The Industrial Development Bureau (IDB) yesterday rejected an appeal by a group of local academics to hold a public debate on a plan to build a giant petrochemical complex in a wetlands area in central Taiwan.
The bureau, which falls under the Ministry of Economic Affairs, said that as the project was initiated by Kuokuang Petrochemical Technology Co (KPTC), the academics should debate the issue with the company rather than with the bureau.
“The IDB would have been more than willing to provide details of the government’s policy on the development of the petrochemical industry, if the academics had asked for that,” IDB Director-General Woody Duh (杜紫軍) said.
He said the government supports the project because it was expected to contribute to the development of the local petrochemical industry, which has played an important role in the growth of Taiwan’s economy over the past decades.
However, 1,259 local university professors and academics have opposed the project and on Aug. 3 released a joint petition stating their objections.
Chen Chi-chung (陳吉仲), a professor at National Chung Hsing University’s Department of Applied Economics and a spokesmen for the anti-Kuokuang campaign, said yesterday the government had so far not offered a policy response to the petition.
Chen said, the IDB instead ran advertisements in local newspapers for two days this month warning that people’s daily lives could be adversely affected if the petrochemical industry were to be scrapped.
Chen stressed that his group was not targeting the entire petrochemical industry.
“A public debate on the advantages and disadvantages is necessary because the Kuokuang project, if implemented, may gravely affect the lives of the people in the area and the survival of Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins and other marine species in the waters off Taiwan’s western coast,” Chen said.
With the project’s environmental impact assessment (EIA) entering a decisive stage, Chen urged the government to uphold the principle of administrative neutrality and refrain from abusing its administrative power by interfering with the EIA.
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