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Cabinet OKs air safety board
2003-10-23 / Taiwan News, Staff Reporter / By Dennis Engbarth

The Democratic Progressive Party-led Cabinet approved yesterday two draft bills that would mandate the establishment of an independent government commission to investigate air transportation accidents.

Premier Yu Shyi-kun (´å¿ü堃) said the newly-approved draft "Law for the Investigation of Aviation Incidents" and revisions to the "Civil Aeronautics Law" would be submitted to the Legislative Yuan as "priority bills" given their importance to public safety.

Yu stated that Taiwan's capabilities in investigating aviation accidents had gradually improved and received international affirmation.

But the premier observed that "the legal standing and organization" of the existing Aviation Safety Council "needs a new breakthrough if it is to secure further recognition internationally."

The ASC is still not legally fully independent from the Civil Aeronautics Administration of the Ministry for Transportation and Communications,

The premier said the new organization would boost the "professionalism, public credibility and independence" of the ASC and allow Taiwan's aviation safety investigation functions to become more robust and effective.

Cabinet Spokesman Lin Chia-lung (ªL¨ÎÀs) noted that Taiwan's investigation system for major aviation accidents is fairly sound in the fields of investigation of legal or criminal liability through the judicial system and review of administrative responsibility through the CAA under the authority of the civil aeronautics law.

However, Lin noted that the existing legal framework does not allow for a truly independent investigation function, such as exercised by the National Transportation Safety Board in the United States or the Transportation Safety Board in Canada.

Moreover, the existing legal authority does not offer effective deterrent penalties to prevent airlines or airline personnel from delaying reports of accidents, withholding information or providing false information to investigators, the spokesman said.

Lin stated that the future "Aviation Safety Board" would become a "professional and depoliticized independent agency."

The draft aviation safety law would grant the commission the power to investigate accidents involving civil or public aircraft, the power to issue information regarding aviation accidents and oblige the new agency to report such accidents to international transportation safety organizations.

The new agency will enjoy priority in taking custody of information and material related to air accidents and, through commissioning prosecutors, the powers to search and investigate related information on victims and passengers and review and issue reports.

The draft law would prescribe fines of between NT$600,000 to NT$3 million on aircraft owners or users for failure to provided requested assistance in an officially mandated aircraft accident investigation and NT$500,000 to NT$2.5 million penalties for aircraft owners or users who provide false information.

A spokesman for the Cabinet-level ASB stated that the existing agency, which was established five years ago, must carry out its investigations based on the civil aviation law and thus lacks effective credibility and independence.

According to the Central News Agency, the spokesman related that the most serious problems faced by Taiwan air safety inspectors include delays or lack of cooperation from airlines in reporting incidents, providing incorrect information or refusing to be interviewed.

If the new legislation is approved, the reformed Aviation Safety Commission would have sufficient authority to ensure cooperation from airlines and related personnel and become a "professional, depoliticized and independent" body.

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