The Yoho Beach Resort (悠活麗緻渡假村) in Pingtung County’s Kenting National Park yesterday defended its legitimacy, saying it has performed environmental assessments based on another law before construction of the resort complex started.
Yoho chairman Tseng Chung-shin (曾忠信) made the remarks following recent reports that the resort has been operating for the past 14 years without gaining environmental impact assessment (EIA) approval in advance, and may face forced closure due to operating illegally.
At a meeting on Monday at the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) with the Ministry of the Interior’s Construction and Planning Agency, the agencies determined that all six sections of the resort area should gain EIA approval, rather than splitting the area into separate sections when applying for a hotel business license with the local government to avoid conducting an EIA.
“We definitely did not avoid the EIA and we always conformed to the regulations during the construction process,” Tseng told a press conference in Taipei yesterday, stressing that the operation has always been “legal.”
“The resort did not need to gain EIA approval because it was not required at the time of construction and the resort did not add any expansions afterwards,” said Josephine Lin (林玉芬), an attorney for the Yoho company, .
She added that the company had applied for an environmental assessment in advance, in accordance with the National Park Act (國家公園法), before it gained a construction license in 1996.
Lin said that after a suggestion by Kenting National Park Headquarters, the resort applied to change the land-use description of its sections 1 and 2 from “congregate housing” to “hotel,” and gained a hotel business license for the two sections in 2004. She added that a similar application to change the descriptions of sections 3 and 4 in 2006 had been stalled by the competent authority for the past eight years.
Later yesterday at the EPA, Comprehensive Planning Department Director-General Yeh Jiunn-horng (葉俊宏) reiterated that “all sections of the resort, from one to six, cannot operate as a hotel, unless they restore the area’s land-use as congregate housing.”
Yeh said that Article 7 of the Environmental Impact Assessment Act (環境影響評估法) stipulates that the developer needs to submit an environmental impact statement to the industry’s competent authority for review when applying for permission for a development project.
Yeh added that Article 4 of the act states that “development activity includes its planning, implementation and post-completion use,” so even if the resort did not expand after completing the initial construction, “post-completion use” still needs to gain EIA approval.
“The EPA insists that development projects with constructions that are already completed still have to apply for EIA approval if they apply for a change in use,” he said, adding that this was to prevent developers from starting a construction in ways that can avoid the EIA and then alter the land use after the construction is completed.
He said the act also clearly stipulates that permission granted for a development activity prior to the completion of an environmental impact review is considered invalid.
However, Yeh said there are other laws that determine the case’s legitimacy, such as the Statute for the Development of Tourism (發展觀光條例), which states that hotels that operate without a business license face a fine of between NT$90,000 and NT$450,000, and should be ordered to stop operations.
The resort yesterday said that its sections 3 to 6 deemed by the EPA as operating illegally have, starting yesterday, stopped accepting reservations.
According to Lin, the Yoho Company will decide on whether to apply for an administrative remedy or conform to the government’s punishment once it receives the government’s notice in writing.