Taipei, Nov. 22 (CNA) The government will pay NT$2.55 billion (US$83.6 million) to Orchid Island residents to compensate them for infringing on their rights by maintaining a nuclear waste storage facility there over the past five decades, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) announced Friday.
Tsai announced the compensation at a news conference in Taitung and hailed the move as reflecting the goal of the current government to pursue transitional justice for indigenous tribes based on fact-finding efforts.
"Evidence we collected showed that the then-government decided to build a nuke waste storage in reserved lands for the Yami people on Orchid Island without their previous knowledge or agreement," Tsai said.
She described the payment as a step toward compensating Orchid Island and its people, but said there was still a lot to do to "correct our past errors."
The decision to position the facility to handle low- and medium-level nuclear waste from Taiwan's nuclear power plants on Orchid Island was made in 1974 and it began receiving shipments in 1982.
The process has long been recognized as deceptive, with a report titled "Orchid Island: Taiwan's Nuclear Dumpsite" in the newsletter Nuclear Monitor in 1993 detailing how residents were led to believe a cannery was being built.
The Executive Yuan brought up historical documents showing that former President Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) and Premier Sun Yun-suan (孫運璿) went ahead with the decision to build the facility without informing the local Yami people in advance.
Since residents realized in the late 1980s what was actually on the site, they have feared it would contaminate the food chain and force them off the island and also led protests against nuclear power.
Taiwan Power Co. has compensated the people on Orchid Island by providing free electricity and paying a certain stipend to each resident.
An additional NT$220 million in compensation has been doled out to Orchid Island every three years since 2000.
The additional compensation pledged Friday by the Tsai government will be donated by a fund affiliated with the Ministry of Economic Affairs and managed by a non-profit organization composed of Yami people, according to the State-owned Enterprise Commission.
The money will be used for long-term medical care and emergency aid for local residents, as well as cultural and educational development and the building of an economic and transportation infrastructure.
To explain why the government needed three and a half years to come to its conclusion, a government spokesman said the process started on Aug. 15, 2016 when Tsai asked agencies to produce a report on the policy-making process used to build the facility.
Minister Without Portfolio Lin Wan-i (林萬億), who headed the task force responsible for the report, concluded in December 2018 that the then government did not inform local residents of its decision to build the storage facility on Orchid Island.
Based on the report, Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) approved a set of measures regarding the compensation of the Yami people on Oct. 18, 2019.