Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential hopeful Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday defended her plans to move the nation’s petrochemicals industry to the Middle East, calling the effort environmentally friendly, viable and urgently needed.
On a visit to the Yilan Green Expo, the contender for the DPP’s presidential nomination said the sensitive wetlands in Changhua County were an “unsuitable” location to build a US$600 billion (US$20.5 billion) petrochemical complex.
Tsai said a better idea would be to build the facilities in oil producing regions, referring to comments she made last week proposing that future petrochemicals plants be built either in Saudi Arabia or other oil-producing Middle Eastern states.
“It’s a plan that has been thoroughly considered and is feasible,” she said. “Not only would it help resolve some of Taiwan’s environmental problems, but it would also help ensure our supply of oil. That is the expert opinion.”
Her comments came amid controversy over whether construction should start at the proposed eighth naphtha plant, which has drawn opposition from activists and local residents, citing health and environmental concerns.
In a rare point of disagreement, former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), seen as a staunch supporter of Tsai, said on Sunday that Tsai “did not understand the petrochemicals industry” and said that halting construction could potentially cost tens of thousands of jobs.
Saying the former president needed to brush up on his knowledge of the sector, Tsai said petrochemicals technology was transferable, “unlike some other non-transferable [industries].”
She did not respond to the employment concerns raised by Lee.
“Lee could be lacking new information,” Tsai said. “It’s extremely viable to have our investors take their technology and build a petrochemicals plant in oil-producing regions ... South Korea also does this. We have to do what is best for Taiwan ... it’s not an empty plan.”
Taking a shot at President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration, Tsai said Ma needed to “spend more time understanding the issue” to make informed policy decisions.
The other DPP candidates have also expressed opposition to the petrochemicals industry, but they have not asked for new facilities to be built outside the nation.
Former DPP chairperson Hsu Hsin-liang (許信良) said yesterday that Taiwanese should “bravely give up the industry,” even if it meant damaging the economy.
“With Taiwan’s technology, we should be creating high-paying jobs, in the electronics industry for instance. Why must we continue to rely on the more traditional petrochemicals industry?” Hsu told FTV News. “It uses high amounts of energy and also releases large amounts of pollution.”
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