The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said Thursday it is considering lifting some of the restrictions related to its COVID-19 coronavirus prevention efforts, as Taiwan has recorded no new cases for the fifth consecutive day, leaving the total number at 429.
The CECC will start discussions with the relevant government agencies and civic organizations about gradually relaxing some of the COVID-19 restrictions in areas such as sports, cultural activities and restaurant dining.
Presumably they will wait until there have been 14 or more days with no new domestic cases.
The economy grew in Q1
Taiwan’s economy expanded a mild 1.54 percent last quarter from a year earlier, thanks to government spending and private investment, as the COVID-19 pandemic affected consumer activity, the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS) said yesterday.
The growth rate missed the agency’s forecast in February by 0.26 percentage points and was the lowest in 15 quarters, as Taiwan was not spared the impact of the pandemic.
The seasonally adjusted annual rate shrank 5.91 percent, suggesting heightened risks of a technical recession if the gauge stays in negative territory for two straight quarters.
The quarterly report indicated that government expenditure increased 3.67 percent annually during the January-to-March period, contributing 0.48 percentage points to GDP growth in the first quarter.
National Security Bureau claims Kim Jong-un is ill
Turns out Kim Jong-un is alive, but ill–at least according to the National Security Bureau (NSB) Director-General Chiu Kuo-cheng (邱國正).
He was briefing lawmakers, who asked about Kim.
Chiu said that the North Korean leader had fallen ill.
DPP Legislator Tsai Shih-ying (蔡適應) asked “So [Kim] has been sick, but he is still alive?”.
Chiu smiled and did not elaborate.
DPP Legislator Wang Ding-wu (王定宇) also asked about Kim’s condition.
“My answer is from the intelligence that is available and it is not an opinion,” Chiu said.
After Chiu left the meeting, KMT Legislator Lu Yu-ling (呂玉玲) asked how the bureau knew that Kim was sick, but still alive.
NSB Deputy Director-General Hu Mu-yuan (胡木源) said that Chiu’s answer was based on media reports and not his opinion.
International outlets like the New York Post picked up on the story.
This whole incident begs the question, does Taiwan have spies or sources in North Korea?
Filipina deportation saga continues
The saga of a Taichung-based Philippine labor official trying to get a local Filipina deported for posting on Facebook her displeasure at Philippine President Duterte doesn’t seem to want to die.
The local defacto ambassador has apologized, and said the labor official was acting on his own.
The Philippine Labor Secretary appears–after having initially appeared to back his underling–to have backed down, saying he “has to respect” Taiwan’s decision not to deport her.
However, the matter of Duterte presidential spokesman Harry Roque saying the matter was for Taiwan and China to deal with remains ongoing.
The presidential spokesman on Thursday stood by his remark that Taiwan is part of China, which drew “strong dissatisfaction and high regret” from Taipei.
“We’ve always had one position in this regard, together with many countries of the world. I’ll leave it at that,” Roque said in an online Palace briefing.
For more on this story, check out Cat Thomas’ second piece on this subject on Ketagalan Media, which is linked to from our website Report.tw
Giant Matsu heads on the way?
The Penghu County Government has announced a public tender of NT$4 million for assembling the head of what they hope will eventually be the world’s largest statue of Matsu.
Critics say Penghu County Commissioner Lai Feng-wei’s (賴峰偉) administration is using the pandemic as an excuse to restart the Matsu project on Dacang Island (大倉島).
Nine years ago, then-Penghu county commissioner Wang Chien-fa (王乾發) decided to borrow a large sum of money to construct what was to be the world’s tallest Matsu statue.
His successor, former Penghu county commissioner Chen Kuang-fu (陳光復), halted the project, but Lai decided to restart it, triggering a signature drive by NGOs to try to get a referendum to oppose the completion of the project.
This is not the only “world’s largest Matsu” statue project in the works.
During the Mayor Jason Hu era in Taichung, a statue plan was hatched to build the world’s largest Matsu statue south of the famous Dachia Jenn Lann Matsu Temple in the Daan District, overlooking the route of the famous Matsu pilgrimage and gazing towards her homeland in Fujian.
He failed to get the full statue bill through city council, in part over objections from Christian groups over using taxpayer money on a religious project.
However, he did get NT$600 funding for a Matsu culture park and a building that would also serve as the statue base–which is half of the original budget including the statue.
He had hoped to raise private funding for the statue itself, but that project wasn’t successful.
The park and the statue base were completed during Mayor Lin Chia-lung’s term, but he showed now interest in the statue.
In the last couple of weeks, however, current Taichung Mayor Lu Shiow-yen and some city KMT lawmakers have said they plan to revive the project.
If they succeed in getting it passed through city council and they follow the original plan, they would spend NT$600 million and the statue would be 70 meters tall.
Of course, all of this is very political.
The stated reasons are to promote tourism and put their localities “on the map” so to speak, though not sure if a decapitated Matsu head is going to be much of a draw in Penghu until they finish the whole thing.
The key to understanding this is that both the mayor of Taichung and the Penghu County Commissioner are of the KMT.
The KMT and the Chinese Communist Party have long used the Matsu religion to build ties across the strait, as Matsu also has a strong following there, especially along the southeast coast of China.
It is used ideologically to promote the idea of Taiwanese and Chinese being one happy Chinese family.
Temples are also frequently funded from China, with the obligation to promote a pro-China annexation agenda.
Aside from local tourists and some from Southeast Asia, the biggest part of the plan was–in Taichung at least and probably in Penghu–to draw more tourists from China and make Taichung the global mecca for Matsu tourism, which apparently is a thing.
It is unclear why both governments chose now to revive these plans, but perhaps with the coronavirus crisis going on, Matsu has been very much on their minds.
Photo of Dachia Jenn Lann Matsu Temple by Courtney Donovan Smith