A Vietnamese Catholic priest yesterday held a news conference in Taipei to complain about the operations of Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Corp, a Vietnamese subsidiary of Formosa Plastics Group (FPG).
Father Nguyen Dihn Thuc from the Catholic Diocese of Vinh, who was accompanied at the news conference by Taiwanese lawmakers and representatives of several non-governmental organizations, said pollution from the plant in Ha Tinh Province has severely affected the region’s residents physically and spiritually.
Vietnamese fishermen have been particularly affected as massive numbers of fish were poisoned by chemicals discharged by the steel plant in April, and without fish to sell, they are unable to buy food for their families or provide schooling for their children, Nguyen said.
He said he hopes the Legislative Yuan could help the Vietnamese in three ways: by demanding that the company publicize information about the level of pollution emitted by the steel plant; by providing specific details about cleanup efforts and compensation; and by ensuring that the plant is outfitted with proper equipment to process pollutants.
FPG on July 7 promised to pay US$500 million compensation to residents affected by the discharge of toxic waste and massive fish deaths in April.
The money has yet to be paid to the region’s residents, Nguyen said.
FPG should also be responsible for paying for health check-ups for those residents affected by the spill in April, he said.
If the steel plant cannot guarantee transparency of information, then it should be shut down and asked to leave Vietnam, Nguyen said.
The pollution caused by the plant has damaged Taiwan’s national reputation and would affect President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) “new southbound policy,” he said.
The government and private corporations should take responsibility, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Su Chih-fen (蘇治芬) said, adding that she would ask the company to provide specific plans on how it plans to compensate for the damage.
Su said that she would pressure Formosa Plastics through state-run China Steel Corp, which holds a 25 percent stake in the company, adding that Taiwan should help other nations through democratic means while maintaining responsibility toward environmental conservation.
DPP Legislator Wu Kun-yuh (吳焜裕) said that during his most recent visit to Vietnam, he saw an increasing emphasis by the Vietnamese government on environmental protection.
Taiwan’s government should ensure that such concerns are included when it drafts its plans for the “new southbound policy,” he said.
Wu said that Taiwanese businesspeople abroad should ensure that environmental protection is a key part of their investments and make a good impression for Taiwanese businesspeople in general.
DPP Legislator Chen Man-li (陳曼麗) said the Legislative Yuan should consider ways that it could legally ensure Taiwanese investors adhere to corporate morals, adding that she would talk with the Executive Yuan about the issue.
While Nguyen said the affected residents have yet to receive compensation from FPG, Vietnamese Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment Tran Hong Ha said in a televised meeting held by the Vietnamese parliament on July 30 that FPG had paid US$250 million in compensation on July 28 and that the remainder was expected to be paid on Aug. 28.