The US$500 million in damages a Taiwanese firm has proposed for the mass fish kill caused by one of its subsidiaries in Vietnam should be wisely spent, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc requested on Friday.
The Vietnamese steel plant of Taiwan’s Formosa Plastics Group in the north-central province of Ha Tinh has admitted that its toxic leakage was the cause of the fish death epidemic in central Vietnam between April and May.
PM Phuc said the Formosa’s confession and compensation is the result of a systematic and scientific approach from relevant agencies, as guided by the government.
Formosa is expected to transfer the entire $500 million compensation to the government in the next two or three months, according to a source from Vietnam’s Directorate of Fisheries.
The Vietnamese premier has tasked the agriculture, finance, and investment ministries with preparing a plan on how to best use the money, especially assisting fishermen affected by the fish deaths along the coastline in Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri, and Thua Thien-Hue.
The finance ministry is in charge of compiling the final proposal and submits it to the government for approval as soon as possible, according to the premier.
As for Formosa, which has made a five-point commitment to correct itself following the scandal, PM Phuc pressed that the company should not repeat its mistake and appropriately fulfill its commitments properly.
“We should bear in mind that economic development should always be accompanied by environmental protection,” PM Phuc said. “We should not focus on economic development and investment attraction at the expense of the environment.”
Minister of Agriculture Cao Duc Phat said his ministry will dedicate the first half of July to prepare plans to support fishermen with the compensation.
“In fact we have already had a plan, which now needs to be amended based on the guidance of the prime minister and feedback from other agencies,” he added.
Different supporting approaches
Unofficial estimates from the Directorate of Fisheries show that some 186,000 people, including fishermen and fish farmers, have been affected by the April-May fish kill. These people are also recipients of a rice aid launched shortly after the environmental disaster occurred.
The statistics, however, do not count other groups of victims, such as salt farmers and tourism employees who work along the affected beaches.
The Directorate of Fisheries said they are calculating the specific damages the fish deaths caused by Formosa have left on the aqua-farming sectors in the four affected provinces.
The directorate added that there are some ways of supporting salt farmers, fishermen and aqua-farmers in those localities, such as helping them to change jobs, access loans to build new fish boats or start agricultural crops.
The family members of the affected fishermen may also receive support in becoming guest workers or starting vocational training.
In the meantime, the government is expected to spend VND40 billion ($1.79 million) on cleaning and revitalizing the environment in the four provinces affected by the fish deaths every year for ten years from 2017.
The money will be spent on growing reel, seagrass and mangrove forests, as well as funding environment-cleaning efforts.
The agriculture ministry is soliciting feedback on the $18.7 million plan, with the prime minister expected to consider its approval next week, according to a source from the Directorate of Fisheries.