Premier Jiang Yi-huah yesterday morning said he has decided to appoint the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) to gather and sort out the entire nation's underground petrochemical pipeline network information, and then to establish a management system to avoid a similar occurrence to the Kaohsiung explosions from happening again.
Jiang said that a cross-ministry meeting, held yesterday afternoon, would discuss the issue, noting that such a management system would help local governments to determine which petrochemical pipelines need to be relocated and which pipes can stay in place.
Cabinet spokesman Sun Lih-chyun, however, after the meeting yesterday afternoon said to reporters that he did not know the premier had revealed such a proposal. Sun later confirmed with the premier and told The China Post that Jiang decided on his own to establish the national pipeline management system, and that he did not bring his proposal up for discussion during the cross-ministry meeting.
When asked which governmental agency should manage the nation's underground petrochemical pipeline network, Sun responded by saying that there are "a lot" of regulations set up by different governmental agencies to regulate the country's underground pipelines. The spokesman further said that the Executive Yuan will not propose a new law to regulate the nation's underground pipelines.
Sun quoted the premier, saying that a consultation team consisting of 10 domestic experts will be formed under the Executive Yuan to provide professional opinions regarding the safety of the nation's underground pipeline network for future reference.
Kaoshiung Should Pay for Rebuild First: Executive Yuan
Kaohsiung City Secretary-General Lee Rui-tsang yesterday said that based on an initial estimate, the cost for rebuilding the damaged roads and sewers for the port city will be at least NT$1.9 billion, stressing that the city will need more than that number to rebuild the damaged infrastructure and compensate the victims. In order to assist the victims in getting their lives back on track as soon as possible, Lee said he hopes the premier can allocate a special budget for the tasks.
In response, Sun said Kaohsiung should first use its own emergency funds, its annual budget and the donations that came from every corner of the nation to rebuild the city. If the aforementioned approaches are not sufficient to rebuild the damaged sections of the city, the Executive Yuan will "definitely" give a hand to Kaohsiung, Sun said.
Kaohsiung Knows Its Pipeline Network Better: Cabinet
Kaohsiung City Mayor Chen Chu was quoted by the Liberty Times as urging the MOEA to disclose the city's underground petrochemical pipeline network information to the public. Chen stressed that people have the right to know.
In response to Chen's demand, Cabinet spokesman Sun said that since 1993 every local government has set had a division to handle pipeline management for its city. Sun further explained that every pipeline installed underground requires the city government's approval and has to pay for the pipeline construction.
Sun said, therefore, the local governments know better than the central government when it comes to the underground pipe network information. Sun went on to say that the local government has right to disclose the petrochemical pipeline locations to the public, noting that such issue is not for the central government to decide.
An official at the Executive Yuan, who refused to be named, said that it is not a surprise that the local governments choose not to disclose the locations of petrochemical pipelines to the public. "Who would want to let people know that there is a petrochemical pipe underneath their luxury house?" the source said, noting that there would also be national security issues if petrochemical pipes are beneath a military installation.