A draft act to establish a new agency to oversee toxic chemicals was approved by the Executive Yuan yesterday, along with a plan to adapt 109 underused public facilities for ecotourism activities or elder care and childcare services.
If the Executive Yuan’s bill is approved by the legislature, the new agency will be established as part of the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) and charged with monitoring toxic chemicals to prevent their illegal use and regulating substances used in food production.
The Executive Yuan wants to see the agency launched by the end of the year, Environmental Protection Administration Minister Lee Ying-yuan (李應元) said.
It is to have an annual budget of NT$600 million (US$19.07 million), with 80 employees to begin with and a target of 150 employees in the future, Lee said.
The agency will be responsible for the oversight and regulation of about 27,000 chemicals, 3,000 of which are commonly used in food additives, Lee said.
“The agency will be responsible for the registration, evaluation and authorization of all chemicals. Other countries have hired thousands of employees to do this kind of job,” Lee said.
The proposed agency would fulfill part of a campaign pledge by President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) to impose stricter food safety regulations and establish a specialized agency for the registration and analysis of chemical substances.
At present, regulation of chemicals is covered by 17 laws and divided between 11 government agencies. The new agency would be in charge of inter-departmental cooperation.
A 2011 scandal over the use of plasticizers in food products found 877 products had been illegally contaminated with plasticizers and 5,700 tonnes of the products were destroyed, causing businesses NT$11.4 billion in losses in addition to damage to Taiwan’s international reputation and trade, Lee said.
As for the care facilities plan, Premier Lin Chuan (林全) asked the Cabinet to draft plans to repurpose underutilized public facilities such as schools, traditional markets and fishing harbors.
“Unused public facilities are a waste of resources and revitalization plans have to be rolled out to alleviate public discontent,” Executive Yuan spokesman Hsu Kuo-yung (徐國勇) quoted Lin as saying.
A total of 109 government or other public facilities have been identified as underused, including the 259-hectare Advanced Research Park in Nantou County — which cost NT$11.9 billion to build — and Kaohsiung’s Singda Port (興達港), which cost NT$7.09 billion to build, the Public Construction Commission said.
There are more than 200 fishing harbors nationwide, but many are underused due to shoreline erosion, and the government plans to transform some in southern Taiwan into marine ecotourism bases, Public Construction Commission Minister Wu Hong-mo (吳宏謀) said.
Under-used facilities in urban areas are to be adapted for social welfare purposes, including long-term care and childcare services, Wu said.
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