Wednesday, December 19 2018

VietNamNews

Environment minister takes the heat

Update: June, 05/2018 - 08:00
Trần Hồng Hà, head of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE) — VNA/VNS Photo Doãn Tấn
Viet Nam News

HÀ NỘI — The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE) is keeping close watch on the development of China’s three nuclear power plants in Guangxi, Guangzhou and Hainan, all of which are provinces that border Việt Nam, said minister Trần Hồng Hà during the NA’s Q&A session yesterday.

“We are watching them very closely. The Government has entrusted the Ministry of Science and Technology to set up observer posts and to work with international nuclear agencies to inspect the borderland areas,” Hà said.

The ministry and its offices are also working on contingency plans for scenarios in which radioactive contamination may pose a threat to Việt Nam.

In light of the recent real estate rush in Vân Đồn, Bắc Vân Phong and Phú Quốc, the three localities selected to potentially become the first of Việt Nam’s special economic zones, the minister said the rush was a result of the market’s expectations.

“We all knew it would happen but as of now there isn’t an effective way to stop the rush,” he said.

Hà cited the real estate rush around Long Thành, a southern district chosen to be the location for a major international airport where underground property transactions were rampant despite local authorities’ efforts.

The minister said he was aware that real estate prices in the three localities had tripled in recent months. To counter the rush, local authorities had stopped all processes to change land purposes. Hà said while it was an effective measure in the short run, ultimately the NA must pass regulations to address this issue.

Deputies Nguyễn Anh Trí and Trịnh Ngọc Phương asked what the minister had to say about the poor air quality index in Hà Nội, which they claimed to be unhealthy nine out of 10 days.

Hà said the ministry’s own air monitoring system did not register such findings. He admitted that while the air quality index could be poor it had not been as serious as some might claim.

This is the second time Hà was grilled by NA deputies. The first time he took questions was in November 2016 shortly after the Formosa’s crisis, one of the country’s worst environmental disasters to date. Hà will continue taking questions from lawmakers in today’s Q&A session.

BOT projects

Earlier in the National Assembly’s afternoon Q&A session deputies threw more questions at the transport minister.

Continued with issues with Built Operate Transport (BOT) projects, deputies raised questions over the numerous fees and tolls imposed on road users.

Thể claimed the State’s limited budget would not be able to cover the need to expand and upgrade the country’s infrastructure system and BOT remained a viable option in attracting investment.

“When the State asks businesses to help provide a public service it is only right they may enjoy some preferential policies,” said the minister.

He said the current mandatory fees on road users go toward the nation’s road maintenance fund, which is used to repair and upgrade the nation’s roads. In addition, BOT investors have to comply with quality standards set by the ministry. In the event that they failed to do so, the ministry will suspend their right to collect tolls.

The Q&A session got heated when deputy Nguyễn Phước Lộc demanded the country’s transport authority to come up with measures to ensure total transparency in BOT tolls collection.

Thể said his ministry is working around the clock to finish the inspections of BOT projects. He said the automatic tolls collecting system will play a vital role in improving transparency.

When asked what basis was used to calculate BOT fees if the ministry’s inspection remained unfinished, Thể said while BOT investors’ proposed rate might not be entirely accurate, their investment had already been spent. The ministry must allow them to start collecting tolls or otherwise pay for the interest on investments.

“Contracts were signed and must be honoured. We (the transport ministry) are working hard to finish inspections of BOT projects. Once they are done we can make adjustments to the contracts,” said Thể.

He promised that by the end of the year the amount collected by BOT tolls booths would be publicly available.

“Once the automatic system is in place, nobody can manipulate the numbers,” he said.— VNS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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