Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Any hope for cross-party environmental protection?

Today's Taipei Times editorial comments on the rarely seen spirit of cross-party cooperation between three legislators over environmental protection of wetlands. The environment should be one area where parties should be able to find common ground. But as the editorial notes, it's more likely going to be cooperation on "secret opposition to environmental policies to protect the corporate interests of their constituents."

Taipei Times Editorial: Cross-party spirit only goes so far

The rarely seen spirit of cross-party cooperation made its presence felt in the legislature on Sunday when lawmakers concerned about protecting the environment joined forces despite their otherwise insurmountable mutual antipathy.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chiu Wen-yen (邱文彥), Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇) and People First Party (PFP) Legislator Chang Show-foong (張曉風) led by example as they called on their peers to quit bickering along party lines when it comes to the environment.

The main focus of the lawmakers was the remaining wetlands along the west coast and coastal areas that have not yet been concreted over.

Their call for cooperation was admirable, but given the track record of lawmakers, whether they be pan-green or pan-blue, the public should not expect a new era of eco-detente to be embraced any time soon.

What seems more likely is that a small number of legislators, such as Chang of the PFP, who is noted for opposing — but not stopping — the construction of a biotechnology center in Taipei City’s Nangang District (南港), will make regular calls on their peers to put aside partisan interests in the name of protecting the environment for future generations.

Such a call cannot be completely ignored, because it is generally accepted by the public, if not by politicians and corporate bosses, that protecting the environment is a good idea. However, most lawmakers are likely to remain silent when Chang and her colleagues call for huge infrastructure projects on wetlands or coastlines to be halted.

They will agree wholeheartedly when called on to do their civic duty and keep the nation clean, but then most likely vote down any proposals that might hurt their corporate constituents, while working to undermine any cross-party agreements made by Chang and like-minded lawmakers.

This is probably one of the few issues that could unite pan-green and pan-blue politicians — secret opposition to environmental policies to protect the corporate interests of their constituents.

Chang is a true environmentalist and appears determined to push policies that protect what is left of the nation’s already besieged natural environment. However, it is doubtful that she can achieve much on her own in the Legislative Yuan.

If, by some miracle and collusion of interests, Chang does get lawmakers from the KMT and DPP to agree to rules that keep developers away from wetlands and coastal areas, the rest of Taiwan will owe her a huge debt of gratitude because no other lawmaker has focused on the goals she has set out for herself.

It is a huge task. She would have to change the legal code regulating industry in those zones, amend the Land Expropriation Act (土地徵收條例), strengthen the Environmental Protection Administration so that it is not simply a rubber stamp for corporate interests, and stop local politicians and business leaders from simply ignoring central government decisions. It would also be necessary to ensure rules were enforced nationally and not just for photogenic famous wetlands like those near Wugoushui Village (五溝水) in Pingtung County’s Wanluan Township (萬巒).

Chang is going to need a clear idea of the challenges that lie ahead if she is to protect Taiwan’s environment for the use of future generations.

Taipei Times, 14 February 2012

Also see:
Lawmakers seek multi-party push to protect wetlands

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