The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has criticized President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) announcement on Friday that he opposes construction of the proposed Kuokuang Petrochemical Technology Co (KPTC, 國光石化) naphtha cracker complex in central Taiwan as a decision made out of “election considerations.”
The policy change will “hurt Taiwan’s 2012 presidential election,” DPP legislative whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) said.
He did not elaborate.
In response to mounting opposition to the planned complex, Ma told a press conference on Friday afternoon that he “will not support going ahead with constructing the complex in the central county of Changhua.”
However, Ma fell short of saying how the government would safeguard the domestic petrochemical industry without the Changhua complex.
“President Ma should state clearly whether there is a replacement planned for the NT$600 billion [US$20.8 billion] Changhua project,” Ker said.
DPP Legislator Pan Men-an (潘孟安) also challenged Ma, who yesterday registered as the sole candidate seeking the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) nomination for next year’s presidential election, to name an alternative location for the complex if it is not to be built in Changhua.
DPP presidential hopeful Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday said she hoped Ma’s decision was not political motivated.
Saying the current petrochemical complexes in Taiwan are enough to supply the needs of the mid-stream and downstream sectors, Tsai said that if KPTC wishes to better compete in the global market, it would be better to build its complex closer to oil-producing regions.
Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌), another DPP presidential hopeful, said Taiwan needed a homeland development policy.
“In the past, we only cared about the development of industries, but now we should review our industry and environment policies,” he said.
KMT Legislator Cheng Ju-fen (鄭汝芬), who represents the Chang-hua constituency, said that she and many local residents were very disappointed at the government’s decision to scrap the Changhua plant.
Wu Ming-yu (吳明玉), chief of Dacheng Township (大城), where the plant was originally to have been located, said his township and nearby areas were counting on the new project as a boost to the local economy and that Ma’s decision was “unacceptable.”
Wang Chi-hui (王棋會), chief of Gungguan Village (公館) in the township, said that in making his decision, Ma had listened to just “the voices of the few environmentalists and has ignored the fact that a far greater number of people at the grassroots level want the complex and the resulting improved economy.”
Meanwhile, at a separate setting yesterday, former Academia Sinica president Lee Yuan-tseh (李遠哲) said that from a global perspective, the KPTC project should not be developed in Taiwan or abroad.
Taiwan and people worldwide should not build bigger and newer petrochemical plants, but instead focus on developing renewable resources, he said, adding that a simplification of all aspects of life and the creation of a more “carbon efficient” societal structure would also help reduce carbon emissions.
Lee said the constant replacement of cellphones and computers is wasteful and is simply a means for corporations to make money, and that changing our habits would see our consumption of natural resources reduced.
Lee called on the government to map out long-term policies concerning corporations and energy and to not just act passively.
Chou Chang-hung (周昌弘), an Academia Sinica specialist in plant ecology and phytochemical ecology who began a petition against the KPTC project, described Ma’s latest directives concerning the project as stalling methods.
“If the project is only halted in Changhua and if it is then going to be built somewhere else [in Taiwan,] I’m going to fight against it all the way,” Chou said.
However, Chou said he is in favor of relocating the project abroad, as long as it is built where there are few people close by and it minimizes its environmental impact.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY RICH CHANG
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