Fri, Jan 23, 2015 - Page 1 News List

Activists protest Taipei Dome plans

FIGHTING ON:While the new plans reduce the number of trees to be removed from 37 to 23, activists said there are alternative plans under which they could all be saved

By Abraham Gerber and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter and staff writer

Activists tie a ribbon around a tree yesterday in front of National Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall in Taipei and across the street from the Taipei Dome construction site.

Photo: CNA

Wednesday night’s agreement to amend the contract for the Taipei Dome between the Taipei City Government and Farglory Land Development Co (遠雄集團) attracted criticism from environmental activists yesterday.

Activists from the Songshan Tree Protection Volunteer Union, the Songyan Park Alliance and the Taiwan Tree Protection Alliance gathered outside the construction site to protest the city’s decision to allow trees to be removed from roads lining the site.

“What we see today is that ‘open government’ has not changed city departments’ attitude toward trees,” volunteer union policy group director Yu Yi (游藝) said, referring to Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je’s (柯文哲) advocacy of transparency and civic participation.

The city government had not discussed its plans with activists before announcing its decision, Yu said.

The city government and Farglory reached a preliminary agreement on Wednesday, with the city government agreeing to move the trees and Farglory promising to finish construction by the end of the year. The two sides also agreed to redesign a controversial underground tunnel between the site and National Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, as well as a nearby MRT exit.

The Dome has been subject to controversy throughout its construction, with activists camping beside the construction site since April last year to prevent the removal of the trees. Following warnings that project revisions could delay the construction and make the dome unavailable for the 2017 Universiade, Ko promised to reopen contract negotiations with Farglory last week, citing contract violations and inappropriate revisions under the previous administration.

The new plans reduce the number of trees slated for removal for an underground tunnel from 37 to 23 by simplifying the design.

Yu said that the plans were unacceptable because there were alternative plans under which the trees could be saved, adding that the activists would “fight to the end” to protect the trees.

“Honestly, even if we do not like [the Taipei Dome], policy continuity has to be maintained,” Ko said yesterday. “We’re in the process of ‘dealing with the aftermath,’ to ensure that the structure is as safe and useful as possible after it’s completed.”

Separately, former Taipei mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) posted comments on Facebook saying that his administration had asked Farglory to renegotiate the contract in September 2009 and that the firm met with government officials on Oct. 9, 2009.

In the following years, the city government and the company met nine times to renegotiate the contract and all the meeting records had been handed to the Control Yuan, Hau said.

“Ko would know this if he had asked the city government officials handling the case. It was not ‘unprocessed and left untouched’ as he has claimed,” Hau said.

The Taipei Dome is an important piece of public infrastructure that has more than two decades of history, with the initial planning beginning under former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) during his tenure as Taipei mayor, the contracts being formalized and signed when President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) was mayor, and the construction begun and finished during my term and Ko’s term, Hau said on Facebook.

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