Regional Roundup for Week of 6.8.18

EXSE FOCUS

Power capacity reserve to be raised–Bangkok Post Thailand’s 15% electricity generation capacity reserve will be increased following a recent power outage in the Northeast, says Energy Minister Siri Jirapongphan.//Mixed signals from Thailand’s Energy Ministry which is currently revising its power plan with an original goal of REDUCING Thailand’s power capacity reserve. This means more energy generation projects – but will they fall in Thailand or across borders in Laos and Myanmar….

Thai firm signs Laos power deal–The Nation Ratchaburi Electricity Generating Holding Public Company Limited (Ratch) is ready for expansion into the 340 megawatt (MW) Xekong hydroelectric power project in Laos in a joint investment with the government in Vientiane.//These dams are on the mainstream of the Xekong river, the longest remaining free flowing river in the Mekong basin. Since there is zero transparency on Mekong tributary damming, no one saw this coming – even those who are fighting hard to keep the Sekong dam free.

Southeast Asia’s ongoing struggle against alarming levels of plastic pollution–Southeast Asia Globe Five trillion plastic bags are used worldwide every year and global plastic production is projected to nearly double in the next ten to 15 years, according to a United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) report. Meanwhile, a 2015 study by Ocean Conservancy found that 8 million tons of plastic is dumped into the world’s oceans every day, with more than half coming from China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, making these countries responsible for up to 60 % of the waste.

Related: Dead whale sparks marine fears in Thailand–South China Morning Post

Related: Drastic plastic: Vietnam beach awash with tide of blue waste–Reuters

Related: Cambodia’s plastic problem–The Phnom Penh Post

At Shangri-La summit, two views of a new Indo-Pacific order–Asia Times This year’s Shangri-La Dialogue (SLD), an annual security summit staged in Singapore, marked the formal coming of age of the “Indo-Pacific theater” and accordingly India’s emergence as a new pillar of the region’s security architecture.

Related: Five things to watch for at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore–South China Morning Post

     Related: Japan and the Shangri-La Dialogue–The Diplomat 

Thailand to launch Mekong regional fund to reduce China dependence–Nikkei Asian Review Thailand is taking the lead in creating a regional fund with its neighbors, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam, to back infrastructure and other development projects and to lessen reliance on Chinese investment.

Malaysia Moves to Rebalance Relationship With China–VOA Malaysia and China are looking to re-balance ties as the new government of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad seeks to renegotiate billions of dollars of Chinese backed infrastructure spending, with the goal of reducing the country’s national debt.

Related: New Malaysian government steps back from spending Chinese projects –The Washington Post

REGIONAL RELATIONS

With ports, ships and promises, India asserts role in Southeast Asia–Reuters Almost lost in the din of the upcoming U.S-North Korea summit and fresh tension between Washington and Beijing last week, India cemented its diplomatic and security ties across Southeast Asia in a clear challenge to China.

Indonesia, Mozambique start PTA negotiations: Official–Xinhua Indonesia and Mozambique have started negotiations on the Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA), an official leading the Indonesian delegation said on Tuesday. Bilateral Negotiation Director at the Trade Ministry Ni Made Ayu Marhini said the two sides have approved most of the articles to establish the PTA during the initial round of the negotiation held in the Mozambique capital of Maputo from May 31 to June 1.

Why UK-ASEAN Trade Ties Are Thriving–The Diplomat Southeast Asia is a vital cog in the movement of goods and is essential for international trade to flourish. As such, ASEAN matters to Britain and is a key component in the UK’s drive to increase trade with countries around the world.

Vietnam seeks Italy’s experiences in environmental protection–Nhan Dan The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of Vietnam (MONRE) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Ministry of the Environment and Protection of Land and Sea of Italy (MEPLS) on June 5 in Hanoi to agree cooperation between the two ministries.

India to set up   medical college, hospital in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam region, says Suresh Prabhu–Financial Express India has decided to set up a medical college and hospital in Cambodia as part of its plan to strengthen economic ties with CLMV region, Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu said. To promote investments, the government has created a project development fund to facilitate Indian investment in the four countries – Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam (CLMV).

Japanese investment in Myanmar soars to all-time highJapan Times Japanese investment in Myanmar reached an all-time high of about $1.48 billion in fiscal 2017 following the nation’s transition from military to civilian rule in 2011, boosted by large-scale commercial complex and steel manufacturing projects.

Vietnam is following China in its economic development–VOA Vietnam is imitating China in its efforts to grow economically and lags its larger neighbor only by about a decade, experts say. The two communist countries, though political rivals, have built up their state-controlled economies on job creation through factory work for export.

Australia and Vietnam open ‘friendship bridge’ in the Mekong DeltaVietnam Net The Cao Lanh Bridge and its inter-connecting roads which were built by a joint funding partnership between the Vietnamese Government, the Australian Government and the Asian Development Bank (ADB), as part of the Central Mekong Delta Region Connectivity Project, is expected to benefit more than five million people in the Mekong Delta region through improved access to markets and services. An estimated 170,000 people will cross the bridge each day.

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Japan plans biomass energy project for Cambodia–Khmer Times A Japan-led project for the local agriculture sector now under discussion aims to recycle rice husks to generate power in a bid to reduce the environmental footprint of the industry and provide additional revenue streams for agricultural communities.

Illegal timber still flowing: EIA–Khmer Times More than one million cubic metres of illegal timber has flowed unhindered from protected areas in Cambodia’s northeast provinces to Vietnam as the latter continues its role as a serial illegal timber trade offender, according to a report issued by the Environmental Investigation Agency.

The real cost of Myanmar’s electricity–Myanmar Times Myanmar has some of the lowest electricity rates in the world. However, connecting and supplying power to the millions of people who will drive Myanmar’s development is a huge endeavour, one that requires the commitment of tremendous financial resources from the state, companies and international donors. But as important is the public’s awareness of what it costs to build and supply the electric backbone of the country.

Vietnam sets out green ambitions with bold targets for solar, rare earth–Reuters Vietnam plans to more than triple the amount of electricity it produces from renewable sources and push for a 26 percent increase in household solar energy usage by 2030, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc told Reuters in an interview.

B Grimm puts cash behind biggest solar plant in region–The Nation B Grimm Power president Preeyanart Soontornwata said the total investment for the plant – with a planned generating capacity of 420 megawatts – will be around US$430 million. The company would hold no more than 55 per cent of the joint venture, Preeyanart said.

Thailand new dumping ground for world’s high-tech trash, police say–Channel NewsAsia Thailand is a new dumping ground for scrap electronics from around the world, said police and environmentalists, the latest country to feel the impact of China’s crackdown on imports of high-tech trash.
     Related: Smuggling of hazardous waste comes to light–The Nation 

                  Related: Investment rush is harming environment–Bangkok Post 

Rural Poor Squeezed by Land Concessions in Mekong Region: Report–The Irrawaddy Magazine Companies acquired concessions amounting to the size of a small European country, while rural residents of Southeast Asia’s Mekong region saw their landholdings shrink or disappear over the past two decades, according to researchers.

Why hospitals in Asia need to be ‘climate-smart’–Eco-Business Hospitals in Asia must become climate-smart in an era of extreme weather patterns, or risk being unable to fulfill their missions of providing healthcare when they are most needed, say experts.//As Myanmar, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Thailand are the four out of the ten countries that most affected by climate change risk, the governments of these nations need to consider how to integrate the concept of ‘climate-smart’ to its hospital system.

Solar-powered irrigation pumps could help Philippines’ attain rice self-sufficiency–Gulf News Philippines Agriculture Secretary Manny Pinol said solar-powered irrigation pumps could hold the key to making the Philippines self-sufficient in rice production. The Solar-Powered Irrigation System (SPIS), which has been adopted by the Department of Agriculture as one of its Flagship Projects, could ensure the country get a sufficient rice supply for the next 20 years.// The idea of solar-power irrigation pumps may also help other Southeast Asia countries to ensure their food security and promote renewable energy development.

Six Mekong nations call for accelerated action to eliminate malaria before 2030 Asia Pacific Leaders Mekong Alliance  The governments of Cambodia, China, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam have together called for accelerated action to eliminate malaria in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) by 2030.// Malaria is a serious problem in Southeast Asia and poses threats to people’s lives. It is critical for the governments of Southeast Asia countries to work with international organizations to get sufficient support to eliminate malaria.

Vietnam building roadmap on greenhouse gas emissions mitigationVietnamNet Nguyen Duc Ngu from the Center for Meteorology, Hydrology and Environment emphasized that the draft decree clearly says it is not based on the Environment Protection Law or the national strategy on natural resource and environmental protection, but on Vietnam’s commitments within the framework of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

CHINA

China eyes its next prize–The interpreter There is another prize in Beijing’s sights, an artery that runs straight through mainland Southeast Asia. The mighty Mekong River, which starts in China (known there as Lancang), and connects Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia, is a crucial lifeline that nourishes some 60 million people along its banks.

China’s green Belt and Road tested at the Russian border–ChinaDialogue Facing growing demand for wood and shortages in domestic supply, Chinese authorities are pushing for greater imports from Russia, ignoring the fact that its neighbour will cease to be a reliable supplier within a decade.

Facebook Gave Data Access to Chinese Firm Flagged by U.S. Intelligence–NYT Facebook has data-sharing partnerships with at least four Chinese electronics companies, including a manufacturing giant that has a close relationship with China’s government, the social media company said on Tuesday.

Related: Facebook confirms data-sharing agreement with Chinese firms-BBC

Pollutionwatch: Air contamination drops by 30% in China–The guardian Beijing is slowly shedding its image as the world’s most polluted city. In 2013, it ranked as the 40th worst city for the particulate PM2.5 in the World Health Organisation global database. Four years on, thanks in part to a crackdown on polluters, it stands in 187th place.

Beyond Tech Transfer: The Challenge of Chinese Tech Expanding Abroad–The Diplomat Over the last two years, Chinese outward investment has been become the subject of much controversy abroad, especially following the country’s buying spree in 2016. This shift has been particularly visible in the tech sector, where developed countries are becoming increasingly concerned by Chinese attitudes toward intellectual property (IP) and the prospect that China may very soon match their technological capabilities. 

China’s environmental cleanup hits once-thriving scrap trade–Nikkei Asian Review Old cardboard paper and other scrap material is piling up in Japan, with nowhere to go as China has toughened restrictions on polluting processors.

China says to end ‘one size fits all’ environmental policies–Channel NewsAsia  China plans to end its “one size fits all” approach to fighting pollution, the environment ministry said on Monday (May 28), as it tries to devise more nuanced policies that match local conditions and minimise economic disruption.

China regions vow to step up pollution crackdown after central government probes–Reuters Eight Chinese regions have promised to beef up anti-pollution curbs, vowing fresh cuts in smog, cleaner water and soil and tighter scrutiny over government officials after Beijing-led probes uncovered thousands of violations.

 

SOUTHEAST ASIA 

Indonesia’s Looming Energy Challenges–The Diplomat In less than a year, Indonesians will head to the polls for presidential and legislative elections. In public discussions, the energy sector is seen as one of the most influential sectors in determining the present government’s performance, due to the country’s tremendous potentials in fossil fuels and renewable resources. However, with the possible changes brought by the upcoming political year, a change of priorities may affect Indonesia’s energy development.

 

Thailand’s last untouched Mekong tributary–The Nation THE LOWER Songkram River basin is the latest site in Thailand under the global spotlight as a crucial ecological resource, the WWF-Thailand said ahead of World Environment Day today.

Singpore Prepares for the AI Revolution–The Diplomat As global interest in artificial intelligence (AI) grows, Singapore wants to establish itself as a global hotspot for AI research and entrepreneurship. The city-state’s leaders see a big opportunity to leverage AI to grow their economy and improve the lives of their citizens.

Waste treatment delayed in Vietnam–Vietnam News Poor infrastructure investment in waste treatment has kept Viet Nam in the list of five countries who together discharge more solid waste, particularly plastic, into the ocean than the rest of the world combined. The other four countries are China, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines.

Why Southeast Asia is perfectly placed to embrace large-scale fish farming–Southeast Asia Globe The market is there, the physical conditions are near perfect and there is a great potential for growth. So why does Southeast Asian marine aquaculture still consist mainly of small family fish farms and not large-scale projects targeting local as well as export markets?

Poverty in Indonesia becomes urban problem–Investvine Indonesia’s national development planning ministry is targeting a national poverty rate next year of 8.5 per cent to 9.5 per cent, down from the poverty level at the end of 2017 of 10.12 per cent of the population. // Indonesia needs to consider developing separate policies to deal with poverty problem in different areas or islands. 

YUNNAN

Alumina giant Chalco inks massive metals deal as China pushes ahead with supply-side reforms–South China Sea Post The Aluminum Corporation of China (Chalco), the world’s second-largest alumina producer, plans to merge its copper mining unit with Yunnan Metallurgical Group, which has total assets of nearly 90 billion yuan (US$14.17 billion), in what would be the country’s biggest industry consolidation deal in the non-ferrous metals sector.

TAIWAN  

Taiwan: Tsai Ing-wen at the halfway mark–The interpreter The fruits of Tsai’s NSP have been confined predominantly to the realm of people-to-people exchanges. There is a robust budget to support the NSP – NT$7.26 billion (US$241 million) in 2018 – but how this money pays for flagship innovation, agriculture, and medical cooperation projects, or whether such investment will buoy Taiwan’s economic growth of 2.89%, remains to be seen. Taiwan’s socioeconomic engagement with Southeast Asia is further complicated by the reality that many prospective partners are existing recipients of Chinese economic or development aid. // It is difficult for Taiwan to compete with China on economic or development aid. Taiwanese government needs to strengthen Taiwan’s advantages, especially innovation and talented industries to attract the other countries which are targeted by the ‘New Southbound policy.’

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