Taipei, Most of the fines levied on foreign travelers caught bringing meat products in their luggage have so far been paid, a senior official with the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine (BAPHIQ) said Monday.
In light of the African swine fever (ASF) outbreak in China, the government has been imposing fines on travelers who bring meat products from infected areas into Taiwan, as part of growing nationwide efforts to prevent the virus from entering the country.
In order to better protect Taiwan's pig farming sector from the ASF threat, the Council of Agriculture (COA) on Dec. 18 raised fines for pork smuggling from NT$50,000 to NT$200,000 for first-time offenders and from NT$500,000 to NT$1 million for repeat offenders.
Around 80 percent of the fines issued to foreigners bringing meat products into the country have so far been paid, BAPHIQ official Kao Huang-lin told a news conference held by New Power Party Legislator Huang Kuo-chang
Huang, who had expressed concern that foreign visitors penalized for violating regulations could leave the country without settling their fines, slammed the government, saying that while it can levy billions of dollars in fines, it is pointless if none of them pay up.
Fines that should serve as a warning instead become bad debts, Huang said.
In response, Kao said that foreign travelers fined for bringing in meat products have 30 days to settle their payments, and that Taiwan's overseas representative offices and embassies will assist the authorities in pursuing any unpaid fines after the travelers leave the country.
The BAPHIQ official, however, failed to elaborate on a question posed by the NPP legislator regarding the total amount the government has so far collected from the fines issued to foreign passengers.
As of Dec. 23, 28 people had been fined for bringing meat products into the country, 17 of whom received the NT$50,000 fine prior to Dec. 18, while 11 were slapped with the heftier NT$200,000 fine, according to statistics published on the BAPHIQ website.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel