Penghu County Commissioner Chen Kuang-fu (陳光復) has ordered that construction of the controversial Dacang Cultural Park be suspended, saying that the build-operate-transfer project proposed by his predecessor was a heavy financial burden and lacked public support.
A recent survey conducted by the county government showed that 55 percent of Penghu residents opposed the project, while only 20 percent were in favor of it, Chen said on Monday.
“A major development plan should be implemented to win people’s approval instead of causing antipathy,” he said.
Apart from the steep budget earmarked for the construction — NT$550 million (US$17.46 million) in addition to contingency fees — management of the park and its potential ecological impact should also be considered, he said.
“If the project could bring economic benefits, it would be worth carrying out with loans by the county government. Conversely, the county government cannot — and should not — encourage the establishment of yet another mausoleum,” he said.
Chen said he would put together a nine-member ad hoc committee to examine the project, including the contract, construction quality, potential economic benefits and environmental impact, and announce his final decision next month.
The project to build a 6.5-hectare park dedicated to the goddess Matsu and a hotel complex on the 18-hectare Dacang Island has been contentious since it was proposed and approved by former Penghu County commissioner Wang Chien-fa (王乾發), and became a target of public criticism when construction started after bypassing an environmental impact assessment and public hearings
Other than a NT$50 million grant issued by the central government for a landscape engineering project, the county government — which is already burdened with a debt of more than NT$2 billion — is desperately short of the NT$550 million needed for the project. The former administration planned to raise NT$300 million from the private sector, but only received NT$5 million.
Penghu Ocean Citizen Alliance founder Wu Shuang-tse (吳雙澤), a Dacang resident, called Chen’s announcement the “best Lunar New Year gift to Penghu residents,” saying the move could presage a new era of administration that implements policies based on public opinion and defends the values it believes to be right.
“Here’s hoping that the county government will push for development while eliminating connivance, thereby challenging an outdated system and encouraging civic participation to ensure government transparency,” he said.
“He [Chen] has demonstrated his values and a desire for reform by halting the construction. The suspension of Dacang Cultural Park’s construction is a statement on his administrative style,” Wu said.
DPP Penghu Councilor Chen Hui-ling (陳慧玲), who opposes the project, has volunteered to join the nine-member ad hoc committee, while also recommending that Wu and Yu Kuo-lin (郁國麟), whom she described as an established construction engineer, be committee members.
“I have always said that the fate of Dacang Park should be decided by Penghu residents. The survey reconfirmed the fact that the policy formed by Wang’s administration deviates greatly from the public will,” she said.
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