EARTH Thailand

PM vows solution within 6 months

Bangkok Post 15 January 2010  

'Lack of trust' led to current impasse

The Map Ta Phut dispute will be resolved within six months but businesses must prepare to deal with tougher environmental regulations, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said yesterday.

An independent environmental and health impact advisory body will be proposed to Parliament soon following cabinet approval on Tuesday.

The establishment of the review body will take place alongside petitions to the Administrative Court for suspended industrial projects to resume operations, said the premier.

"About a half year from now, most of the uncertainties affecting projects in Map Ta Phut will become clear," Mr Abhisit said at a forum on Green GDP held by the Economic Reporters Association yesterday.

Sixty-four projects worth hundreds of billions of baht in the Rayong industrial zone remain suspended pending clarification of environmental and health impact assessment rules.

"The controversy regarding Map Ta Phut was caused by a lack of trust between the community and the industries while some government agencies have not strictly enforced the regulations. From now on, therefore, for industrial developments in other parts of the country, led by the Southern Seaboard, the government will focus more on the environment and engaging participation from the people.

"I think the private sector has become much more aware and should be ready to cope with the upcoming stringent environmental regulations. Tougher regulations will be beneficial for the private sector and it is better than the uncertainties that could cause problems to their business and investment plans at any time."

Expanding on the theme of green development, Mr Abhisit said the agricultural sector should be integrated into the industrial sector. He also sees the line between industries and services blurring, while increasing the value of industries will be the main focus, with creative industries also playing a role.

"The question of whether to choose environmental growth or economic growth when talking about green GDP ... forces us to make a choice that does not fall in line with reality," he said.

"There is no evidence that a better environment results in poor economic growth. Do not consider economic development as the enemy of having a good environment."

PTT Plc is following the environmental and health impact rules set out in Section 67 of the 2007 constitution, and new guidelines should be clear soon, said Prasert Bunsumpun, president and CEO of the country's largest energy company.

Of the 18 PTT projects halted by court orders, nine have grounds for appeal and PTT has already appealed on behalf of six. The remaining three will be appealed within this month.

"For the nine that are left, we are in the process of considering how to proceed. [Decisions about] new investments will have to wait to see how the current projects will proceed, and the Map Ta Phut issue might take six months to one year to be solved," said Mr Prasert.

Kan Trakulhoon, the president and CEO of Siam Cement Group (SCG), also believes the impasse should be resolved in seven to eight months.

"It will be great if we can engage the concerned parties all together so that the issues could be settled within six months," he said.

Srisuwan Janya, chairman of the Stop Global Warming Association, who also joined the forum, called on PTT and SCG to assist other industries in Map Ta Phut to improve their environmental protection measures.

"In addition to generating a profit for the shareholders as they are listed companies, environmental protection should be the priority and challenges for PTT and SCG to give profit back to society," Mr Srisuwan said.