Press Release 28 March 2006

This press relesase was issued after the press conference held on 28 March 2006 regarding opposition to interference by the Executive Yuan into the professional work of the EIA Committee

Issued by: Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association, Yuan Jhen United Legal Services

Yesterday, nine EIA commissioners signed a joint statement protesting the sending of messages through the media by the Executive Yuan and its other ministries and commissions, in an attempt to interfere in the EIA reviews for the major developments such as the Central Taiwan Science Park projects in Houli and Cising, the Formosa Plastics steel plant and China Petroleum projects in Yunlin.

1. Statements issued at this press conference represent the views of Commissioners Jhan Shun-guei and Robin Winkler only, and not those of the other seven commissioners who signed the joint statement, and whose views are expressed only in the joint statement. Statements issued at this press conference did not include information regarding the rumor that signatories are considering resignation.

2. The Commissioners expressed strong protest concerning the notion, expressed through the media by other ministries and commissions of the Executive Yuan, of designing special review schedules for individual cases, as well as their demand for legal and administrative assistance. The Commissioners ask for a return to administration according to the law, in order that the EIA Committee may carry out its work independently and objectively, and without pressure.

3. Regarding the conflict between environment and economy, Robin Winkler noted that, according to Article 3 of the Basic Environmental Law, "in view of long term benefits to the nation, economic, technological and social development should all be considered together with environmental protection. However, where economic, technological or social development is likely to negatively affect or endanger the environment, environmental protection should take priority." As agreed by many environmental academics, although we cannot predict the extent to which we will suffer ecological catastrophe and resources shortages in the future, we can be certain that the current level of environmental destruction is far more serious than in the past. The Legislative Yuan has already made a clear value judgment in the Basic Environmental Law, and this should be the guiding principle for all legal administrative action. Also, in terms of economic development, if Taiwan fails to make environmental impact a top consideration, the end result will be that economic development will exhaust the land and resources in such a way that it is no longer possible for them to be used in a sustainable way, and this will be detrimental to further economic development. Considered in these terms, there is no conflict between environment and economy.

4. Commissioner Jhan Shun-guei expressed concern regarding the government's aimless economic development strategy, saying that the authority bestowed upon commissioners by EIA law is not limited to review of environmental impact, as they must also consider social, economic and cultural factors. With the Executive Yuan not having decided on a direction for its industrial development strategy, and instead promoting the development of all large investment projects, as well as relaxing measures for environmental consideration for all projects it considers "important:, Taiwan's environment will be unable to sustain the repercussions. Not only will high energy consuming, heavily polluting industries such as the steel plant and the eight naptha cracker plant aggravate the already critical water shortage in central Taiwan, but as can be seen from the example of the sixth naptha cracker plant, such projects that it is claimed will provide job opportunities, actually require a majority of imported labor, and are of no help at all to the local employment situation. Blind pursuit of GDP, and a failure to carry out appropriate allocation of economic resources, are by no means a proper direction for industry. However, under these circumstances, it is even more necessary that EIA commissioners consider all positive and negative factors, from an objective and neutral standpoint, in comparing benefits. Unless the EIA system is to be abolished, the EIA review process should be respected as the last line of defense for sustainable development in Taiwan.

5. Regarding whether or not there will be further action in the future, both commissioners withheld comment. They also reiterated that opinions expressed during the press conference represented those of the two commissioners present only, and that consensus with the other commissioners was reached only regarding the wish to return to independent, professional EIA reviews. There will only be discussion of further action if there continues to be inappropriate expression of concern, or interference, by other ministries and commissions under the Executive Yuan.

For further information, please contact Christina Macfarquhar: [email protected]

Date: 28.3.2006