Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Taiwan promises action on the "killer" Pengerang project

Malaysians who have written to Taiwan President Ma Ying-Jeou to protest against the construction of a petrochemical plant in Pengerang, Johor, by the Taiwan state-owned Kuokuang Petrochemical Technology Co, have received a reply from the president’s office.

The reply sent through email states that their complaints will be followed up by Executive Yuan - the executive branch of Taiwan government.

“We are very much concerned about the issue raised by you and view it seriously. Hence, we have forwarded your letter to the relevant authority, which is the Executive Yuan.

“It will reply to you directly. Please wait for the outcome of the process,” said the reply, which is shared on Facebook.

The online campaign against Kuokuang’s RM36 billion petrochemical plant in Pengerang was initiated by a Facebook user through his Facebook event, calling on Malaysians to petition President Ma through a virtual letter box in his official website.

The project, including a naphtha cracking plant and petrochemical complex, was initially planned to be constructed in the Dacheng Wetlands in Taiwan’s Changhua County.

It was rejected by Ma last April, after local residents and environmental impact assessment teams raised concerns that the complex will consume too much water and generate high levels of pollution in the ecologically sensitive area, which is also the habitat of the critically endangered Taiwan pink dolphins.

NONEAccording to a Taiwanese newspaper Apple, the coalition which spearheaded the movement to block the petrochemical plant in Taiwan is now in solidarity with Malaysians.

“Petrochemical industry is a highly polluted industry. Since it is not set up in our home, it should not be set up in other people’s homes as well,” said a spokesperson of the coalition.

Kuokuang is a part of a larger petrochemical project in Pengerang, dubbed Petronas Refinery and Petrochemical Integrated Development (Rapid).

The mega-project, which is part of the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP), aims to transform southern Johor into a refining and petrochemical centre, complementing the existing facilities on the east coast of the peninsula and in Singapore.

Rapid will eventually acquire some 22,500 acres of land, affecting up to 15 villages in Pengerang. The first phase of project development, which is yet to kick off, will lead to the relocation of some 3,000 residents or about 1,000 households.

pengerang protest demo 180312The project has sparked protest from local residents, mostly comprised of fishermen. Last month, 578 of them filed a suit seeking compensation for land reclamation work in connection with the project.

However Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak has assured locals not to worry about their livelihood as all the necessary compensation would be paid to them.

To date, a total of RM4.1 million in compensation have already been given to affected fishermen.

Once completed, the project will be bigger than the existing facilities in Kerteh, Gebeng and Malacca, with the capacity to produce nine million tonnes of petroleum products and 4.5 million tonnes of petrochemicals a year.

It will have its own regasification plant to serve Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) tankers.

Apart from Petronas and Kuokuang, German chemical company BASF SE, Dutch company Royal Vopak, local company Dialog Group Bhd and Johor state government have also invested in the project.

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