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Economics ministry plans to cut cement exports to 15%

2017/06/19 22:59:16

Yang Wei-fuu (楊偉甫, center)

Taipei, June 19 (CNA) The government plans to lower the cap on Taiwan's cement exports from over 20 percent of total output to 15 percent to help protect the environment, Vice Minister of Economic Affairs Yang Wei-fuu (楊偉甫) said Monday.

In response to concerns that the pursuit of aggressive cement export growth has come at the expense of environment, Yang said the ministry is devising an environmental impact assessment (EIA) policy for the development of the cement industry.

The policy is scheduled to be completed by June 2018 and be submitted to the Environmental Protection Administration.

Yang was speaking at a press briefing on Asia Cement Corp.'s (ACC) mining rights in eastern Taiwan after images of an area in Taroko National Park that was deforested from mining activity by the company came under the spotlight.

The images were shot by respected filmmaker and environmental advocate Chi Po-lin (齊柏林), who made the 2013 documentary "Beyond Beauty: Taiwan from Above" (看見台灣), and gained newfound resonance after Chi was killed in a helicopter crash on June 10.

Just days before his death, Chi said he compared recent photos of the mining area he took with some images from this documentary and found that the mined area has grown in size.

Those images sparked concerns among environmental groups who recently criticized Taiwan's high cement export ratio, saying it shows that the country eyes economic gains at the expense of environmental protection.

They suggested that the government open Taiwan's door to imports of cement and other alternatives.

The Taiwan Cement Manufacturer's Association argued, however, that Taiwan's cement imports fell gradually year after year to 30 percent of total demand in 2015.

Yang said a draft amendment to the Mining Act proposed by the ministry will be submitted for inter-ministerial discussion before being sent to the Executive Yuan for review.

Asked about whether the cap on the cement export ratio should be revised lower and be included in the EIA policy, Yang said lowering the cap has become a consensus, and the ministry will evaluate the matter.

Yang also said that with the cement industry being an important part of the economy's future development, it will be included in the EIA policy.

Currently, Taiwan's cement exports are capped at more than 20 percent of total output and fluctuates based on the weather, industry conditions and the international situation, Yang said.

He said the ministry aims to lower the cap to 15 percent and will also pursue other alternatives to meet the industry's demand for raw materials.

According to ministry data, Taiwan's cement exports in 2009 reached 51.35 percent of total output, and 35.77 percent, 23.92 percent, 24.24 percent and 26.63 percent from 2013 to 2016, respectively.

The ratio was at 25 percent in the first four months of 2017.

Once the new Mining Act and environmental assessment regulations come into effect, many cement mining projects will be affected, according to Yang.

(By Huang Li-yun and Evelyn Kao)