Mon, Jul 01, 2019 - Page 6 News List

EDITORIAL: Factories on farmland a challenge

Lawmakers on Thursday last week passed amendments to the Factory Management Act (工廠管理輔導法), providing the government with a legal framework to regulate unregistered factories on farmland. The amendments include sunset provisions requiring less-polluting unregistered factories to obtain licenses, and high-polluting ones to move to industrial zones within a certain period or face demolition.

Ministry data show that there are about 38,000 illegal factories on about 14,000 hectares of farmland.

Less-polluting unregistered factories built before May 19, 2016, should apply to local authorities for management counseling within two years of enactment and propose improvement plans within three years, the amendments say. The factories are also required to obtain “specific registration certificates” within 10 years, and make continued efforts to gain legal status and move to designated industrial zones, as the certificates expire after 20 years.

High-polluting unregistered factories built before May 19, 2016, are required to relocate to designated industrial zones and transform their business with the government’s help, or face being demolished by local authorities.

Illegal factories built after May 20, 2016, are to have their water and electricity supplies cut and manufacturing facilities dismantled by local authorities upon reviewing reports from the public.

To avoid lax enforcement and poor execution by local authorities, the amendments empower central government agencies to dismantle illegal factories.

They also include a “whistle-blower” clause to encourage people to reveal potential illegalities. Rules for rewards for whistle-blowers are to be determined by the Ministry of Economic Affairs.

The amendments show the government’s intention to help unregistered factories — most of which are small or medium-sized — gain legal status, instead of tearing them down.

The amendments’ supporters have said that they would protect the interests of local industry and the livelihoods of people working at the unregistered factories as the government walks a fine line between environmental protection and economic development.

However, environmentalists and critics have said that the 20-year sunset clause will not work, citing the government’s poor track record of addressing the issue. They say that the number of illegal factories will continue to increase after the amendments.

Furthermore, the amendments lack a mechanism to allow for citizen lawsuits and provide no way to seek relief from the judicial system. People can only report illegalities and hope that local authorities take action.

Critics have also asked how the government plans to define a low-polluting factory versus a high-polluting one, and why low-polluting ones have been given 10 years to improve.

The amendments have been passed, but the government’s real challenge is only beginning. The administration should maintain coordination between central government agencies and local government departments, and strictly enforce the law to tackle the issue.

Most importantly, the government must have the determination to deal with grassroots politics, and ensure that economic development and environmental protection can coexist through communication. That is the best way to solve existing problems and avoid a repetition of similar illegalities.

This story has been viewed 1845 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top