Tue, Nov 09, 2010 - Page 8 News List

Ministries, agencies in bed with industry

By Chi Chun-chieh 紀駿傑

A look at the organization and functions of the Cabinet shows that the Ministry of Economic Affairs is responsible for economic development and the Council for Economic Planning and Development is responsible for the nation’s long-term economic planning.

Let us now take a look at the National Science Council (NSC), an agency originally established for scientific development. Surprisingly, in addition to the relatively neutral purposes of promoting the overall development of science and technology and supporting academic research, its responsibilities also include production-level tasks such as developing science-based industrial parks.

We have thus concluded the basic rules for the game: There are at least two Cabinet-level agencies that deal with industrial development projects that do not involve science-based industrial parks and three agencies that can potentially give support to projects that involve science-based industrial parks. What about the agencies responsible for environmental protection or the public’s rights and interests?

Recently, farmers in Jhunan Township’s (竹南) Dapu Borough (大埔) staged a protest against the damage to their farms caused by excavators during the Miaoli County Government’s seizure of farmland. In addition, fish farmers in Dacheng Township (大城) and Fangyuan Township (芳苑) of Changhua County protested against Kuokuang Petrochemical Technology Co’s planned establishment of the nation’s eighth naphtha cracker in their hometown, because they are worried that it will destroy the local wetlands as well as their jobs.

Isn’t it obvious that the Council of Agriculture (COA), which is responsible for farmers and fishermen, should be speaking up? Have we even heard the council say anything at all? And what about the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA)? The EPA, which clearly should be expected to be take the side of environmental protection, has instead sided with the interests of the “industrial development complex” to challenge the High Administrative Court’s rulings.

The problem is even more serious. Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) seems to differ with the view of the High Administrative Court, which had decided that the Central Taiwan Science Park project should be suspended. In addition to ordering the NSC to file an immediate complaint, he said — to everyone’s surprise — that we must not pay excessive attention to environmental protection lest we be forced back into prehistoric days.

When has environmental protection ever been too heavily emphasized in Taiwan? And will emphasizing environmental protection really force us to live as if we are in prehistoric days? This sort of black-or-white logic is flawed. With a premier who tries his best to protect the interests of capitalists, it is not unusual that COA officials follow the rule that silence is golden, or that environmental officials are so confused about their role that they side with the interests of industrial development.

The strong political pressure created by industrial development interests means that the environmental protection movement in Taiwan is fighting an uphill battle. However, a new wave of grassroots forces is forming through the use of petitions, demonstrations, cybernetworking, administrative lawsuits, national trust funds and other novel approaches. Together, these forces are speaking up for the preservation of abused land and wetlands, oppressed members of the public and all living creatures that cannot speak for themselves.

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