By Sun Hsin Hsuan
China Post, Taiwan
At a public hearing at the Legislative Yuan on Friday, representatives from environmental and human rights groups weighed in on the causes and outcomes of the April disaster, and discussed whether government negligence and legislative loopholes had contributed to the calamity.
The hearing was held by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislators Chen Man-li and Wu Kuen-yuh, who earlier this month invited priests from Vietnam to speak with Taiwanese lawmakers on the matter.
"I would like to apologize to the Vietnamese people because, due to the incomprehensive nature of Taiwanese laws, our government could neither supervise nor punish local companies who brought their businesses as well as disasters to foreign countries," Chen said.
Covenants Watch Organization convener Huang Song-lih questioned how Taiwan’s government plans to prevent such tragedies from occurring again, as its "New Southbound Policy" has been implemented to strengthen ties with Southeast Asian countries by encouraging local companies to invest more.
"It is fair to say that the reason why many Southeast Asian countries appeal to local companies is because their laws on environmental protection and human rights are relatively easier on businesses than those in Taiwan," said lawyer Chang Yu-yin of the Environmental Jurists Association.
"Is the government going to sit and watch the people of these countries we are trying to strengthen ties with see their rights infringed upon? Is the government going to allow injustices previously suffered by Taiwan to be imposed on other countries?" Chang said.
Representatives from the Justice Ministry, the State-owned Enterprise Commission, the Investment Commission under the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the New Southbound Policy Office and the National Development Council all agreed to "look into the matter" but failed to produce substantial promises.