Tue, Jul 18, 2017 - Page 8 News List

[ LETTER ]

Aboriginal economies

While it is true that certain reserved lands and traditional territories have been set aside for Aborigines in Taiwan, for the literally hundreds of years now as these people have experienced rule under the Dutch, the Spanish, Ming loyalist Koxinga (Cheng Cheng-kung, 鄭成功), the Qing and the Japanese, and the best, most plentiful land has been lost to them as they were pushed into the mountains, where they work mainly in forestry.

Every year, the Forestry Bureau allocates a certain amount of funds and human resources, but Aborigines have few options. Aborigines working in forestry need to wait 20 or 30 years after planting trees before they can cut them down and, if they are in a water conservation area, they are not even allowed to do that, and instead receive with paltry compensation.

It is extremely difficult for Aborigines in these areas to make ends meet or develop a local economy.

Aborigines’ average income, life expectancy and education level have long been far lower than those of other Taiwanese. The only average the Aborigines score higher on is the unemployment rate.

Although the reasons for this are legion, the main one is the extreme difficulty of developing sustainable local industry and job opportunities, on the large tracts of reserved land most Aborigines live on.

Most mining areas and hot springs are located in traditional Aboriginal territories, but few are operated by Aborigines. Instead, corporate groups pull strings with government and businesses and conjure up legal arguments allowing them to exploit territories left to Aborigines by their ancestors, digging up precious stones, extracting raw materials, destroying the forests and the environment.

Aborigines are left to count their blessings while the corporations count their money.

The government could use its power, funds and human resources to set up extra preparatory task forces for Aboriginal mining, cement and hot spring operations and communes, as well as other economic activities such as cultivating antrodia [a fungus with medicial properties] or mushrooms. This could help develop local industries, create jobs, promote economic development and thereby develop the Aboriginal communities.

Outside of the mountainous areas of Taiwan, the government has set up many holding companies and institutions, but it has not set up a single mining company or cement plant in the mountainous regions for the Aborigines.

The government should set up mining and cooperatives run predominantly by Aborigines in Aboriginal areas, or incorporated companies, to create development in these areas.

Pan Chun-yi

Kaohsiung

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