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Cabinet to review MOEA-issued approval on Asia Cement project

2017/06/13 19:17:42

Taipei, June 13 (CNA) Premier Lin Chuan (林全) said on Tuesday that the Cabinet will review the legality of approval issued by the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) for a major local cement producer to extend its mining rights in eastern Taiwan.

Lin told the media that the review will be conducted in one week and if the approval issued to Asia Cement Corp. (亞泥) is found to lack due process, the Executive Yuan will hold the persons responsible accountable.

He said that if the public is still unhappy with the results of the review, the Cabinet will invite the Control Yuan, the country's top watchdog body, to launch an investigation.

On March 20, the Legislative Yuan's Economics Committee passed a motion demanding that the MOEA not extend Asia Cement's mining rights in Taroko in Hualien, eastern Taiwan, within six months, pending amendments to the Mining Act that would require environmental impact assessments on mining projects.

It was later found, however, that the MOEA had already granted Asia Cement a 20-year extension on March 14 without public knowledge.

The approval for Asia Cement to extend its mining rights triggered an outcry among environmental protection activists and the protests became even more visible following the death of respected filmmaker and environmental advocate Chi Po-lin (齊柏林) on Sunday.

Asia Cement has felt the fallout from the death of Chi, since his 2013 documentary "Beyond Beauty: Taiwan from Above" (看見台灣) depicted the man-made destruction of Taiwan's environment. Chi used images of an area in Taroko National Park that has been deforested by Asia Cement's mining activity.

Soon after Chi's death, a whale-watching cruise operator who took Chi on a cruise off Hualien last month published a photo of the same mining area of Asia Cement that was taken by Chi during the outing.

The photo included a message from Chi that read: "Asia Cement has dug even deeper than five years ago when I shot 'Beyond Beauty: Taiwan from Above.'"

The petition staged by environmental activists against the extension of the mining rights for Asia Cement gained momentum after Chi's death. In response to the photo taken by Chi in May, Asia Cement Chairman Douglas Hsu (徐旭東) said on Tuesday that the move to dig deeper is aimed at reducing the area being mined.

Hsu said that the deeper digging will be used as a fish farm in the future.

Hsu's comments sparked further criticism from environmental protection activists.

The petition against the extension of Asia Cement's mining rights has collected more than 130,000 signatures, according to the Citizen of the Earth, Taiwan, which organized the petition.

(By Yang Sz-ruei, Yu Hsiao-han, Wei Shu, Y.F. Low, and Frances Huang)