Cannot get compensation

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 March, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 March, 1998, 12:00am

I refer to the report headlined, 'Boats blockade harbour as fishermen demand cash' (South China Morning Post March 10), where a spokesman for the Planning, Environment and Lands Bureau was reported as saying that the compensation package (for fishermen affected by the Pak Shek Kok reclamation or other development projects) was passed five years ago and the Government was unlikely to revise it. This is not the case.

Fishermen do not have legal title in respect of the waters where they habitually fish. Therefore, they are not entitled to any compensation. However, according to existing policy, they may be granted ex gratia allowances, subject to certain eligibility criteria.

The existing formula for calculating ex gratia allowances for fishermen affected by development projects, approved by the Finance Committee of the then Legislative Council in 1993, is based on the notional value of three years' fish catch in the affected area.

The same formula is applicable to reclamation, dredging and dumping projects and such ex gratia allowances serve as an extinguishment allowance.

According to the 1989-91 Port Survey carried out by the Agriculture and Fisheries Department, the fish catch in the gazetted work area of the Pak Shek Kok reclamation is $1 million a year. In accordance with the existing formula, the total ex gratia allowances payable under the subject project are $3 million, which has taken into consideration the high yield of fish fry at the Pak Shek Kok reclamation area.

So far, 580 fishing vessels have registered their claims for ex gratia allowances. They would be screened by the Government to ascertain their eligibility.

A decision on the fishermen's proposal for increasing the ex gratia allowances from $3 million to $20 million will be made as soon as possible.

ESMOND LEE for Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands