Regional Roundup for Week of 10.4.18

EXSE FOCUS

ASEAN raps Myanmar for Rohingya ‘disaster’ – Bangkok Post Foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have urged Myanmar to hold all those responsible for atrocities in Rakhine State fully accountable, Singapore’s foreign minister said Tuesday. At their informal meeting in New York on Sept 29, the ministers urged Myanmar to hold all those responsible for the violence in the Rakhine state “fully accountable,” Vivian Balakrishnan told parliament. //It’s about time. After a seemingly endless radio silence from ASEAN member states, this is a small step in the right direction for ASEAN centrality and the region’s ability to project a unified stance on third party issues and regional security challenges.

Related: From Hero to Pariah, Aung San Suu Kyi Dashes Hopes About Myanmar – NYT

Regime denies rumours of poll delay – Bangkok Post The government on Wednesday denied rumours that the much anticipated general election will be postponed for another two months, from Feb 24 next year to April 28. Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon insisted the election is to be held on Feb 24 as previously stated, adding reports of a delay have no substance. “The majority of members of the public want an election. So, let those who think the election will be postponed do whatever they like. But [as for me], there is no reason to have the election deferred,” he said.

Western governments and philanthropists pump $20m into Southeast Asian clean energy – Eco-Business The governments of France, Germany and the United Kingdom and the world’s biggest philanthropic organisations have launched a new funding platform that aims to lend a minimum of US$20 million to boost renewable energy investments in Southeast Asia, particularly in solar, wind, and storage. The funding platform aims to boost the early stage of renewable energy project developments particularly in Southeast Asia’s major coal-burning countries—Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines.

Cementing Cambodia’s future, but at what cost? – Southeast Asia Globe As the Kingdom’s construction boom continues, the local production of cement has evolved alongside it. But potential environmental issues may prove costly. The demand for cement is propelled by the country’s continued construction boom and its reliance on concrete, of which cement is a key ingredient. Last year, the value of development projects rose year-on-year by $6.4b, or 22%, from the year before. After a slight lull in investment plans at the start of the year ahead of a July general election – internationally critiqued as a sham – the trend is likely to continue.

 

REGIONAL RELATIONS

Japan, Mekong leaders to adopt new cooperation strategy in Oct. – The Mainichi The leaders of Japan and five Southeast Asian countries along the Mekong River, when they meet in Tokyo next month, plan to adopt a new strategy that is more relevant in the current regional and global situation. The new plan, called “Tokyo Strategy 2018 for Mekong-Japan Cooperation,” will establish three new main pillars of cooperation, diplomatic sources said. The three pillars, namely, connectivity, people, and the environment, are to be established with the aim of contributing peace, stability and prosperity to the region and beyond, the sources said.

Related: China-Japan Rivalry Intensifies in Asia’s New Growth Region – In-depth News

Mekong communities urged to organise emergency plans – The Nation A communities-led emergency response plan is being advocated to cope with water hazards and dam disasters on the entire Mekong River Basin, as climate change magnifies the threats of water disasters posed by dams.

 

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

The West Is Missing Asia’s Coal Opportunity – East Asia Forum Western governments should look at coal as an opportunity to lift a significant proportion of the world’s population out of poverty. The region is already leading the world in plant construction. Between 2016 and 2017, for example, China commissioned more than twice as much coal-fired capacity as the rest of the world combined. Several of these are planned to go online region-wide in the coming years, creating the basis for the 100 gigawatts (GW) of coal-fired capacity envisioned to be built by 2040; most are high-efficiency, low-emission (HELE) plants relying on supercritical (SC) and ultra-supercritical (USC) technologies that reach up to 50 percent net efficiency in coal combustion compared to 30 percent of standard plants.

Satellite images reveal humanity’s abusive relationship with Earth’s most precious resource – Business Insider Rivers are veins that nourish human civilization. They fill our glasses with drinking water, irrigate our fields, nurture our livestock, and generate electricity. But our reliance on these crucial waterways is rarely harmonious. “I think rivers are treated as a renewable resource when they’re really not,” John Bolten, a hydrologist and the associate program manager of water resources at NASA’s Applied Sciences Program, told Business Insider. “It’s remarkable how many people are dependent on access to clean water. If rivers are not conserved and used properly, it’s a detriment to everyone.” To keep an eye on the planet and its most precious resource, Bolten and other researchers study image data from advanced satellites that orbit Earth.

Germany commits EUR 4 million to strengthen Mekong transboundary water cooperation – Mekong River Commission The government of Germany has committed EUR four million (approximately US$ 4.6 million) to the Mekong River Commission (MRC) to strengthen Mekong cross-border water cooperation. The German support aims to increase dialogue and cooperation on transboundary water resource planning and management among the lower Mekong countries – Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand, and Viet Nam – who are members of the MRC.

Installation of the First Hybrid Solar/Micro-Hydro Grid Project in the Philippines is Complete – Bio Friendly Planet History has been made. The installation of the first hybrid solar/micro-hydro grid project in the Philippines is now complete! After much work, Helios Altas and its partners in the Philippines have officially set up an energy grid using the company’s proprietary Helios PowerBall™ (micro hydro generators), an array of solar panels and a bank of batteries. Representatives from Helios Altas, the local community, DA Green Power Consultancy and the Philippines National Irrigation Administration were all on hand for the launch event on August 13th, 2018.

Dak Lak’s wind power potential attracts investors – Vietnam Plus Tens of Vietnamese and foreign investors are asking for permission to survey the wind power potential in the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak to build wind power plants here, according to a local official. Director of the provincial Department of Industry and Trade Pham Thai said since the beginning of 2018, 11 investors have asked for permission to make surveys for 25 projects. They have examined possible locations for wind turbines of five of those projects. Thai said Dak Lak currently houses one wind power project which is under construction and expected to complete the first phase in the fourth quarter of this year.

Environmental fuel tax rise may be delayed – Vietnam.net The Vietnam Ministry of Industry and Trade proposed rescheduling the environmental protection tax rise on fuels to a more suitable time as concerns over inflation increase. Under the National Assembly Standing Committee’s approval, the environmental protection tax for oil and petroleum products will be implemented from January 1, 2019. However, according to Hai, the effective date of the hike will coincide with the 12th lunar month near the Tet holiday, and will increase fuel prices, thus impacting the consumer price index. He recommended the tax application at a more suitable time.

Renewable energy firm launches floating solar power farm in Rizal – ABS-CBN News Sustainable energy firm Winnergy Holdings Corp on Friday said it inaugurated its pilot floating solar power farm in Baras, Rizal on Thursday, intended to supply the town with free and clean energy. The 10kWp project, designed to last for 25 years, utilizes solar panels on top of water to generate enough energy to power the Kasarinlan Park in Baras, Winnergy President Janina Bonoan told ABS-CBN News. A connecting station was also built allowing residents to use the power generated for charging gadgets, powering sound systems and lighting up the river, she said. Compared to traditional solar power facilities, floating farms are “technically more efficient” since no agricultural forest lands are disrupted.

A sustainable transportation policy for ASEAN – The ASEAN Post Southeast Asia’s roads are home to over 20 million cars. This number is expected to rise to 62 million by 2040 according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). At the same time, new high-speed rail systems are being built all over the region, resulting in the recent infrastructure boom. The potential downside to growth in the region’s transportation sector is that it could drive up demand for oil. To lower its dependency on oil, Southeast Asia needs to strengthen its renewable energy policy for transportation. One of the steps countries can take is to improve efficiency in their respective transport sectors.

 

CHINA

Do Chinese people care about climate change? – The Third Pole China has had an eventful summer marked by record-setting heatwaves, deadly flash floods, and typhoons. The impacts of climate change have been felt in cities and the countryside alike, and seem to have triggered greater public interest in discussing climate change. But will this outburst of curiosity be short-lived? In other words, do Chinese people really care about climate change? Yes, they do. As the government tries to position itself as an international leader in responding to global warming, recent surveys show that the public supports the government’s actions. A reassuring 94.4% of respondents to a national survey in 2017 said that climate change is happening, and 66% believe it is mostly caused by human activities. //In the United States, only 64% think that global warming is caused by human activities. Among climate scientists, however, that number climbs to a demonstrative 97%, according to a 2017 Yale study.

Is China becoming the next big colonial power? – Asian Correspondent If we thought that the colonial era was more or less over, we may need to think again. Countries of the Indo-Pacific should start taking seriously the possibility of China becoming a new type of colonial power in the region. Decades of fiercely anti-imperialist rhetoric in China might seem to make the country an unlikely candidate for a neo-colonial power. Nevertheless, we could soon see “colonialism with Chinese characteristics.” In recent weeks, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Bin Mohamad pushed back against China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), ringing alarm bells about what he called China’s “new colonialism.” This shouldn’t be dismissed as just rhetoric. The sheer size of China’s economic footprint gives it obvious influence. But there are other ways that China’s presence and role can grow.

Related: Beijing faces growing challenges to its South China Sea claims – South China Morning Post

China’s local governments issue fresh wave of bonds to fund infrastructure – Nikkei Asian Review Chinese local government authorities, under pressure from Beijing to counter an economic slowdown, are likely to issue over 740 billion yuan of special bonds by the end of October to fund more infrastructure spending, on top of 2.1 trillion yuan in regular borrowing, FT Confidential Research indicates. The wave of fresh paper will complicate efforts to refinance existing local government debt. It also muddies long-running central government attempts to rein in borrowing by free-spending local governments.

 

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Population growth fuels deforestation: PM – Khmer Times Prime Minister Hun Sen has accused villagers and supporters of the now-defunct opposition party of cutting down trees and encroaching on protected forests. During a meeting in New York with thousands of Cambodians living in the United States and Canada, Mr Hun Sen said that suspected forestry offenders should be shot from a helicopter. “It’s correct that we are losing our forests, many are being replaced by rubber plantations. I acknowledge that thieves have illegally cut down timber and I am ordering them to be shot from helicopters in the sky,” he said.

Cambodia Has a Big Problem With Small Loans – Bloomberg Assets and credit at MFIs in Cambodia have risen more than 10-fold since 2010, according to the World Bank. The average loan size in Cambodia is now among the highest in the world, growing from $200 to $1,000 in the decade to 2014 — twice the pace of per-capita income. About 2 million borrowers owed a record $2.8 billion at the end of 2017, National Bank of Cambodia data shows. As many as 10 percent of borrowers can’t pay their debts, said Ou Virak, director of Phnom Penh-based think-tank Future Forum. “While incomes have risen in the past 10 years, an economic decline could create an unsustainable environment while people are losing their jobs.”

Dam Collapse May Slow, but Not Stop, Laotian Hydropower Projects – Power The Laotian government in August said the approval process for new hydroelectric dams in the country should be suspended as it continued to review construction practices. The move came after more than three dozen people were killed, and thousands of residents were displaced, by the July 23 collapse of an auxiliary dam that was part of the 1,880-MW Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy power project in the southern province of Attapeu. Officials in September said more than 90 people remain missing. But even as the government said new projects should be put on hold, developers of two large proposed hydropower dams said they are moving ahead with plans for so-called “mega-dams” on the Mekong River.

Analysts: Myanmar Government Statue Drive Risks Alienating Ethnic Groups – VOA A nationwide drive in Myanmar to build statues of independence hero General Aung San risks further alienating ethnic minority groups in the country, and could impact the ruling party’s performance in upcoming elections, analysts say. Aung San, who is the father of National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Aung San Suu Kyi, is popular in large parts of the country, particularly in the Bamar-majority heartlands. However, in the ethnic minority-dominated border regions, critics say the statues are a sign of continued “Burmanization” and that they would prefer to see statues depicting heroes that belong to their own ethnic group.

Civic Groups, Villagers Want Myanmar to Drop Controversial Dam Project – Radio Free Asia Civil society organizations and local residents have called on the Myanmar government to cancel the U.S. $3.6 billion Chinese-financed Myitsone Dam on the Irrawaddy River in Kachin state, put on hold in 2011 following public opposition to the controversial hydropower project. More than 1,000 environmentalists and villagers urged officials to abandon plans for the 6,000-megawatt dam during a ceremony on Sunday at the confluence of the Mali and N’Mai rivers to mark the seventh anniversary of the temporary suspension of the project by former President Thein Sein.

Indonesia earthquake and tsunami: How warning system failed the victims – BBC Hundreds of people have been killed and many still remain missing after a tsunami struck the Indonesian island of Sulawesi on Friday, triggered by a powerful earthquake. A tsunami warning was sent out – lasting just over 30 minutes – but it appears to have drastically underestimated the scale of the tsunami that would follow. So what went wrong?

Indonesian elections: Conservatism versus moderation – The ASEAN Post Indonesia’s coming election has its heavy-metal-fan president Joko “Jokowi” Widodo – widely perceived as a moderate Muslim – in one corner and Prabowo Subianto, a former lieutenant general, in the other. This is the second time they will go head to head since 2014 when Prabowo held the support of the conservative Muslims in the country. But something integral has changed this time around.

Related: Indonesian democracy creaking at the 20-year mark – East Asia Forum

 

 

 

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