Aborigines protest resort permit

‘UNDER-THE-TABLE DEALS’?:Although a High Administrative Court ruling called for a halt to the development, the Taitung County Government issued a new permit

By Loa Iok-sin  /  Staff Reporter

Sat, Oct 02, 2010 - Page 1

Amis Aborigines from a small coastal village in Taitung County and their supporters staged a demonstration in front of the Presidential Office on Ketagalan Boulevard yesterday, protesting the county government’s issuance of permits for the operation and expansion of a beach resort hotel in their traditional domain without their consent despite court rulings against the development project.

“The Taitung County Commissioner is like a king in the county who can give out Taitung’s mountains, land and the ocean to anyone at his will,” said Panai Runilaowang, a native of the Amis village of -Fudafudak — administratively known as Fushan Village (富山) in Beinan Township (卑南) — right on the edge of the resort project.

“Responding to the court rulings, the county government said it has already signed a contract with the developer and it has to go by the contract,” Panai said. “But did they ever ask us, the villagers of Fudafudak?”

The controversy started in 2004 when the county government permitted the construction of the beachfront Meiliwan Resort Hotel (美麗灣渡假村) on Shanyuan Bay (杉原灣).

Not willing to give up their -traditional domain and worried about the environmental impact that a large tourist resort could bring, residents and environmentalists protested and filed lawsuits as soon as the construction started.

Despite several court rulings against the project, the county government repeatedly appealed and at the same time proceeded with the legal processes required for the resort’s operation.

When environmental groups challenged the lack of a pre--construction environmental impact assessment for the resort in 2005, the county government divided the plot of land into -several smaller plots. This made the surface area of each plot smaller than the surface area that must undergo an -environmental impact assessment.

When the Kaohsiung High Administrative Court handed down a renewed ruling on Sept. 7 asking the county government to order a halt on all construction and operation, the county government responded by giving the resort a new operating permit on Sept. 21.

The county government said that since the resort had filed an application for permission in accordance with regulations, the city government therefore issued the permit in line with due process.

While the previous permit was voided by the court ruling, the operation of the resort hotel could continue, since a new permit has been -issued, the county government said.

“When the court orders a stop to the development project, it means that construction and -operation should all be halted. It doesn’t make sense that the county government responded by giving them a new permit,” said Thomas Chan (詹順貴), an attorney who has worked closely with environmental groups. “There may be some under-the-table deals going on. We’ll file a lawsuit with the Taitung District Prosecutors’ Office next week.”

Chan said that aside from environmental laws, the Aboriginal Basic Act (原住民族基本法) stipulates that Aboriginal residents must be consulted before such a project can be started in their traditional domain, “which the county government failed to do as well.”

Lending his support to the -protest, former Council of Indigenous Peoples (CIP) minister Icyang Parod appeared at the demonstration and called on current CIP Minister Sun Ta-chuan (孫大川) to intervene to protect Aboriginal rights.

While Sun had not responded to the Taipei Times’ request for comments as of press time, a high-level council official who wished to -remain anonymous said that since the law defining Aboriginal traditional domains has yet to be adopted, “the county government still has the final say in this case.”

Additional reporting by staff writer