Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) Minister Stephen Shen (沈世宏) yesterday announced a plan to launch nationwide inspections of development projects in the next two weeks, after a beach resort in southern Taiwan was discovered to have begun operations 14 years ago without environmental impact assessment (EIA) approval.
Located on a 15,750m2 plot of land within the Kenting National Park in Pingtung County’s Hengchun Township (恆春), Yoho Beach Resort (悠活麗緻渡假村) has 410 rooms that can accommodate 1,100 people and has been popular with tourists since opening in 1999.
However, the EPA did not receive an EIA report from the resort’s proprietor until last month. Once it did, it discovered that of the six zones that the resort occupies, only two had permission to be developed into hotel rooms.
The EPA on Friday ordered Yoho to suspend its business and halt any development projects pending the approval of its EIA report.
According to sources familiar with the matter, businesses that operate without passing an EIA are typically fined about NT$1.5 million (US$52,300) — a small fraction of Yoho’s average annual revenue of NT$500 million — as stipulated by the Environmental Impact Assessment Act (環境影響評估法). However, the EPA is mulling demanding that the resort return more than NT$100 million of “illegal gains” for the past seven years after the promulgation of the Administrative Penalty Act (行政罰法) in 2006.
Under Article 18 of the Administration Penalty Act, if gains resulting from actions in breach of the law exceed the maximum statutory fine, the fine may be increased to the extent appropriate within the scope of the gains, regardless of the statutory limitation on maximum fines.
“To prevent businesses operating without EIA approval, the EPA will instruct local governments to inspect all development projects under their direct jurisdiction in the next two weeks, and our environmental chief inspection team will conduct a recheck afterward,” Shen said yesterday.
Shen acknowledged that the EPA had been negligent in failing to follow up on the Yoho case, especially since the Kenting National Park Administration had inquired about the resort’s EIA approval in 2008.
“Although the park administration replied at the time that Yoho was mandated to undergo an EIA, it had failed to keep track of the case,” Shen said, adding that he would examine past exchanges between the two agencies and hand out disciplinary measures to the responsible parties.
Separately yesterday, Minister of the Interior Lee Hong-yuan (李鴻源) told media that while the legitimate parts of the resort could continue to operate, the fate of its illegal expansions would be predicated on the EIA evaluation results.
Additional Reporting by Staff Reporter Liu Li-jen