The Taoyuan Local Union yesterday criticized the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) for its announcement that a meeting on algal reefs on Friday next week would not be open to civic groups, demanding that the agency open the meeting to such groups and apologize.
The union and other environmental groups have been campaigning to protect algal reefs and endangered species, in the waters off Datan Borough (大潭) in Taoyuan’s Guanyin District (觀音) near Guantang Industrial Park (觀塘工業區).
The species would be damaged by state-run CPC Corp, Taiwan’s (CPC) project to build the nation’s third liquefied natural gas terminal there, the groups said.
The importance of the algal reefs is still disputed, and the EPA on March 23 and Friday last week addressed the issue in expert meetings, which were boycotted by the groups and subsequently called off by the chair without consensus reached.
Apart from the questionable qualification of an expert, the project bears a relationship to the ill-gotten party assets of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), given that CPC purchased the land from Tung Ting Gas Corp (東鼎), which had close relations with the KMT, the union said on Friday last week.
Environmental groups should not have stalled the meetings by raising irrelevant issues, the EPA said in a statement on Wednesday, calling on the groups to leave space for professional deliberation.
The agency would convene two more expert meetings on the issue on Tuesday and Friday next week, but Friday’s meeting would not be open to civic groups, it added.
Experts have complained that their deliberations were frequently interrupted by the groups and to make sure the environmental impact assessment (EIA) can proceed effectively, the agency decided to reserve Tuesday’s meeting for civil groups, and the Friday one for experts and media only, EPA Deputy Minister Chan Shun-kuei (詹順貴) said yesterday.
The groups could attend subsequent EIA committee meetings to express their views, Chan said.
The union reacted angrily to the agency’s decision, saying it is betraying the nation’s democratic values by punishing environmental groups as if they were children.
Nonetheless, the union would illustrate the importance of Datan’s ecosystem and respond to CPC’s accounts on Tuesday, union director Pan Chong-cheng (潘忠政) said, adding that members would protest outside the EPA on Friday if they are denied entry to the meeting.
The union has invited President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) to attend a concert it is organizing on Taipei’s Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office Building next Saturday to draw attention to the protection of algal reefs.
Tsai has promised that she would check her schedule, but the union has not yet received any further response from her or the Presidential Office, Pan said.
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