Penghu’s Taipei Liaison Office Successfully Lobbies Central Government for Relaxation of Relief Criteria and Incentives for Domestic Tourism to Offshore Islands
Penghu County Government 2020-04-29 278
On the morning of April 28, Penghu County Magistrate Feng-wei Lai dispatched Director Chi-yu Chen from the county’s Taipei Liaison Office to convene a relief coordination meeting with the Legislative Yuan and central government bodies. Chen said that the Ministry of Transportation and Communications has agreed at the urging of the county government to relax the subsidy criteria for tour leaders, tour guides, and citizen travel support staff. Rent for operators of aquatic activities will be reduced and additional subsidies will be directed to offshore islands in proposals for revitalization of domestic tourism.
Chen emphasized that 50% of the county’s population is employed in the tourism sector. The current epidemic has seen the number of visitors to Penghu drop by 160,000 between January and April this year compared to the same time last year - a drop of nearly 60%. Penghu County has very distinct peak and off-peak tourism seasons as well so the industry’s circumstances are quite different to that of Taiwan proper. The central government should therefore not apply a one-size-fits-all approach on subsidies to Penghu.
According to Chen, more than 300 people in Penghu work as tour guides, tour leaders or support staff for citizen tour groups. The offshore islands have more limitations than Taiwan proper so he hoped that the MOTC will relax its subsidy criteria. The MOTC agreed after some lobbying to relax the eligibility to tour guides and tour leaders that serviced at least 8 tour groups or worked for more than 40 days over the past year, while support staff of citizen tour groups are those who have serviced more than 40 groups or worked for more than 80 days over the past year. Those who fit the above criteria may apply for a subsidy of NT$10,000 per month for three consecutive months if they can provide proof of tour group work issued by travel agencies.
The MOTC representative said that they have agreed to provide rent relief/reduction to operators of aquatic activities that lease their venue from the Penghu National Scenic Area Administration. Their lease may also be extended depending on the circumstances. Due to uncertainty over which agency has jurisdiction over marine platform and jet ski rentals. The matter will be submitted to the relief platform of the Executive Yuan for discussion as a special case.
In response to the County Government’s push for additional offshore island subsidies in the domestic tourism revitalization plan, the Tourism Bureau representative promised that they will use the last year’s fall and winter domestic travel subsidy program as a guide to provide additional accommodation benefits for offshore islands. The details are still being drawn up but is expected to be announced after the epidemic ends
Chen said that the epidemic has seriously hurt Penghu’s specialty produce, cultural creativity and small retailers. He hoped that the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) can follow the MOTC's lead in relaxing the criteria for subsidies to bed
breakfast operators The MOEA representative said that any operator with a tax serial number that can provide proof their turnover has decreased by 50% can apply for an one-time subsidy of NT$10,000 per permanent employee, and a subsidy equal to 40% of a permanent employee’s monthly salary (up to NT$20,000 per month) for up to 3 months. Information sessions on relief measures will be hosted by MOEA in Penghu shortly.
Aquaculture operators have petitioned the County Government asking for the Council of Agriculture (COA) to relax the collateral requirements for fishery industry relief loans and extend the repayment terms. The COA Bureau of Agricultural Finance (BOAF) indicated that fishermen with no collateral can apply through fishermen’s associations for special consideration by the Agricultural Credit Guarantee Fund. The BOAF will not only provide the fisherman’s associations with interest subsidies but also supplement this with 0.5% in administrative fees to encourage fishermen’s association to underwrite relief loans for fishermen. For fishermen having difficulty making their repayments due to the impact of the epidemic, fishermen’s associations have been authorized to extend repayments after a review.
As for the County Government’s call for the COA to provide special subsidies on the delivery of fishery products to Taiwan, fishery product processing fees, as well as the building of processing plants and cold-chain logistics, the official from the COA Fisheries Agency said that the County Government should submit the marketing plan to the Fishery Agency for assessment of subsidies.
Chen also said that as Penghu has no official night market, local vendors wanted the MOEA to relax the restrictions on use of stimulus coupons in offshore islands to help Penghu’s industry. MOEA agreed that the County Government can submit retail districts and night markets for inclusion. All stores or hawkers within the areas designated by the County Government can then accept stimulus coupons.
On April 28, the KMT Caucus of the Legislative Yuan convened a meeting for Penghu County Government to coordinate with the central government on relief matters. Chi-yu Chen was appointed by Magistrate Lai as the county representative at the meeting. Attendees included Councilor Mi-hsuan Huang from the Magong City Council, and Tzu-yang Lin, the representative for young entrepreneurs in Penghu. Official representatives included MOTC, MOEA, COA, Ministry of Labor Affairs, and the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics of Executive Yuan.