Vietnam yesterday said a US$10.6 billion steel plant run by a unit of Formosa Plastics Corp (FPC, 台塑) caused an until-now mysterious environmental crisis by releasing toxic wastewater into the sea.
Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Corp (台塑河靜鋼鐵興業), which has built a new plant set to become the biggest of its kind in Southeast Asia, on Tuesday admitted responsibility for a disaster that caused massive fish deaths in coastal provinces in April, head of the government office Mai Tien Dung said.
The spill sparked public outrage across Vietnam and three successive weekends of protests, with demonstrators venting their fury at both Formosa and the government, accusing them of a cover-up.
Formosa had apologized and would provide US$500 million in compensation for those affected by the disaster, Dung said.
“Violations in the construction and testing operations of the plant are the causes for serious environmental pollution, killing a massive amount of fish,” Dung told a packed news conference. “Formosa has admitted responsibility for the fish deaths in four central provinces and committed to publicly apologize for causing severe environmental incidents.”
Formosa yesterday said the company respects the Vietnamese government’s probe and blamed the misconduct on oversight by its construction contractors in Vietnam.
The company expressed regret over the incident in a statement, saying it would work with the Vietnamese authorities to compensate the damage done to Vietnamese and solve the pollution issue.
The Ministry of Economis Affairs’ Department of Investment Services said it respects the agreement reached between Formosa Ha Tinh Steel and the Vietnamese government.
“We have contacted the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs right after the release of the government’s investigative report this afternoon,” department Director-General Vivien Lien (連玉蘋) said by telephone, expressing the hope that the event would not affect the relations between Taiwan and Vietnam.
Lien said the Vietnamese Ministry of Public Security has promised the Taiwanese representatives in Vietnam that it will ensure the safety of Taiwanese in the nation following the incident.
Formosa’s steel plant is among the largest investments by a foreign company in Vietnam.
In April, the media reported that chemicals from a drainage pipe had killed fish, but a preliminary investigation by Formosa and a separate investigation by the Vietnamese government found there was no direct link between the steel plant and the deaths.
The initial government probe concluded the cause was either toxic discharge caused by humans or “red tide,” when algae bloom and produce toxins.
The incident sparked a crisis for the administration of Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, who took office days after dead fish started washing up along a 200km coastline on April 6.
Additional reporting by Ted Chen and Lauly Li
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