《TAIPEI TIMES》Legislature passes bill to nationalize irrigation groups
Farmers holding banners and signs protest outside the Legislative Yuan in Taipei yesterday against the passing of a bill to turn irrigation and water conservancy associations into a government body. Photo: Peter Lo, Taipei Times
By Huang Hsin-po and Dennis Xie / Staff reporter, with staff writer
The Legislative Yuan yesterday passed the third reading of a bill to convert Taiwan’s 17 irrigation associations into a government body, despite strong opposition from the Chinese Nationalist Party （KMT） and some farmers.
There are 17 irrigation associations nationwide and one joint association in Taichung, a Council of Agriculture Web site showed.
When the legislature passed amendments to the Act of Irrigation Association Organization （農田水利會組織通則） in 2018 requiring the entities to be legally defined as public juridical persons, the government was already seeking “illegitimate ways” to “infringe upon assets belonging to irrigation associations,” KMT Legislator Kung Wen-chi （孔文吉） said.
The amendments also stated that the head of each association should be appointed by the government, starting in October.
The government has passed the draft in a bid to nationalize the associations’ assets, which are valued at about NT$75.6 billion （US$2.56 billion）, Kung said, adding that the assets belong to the associations’ members and should not be taken by the nation.
KMT Legislator Lin Yi-hua （林奕華） said that during Japanese colonial rule, Taiwanese began to think of agricultural irrigation infrastructure as public constructions, giving rise to the irrigation associations, which have been operating on their own terms for more than 100 years.
However, the Democratic Progressive Party （DDP） has resorted to a “tyranny of the majority” to forcibly pass the bill so that it can “seize associations’ assets under the guise of upgrading them to government bodies,” Lin said.
The KMT would not allow the DPP to take advantage of its parliamentary majority and act in such a wanton way, Lin said, adding that the KMT vows to demand a constitutional interpretation on the issue.
DPP caucus secretary-general Chung Chia-pin （鍾佳濱） said that if irrigation associations are non-governmental entities, they cannot enforce the law or crack down on people involved in illegal activity related to agricultural irrigation and drainage and their funds for irrigation and drainage come from the council.
Council of Agriculture Minister Chen Chi-chung （陳吉仲） said that the council would establish a new irrigation and water conservancy department, with 17 divisions, that would replace the 17 associations.
Additional reporting by Chien Hui-ju