Tourism industry, artists oppose Suhua Freeway

WRONG PRIORITES: Hotelier Stanley Yeh said that the government should focus on making the east coast a tourist spot renowned for relaxing beauty and peace

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Thu, Jan 18, 2007 - Page 4

Members serving on the National Council for Sustainable Develop-ment Network, representatives of the hotel industry and artists jointly hosted a press conference yesterday, unanimously opposing the construction of the Suhua Freeway.

"What the government should create in Hualian and Taitung is an atmosphere similar to that of Bali Island in Indonesia, where people can take a five-day holiday and relax," hotelier Stanley Yeh (嚴長壽) said.

"Please save the NT$100 billion (US$3.125 billion) [the amount needed for the construction] and develop a better strategy for the East Coast," he said.

"It is easy to spend money building freeways," film director Hou Hsiao-hsien (侯孝賢) said. "The government should spend more time thinking about creating an impressive and memorable travel experience. It is a pity that the administration can do nothing about the beauty of Taiwan, but often invests huge amounts of money in meaningless public constructions."

The controversial construction project was suspended in 2003.

The Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) approved an environmental impact report that was presented by the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) in 2003. But because more than three years have passed since the approval without the construction being launched, the EPA was required by law to request a new report from the MOTC.

The report is scheduled to be reviewed today.

Three members serving on the council participated in the meeting yesterday. All three were either leaders of non-governmental organizations or college professors.

"If the EPA decides tomorrow that the project is still viable," said David Chang (張長義), a professor at National Taiwan University's Department of Geography.

He added: "Wouldn't it be a slap in the face for the administration, since representatives at the Conference on Sustaining Taiwan's Economic Development said last year that the entire project should be suspended?"