Consumer watchdog says campsites rarely inspected

PHANTOM CAMPS::The Tourism Bureau said that illegal campsites are not necessarily unsafe, but they are often in breach of land use regulations, which it cannot enforce

By Hsiao Yu-hsin and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Sun, Jan 21, 2018 - Page 3

The government has vetted less than 5 percent of the nation’s 1,789 camping sites as being fully compliant with laws and regulations, the Consumers’ Foundation said.

The foundation made the remarks on Tuesday in response to the online publication that day of a list of camping venues by the Tourism Bureau.

Although the Web site — which can be accessed at www.taiwan.net.tw/m1.aspx?sno=0024646#light2 — was meant to advise the public on safe camping, it included only 85 venues that had been properly inspected, the foundation said.

Agencies responsible for inspecting the venues include the Tourism Bureau, the Council of Agriculture’s Forestry Bureau, the Ministry of Education and counties and municipalities, among others.

The law requires that camping sites have valid land use licenses and meet safety, health and sanitation standards.

According to Taiwanese Web site RVCamp.org, there are at least 1,789 camping venues in the country, the foundation said, adding that less than 5 percent of the estimated total were vetted campsites.

The small number of certified campsites makes it impossible for campers to know for sure whether they are camping at a legal establishment, foundation chairman Yu Kai-hsiung (游開雄) said.

The foundation believes that a significant number of camping venues are not running safe businesses and governmental inactivity has severely compromised consumer safety, Yu said.

“The agencies in charge have neglected the issue for a long time and they are way too slow to keep up,” he added.

Bureau Director-General Chou Yung-hui (周永暉) said the bureau is in the process of inspecting campsites and would soon begin to publish lists of the illegal camping businesses it has identified.

The partial lists would be updated to reflect new information, he said.

However, the Tourism Bureau sees its role mainly as keeping the public informed on safe venues, he said, adding that addressing illegal campsites — which mostly violate land-use regulations — is the remit of other agencies.

“We need assistance from municipalities and the competent agencies to handle the problem,” he said.

Squatters do not register their illegal commercial campsites with the government, because they know that they are breaking the law, bureau technical division chief Huang Shih-fang (黃勢芳) said.

Owners of illegal camping venues frequently squat on land reserved for soil and water resource conservation or on mountain slopes where development and habitation are forbidden, he said.

Those locations are often remote and local authorities often lack the personnel to check all the campsites, he said, adding that regulating the camping industry is work in progress.

Additional reporting by Chen Yi-chia