Fri, Mar 10, 2006 - Page 11 News List

EPA boss backs `eco-tax'

GREEN IDEA Environment minister Chang Kow-lung said the idea of Yunlin County's magistrate to tax polluting industries was good, but needed further consideration


Taiwan's top official in charge of environmental protection said yesterday that he supports a plan by the Yunlin County magistrate to impose "green taxes" on major industrial factories located in Yunlin as they are major sources of air pollution in the south-central county.

Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) Minister Chang Kow-lung (張國龍) said during an interpellation session at the Legislative Yuan that he is determined to support the implementation of green taxes, or eco-taxes, in Yunlin County, even if it means he loses his job as a result of policy controversies between the EPA and the Ministry of Finance.

Yunlin County Comissioner Su Chih-fen (蘇治芬) has reportedly been planning to allow the Yunlin County government to impose green taxes on large industrial factories in the county, including a naphtha cracking plant owned by the Formosa Plastics Group (台塑) and several large steel mills, in a bid to contain pollution and increase tax revenue.

A group of legislators from across the political spectrum also threw their support behind Su's idea.

Yin Ling-ying (尹伶瑛), an opposition Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) legislator representing Yunlin, said green taxes are "taxes of justice" and it is right that industries should pay for the pollution they produce. If polluting factories operating in Yunlin are required to pay "taxes of justice," the revenue generated can be used to beef up infrastructure development in the county, Yin said.

Under the existing taxation system, however, Yunlin County receives only a mere NT$200 million (US$6.15 million) in subsidies annually from the central government, which levies an average of NT$23.6 billion (US$726 million) in tax on the Formosa Plastics Group each year, Su said.

Su added that it is pitifully unfair that Yunlin County receives the second-smallest appropriation from the central government among all cities and counties around the country while playing host to an array of major polluters, resulting in continuous deterioration in the environment without having enough budget to spend on improving local development.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators Hsu Shu-po (許舒博), Chang Shuo-wen (張碩文) and independent Legislator Chang Li-shan (張麗善) asked the Ministry of Economic Affairs to convene supra-ministerial meetings to build up clear and workable measures to save Yunlin County from the quagmire in which the county suffers from environmental pollution and damage but receives little in return from the industries.

Responding to the legislators, Minister of Economic Affairs Morgan Hwang (黃營杉) said he would call on Su in person shortly to gain a better understanding of Su's plans before consulting the finance ministry over the issue.

Huang promised that the Ministry of Economic Affairs will assess the taxation proposal thoroughly, taking overall national interests and local needs into consideration.

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