ENVIRONMENT

Union lawmakers may tip balance on landfill plan

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 June, 2013, 4:52am

Lawmakers from the Federation of Trade Unions (FTU) may hold the key for environment officials seeking support for a Tseung Kwan O landfill extension plan, with time running out for them to secure enough backing in a pre-funding application vote.

Officials are targeting critical minorities on the public works subcommittee that could tip the balance, according to a person familiar with the situation.

The subcommittee will vote tomorrow on whether to recommend the plan to extend the landfill to the Finance Committee for final funding approval.

The landfill is located next to a large private housing estate and environment officials want to enlarge it by 13 hectares.

The body will also decide another extension plan for the Ta Kwu Ling landfill and a feasibility study for a landfill in Tuen Mun.

Lawmakers opposing the Tseung Kwan O plan outnumber those supporting it, with 11, mainly pan-Democrats, against it and seven, mostly independents, backing it.

The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), which has seven lawmakers on the subcommittee, has been vague over its leanings. But the source said the DAB could not make up its mind, and that its decision would also rely on the stance of minorities such as the FTU, which has three members on the subcommittee, as well as Dr Leung Ka-lau representing the medical sector.

The source said the DAB was seeking to avoid a "loss-loss situation" in which the pro-establishment party threw its weight behind an unpopular plan that could not be endorsed because of minorities' objections.

But FTU legislator Kwok Wai-keung said he was not aware of their role. "It is the DAB, the largest party, that we are looking to," he said. "We do not feel we are being treated as a kingmaker."

The FTU has demanded the government set up a HK$5 billion fund for recycling in exchange for their support for the landfill.

Leung, who was said to rarely attend subcommittee meetings, was expected to be absent tomorrow. It is understood he tended to oppose the Tseung Kwan O plan.

Yau Yuk-lun, a Sai Kung district councillor affiliated with the DAB, urged his colleagues to vote in support of the plan for the city's overall interest. But another DAB councillor, Chan Kwok-kai, wanted the government to offer more before he would back it.

Meanwhile, environment minister Wong Kam-sing yesterday sought to correct what he called misperceptions about the impact of the Tseung Kwan O landfill in an open letter to Tseung Kwan O residents.

It was posted on the Environment Bureau's website after 13 people staged a hunger strike over the landfill extension plan.

Cheung Chi-tung, from a concern group of local residents, said he was unimpressed by the letter. "There is nothing new in it, and Wong still fails to address the fundamental problem - that the landfill is too close to our homes."