More cross-Straits direct flights soon

Updated: 2009-05-06 07:41

By Liu Yiyu(HK Edition)

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HONG KONG: The frequency of cross-Straits direct flights is likely to be raised to 500 flights per week in the second half of this year, from the current 108 flights per week, Zhang Guozheng, former director of Taiwan's civil aeronautics administration said yesterday.

"The mainland would replace the US as Taiwan's biggest consumer market after direct transportation links are established," said Zhang.

Zhang's remarks came on heels of last month's signing of an agreement between the two sides providing for an increase in the frequency of flights to 270 per week from the current 108 flights per week.

Prospects of a substantial expansion in cross-Straits direct flights also came in the wake of Taiwan leader Ma Ying Jeou's recent speech in which he called for an increase in the volume to 540 flights per week in order to meet rising demands.

The agreement also called for a conversion from the current chartered flights to scheduled flights which would be allowed to carry small- sized cargo.

Apart from direct passenger flights, the two sides agreed on direct freight flights last year at a pace of 30 flights per week, the results of which are undesirable because most of the goods delivered between the mainland and Taiwan are small enough to be loaded onto regular passenger flights, according to Zhang. The increasing weekly flights would meet such demands, he added.

Responding to questions on the impact to Hong Kong of the forging of direct transport links between Taiwan and the mainland, Zhang said Hong Kong has many advantages such as its well-established financial system and service industry while Taiwan excels in technology and manufacturing.

The two sides should bring out their best under the scheme of building the Greater China Economic Region, he said.

The closer ties between Taiwan and the mainland will pave the way for the formation of the Greater China Economic Region, in which Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macao and the mainland could each assume specific roles with the use of their respective comparative advantages that will result in a win-win situation for everyone, he said.

"Regional competitiveness is a current international trend. As a whole economic region, we are facing the challenge of competing with other counterparts," said Tang Ji-zong, director at Macau Association of Economic Sciences.

(HK Edition 05/06/2009 page16)