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NEWS UPDATES 23 June2010

Harmful industries list still unclear

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As seven months of work by a panel set up to resolve the Map Ta Phut industrial zone impasse centering around the ignoring of environmental and health rules, draws to a close, questions continue to trouble business operators, the Bangkok Post reports.

The four-party panel led by former prime minister Anand Panyarachun held its last meeting on Monday as Mr. Anand is moving on to his new position as leader of the reform process that is part of the government's reconciliation plan.

The panel will present its recommendations to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva next week. A key element will be a list of harmful industries, which would be subject to more stringent environmental and health impact assessments (EIA and HIA) and screening by a special independent body.

The list is subject to final endorsement by the National Environmental Board, which is chaired by the premier.

PTT Plc and the Japanese Chamber of Commerce (JCC) say the list of harmful activities is still not clear and some further delays are expected until definitive environmental legislation can be announced.

"It remains unclear if what is on the final list of harmful activities will be the same as proposed by the four-party panel," said Attaphol Rerkpiboon, PTT's executive vice-president for corporate communications.

"If there is any change to the list afterward, we have to look at it again to see whether it impacts our projects."

The Anand panel was set up in response to an Administrative Court ruling last September that froze 76 projects at Map Ta Phut because environmental and health assessment rules under Section 76 of the 2007 Constitution had not been followed. Some have since won appeals to resume construction or other activities.

Most of the blame for the delays rests with successive governments that had failed to establish the independent screening body, as called for in Section 67, to review industries' EIA and HIA reports. The current government proposes to set up a temporary body until a permanent one can be established.

The Anand panel has identified 18 industries considered hazardous to the environment and public health.

Mr Attaphol said that based on the list proposed by the panel, most of PTT's 18 suspended projects worth 93.5 billion baht would be able to go ahead, including the sixth gas separation plant.

Once projects are confirmed as not being on the harmful list, PTT has to seek permission from the court and related government agencies to resume operations project by project, he added.

Junichi Mizonoue, the president of JCC Bangkok, called on authorities to quickly impose clear environmental legislation after many delays.


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