Protesters urge MOI to ease meeting rules

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff reporter

Fri, Jul 21, 2017 - Page 3

The Ministry of the Interior (MOI) should drop restrictive meeting registration procedures and allow the meetings to be broadcast, land rights campaigners said yesterday at a protest outside the ministry’s Construction and Planning Agency, as work continued on drafting a national land usage plan.

About 10 protesters from several environmental groups gathered outside the agency, urging it to follow the lead of the Environmental Protection Administration, which has announced that real-time online broadcasts of environmental review meetings are to start next month.

“There are all sorts of obstacles in registering for ministry meetings, including signing documents, allowing them to collect information on your IP address, what Web sites you visit and accepting their ban on audio or video recording,” Central Taiwan Science Park Pollution Search Alliance (中科污染搜查線) secretary-general Hsu Wan-ling (徐宛鈴) said.

The agency should drop requirements that civic participants submit “letters of consent” allowing the collection of their personal data and agreeing to the agency’s ban on recording, Hsu said.

Agency officials have also dragged their feet in fulfilling promises to implement changes, she said.

At a meeting in August last year, they promised to push for revisions on Taichung’s regional land use policy, but no progress has been made since then, she said.

Tsaoshan Ecology, Culture and History Alliance president Wen Hai-chen (文海珍) called for an overall review of application guidelines to make planned review meetings for “national spatial planning” more friendly to civic participation.

The National Spatial Planning Act (國土計畫法) passed last year mandates that an overarching plan for national land usage be implemented next year, with the agency planning to hold exhibitions, presentations and review meetings over the next several months.

Recognition of national conservation zones under the law could potentially provide a new tool to environmental groups fighting to block approval of development projects.

Citizens of the Earth researcher Wu Chi-jung (吳其融) said opening the review process to civic participation was crucial to ensuring implementation of the new law follows a different course than the Regional Spatial Planning Act (區域規劃法) passed in 1974, which he said has been widely ignored by central and local government agencies.

“If you do not let citizens participate, the result will be that the planning continues to get increasingly complex and difficult to resolve, making the threshold for future civic participation even higher,” he said.

Barriers to participation in the ministry’s meetings ensure that the public is only able to contest many controversial development projects during the environmental review process, after they have already received ministry approval, he said.

Lin Shih-min (林世民), deputy head of the agency’s comprehensive planning group, said it would “carefully evaluate” whether the registration process needs to be changed

“There is consensus on the general direction toward more openness, but different agencies have different concerns and different paces,” he said.

Minutes of agency meetings are already being publicized, although the names of individual committee members are left out to protect their privacy, he said.

Possible privacy concerns from individual committee members and other issues still need to be resolved before any final decision is reached, he said.