Strait on an experimental basis, starting in September at the earliest, Asian Pulse reported. Hsieh made the remarks after attending the inaugural ceremony for Penghu National University - the county's first university.
Since the government opened the two frontline islands of Kinmen and Matsu for direct point-to-point shipping service with the southeastern Chinese province of Fujian, some Penghu political figures have been urging the government to open Penghu for similar direct services with a selected Chinese port. According to Hsieh, if the Penghu county government comes up with an application for such services, the application is very likely to be approved.
Taiwan still bans direct cross-strait transport links due to national security concerns, but Hsieh said the government can give a green light
to Penghu's application on an experimental basis, in line with the formula adopted for opening direct Kinmen-Xiamen and Matsu-Mawei shipping services.
Hsieh said it would take one or two months for the government to complete screening of such an application, so if all goes well, the services could kick off in September at the earliest. After a period of experimental operations, Hsieh said, the arrangements could be formalized as long as no flaws become apparent. Responding to Hsieh's remarks, Mainland Affairs Council Vice Chairman Liu Teh-hsun said the government once allowed a group of Penghua pilgrims to make a direct voyage to Xiamen to visit several Chinese temples in 2002.
Starting in September, Liu said the government may allow Penghu residents with business interests in China to make direct voyages to Xiamen from Penghu.
As to some Penghu people's call for allowing the county to serve as a cross-strait cargo transshipment entrepot, Liu said the proposal is infeasible under the current regulations. In the future, he said, the government may revise relevant regulations to allow Penghu to be a transshipment point.