Taiwanese organisations mark one year since Formosa disaster

A coalition of Taiwanese civil society organisations published a statement to mark the one year anniversary of the Formosa environmental disaster calling for increased transparency and responsibility.

Victims continue to seek for environmental justice one year after Formosa’s apology

Today, June 30, 2017, marks a full year since Formosa Ha Tinh admitted their release of industrial waste into the sea, leading to an environmental disaster that included thousands of tons of dead fish. As compensation, they promised to pay US$ 500 million. To some, this disaster seems to be over. To Vietnamese fishermen and local people, however, the nightmare continues. Civil society organizations, including the Catholic Church – Vietnamese Migrant Workers and Brides Office, the Environmental Jurist Association, the Taiwan Human Rights Watch, the Covenants Watch, Professor Paul Peng – Academia Sinica Taiwan Researcher, have pointed out the collusion between Formosa Ha Tinh and the Vietnamese government. Local fishermen and the affected population still have not received appropriate compensation. They continue to suffer unemployment and other hardships caused by Formosa Ha Tinh. In addition, the Vietnamese government has severely censored information regarding the Formosa environment disaster.

Thanks to Vinh Diocese parishioners and supporters, we obtained knowledge that Formosa Ha Tinh refused to meet with victims and set up a public communication channel regarding the supervision of waste release. While Formosa Ha Tinh announced they had rectified 53 environmental violations cited by the government, locals within the four affected provinces still are left in the dark as to what those 53 violations are. A number of civil society organizations sent official requests for clarification but have received no response so far. Such behaviors give us no reassurance that such a disaster will not be repeated. Recently, on May 29, 2017, Formosa Ha Tinh announced the official start of its operation to produce 3.5 tons of steel per year. Just one day later, the equipment exploded inside the plant and added even more anxiety to the local population.

Formosa has broken many records in environmental safety violation. Mercury mud was released in Cambodia in 1999, underground water in Ren Wu was contaminated in 2009 and many explosions took place at various Formosa Plastics plants. Civil society organizations have recorded more than 25,000 incidents of air pollution – not 270 times as admitted by Formosa Taiwan. Consequently, the local population cannot trust Formosa Taiwan to obey the laws. We, therefore, call for Formosa Ha Tinh to publicize its data and information on environmental control. They must involve the local population in the process, and allow for independent inspection to prevent a repeat of the disaster.

It has been a year since the mass fish kills took place along the four central provinces but the lives of the local population remain in serious conditions. Seafood safety continues to be a top concern. According to the Tuoi Tre Daily on May 18, Deputy Prime Minister Truong Hoa Binh announced at the Ministry of Health that seafood was safe. However, soon afterwards, Mr. Binh himself forbade people in the four central provinces to catch any seafood within 20 nautical miles from shore. In September 2016, the government tested and identified 132 kinds of deep water shrimps, crabs, and squids still contaminated with phenol.

We, various civil society organizations, jointly request the government of President Tsai to review the Southbound Economic Policy and the Laws on Industrial Reform, establish agencies to monitor and manage Taiwanese capital from those companies that violate human rights, endanger local environment, and adversely affect people’s livelihood.We would like to send the government of Taiwan the following requests:

1) Formosa Ha Tinh must publicly provide information on the substances it has released into the sea of central Vietnam.

2) Formosa Ha Tinh must build an environment monitoring system that is thorough, transparent, and in consultation with locals. This system will be able to detect and react in a timely manner to prevent any occurrence of similar disaster in the future.

3) Formosa Ha Tinh must fulfill its social responsibilities, deal with the environmental contamination created by itself, and compensate the affected people appropriately.

4) The government of Taiwan should review its Southbound Economic Policy with additional provisions for the environment, society and human rights as base responsibilities of companies that invest overseas.

5) The Ministry of Economy should review its Regulations of Production and the Solutions for Companies Investing Overseas, monitoring overseas investment and penalizing violations or rescinding permits for overseas investment.

Environmental Jurists Association

Covenant Watch

Taiwan Association for Human Rights

Vietnamese Migrant Workers and Brides Office (Taiwan ACT)

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