Fri, Apr 02, 2010 - Page 3 News List

Formosa Plastics grilled for silence on high pollution

By Jenny W. Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The legislative Sanitation, Environment and Social Welfare Committee yesterday approved a resolution that would entitle residents of six villages around Formosa Plastics’ Jenwu (仁武) plant to free medical examinations at all major hospitals in Kaohsiung, the cost of which would be covered by the company.

The committee also asked Formosa Plastics Group to commission a reputable third party, such as an academic institution, to undertake a health risk assessment at the plant.

Earlier this week, Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) Minister Stephen Shen (沈世宏) said the company would be heavily fined for releasing highly toxic chemical pollutants into groundwater and failing to report the incident to the administration when it occurred in 2006.

The fine could reach NT$10 million (US$318,000), which is the equivalent of the profit earned by the plant since operations started.

The petrochemical conglomerate was guilty of not reporting a leakage of several types of toxins, including 1,2-dichloroethane, chloroethene, trichloromethane and benzene, when it occurred nearly four years ago.

Meanwhile, the committee also demanded that the Bureau of National Health Insurance amend the National Insurance Act (全民健保法) to force all Department of Health contracted hospitals to increase the number of available beds covered by the universal health plan.

The decision came in response to allegations made on Tuesday by the National Health Insurance Civic Surveillance Alliance — the nation’s biggest watchdog on the matter — that many major hospitals across the country fail to meet the requirement and that as a result patients often have to pay for beds.

At present, the law stipulates that public and private hospitals must reserve betwen 50 percent and 65 percent of their bed as NHI beds.

Lawmakers proposed an immediate amendment to raise the requirements to 85 percent and 70 percent for public and private hospitals respectively.

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