Fri, Oct 07, 2016 - Page 3 News List

Casino development bad for environment: opponents

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff reporter

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Chen Man-li, left, Alliance Against the Legalization of Gambling executive director Ho Tsung-hsun, second left, and others yesterday attend a news conference at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei.

Photo: Chien Jung-fong, Taipei Times

Allowing casino development in Penghu County would overload the environment while crowding out sustainable tourism, opponents of a county gambling legalization referendum said yesterday, as they voiced concern that next week’s referendum on the issue might pass.

Shouting slogans in opposition to casino development on “beautiful Penghu,” dozens of opponents from “mainland” Taiwanese environmental groups gathered for a Legislative Yuan news conference, which highlighted casino developments’ potential ecological damage to the county.

“To build something as large as a casino within such a small space and then attract such a huge number of people will necessarily affect the neighboring ecology,” Society of Wilderness executive director Liu Yueh-mei (劉月梅) said.

“Because Penghu’s population is small, its demand for water — along with the amount of trash and wastewater which must be disposed — have all been extremely small, and the extra water and garbage from the casinos would not be something that we would be able to take care of on our own,” said Hung Yi-mei (洪一梅), who grew up in Penghu and now serves as a board member of the Sea Citizens Foundation (海洋公民基金會), a non-governmental organization in Penghu with roots in a successful campaign to halt an earlier 2009 gambling legalization referendum.

The nation is already struggling to come up with alternative methods of waste disposal as Kaohsiung cuts back on providing waste disposal for other counties, Hung said, adding that Penghu has no waste treatment facilities of its own.

She also called casinos a “cancer” which would crowd out ecologically sustainable tourism.

“Even though they say that casinos would develop tourism by sucking in huge crowds, the reality is that most spending would be confined to the casinos, along with their internal restaurants and hotels. Not only will patrons be unlikely to frequent local business, but local firms’ survival space could be negatively affected,” she said.

She also accused the administration of Penghu’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) County Commissioner Chen Kuang-fu (陳光復) of bias in not inviting opponents to county-sponsored “explanatory sessions” on the referendum.

Opponents also expressed concern about whether they could prevail.

“This time proponents have spent seven years preparing,” said DPP Legislator Chen Man-li (陳曼麗), a former Green Party activist who participated in the campaign to block the 2009 referendum.

She cited proponents’ recruitment of numerous prominent retired teachers and government officials to advocate for legalization, while using promises of high “feedback money” for residents as a key selling point.

If the referendum passes, further action will be required by the Legislative Yuan before any casinos can be constructed, with no legislative framework currently in place for casino approval and registration.

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