Thu, Apr 18, 2019 - Page 8 News List

Time to listen to Mailiao residents

By Lin Wen-ping 林文彬

On April 7, an explosion occurred at Formosa Plastics Group’s naphtha cracker complex in Yunlin County’s Mailiao Township (麥寮). I was at the Haikou Theme Park in Taisi Township (台西) that day. The bang was as loud as an earthquake, destroying windows and walls, and then enveloping everything in smoke.

Breathing was difficult and debris fell into fish ponds in what must have been the biggest and most frightening of the more than 30 safety incidents at the plant over the past 20 years. Hopefully, it also shook Yunlin residents into action.

Safety incidents at the plant are frequent, so why has the group not been fined, such as the US$500 million fine it was given over its steel plant in Vietnam?

The group’s 30,000 employees receive year-end bonuses equivalent to more than six months’ salary, totaling NT$8 billion (US$259.3 million), but they still feel that it is not enough, as it makes an annual profit of NT$200 billion.

The Mailiao plant makes up one-tenth of Taiwan’s GDP and nine-tenths of Yunlin’s annual production value, but it also accounts for 20 percent of Taiwan’s carbon emissions.

The population is aging, incomes are falling, and pollution and cancer rates are shooting up. These facts are causing the Yunlin population to shrink — it has already fallen below 690,000.

The candy factory in The Secret of Candy Factory (糖果工廠的秘密) — an animated short film by schoolchildren in Mailiao about industrial development and its relationship with people, the land and the environment — really did explode this time, and all of Yunlin suddenly wants the candy, but does anyone still believe the lie about coexistence and shared prosperity?

The only way to give Yunlin residents a fair deal is to close the plant. The central government must set up a Mailiao disaster recovery center.

The plant must establish a disaster fund to compensate residents for their losses and raise the annual compensation per person by NT$10,000 in addition to the current NT$7,200.

Here are some other demands connected to the Mailiao plant.

First, Yunlin needs a second east-west expressway from Mailiao to Linnei (林內) connected to the Sun Yat-sen Freeway (Freeway No. 1), the Formosa Freeway (Freeway No. 3) and Provincial Highway No. 19 to provide a main transportation thoroughfare and unhindered development of a coastal road.

Second, remove the Mailiao water diversion at Jiji Weir (集集攔河堰), manage sandstorms and prevent land subsidence.

Third, amend the Act Governing the Allocation of Government Revenues and Expenditures (財政收支劃分法) so that 40 percent of the tax revenue from the plant is redirected to Yunlin County and demand that the company’s headquarters be moved to Yunlin.

Fourth, allocate funds to assist the development of power generation for Yunlin.

It is time that the central government listens to the people of Mailiao.

Lin Wen-ping is a Yunlin County councilor.

Translated by Perry Svensson

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