Deputy Minister of Economic Affairs Yang Wei-fu (楊偉甫) yesterday pledged to improve inspection efforts targeting illegal factories next month, adding that establishments that have not yet registered with local authorities would be penalized.
Yang made the statement in the legislature in response to Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Ting Shou-chung’s (丁守中) question over government efforts to crack down on unregistered factories, which Ting said often give rise to problems of food safety, noise, pollution and public safety.
Ting said that the Factory Management Act (工廠管理輔導法) permits illegal factories a grace period until 2020 to register with local governments, during which time they will be allowed to remain operational.
He said the stipulation opened up a back door for illegal factories to operate and criticized the clause for lacking both regulations and punishments for such outfits.
He said there are more than 60,000 illegal factories in the nation, but the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) has only probed about 7,000, of which about 1,500 have applied to register under local governments.
Ting asked Yang what punishments have been meted out for proprietors of illegal facilities.
He also asked Council of Agriculture Minister Chen Bao-ji (陳保基) what his thoughts were on a MOEA plan to relocate 334 hectares of special agricultural zones to help legalize 366 unregistered factories, saying that such a move would sacrifice the nation’s organic farming sector.
Citing a statute promulgated by the Ministry of the Interior, Ting said that farmland designated as special agricultural zones are high-quality farm plots or land that have received government investment to develop major agricultural technologies that should be protected by law.
Yang replied that Tuesday next week is the deadline stipulated in the act for unregistered factories to apply for a temporary operating license, adding that unregistered outfits that fail to meet the deadline would be fined between NT$60,000 and NT$300,000.
Chen said that he felt “powerless” with regard to the ministry’s plan, adding that organic farming takes up little space in Taiwan, but factories and farms are constantly fighting over land.
Industrial Development Bureau (IDB) Director-General Wu Ming-ji (吳明機) said that bylaws passed by local governments would be nullified if they contradict laws promulgated by the central government.
He was referring to a bylaw passed earlier this month by the Yunlin County Council that states bituminous coal and petroleum coke would be banned at factories in the county, as well as a bylaw passed by the Kaohsiung City Council on Thursday last week that states the headquarters of petrochemical firms that have industrial pipelines in Kaohsiung must have their head office in the city as well.
He said Premier Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國) has ordered that a meeting be held between the Ministry of the Interior and the National Development Council to discuss this issue, adding that a solution is expected to be proposed soon.
The MOEA has warned that banning soft coal and petroleum coke in central and southern municipalities would result in a nationwide power shortage.
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