Tue, May 01, 2018 - Page 8 News List

A maritime nation can arise with new council

By Chen Chung-ling 陳璋玲

The Cabinet-level Ocean Affairs Council was launched on Saturday, marking an important first step in Taiwan’s progress toward becoming a maritime nation.

The international aspect of Taiwan’s maritime affairs involves claims to maritime rights, overlapping marine territorial claims with neighboring countries, protection of fishing vessels in international waters, international cooperation in scientific research and participation in world organizations.

The domestic aspect involves marine industries and their development, the use and management of marine resources, law enforcement in maritime territories, marine conservation, sea pollution and marine debris, scientific research, sea-related education and the cultivation of talent.

Land and sea are interrelated. Land-based development has an effect on the health of marine ecosystems, as do pollution and marine debris generated on land, while the conservation of wetlands, for example, has a positive effect.

Under the existing government structure, oceanic affairs involve many ministries, including those of the interior, economic affairs, education and the Environmental Protection Administration. How to take charge and generate its own policy achievements amid these multiple relations will be an essential challenge for the council.

Society’s ongoing political disputes about environmental protection and conservation complicate the challenge. Two major unresolved cases are those of the Shenao Power Plant in New Taipei City and the planned Datan liquefied natural gas terminal in Taoyuan. Both of these cases involve a tug-of-war between coastal development on one side and marine environmental protection on the other. The council will need to persuade groups on both sides about the government’s calls for establishing a nuclear-free homeland while providing stable electric power.

Regarding its policy orientation, the council has many tasks that it needs to complete. The Organization Act of the Ocean Affairs Council has been on the books since 2015, but there is no law about what matters the council is to oversee.

The first thing that the council should do is to assign itself a mission in accordance with the organizational act, and finish drawing up laws regarding its functions, which might be transferred from other ministries.

Given the limited administrative resources available and the practical difficulties that the council is bound to face, these tasks cannot all be achieved at the same time or even in the short term, but its business priorities can still be set.

Apart from firmly tackling the Shenao power station and Datan gas terminal cases, the council should start by dealing with matters that are highly visible and meaningful to the public, thus demonstrating its ability to make substantial policy achievements.

These initial tasks include a nationwide survey of marine debris and measures for managing it, writing a law on the management of marine conservation zones, integrating the development of marine resources, and building systems for cultivating sea-related talent.

Over the long term, the council could gradually probe wider marine prospects, such as the integration and planning of the “blue economy” and related industries, spatial management of the sea, and the establishment of exemplary locations for marine sustainability, such as on outlying islands.

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