Lawyers and academics yesterday urged the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) to intervene in the controversial Miramar Resort Hotel (美麗灣渡假村) project, as the local government has failed to carry out a court ruling ordering that all construction be halted.
The build-operate-transfer (BOT) beachfront hotel project by the Miramar Group and Taitung County Government at Shanyuan Bay (杉原灣) began construction of the main buildings on the 0.997-hectare land in 2005, circumventing the requirement for an environmental impact assessment (EIA) for land measuring more than 1 hectare.
Following pressure from local residents and environmentalists, the developer re-applied for a construction permit and gained conditional EIA approval from the local government in 2008.
However, in September this year, the Supreme Administrative Court ordered all construction work halted following a lawsuit by several civic groups claiming the EIA process was flawed.
The Taitung County Government had scheduled a new EIA meeting to discuss the project on Thursday, but the meeting was postponed because of a lack of quorum.
Hsu Chia-jung (許嘉容), an attorney from Primordial Law Firm which is representing the civic groups in the Miramar lawsuit, said yesterday that the court’s ruling clearly noted that Article 14-1 of the Environmental Impact Assessment Act (環境影響評估法) stipulates that construction permits are considered invalid without an EIA process.
The first construction permit obtained by the resort hotel in 2005 was invalid because it had “never undergone an EIA process,” and the second one should also be invalid because its EIA conclusion had been determined invalid by the court, Hsu said.
Wang Yu-Cheng (王毓正), an associate professor at National Cheng Kung University’s Department of Law, said the local government avoided its “obligation” to conduct an EIA in the first place and is now claiming it has the “right” to resubmit a new EIA in an effort to legalize the project.
This is against the precautionary principle of the EIA Act, Wang said.
Liao Pen-chuan (廖本全), a professor at National Taipei University’s Department of Real Estate and Built Environment, said the Environmental Protection Administration had trampled on the ministry’s authority by saying that the resort hotel could be legally constructed on legally authorized land, when it is the ministry that has the authority to determine use of national land.
“An open beach serves public interests, but a resort hotel only serves the interests of a corporation,” he said.
Liao added it was ridiculous that the local government responded to the ministry’s inquiry about the case by saying that the Miramar Resort Hotel is a project that encourages civic participation in local development and that withdrawing its construction permit would harm public interests.
Wu Rwei-ren (吳叡人), an associate research fellow at the Institute of Taiwan History at Academia Sinica, said: “This is neoliberalism gone out of control ... with almost everything becoming a commodity in the market, including the environment and collective memories of ethnic groups.”