Upgrades for Matsu airports not for casino business: CAA
Central News Agency
2013-05-04 09:45 PM
Taipei, May 4 (CNA) The Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) said Saturday that its plan to improve two small airports on the outlying island of Matsu was drawn up to meet transportation needs and not for the development of the casino business there. The explanation was given in response to casino business operators, who have called for the government to expand Matsu's Beigan Airport to accommodate passenger jets with larger passenger capacities, rather than the smaller turboprops that all the airports can currently handle. They issued the call after the Cabinet approved a draft bill May 2 that regulates casinos and governs their operations, paving the way for the establishment of Taiwan's first casino resort on Matsu, a group of islands that lies closer to China than to Taiwan proper. The CAA under the Ministry of Transportation and Communications stressed that the Beigan Airport improvement plan was drawn up to meet Matsu people's demands for more efficient air links between Taiwan and their island. The CAA delivered the plan to the ministry in late April for approval. Under the plan, Beigan Airport will be upgraded from a 2C classification to 3C. To meet the 3C criteria, Beigan's runway must be lengthened from the current 1,150 meters to between 1,200 meters and 1,800 meters. In addition, the terminal's navigational systems must also be improved so that the minimum visibility requirement can be reduced from 2,400 meters to between 1,600 meters and 2,000 meters, so that the percentage of flights disrupted by fog or other weather conditions can be reduced. The cost of the upgrades is estimated at some NT$8 billion (US$268 million). The planned improvements, however, are limited in that despite the airport's upgrade to 3C, it will remain able to only accommodate propeller aircraft, although of a slightly larger size, allowing passenger capacity to be increased from 56 people per flight to 72, according to the CAA. Regarding calls for a 4C-class airport, the CAA said such an upgrade would need funds of about NT$10 billion. Irrespective of the financial problems, developing the casino business on Matsu and caring for people's transportation needs are two "completely different" things, a CAA spokesman said. If the upgrade is about the gaming sector, "it should be those in the business who should do something about it," the official said. A United States-based company, Weidner Resorts, has expressed serious interest in building a casino resort on Matsu. Apart from the Beigan Airport improvement project, the CAA has been working to upgrade the navigational systems of the Nangan Airport, the second of the two airports on Mastu, to allow nighttime take-offs from the hillside airport. (By Wang Shu-fen and Elizabeth Hsu)
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