Drop Penghu project
On Monday last week, the Penghu County Government astonishingly announced that the controversial Dacang Matsu (大倉媽祖) statue project would be resumed.
Despite people’s outrage, Penghu County Commissioner Lai Feng-wei (賴峰偉) said that the deserted construction site on Dacang Island remains the perfect place for a Matsu statue, adding that it would “cost the least,” “benefit the most” and “bring the lowest impact.”
Lai even triumphantly told the Penghu County Council that the announcement had received more than 1,000 “likes” to only 100 critical comments on his Facebook page, saying that the 10-to-1 ratio reflected public support, but his argument is questionable.
The Dacang Matsu project was a disaster left by one of Lai’s predecessors, Wang Chien-fa (王乾發). Dreaming that constructing a tourist attraction with a 66m bronze statue of Matsu could boost the local tourism industry overnight, Wang in 2011 declared the inner sea island Dacang to be his Neverland.
He neglected how costly the project could be: NT$300 million (US$98.33 million at the current exchange rate) for the statue, NT$250 million for basic construction and an estimated NT$500 million for facilities.
However, the county government takes in less than NT$200 million annually — not enough to cover the project.
Wang’s successor, Chen Kuang-fu (陳光復), soon admitted that fundraising efforts had failed and canceled the project in 2015, but the destroyed local landscape and incomplete structures remained.
Now that the Dacang Matsu project has been proven to be a big white elephant, the county government can take over Chen’s unfinished matters, rather than resuming Wang’s daydream.
Surprisingly, Lai and his subordinates were misled by the “sunk cost,” visualizing that another NT$250 million spent could solve the dilemma without affecting the environment.
The project has never undergone an environmental impact assessment (EIA), leaving many unanswered questions, such as electrical and water supplies, garbage disposal and sewage treatment.
How could Lai claim that Dacang could accommodate 1,000 tourists per day before collecting any evidence?
Besides, Lai’s decision has overridden common sense regarding democracy. Most Dacang residents expressed their disappointment over this project in a March 8 public hearing, with a vote in an April 16 meeting showing 25 people against to 13 for.
These events clearly indicated that Dacang residents will no longer allow the statue or any related construction in their hometown. How dare the county government sidestep the villagers’ refusal and resume the project based on the commissioner’s opinion?
As Penghu residents, we regret to say that the local government has disappointed us on this issue.
Settling the notorious Matsu statue dispute might be a clever political trade-off, but never a sensible decision for the Mother of the Sea.
We strongly urge the Penghu County Government to cancel this problematic project, or the shame of their actions will last forever.
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