Enough signatures collected to pass algae reef referendum threshold

Taipei-A petition aimed at paving the way for the launch of a national referendum against a liquefied natural gas (LNG) receiving station project located near an area of algae reef in northern Taiwan has passed the second-stage legal threshold for official consideration, having collected 296,697 signatures as of Sunday.

According to the Rescue Datan's Algal Reefs Alliance, enough signatures have been collected to pass the threshold of about 289,667 required by the Central Election Commission.

Alliance convener Pan Chong-cheng (???), who initiated the petition last year, said on Monday that they could get more than 350,000 signatures by the following day to ensure enough votes to take the initiative to the final stage.

The alliance said it hopes to collect 450,000 signatures by March 10, extended from the original deadline of Feb. 28, to draw a high degree of public attention to the issue ahead of a public referendum on Aug. 28 on the LNG project off the coast of Datan in Taoyuan that it said endangers the survival of the 7,000-year-old algae reefs there.

Based on a law amended in 2017, an initiative to launch the first stage of a referendum only requires the signatures of 0.01 percent of the total number of eligible voters who participated in the most recent presidential election -- a sharp drop from the 0.1 percent previously required to pass the phase.

The second stage of such a referendum requires the signatures of 1.5 percent of voters eligible to cast their ballots in the presidential election, down from 5 percent previously.

In the third or final stage of a referendum, a majority of 25 percent of eligible voters must agree to the act, as opposed to the previous 50 percent.

In 2020, a total of 19.31 million voters were eligible to vote in the presidential election.

In response, Executive Yuan spokesman Lo Ping-cheng (???) agreed that the public are entitled to vote in a referendum and said that the government will do its best to communicate with society on the issue based on the principle of information transparency.

While giving his assurance that the government is committed to protecting the algae reefs, Lo, however, stressed that it is also its responsibility to fully meet the country's energy needs.

In an all-out effort to balance the two ends of the spectrum, the government has trimmed the original size of a 232-hectare area planned for the project by 90 percent to minimize the potential environmental impact on the algae reefs there, Lo said, adding that a fund will also be established to protect the ecosystem in the area.

The LNG project, operated by state-run utility CPC Corp., Taiwan, passed a mandatory evaluation by the Environmental Protection Administration in 2018.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel