Formosa environmental scandal poses potential security problems

The environmental disaster caused by a steel plant subsidiary of Taiwan’s Formosa Plastics Group in central Vietnam, will remain an issue for a long time to come, a top official of the country’s legislature has said.

The consequences of the scandal pose not only eco-social problems, but also security and national defense issues for Vietnam, Do Ba Ty, deputy chairman of the lawmaking National Assembly, said, urging that precautionary measures be taken in the future.

Ty was speaking at a meeting of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee in Hanoi, held to review eco-social development in the first half of this year and set plans for the rest of 2016.

The Formosa scandal, however, was high on the agenda, coming only ten days after the company admitted that it had dumped dirty water into the ocean in April, resulting in a two-month long fish death epidemic across four coastal provinces.

The Taiwanese have since apologized to the Vietnamese people and government, and pledged US$500 million in damages.

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A man is pictured near the seaport inside the Formosa plant in Ha Tinh Province, located in north-central Vietnam.

Compensation is not enough

Despite this, most lawmakers say financial compensation should be an initial step only, demanding that the government continue clarifying who is responsible for licensing and overseeing the Formosa project in Ha Tinh Province.

“From the Formosa scandal, we should look straight into our own weaknesses,” said Ha Ngoc Chien, chairman of the National Assembly’s ethnics committee.

Chie said the government should make clear who is responsible for assessing and licensing such a pollution-heavy project.

The steel mill of Formosa in Ha Tinh is a major foreign-invested project, but both its environmental assessment and business licensing processes were completed quickly.

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“All of their requests for preferential treatment and incentives were also approved in short time,” Chien said. “Finally, the negative consequences have also come fast.”

The official said it is a must for Formosa to compensate for its’ actions, “but a more important issue is how to win back the trust of the public.”

Ty, the National Assembly deputy chairman, also said the Formosa case has only been partially resolved.

“The question is when will the damaged environment recover, and when can fishermen return to their jobs?” he said.

He said without answers to these questions, and without strong-enough solutions and plans for the future, there will consequences other than just economic issues.

“If the case is not properly resolved, it will be a good opportunity for anti-government organizations to grab,” he warned.

“This will remain an issue for a long time to come and the impact will not only be on society and the economy, but also the country’s security and defense.”

Just one day after, Ty underlined the potential threats of the Formosa scandal, the company made headlines again as its Vietnamese subsidiary was found to have disposed 100 metric tons of waste underground inside a farm in Ha Tinh.

Tests of samples of the wastes are being taken to see if they are hazardous.

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