Thursday, August 5, 2010

Su Tseng-chang and Tsai Ing-wen: How Do You Intend to Clean Up the Central Taiwan Science Park Mess?

Su Tseng-chang and Tsai Ing-wen:How Do You Intend to Clean Up the Central Taiwan Science Park Mess?
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
August 5, 2010

Construction has been halted on Phase 3 of the Central Taiwan Science Park. What do Su Tseng-chang and Tsai Ing-wen have to say for themselves? This is not a hypothetical question. The reason we are demanding answers from them, is their role in the Seven Stars Farm Environmental Impact Assessment dispute. Afer all, forceful intervention by these two during their terms as premier and deputy premier created this mess in the first place. The Administrative Court has ordered the project halted. The industries impacted face hundreds of billions in losses. Clearly those responsible for creating this mess have an oblgation to explain themselves and help clean it up.

Back then the Chen administration was promoting its "Two Trillion, Three Stars" plan, and promoted the Central Taiwan Science Park full force. It allow AUO to move in after only 10 months. Su Tseng-chang single-handedly masterminded Phase 3. The EPA Bureau Chief at the time was environmental activist Chang Kuo-lung. Tsai Ing-wen personally telephoned Environmental Impact Assessment Commission members to "express concern for the project." The project was rammed through amidst intense controversy, leading to continued litigation. Two and a half years ago, the High Administrative Court squelched an Environmental Impact Assessment for the first time in history. The government refused to halt construction on the project, and rejected further appeals. The party in power at the time was the DPP. The record is clear to see. Yet the Green Camp and the DPP are now attempting to use the controversy to accuse the Blue Camp of indifference to environmental protection and contempt for the law, in flagrant defiance of the truth.

Governmental decision-making must of course have consistency and continuity. If the KMT were to characterize its plight as "being forced to wipe the DPP's ass," we would not approve. But when the government's plans for industrial development conflict with environmental protection, the successor administration and the ruling and opposition parties must face facts and seek solutions. They must not use the opportunity to engage in muck-raking or complicate issues by politicizing them. They certainly must not mire the public in a debate over "economic growth vs. environmental protection." They must insist on environmental sustainability while protecting the rights and interests of business. The government must not default on its responsibilities, and the opposition party must not attempt to fish in troubled waters.

A string of events seem to suggest an increase in environmental awareness on Taiwan. These include protests by farmers from DaPu, protests by farmers from Hsiang Shi Liao and the Seven Star Farm over the Central Taiwan Science Park, protests over the fire at the Formosa Plastics Sixth Naphtha Cracking Plant, and protests over the Kuo Kuang Eighth Naphtha Cracking Plant. Closer examination however reveals that the motivations in each case were not the same. The backlash from farmers in Dapu and Hsiang Shi Liao was a reaction to the heavy-handed application of eminent domain. Public suspicions concerning Phase 3 of the Central Taiwan Science Park and the Kuo Kuang Petrochemical Plant were the result of a sloppy Environmental Impact Assessment. Concerns about the Formosa Plastics Sixth Naphtha Cracking Plant arose in response to poor internal management practices and gaps in industrial safety measures.

As we can see, the current wave of environmental protests was the result of inept administrative practices by the previous two administrations. These left the public with the impression that the government "favors industry at the expense of agriculture." Secondly, a number of industries failed to fulfill their commitments, and left the public feeling betrayed. There was no wave of "anti-business" sentiment. The question that must be asked is whether past or present administrations abused their authority and failed to follow procedure. These administrations must pay closer attention, and respect the rights of minorities. Industry must set higher standards for itself. It must not blindly pursue profits and ignore public expectations.

Heightened environmental awareness is a sign of social progress. But current protests include political ploys masquerading as environmental protection. They involve environmental double standards. Their instigators are environmental con artists. Take the construction halt on Phase 3 of the Central Taiwan Science Park for example. DPP legislators are demanding that Sheng Shi-hung step down. They are feigning ignorance that this was a decision made by Su Tseng-chang while he was in office, They are deliberately inverting cause and effect. When academicians petitioned against the Kuo Kuang Petrochemical Plant, Lee Yuan-tse described the construction of the Eighth Naphtha Cracking Plant as "extremely unfortunate for Taiwan." The only problem is, the Chen Shui-bian administration had been promoting the project for years. Then EPA Bureau Chief Chang Kuo-long was accused of "obstructing" both this project and the Formosa Plastics Steel Mill, and summarily replaced. Then Academia Sinica President Lee Yuan-tse, and then National Science Council Chairperson Chen Chien-jen voiced no opposition whatsoever. Given their flagrant double standards, aren't they afraid of the damage to their reputations as scientists?

Economic growth and environmental protection are not necessarily rivals in a zero-sum game. Only 2 percent of the residents in Miaoli Dapu opposed government acquisition of the land. Only two dozen or so farmers refused to vacate their ancestral homes in Hsiang Shi Liao. Only seven farming families commissioned environmental groups to file suit in the Seven Stars Farm dispute. The will of the minority must be taken seriously. But the hopes of the majority for economic development and employment cannot be ignored. Phase 3 and 4 of the Central Taiwan Science Park have been halted. This has raised concerns among residents of Er Ling about the impact on their local economy. They are threatening protests of their own. The government must have sound reasons for whatever it does. It must balance economic growth with environmental protection. It must consider the will of both the majority and the minority.

The five cities elections are fast arriving. The KMT is afraid that the environmental issue may continue to burn. Therefore it has adopted a soft strategy. It has called a halt to Phase 3 and 4 of the Central Taiwan Science Park. It has become an election issue. Therefore the fate of the Central Taiwan Science Park must not be determined solely by Wu Den-yih or Jason Hu. Nor should the industrial firms involved be the only ones to suffer the consequences. Current political candidates Su Tseng-chang and Tsai Ing-wen have an obligation to contemplate the mess they have left behind, and tell us how they think it should be cleaned up. This is an historical responsibilty that both the Blue and Green camps must share. During the Democratic Progressive Party's time in office, it ignored the law in order to help industry. They proved that this approach cannot work. Now that the DPP is in the opposition, it has the temerity to turn around and accuse industry of doing nothing but polluting. That simply does not fly.

2010.08.05 02:18 am









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