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Vietnam Today

Deputy PM calls for supervision of Formosa compensation payouts

Released at: 21:45, 09/03/2017

Deputy PM calls for supervision of Formosa compensation payouts

Photo: VGP

Call made as Formosa Ha Tinh Steel addresses damage caused by pollution incident last April.

by Duy Anh

During a meeting in Hanoi on March 8, Deputy Prime Minister Truong Hoa Binh directed the continued supervision of Formosa Ha Tinh Steel’s payment of compensation stemming from its pollution incident last April.

Four inspection teams will be formed to examine the compensation for residents affected by the incident, said Deputy PM Binh, who is also the Head of the Steering Committee in charge of addressing the incident’s aftermath.

The four north-central and central provinces affected - Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien Hue - were also asked to set up their own inspection teams to collect feedback from local people and administrative agencies and to quickly deal with any difficulties while accelerating payments to residents.

As at December 31, agencies had provided 15,027 tons of rice and VND59 billion ($2.56 million) in assistance to local fishing families.

The government has provided a total of VND4.68 trillion ($205.3 million) in temporary compensation in two phases. As at March 6, the four provinces had disbursed 76.8 per cent, or VND3.6 trillion ($158 million).

The Deputy PM also urged ministries and authorities to propose the Prime Minister increase the level of compensation for victims. The Ministry of Industry and Trade will continue to handle the seafood inventory.

“Only when the environment is completely secure will Formosa be permitted to again discharge wastewater,” Deputy PM Binh said. “Authorities need to watch closely and not concern local residents.”  

The government has committed to ensuring the compensation process is free of negativity and corruption. Provinces will also have to ensure political and social security.

After accepting full responsibility for the mass fish deaths the pollution incident caused in the four provinces, Formosa Ha Tinh Steel, a unit of Formosa Plastic Corp., agreed to pay $500 million in compensation last June. It also committed to cooperating with Vietnamese authorities and provinces to control environmental pollution and reclaim the trust of the Vietnamese people.

Government officials were at pains to explain why the probe into the mass fish deaths took two months to complete. Investigators had to check hundreds of facilities to find the source of the toxic discharge, according to Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Tran Hong Ha.

The crisis set off rare protests around Vietnam, testing the government as it struggled to balance its desire for increased investment from abroad against the need to show the public that it would not be pushed around by foreign companies.

Critics of the government said the investigation took too long. “The probe’s results, which should have been done within a week of the incident, show the government’s goodwill in satisfying people’s demands,” said Ms. Thi Nguyen, a Ho Chi Minh City-based environmental consultant. “Public anger and demonstrations could have been avoided if the government was transparent from the beginning.”

Damage to the region was estimated at about VND580 billion ($26 million). “Incidents that occurred during the trial operations of Formosa Ha Tinh Steel led to its wastewater containing toxins that exceeded permitted levels,” the government said in a statement posted on its website. “This is a lesson for companies: during the investment process they must strictly comply with laws, especially regulations on environmental protection.”

Formosa has been the focus of public anger in Vietnam before. In May 2014, the company and other Taiwanese enterprises were attacked by protesters after China placed an oil rig in disputed waters off Vietnam’s coast. Formosa said the riots, where one Chinese worker died of heat stroke, caused $3 million in losses, and it received VND30 billion ($1.34 million) in compensation.

The pollution incident shaved 0.3 percentage points off GDP, according to the General Statistics Office (GSO).

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