The government will not approve a controversial hotel project in Taitung County without the consent of Aboriginal residents, the Executive Yuan said yesterday following a protest led by Aboriginal rights promoters and environmentalists.
Dozens of demonstrators rallied in front of the Executive Yuan in Taipei to demand that the government withdraw plans for the Shanyuan Palm Beach Resort project, planned to be the largest tourism development on the east coast and the first to pass an environmental impact assessment since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office.
The project — in which the developer plans to build a 550-room hotel complex on a 25 hectare plot of land overlooking Shanyuan Bay (杉原灣), the only sandy beach in the area — cleared an environmental review on Wednesday last week.
Photo: Liu Hsin-de, Taipei Times
The project has sparked heated opposition due to its potential environmental impact and infringement of Aboriginal rights, with the protest centered on the developer’s failure to obtain the consent of local Aboriginal communities, which is a legal requirement for any development on traditional Aboriginal lands.
Local resident Fasiyaw Dawa bowed to the ground 16 times — representing the nation’s 16 recognized Aboriginal groups — to ask the government to reject the project, which he said was to be built on seized Aboriginal land.
“We were led to believe that the government had begun attaching importance to Aboriginal rights following the Supreme Court’s ruling against the Miramar Resort project [in Shanyuan Bay] in March. However, the approval of the Shanyuan Palm project ruined it all,” Indigenous Youth Front member Kai Limadjagan said.
“President Tsai said she would deliver a formal apology to Aborigines on Aug. 1 for the injustices they have suffered, but the apology would not be sincere if the oppression of Aborigines continues,” Kai Limadjagan said.
“Despite the passage of the Indigenous Peoples Basic Act (原住民基本法) in 2005, different administrations have done nothing to revise laws that contravene the act, even though the act clearly stipulates such revisions. Despite changes of government, the nature of the Republic of China remains the same. It continues to violate Aboriginal rights,” Indigenous Youth Front member Savungaz Valincinan said.
“Although the Council of Indigenous Peoples issued a statement a day after the resort project passed the environmental review to condemn the review committee for making a decision that disregarded Aboriginal rights, the council did not do anything to help Aboriginal residents exercise their rights,” Citizen of the Earth researcher Huang Ching-ting (黃靖庭) said.
The Executive Yuan had ordered a low-ranking official to hear grievances, which angered protesters, who asked that either Premier Lin Chuan (林全) or Minister Without Portfolio Chang Ching-sen (張景森) accept their petition.
Following an hour-long standoff, Executive Yuan Deputy Secretary-General Shih Keh-he (施克和) met with protesters to accept their petition, saying that the hotel project could not be approved without the consent of Aboriginal communities.
“Chang held a meeting on the Shanyuan Palm project on Monday, which concluded that the project did not obtain the informed consent of local Aboriginal communities. Without that, the developer cannot get a permit from the Ministry of the Interior,” Shih said.
To make a founding clause of the Indigenous Peoples Basic Act — which stipulates that any development on Aboriginal land cannot be approved without Aborigines’ informed consent — a truly effective provision, the government will formulate detailed laws and regulations to help Aborigines exercise their rights, Shih said.
The Executive Yuan is to ask the Tourism Bureau to conduct a strategic environmental assessment of national tourism development, he said.
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