Just two short weeks ago while commenting on the second fire within a month at the Formosa Plastic Group (FPG) plant at Mailiao, Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou said the government attaches equal importance to economic development and environmental protection, but if the two issues conflict, environmental protection would win out. Yesterday, Ma was defending the government's decision to defy a High Court order to suspend industrial production at the Central Taiwan Science Park's (CTSP) Houli site and to continue with production.
Just what is Ma up to? Ma has a real history of being wishy-washy and speaking out both sides of his mouth. Is this just another case of that? Two weeks ago, with Ma citing the Basic Environmental Act which says that environmental protection should be the priority if any economic or technological developments cause damage to the environment, one would have thought he was making a statement of support for the environment when it comes into conflict with the petrochemical industry. His utterings were on the same day as the High Administrative Court ruling on the CTSP expansion. OK, he was commenting on the Formosa Plastics Fire but when he went on to say his administration would handle related issues by adhering to the act one seemed to take him at his word and took it he wasn't just referring to the FPG fire at this point.
Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou: photo Wikimedia Commons.
With Premier Wu Den-yih remaining as defiant as ever following the court rulings over halting of the CTSP expansions, it appeared for a time that the President and Premier were on different teams. And then suddenly, the President seemed to fall in line with the wishes of his subordinate, Premier Wu. Should we be asking just who is calling the shots up at the top? The President, Premier and entire cabinet seem to be in open rebellion of the Judiciary. This raises extremely disturbing questions given the ruling party's authoritarian past. Does the KMT Government plan on turning back the clock to the Marshal Law era? The CTSP expansion seems to be fast becoming a tragic memorial to the death of Taiwan's west coast, the natural environment and the final nail in the coffin of the critically endangered Taiwan pink dolphins. Will it also mark the deathbed of an independent judiciary, the rule of law and democracy?
Critically Endangered Taiwan pink dolphins: photo Chang Hengjia, Taiwan Sustainability Union.
For more see President defends decision to allow controversial plan in today's Taipei Times.
In related news there were demonstrations outside the Fubon Bank's Taipei headquarters yesterday because the bank is a shareholder of Kuokuang Petrochemical Technology Co.'s planned petrochemical plant at Dacheng in Changhua County. The Kuokuang project is part of the controversial expansion of the CTSP which is proceeding in violation of a High Administrative Court ruling that the expansion should be suspended. Dacheng is an area of critically important habitat to the critically endangered Taiwan pink dolphins. The Dacheng area [also spelt Tacheng] is also listed internationally as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by BirdLife International/IUCN. Dacheng is a very important wintering area for the vulnerable Saunders's Gull (Larus saundersi). For more on the Fubon Bank protests see Activists protest at Fubon Bank.
Three Saunders's Gulls in the foreground with Black-headed Gulls and other waders in the background: photo Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association.
Academics against new Kuokuang plant
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Formosa Plastics on fire again
Taiwan High Administrative Court orders Central Taiwan Science Park to halt all expansion pending a ruling on two lawsuits
The saga of the CTSP Erlin Science Park and the Kuokuang Petrochemical Project
Wu the Kuokuang Petrochemical executive continues to forget he's the Nation's Premier
EPA and NSC appeal High Administrative Court order
Erosion of democracy and freedom Beijing style
Local residents block access to FPG plant
Local residents continue to block access to FPG plant
Plans to buy another 800 hectares of wetlands to save pink dolphin habitat and to protect threatened birds and marine life
Isn’t It Time the Legal Community Spoke Up?
Science park development at Houli gets the nod
Photos: EPA gives Phase 3 CTSP the nod even if the courts say no.
Taiwan's rubber stamp EPA