The China Post news staff
TAIPEI, Taiwan — Taxi drivers in Taipei yesterday surrounded the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC), demanding that the government crack down on illegal taxicab operations and revise the rates for taxi fares. Organizers affiliated with the drivers claimed that a total of 1,200 taxicabs were mobilized, bringing traffic on a section of Renai Rd. to a standstill. The protesting taxi drivers departed from Sanchong District (三重) and Luzhou District (蘆洲) in New Taipei City at approximately 2 p.m. and drove to the MOTC headquarters. According to organizers, roughly 1,200 taxicabs converged at the ministry, causing serious traffic congestion on the section between Zhongshan S. Rd. (中山南路) and Xinsheng S. Rd. (新生南路) on Renai Rd. Several taxi drivers burned their licenses on sight as a sign of protest, while roughly 200 police officers were on standby around the MOTC headquarters. According to the authorities, approximately 750 taxicabs had gathered at the ministry by 2:40 p.m. Protesters were seen carrying signs, demanding that officials step down and that the transportation minister meet with them personally. According to representatives of the protesters, illegal taxicab operations were relying on smartphone apps to lure passengers. Protesters drew particular attention to a company called UBER. Representatives demanded that the government set a monthly target on the number of illegal taxicab operations it intends on busting, in order to protect the rights of licensed taxi drivers. According to the representatives, when the new highway toll collection system was put in place, Transportation Minister Yeh Kuang-shih (葉匡時) had promised to revise the rates for taxi fares, a promise that has yet to be fulfilled. Representatives also demanded that the retirement age for taxi drivers be pushed back in accordance with the Employment Service Act (就業服務法).
Ministry Response The MOTC told reporters that it is actively looking into the demands of the protesters. With regard to illegal taxicab operations, officials explained that the ministry had convened a meeting on the subject with union representatives and the relevant authorities on July 3. Regarding the demand to push back the retirement age, the MOTC said that the health requirements for professional drivers has to be strict to ensure safety. The ministry said, however, that it has collected relevant data and submitted it to medical experts for consultation, adding that it will convene a meeting in the latter of half of this year to discuss the possibility of revising the retirement age. Regarding the issue of taxi fares, the MOTC said that the matter is currently being discussed, and that an announcement is slated to be made by the end of August.