Tue, Feb 25, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Top EPA man turns down debate on plastics policy

ANGRY Unemployed plastic-industry workers accused Hau Lung-bin of shirking his challenges and wondered if he was avoiding talks because of a guilty conscience


Environmental Protection Admin-istration chief Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) yesterday turned down a public debate with unemployed plastics-industry workers on a newly implemented policy that limits the use of plastic products, saying that the measure had already been discussed at length with both the industry and plastics experts.

Yesterday morning, representatives of unemployed plastics-industry workers, accompanied by TSU legislative caucus convener Liao Ben-yan (廖本煙), visited the EPA to invite Hau to talks on the controversial new policy.

They were received by EPA deputy administrator Chang Chu-en (張祖恩), who representatives say did not give them a straight answer.

According to workers, the invitation was sent to the agency last month but received no response.

"Why not accept the invitation? Maybe Hau has a guilty conscience because the policy is poorly designed," Liao said.

"It would be better if different opinions could be offered to the public through the debate," said Chang Wen-wei (張文緯), a representative of unemployed plastics-industry workers.

Earlier at the Legislative Yuan, TSU lawmakers and affected workers held a press conference to accuse that the EPA of failing to offer enough subsidies to those affected by the changes.

Hau, however, called his own press conference yesterday afternoon not only to turn down the invitation to a public debate but also to dismiss the workers' allegations against the EPA.

"The public debate is unnecessary. The policy is actually the result of discussions at a series of public hearings [carried out last year]," Hau said.

As an administrative official, Hau said, he would be very glad to defend the policy at the Legislative Yuan, in order to clear up any misunderstandings lawmakers might have.

Hau stressed that the policy should be judged by residents' reaction and on overall waste reduction.

"If we don't see positive outcomes within six months, I'll accept responsibility and step down," Hau said.

In reply, Chang said that he was sorry Hau refused to face up to his opponents, saying that his group would continue to work with opposition parties to challenge the EPA.

Meanwhile, Chen Hsiung-wen (陳雄文), director-general of the EPA's Bureau of Solid Waste Management, said that the Cabinet had allocated NT$100 million toward paying part of the accrued interest on outstanding bank loans allocated to companies in the plastics industry.

In addition, the Cabinet will spend NT$1.58 billion this year to create 8,400 jobs for laid-off plastics-industry workers. However, only 319 workers have filed an application so far.

In response to media reports that the policy has led to an increase in lower-quality paper imports from China, Chen said that the EPA would soon work with the Department of Health to carry out random examinations on such products to safeguard the nations' health.

According to the EPA, the majority of paper products used in this country are imported from the US, Canada, Sweden, Finland, South Korea, Indonesia and China.

Starting Feb. 16, the EPA began issuing warning notices to those who violate the policy, which limits the use of plastic bags and utensils by convenience stores and food outlets. Fines of at least NT$60,000 will dished out to those who continue to ignore the new measures.

Unemployed plastics-industry workers postponed to late March a planned demonstration scheduled for next Saturday. People who have been fined for not complying with the new measures are invited to join the demonstration.

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