Several lawyers concerned with environmental issues on Wednesday launched a petition asking the government to respect reviews of the judiciary and immediately halt development projects as soon as the court rules in favor of the plaintiff.
The lawyers cited several controversial cases on the legitimacy of government-led development projects that were fought between government agencies and environmental protection groups or local residents. In the cases mentioned, the plaintiff had won the lawsuits, but the verdicts were subsequently ignored by government agencies.
The cases referred to included the Central Taiwan Science Park’s (CTSP) third-phase expansion project in Taichung County’s Houli Township (后里), its fourth-phase expansion project in Changhua County’s Erlin Township (二林) and the build-operate-transfer development project of the Miramar Resort Hotel in Taitung County’s Shanyuan Bay (杉原海岸).
Lin San-chia (林三加), an attorney and director at the Taipei Bar Association said that although the Taipei High Administrative Court and the Supreme Administrative Court ruled to withdraw the environment impact assessment (EIA) report of the CTSP’s third-phase expansion project in 2008 and 2010 respectively, the development project was continued.
The central government’s executive authority even submitted articles to newspapers in 2010, saying that the court’s rulings were “meaningless,” “ineffective” and “damaged the EIA system,” Lin said.
Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association attorneys Tsai Ya-ying (蔡雅瀅) and Lu Shih-wei (陸詩薇) said the separation of legislative, executive and judicial powers was important to safeguard the public’s rights.
However, the example of the CTSP’s third-phase expansion showed that executive administrations negelected the mechanism of judicial relief, Tsai said.
Lu said the executive’s decision to neglect the verdicts also damaged the precautionary principle of the Environmental Impact Assessment Act (環境影響評估法) because allowing development to continue during the appeal period or a new EIA causes substantial impact to the environment.
“We refuse to allow Taiwan to become an autocratic nation,” said Chang Yu-yin (張譽尹), an attorney who represented dozens of farmers in the lawsuit against the CTSP’s fourth-phase expansion, adding that if executive powers are allowed to bully judicial powers, the nation will be ruled by the policies of the executive authorities without judicial relief.
Thomas Chan (詹順貴), affiliated with Primordial Law Firm and representing local residents in a lawsuit against the Miramar hotel, said that when facing government executive authorities that neglect and even distort the verdicts of the court, people have a choice to execute their right of civil disobedience or to make a stand against “conscienceless developers.”
He said that a demonstration by civic groups and local residents will take place tomorrow at Taipei’s Miramar Entertainment Park against the Miramar project.
Lin said the petition is the first wave of action initiated by the lawyers, hoping to garner more support from the judicial field as well as from the public.
The petition was initiated by the environmental law committees of the Taiwan Bar Association, the Taipei Bar Association, the Kaohsiung Bar Association and the Environmental Jurists Association.