Thu, Feb 03, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Aboriginal officials criticize draft land restoration bill

TRIBAL CONCERNSThe conservation bill should be recalled and revised to include more detailed practical solutions, Aboriginal legislators and officials suggested

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

The special draft bill on land restoration and conservation (國土復育特別條例) should be recalled by the Executive Yuan so that it can be revised with more detailed practical solutions, Aboriginal legislators and officials said yesterday.

"Issues of tribal relocation, sustainable development and road repair concern indigenous peoples the most. The draft is moving in the right direction, but it needs to address these concerns in greater detail," Council of Indigenous Peoples Vice Chairman Pasuya Poitsonu (浦忠成) said at a forum held by the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP's) Ethnic Affairs Department.

Newly-elected DPP Legislator Dungi (陳瑩) said that since the bill will directly impact on Aborigines' livelihoods if it is passed, Aborigines should be able to participate in the decision-making process.

Theoretical

"The draft is basically theoretical and ignores Aboriginal peoples' voice on the matter. Besides, I think the government should carry out the National Land Development Plan (國土計畫法). Based on the plan, we can then talk about land restoration and conservation," Dungi said.

DPP Legislator Chen Hsiu-hui (陳秀惠), said that the approval of the draft was nothing but political propaganda, adding that talking about vague ideas on tribal relocations or road repair without offering practical solutions only causes panic among Aborigines.

"Land restoration and conservation should be a national issue, not the sole responsibility of Aboriginal peoples. If the government really wants the draft to benefit indigenous peoples, it can approve various budgets, such as for a forest protection fund, to assist them with practical sustainable development plans," Chen said.

Chang Ching-sen (張景森), vice chairman of the Cabinet's Council for Economic Planning and Development, responded to the criticism by saying that the draft has empowered Aborigines by granting them the right to operate some of the projects.

However, including Aboriginal peoples in the decision-making process has its difficulties, Chang said.

Devastation

"The draft is an urgent solution to the severe devastation caused by natural disasters following the 921 Earthquake. It would be time-consuming if we have to seek agreements from every tribe before making a decision," Chang said.

Pasuya suggested that Aborigines should form an independent legislative body. Through a single and representative system, Aborigines will be able to communicate with the government and express their concerns more effectively.

The Executive Yuan last month approved the special draft bill on land restoration and conservation, which proposes classifying the nation's mountainous areas into three conservation zones.

Category one areas are those higher than 1,500m, where farming, logging and land development will be banned, with the exception of Aboriginal villages consisting of more than 30 households.

Category two would cover mountainous areas between 500m and 1,500m. New farming or new developments will be banned, but existing legal operators will be allowed to remain.

Category three includes mountainous areas lower than 500m, in which any land developments are to reviewed regularly. Development in these areas also requires permission from the central government.

The draft also recommends spending NT$100 billion over the next 10 years on land restoration projects.

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