The Executive Yuan yesterday denied that pressure from vested interests forced it to “suspend” a planned amendment to the Regulations Governing the Building of Agricultural Houses on Agricultural Land (農業用地興建農舍辦法) that would prohibit non-farmers from purchasing or selling farmland.
“The Executive Yuan has not deviated from its principles of ‘agricultural land solely for agricultural use,’” Executive Yuan spokesperson Sun Lih-chyun said (孫立群).
Sun made the remarks in response to rumors that the government has suspended the planned amendment — that the Council of Agriculture had said would be completed by this month — with an eye on the upcoming elections.
“It has nothing to do with the elections. As you can see, the proposal has stirred up different opinions from all sides, including legislators, farmers and advocacy groups, and the Executive Yuan needs more time to process their concerns, so although council Minister Chen Bao-ji (陳保基) had said the amendment would be passed by the end of June, that now looks unlikely,” Sun said. “The amendment has definitely not been suspended or delayed; it is simply at the process stage.”
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chen Chao-ming (陳超明), who represents Miaoli County, issued a press release on Monday saying that following his continuous petitions, “Executive Yuan Secretary-General Chien Tai-lang (簡太郎) has decided to put off the amendment to the act in respect of the diverse voices and needs of the nation’s cities and counties.”
The Taiwan Rural Front and several environmental groups on Wednesday castigated the “turn” made by the government.
“It made us suspect that the call for the amendment has all been for show, and the calculation made for the coming election could easily trade the protection of farmland for land speculation,” the groups said in a joint statement.
“Since the central government lifted the farmland-for-farmers-only restriction in the Agricultural Development Act (農業發展條例) 15 years ago, farmland speculation and building of houses for non-agricultural use has been rampant, particularly in Yilan, Nantou and Miaoli counties,” they said.
“While the Yilan County Government pledged to tighten its oversight in February and the council promised to amend the regulations by June, the Executive Yuan suddenly agreed to halt the process due to the petition of a legislator who has led a series of land development projects in Miaoli County. We express our serious criticism of this ridiculous move,” the groups said.
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