Weekly Round-up for Week of 11.22.2019


EXSE FOCUS

Southeast Asia and the right to safe waterThe Third Pole More than 100 million people live without access to safe water in Southeast Asia, Sam Geall writes about what can be done to improve that and to protect clean water sources. // On 6 November, the Mekong River Commission acknowledged that climate change had exacerbated this year’s wildly varying water levels on the Mekong – which saw the mighty river reduced to a trickle in parts, even during the rainy season. But the main contributor, it said, was dam construction. 

Southeast Asia’s Largest Lake Is Under Threat And So Is The Greater Mekong EcosystemNPR Southeast Asia’s biggest lake is in serious trouble. Drought, dam building and overfishing have brought the Tonle Sap to a tipping point. And as the lake goes, so goes the greater Mekong ecosystem.

Asia’s twin curse: Dams and droughtsJapan Times River systems help sustain lives and livelihoods. But, thanks to excessive damming and drastic overuse of their water resources, some rivers are drying up before reaching the sea. Nowhere is this truer than Asia.

REGIONAL RELATIONS

Busan Summit to Reinforce Partnership Between the ROK and ASEAN The Irrawaddy Leaders of ASEAN countries will gather in Busan, Republic of Korea (ROK), next week. This upcoming 2019 ASEAN-ROK Commemorative Summit is special in many aspects.

US to provide Vietnam with coast guard ship, eyes South China SeaChannel News Asia The United States announced on Wednesday (Nov 20) it will provide Vietnam with another coast guard cutter for its growing fleet of ships, boosting Hanoi’s ability to patrol the South China Sea amid tensions with China.

 Cambodian Leader Sings Praises of US After Letter From Trump Voice of America  Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sun has signaled he would welcome better relations with the United States after a conciliatory letter from President Donald Trump and a meeting with Washington’s new envoy. 

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Asian Nations at Odds over Sovereignty Join up to Fight Marine Trash Voice of America An agreement among Southeast Asian leaders this month to fight floating plastics in the South China Sea and surrounding waterways marks an upswing in cooperation among countries that normally compete over sovereignty.

In Indonesian waters, filter feeders can ingest dozens to hundreds of microplastic particles every hour – Mongabay New research finds that large filter feeders in the waters of Indonesia could be ingesting dozens to hundreds of microplastic particles every hour. Due to their filter feeding strategy, manta rays and whale sharks must swallow hundreds to thousands of cubic meters of sea water every day in order to catch enough zooplankton, microscopic organisms that float passively in the water and are an important source of food for the filter feeders. That means that manta rays and whale sharks are also at risk of accidentally ingesting tiny pieces of plastic known as microplastics (which are typically said to be less than 5 millimeters in length), the result of plastic bags, single-use packaging, and other plastic waste making its way into the ocean and breaking down over time.

Natural gas, false hope in climate change campaign? – Channel News Asia “When it burns, natural gas releases less CO2, nitrous oxide and sulphur than coal or oil,” said Nicholas Browne of energy consultants Wood Mackenzie. // Natural gas is cleaner and produces fewer global warming emissions than other fossil fuels, making it key to our transition to a low-carbon future, but it comes with its own serious drawbacks.

CHINA

China can turn off the Philippine national power grid, officials say – South China Morning Post Engineers in China could plunge the country into darkness using a remote operating system supplied by a firm based in Nanjing. Senators demand an investigation into the national security implications, but official says a similar arrangement exists in Kenya, Indonesia, and Thailand. // Philippine senators have called for an investigation into the security implications of China’s part ownership of the national energy grid after officials said engineers in Beijing could plunge the entire country into darkness with the flick of a switch. 

China’s new industrial policy dismissed as ‘Made in China 2025’ rehash by critics in Washington South China Morning Post New plan seeks to melt ‘smart’ manufacturing with ‘modern’ internet. Like ‘Made in China 2025’ plan, it would seek to create national champions by 2025. // China went back to the drawing board to create a new plan to grow its industries, but to many hardliners in the United States, it seems to be a copy-and-past job of the old plan. 

China to cut subsidies for renewable power by 30 per cent to US$807 million in 2020 South China Morning Post China will decrease subsidies by about 30% to 5.6 billion yuan due to a decline in manufacturing costs. // Funds will go to wind farms, biomass power generators, distributed solar power operators, and solar power projects for poverty alleviation purposes. China has been scaling back subsidies to renewable power providers because of a decline in manufacturing costs. 

China won’t give up its state-led economic mode, top trade negotiator Liu He says South China Morning Post Beijing plans to make its public sector ‘stronger, better, and bigger’, vice-premier says in People’s Daily article. // Despite progress made on an interim deal, Liu’s comments suggest a long-term solution to US-China trade war will be harder to find. 

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Vingroup secures Google’s backing to launch smart TVs Nikkei Asian Review Vietnamese conglomerate seeks ‘world-class partners’ as it embarks on tech domination. Leading Vietnamese conglomerate Vingroup said it has secured U.S. tech giant Google’s backing to develop smart TVs. “VinSmart will work with Google to develop a smart TV, based on Android TV operating system,” the Hanoi-based company said on Wednesday.
Asia’s twin curse: Dams and droughts The Japan Times River systems help sustain lives and livelihoods. But, thanks to excessive damming and drastic overuse of their water resources, some rivers are drying up before reaching the sea. Nowhere is this truer than Asia. 

Earthquake Shakes Thailand, Laos, Sways Bangkok High-Rises Voice of America A strong earthquake shook a border area between northern Thailand and Laos early Thursday, swaying high-rises in Bangkok and Vietnam’s capital. Residents of Chiang Mai, northern Thailand’s biggest city, felt prolonged shaking but saw no major damage.

Indonesia plans to cut corporate tax rate in stages to reach 20%Channel News Asia Indonesia plans to gradually decrease corporate income tax rate. // Indonesia’s finance minister said on Friday (Nov 22) that the government would submit to parliament next month a plan to cut the corporate tax rate in two stages to reach 20 per cent by 2023, down from its current level of 25 per cent

Vietnam’s Big Ethnic Challenge The Diplomat The plight of Vietnam’s ethnic groups continues to be a point of focus for the government. // The plight of Vietnam’s ethnic groups seems to be weighing heavily on the Communist Party’s mind in recent weeks, with the Politburo stating earlier this month that more action is needed to raise the economic situation of Vietnam’s 53 ethnic minority groups.

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