Activists target FPG over award

‘DANGEROUS TO THE EARTH’: Ethcon ‘dishonored’ the corporation because of its‘ecological foul play.’ Meanwhile, Taipei bus ads promoting the award were censored

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Thu, May 20, 2010 - Page 2

Environmentalists delivered the “Black Planet Award” to Formosa Plastics Group (FPG) yesterday.

The German-based Foundation Ethics and Economics Conference (Ethcon) gave the conglomerate the award for its “continuing sequence of social and ecological foul play throughout the world.”

The environmentalists also accused Taipei bus operators of tampering with their advertisements about the award.

However, no one from the Formosa Group showed up at the ceremony — which featured a skit portraying President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) as a toady of big corporations — to claim the award.

Calling the award “the shame of Taiwan,” Chien Hsi-chieh (簡錫土皆) of the Alliance for Fair Tax Reform, said Formosa had only been able to grow so big so fast because of tax benefits from the government.

“The interest rate for corporate loans used to be about 10 percent,” Chien said. “Formosa was able to secure a loan of NT$140 billion [US$4.4 billion] and it only paid 3 percent in interest. The other 7 percent of interest rate was paid by taxpayers.”

The six-year-old Ethocon annually presents a “Blue Planet Award” to those who try to protect the Earth, and “Black Planet Award” to those who have demonstrated they represent a clear danger to the Earth.

Janis Wang (王佳貞), a representative of the Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association, said the group bought ad space on 23 buses operating along 10 different routes in Taipei that would take them past FPG’s buildings, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital and other sites.

When the association’s representatives went to check the ads on Tuesday, they found the character “shame” (恥) on the poster had been removed, she said. The bus operators then told them they had to submit ads for review and approval first.

“We didn’t know we had to submit the advertisement for review,” Wang said. “When we found the mistake we called [the operators] and asked what we should do. They told us that we could fix the problem by providing requested documents.”

On Tuesday night, however, Wang said that they were told that the ads had to go.

Wang said that the association has collected NT$150,000 in donations to finance the ad campaign.

Green Party Taiwan Secretary- General Pan Han-shen (潘翰聲) said the ad addresses an issue that was open for discussion. He said FPG does not have to pressure bus operators to take out a word in such a secretive manner.

“It restricts people’s speech and shows that the law of the Wangs [FPG’s owners] is more powerful than the Constitution,” Pan said.

Some environmentalists will attend FPG’s shareholders’ meeting next month, Pan said.