Malaysians protest in Taipei over petrochemical plant

By Alison Hsiao  /  Staff reporter

Fri, Jul 19, 2013 - Page 3

A petrochemical complex project rebuffed by Taiwanese two years ago is proving equally unpopular among residents of Pengerang, Malaysia, some of whom have traveled to Taipei to voice their opposition. The visitors said the Taiwanese government should not “dump your unwanted garbage in somebody else’s homeland.”

Members of the Pengerang NGO Alliance and three Johor State legislative assemblymen, accompanied by members of the Changhua Environmental Protection Union and Yunlin County Shallow Waters Aquaculture Association and Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇), protested outside the Presidential Office yesterday, pleading for Taiwanese to be aware of the problem and asking for a response from President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).

Kuokuang Petrochemical Technology Co, in which state-owned oil refiner CPC Corp, Taiwan, has a large stake, turned to Pengerang, a small town at the southeastern tip of Malaysia, after its bid to build its eighth naphtha cracker on the coastal wetlands in Changhua County was rejected.

Ee Chin-li (黃俊歷), one of the Malaysian assemblymen, said the environmental impact assessment for the petrochemical project is now in its final stage and while Kuokuang’s investment plan has been in place since 2011, it was not until the beginning of this year that the Malaysian government confirmed the project.

“But the land reclamation and the making of oil fuel tank for the project had already been completed by then,” he said.

“The Malaysian government has to be held responsible, but we would also like to ask President Ma, as [the leader of] the exporting country, to help halt the project,” assemblyman Tan Hong-pin (陳泓賓) said.

“We reject the entry of industries undertaking high pollution-generating and energy-consuming activities,” Tan said.

“Malaysia is not a dump for Taiwan’s wastes,” acting chairman of the Pengerang NGO Alliance Chua Peng-sian (蔡平先) said. “What the residents want is sustainable development, not pollution.”

“More than 3,600 ancestral graves and four temples of local Chinese descendants are to be leveled for the project, some of which date back hundreds of years,” Tan said.

Chua said the grave removals was a disgrace to the world’s Chinese descendants.

Just as Taiwanese environmentalists worried about the threat the complex would pose to the endangered humpback dolphins off Taiwan’s west coast, their Malaysian counterparts say the endangered dugongs inhabiting Malaysian coastal waters and lobsters that thrive off Pengerang would face a similar plight once the petrochemical industry put down its roots.

After Kuokuang’s project was ousted from Taiwan, “is it then okay for it to go to Malaysia to continue polluting the planet?” Tien said.

“People have to rethink the meaning of petrochemicals, as the supply of petroleum is waning, and the health hazards the industry brings about are immense,” she said.

Tien asked for CPC Corp’s to immediately divest itself from the project. She said the corporation should be thinking about the development of renewable energy technologies.