Fri, Jan 23, 2009 - Page 2 News List

Groups slam Penghu casino plans

UNBALANCED APPROACHThe groups said the Penghu County Government appeared to be biased toward promoting casinos as debate only included one view

By Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Members of an anti-gambling alliance hold a press conference yesterday in front of the Control Yuan, criticizing the Penghu County Government for planning to hold a referendum on the introduction of gambling to the outlying island.

PHOTO: CNA

Anti-casino groups filed a petition with the Control Yuan yesterday, accusing the Penghu County Government of being biased and failing to deliver opinions from both sides on the construction of casinos before residents decide the issue in a referendum.

“The Penghu County Government plans to hold 30 information sessions on casino construction in the county before residents vote in a local referendum to decide whether they want casinos in the county,” Shih Chao-hui (釋昭慧), an anti-casino activist and a Buddhist nun, said in a press conference outside the Control Yuan before submitting the case. “So far, we’ve only seen academics who are pro-casino invited to speak at these information sessions — obviously the county government is one-sided and only wants to promote casinos.”

Amendments to the Offshore Island Development Act (離島建設條例) were adopted by the Legislative Yuan earlier this month to allow construction of casinos on offshore islands.

Penghu, a county that consists of hundreds of islands, has been the most active in pushing for casino construction.

The revised law states that residents may decide whether they want casinos on their islands by voting in a local referendum, and it would require an affirmative vote of more than half of the total valid ballots cast for the referendum to pass.

Although county commissioner Wang Chien-fa (王乾發) said he would like the referendum to take place as soon as possible, a precise date has not been set.

Shih yesterday also said that the government should allow all Taiwanese citizens to participate in the referendum, as it is a major issue that affects the entire population of the country and should not be determined only by Penghu residents.

All Taiwanese citizens should protect the welfare of future generations and have the responsibility to prevent the development of any kind of gambling mecca within the borders of the nation, she said.

The Society of Wilderness conservation director Tony Chou (周東漢) opposed the casino project because of concerns about damage the casino may cause to Penghu’s environment.

“Large-scale casino resorts are beyond Penghu’s ecological capacity,” Chou said. “Penghu may spend more on the pollution and ecological damage the casinos cause than it gains.”

The Control Yuan member on duty, Chen Yung-hsiang (陳永祥), took the petition from the activists.

The groups yesterday also announced that they would hold an anti-gambling parade on March 13 to protest the amended Offshore Island Development Act.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CNA

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