Vietnam: Taiwan stell firm owns up to fish kill disaster, commits to $500 million compensation

Thanh Nien News 30 Jun 16;

Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Corp. (FHS) has apologized for causing an environment disaster in central Vietnam and promised to pay US$500 million in compensation, the Vietnamese government said Thursday afternoon.

FHS, a subsidiary of Taiwan's Formosa Plastics, has been in hot water over the past two months after hundred of tons of fish washed ashore in April in four central Vietnamese provinces Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien-Hue. The steel mill is in its final stage of construction in Ha Tinh's Vung Ang Industrial Zone.

More than 100 scientists, including foreign experts, joined an investigation into the mass fish deaths, Minister Mai Tien Dung, Chairman of the Office of the Government, said at a long-awaited press conference in Hanoi Thursday afternoon.

They found out that industrial waste containing phenol, cyanide and iron hydroxides in the water killed the fish. The source of the waste was traced back to FHS, according to Minister Dung.

FHS on June 28 took responsibility for the "serious environmental incident," after multiple meetings between Vietnam's environment ministry and related agencies and FHS as well as Formosa Plastics, Dung said.

The company committed to apologize to the Vietnamese people and government for the disaster and pay VND11.5 trillion (US$500 million) in compensating local people's economic losses, supporting them to find news jobs and treating polluted sea environment, he said.

It also promised to repair its waste treatment system and cooperate with responsible government agencies to monitor sea environment.

FHS would suffer legal punishments if it repeated violations of Vietnam's environment protection regulations, Dung said.

In a letter made public hours before the press conference, Chuan Yuan-Cheng, chairman of FHS, said that the investigation had found that subcontractors' faults during the trial phase of operation had killed the fish.

"We respect the government's investigation results and are cooperating with the authorities to handle and mitigate the consequences," he said in the letter written in Vietnamese.

Taiwan's steel firm Formosa promises to deal with fish kill disaster in central Vietnam
Thanh Nien News 30 Jun 16;

The steel plant of Taiwanese firm Formosa in Ha Tinh Province. Photo: Khanh Hoan/Thanh NienThe steel plant of Taiwanese firm Formosa in Ha Tinh Province. Photo: Khanh Hoan/Thanh Nien

Hung Nghiep Formosa, a Taiwanese steel firm in Ha Tinh Province, has pledged to work with the government to handle a recent mass fish deaths scandal that has left fishing villages in central Vietnam reeling.

Chen Yuan-Cheng, the company’s board chairman, said in a letter to his staff on Thursday that the investigation led by Vietnam’s environment ministry found that subcontractors' faults during the trial phase of operation had killed the fish.
“We respect the government’s investigation results and are cooperating with the authorities to handle and mitigate the consequences,” he said in the letter written in Vietnamese.

He said the plant will resume operation, with a priority for environment protection.

The plant’s scheduled opening on June 25 was delayed. No new date has been announced.

Vietnam’s government is expected to issue an official announcement on the cause of the disaster late Thursday afternoon.

Formosa's letter was made public only hours before this press conference, which will be watched closely by Vietnamese across the country who have been waiting for an answer.

Formosa has been in hot water over the past weeks after hundreds of tons of fish washed ashore in April in Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien-Hue provinces in Vietnam's central region.

A sewage pipe that runs straight into the sea from its plant in Ha Tinh has been suspected of causing the disaster.

The fish kill, believed to be the worst environmental crisis in modern Vietnam, has taken away the livelihood of many fishing villages along the central coast.

Vietnam says Taiwanese steel mill to pay $500mn for pollution
AFP Yahoo News 30 Jun 16;

A Taiwanese steel mill has agreed to pay $500 million compensation for discharging pollution that decimated Vietnam's fishing industry in several central provinces this year, officials said Thursday.

Tonnes of dead fish, including rare species that live far offshore, began washing up along Vietnam's central coastline in April and activists have been demanding answers ever since.

After weeks of investigation, Vietnamese officials laid the blame on Formosa, a Taiwanese conglomerate that is building a multi-billion-dollar steel plant in the area where the fish died.

"Violation and mistakes" in building the Formosa plant caused the pollution and "abnormal mass fish deaths", according to Mai Tien Dung, chairman of the government's office.

The plant is still under construction.

Dung said Formosa, which has a history of environmental scandals spanning the globe, has agreed to pay $500 million in compensation for the incident, which hammered the local seafood industry and sparked public outcry.

Vietnamese authorities have come under pressure to show that foreign investors are not ushered in without controls.

"I reaffirm we will not trade the environment just to attract foreign investment," Dang Huy Dong, deputy minister of planning and investment, told reporters.

Formosa is no stranger to controversy in Vietnam, where anti-China riots at its Ha Tinh steel plant killed three in 2014 and a scaffolding collapse killed 14 last year.

The company's scandals also stretch from Texas to Taipei, where the conglomerate has paid millions of dollars in fines over environmental mishaps.

Taiwan's Formosa Plastics Group, which is a major shareholder of Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Corporation, said it could not immediately confirm the $500-million payment but would issue a statement on the matter later Thursday.

But a representative of their Vietnamese operations, Tran Nguyen Thanh, apologised for the "environmental incident" and said the firm was ready to pay an unspecified amount of compensation "in terms of the economy, for the people... and dealing with the pollution".

Lawmakers in Taipei warned this month that a firm link between Formosa and Vietnam's fish deaths could damage Taiwan's efforts to bolster economic ties across Southeast Asia as the island looks to ease its economic reliance on China.

Frustration over Vietnam's perceived reluctance to blame Formosa led to rallies across the country, with police stepping in to arrest scores of demonstrators.

Formosa drew ire in April when a public relations officer in Vietnam said the country had to choose between protecting marine life or foreign investment.

The employee was later fired and apologised for his remarks.

Vietnam blames toxic waste water from steel plant for mass fish deaths
Taiwanese firm Formosa Plastics that owns the plant says it will pay $500m towards clean up and compensation
Associated Press The Guardian 1 Jul 16;

Vietnam’s government has said toxic discharges from a Taiwanese-owned steel plant were responsible for massive fish deaths that have decimated tourism and fishing in four provinces and highlighted the risks of rapid growth in foreign investment.

An estimated 70 tonnes of dead fish washed ashore along more than 200 km (125 miles) of Vietnam’s central coastline in early April, sparking rare protests across the country after the Taiwanese company denied any wrongdoing.

A government minister, Mai Tien Dung, told reporters on Thursday that Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Corp, a subsidiary of Taiwan’s Formosa Plastics Group, admitted it had caused the environmental disaster and has pledged $500m to clean up the environment and compensate affected people, including helping fishermen to find new jobs.

Dung said waste water containing toxins such as cyanide and carbolic acids was released into the sea during a test run of the plant.

Formosa’s $10.6bn steel complex, which includes a steel plant, a power plant and a deep sea port, is one of the largest foreign investments in Vietnam. The country’s authoritarian government, hoping to boost economic growth and reduce poverty, has overseen an influx of foreign investment deals amounting to at least $70bn in the past decade.

But ordinary Vietnamese have become increasingly aware of and concerned by the environmental and human costs of such rapid development.

A Vietnamese fishing industry group said it was a positive that the government was holding Formosa to account, but said much more needs to be done to restore the health of the environment in the four affected provinces Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien Hue.

“There are no fish or shrimp for fishermen to catch, seafood farming is impossible and the tourism industry has also been affected,” said Nguyen Tu Cuong of the Vietnam Fishery Association. He said most fishermen can’t easily switch to another occupation as the only skill they know is fishing.

Since April, there have been anti-Formosa protests in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Ha Tinh province, though they were swiftly broken up by authorities and many protesters were briefly detained.

Phan Thanh An, a fisherman from Quang Tri province, said that for 15 days after the dead fish began washing ashore, “I did not catch any live fish, only fish bones.”

“I have never seen such massive amounts of dead fish like that before,” he said.

An, who has been fishing since he was 13, said he hasn’t taken his fishing boat out for two months but may try next week.

The chairman of Formosa Ha Tinh Steel, Chen Yuan-Cheng, apologized in a video shown at the news conference on Thursday.

“Our company takes full responsibility and sincerely apologizes to the Vietnamese people ... for causing the environmental disaster which seriously affected the livelihood, production and jobs of the people and the sea environment,” he said.

The parent company, Formosa Plastics Group, is one of the world’s biggest producers of poly vinyl chloride and has a patchy environmental record. Its US subsidiaries agreed to pay millions of dollars in fines and remediation costs in 2009 after a long-running battle over air, water, and hazardous waste violations at two petrochemical plants in Texas and Louisiana.

Chen said the company was working to fix shortcomings at the steel plant’s waste water treatment facility that were behind the disaster.

Separately, state media reported that the Vietnam Environment Administration had ordered inspections of a Chinese paper factory in the Mekong Delta province of Hau Giang because of concerns its waste water treatment system was discharging toxins that could pollute the Mekong River and kill fish.

Deputy minister of planning and investment Dang Huy Dong said that the government wants to attract foreign investment that is technologically advanced and friendly to the environment, and will not lure investment at any price.

“We will not trade the environment for foreign direct investment,” he said.

The Formosa steel plant was the scene of deadly riots in May 2014 when China’s placement of an oil rig in waters claimed by Vietnam sparked clashes between thousands of Vietnamese and Chinese workers.

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