Statement by H.E.Mr. Viraphonh Viravong - 19th Meeting of the MRC Council

Luang Prabang, Lao PDR, 17th Jan 2013

Session 2: Joint Nineteenth Council and Seventeenth Donor Consultative Group Meeting
17 January 2013,  Luang Prabang, Lao PDR

Statement

By

H.E. Mr. Viraphonh Viravong
Vice Minister of Energy and Mines
Vice Chairman of Lao National Mekong Committee
Head of the Delegation of Lao PDR

Excellency Mr. Noulinh Sinbandhit

Minister of Natural Resources and Environment
Chairman of Lao National Mekong Committee
Member of the MRC Council for the Lao PDR
Chairman of the MRC Council for 2012-2013

Excellency Mr. Noulinh Sinbandhit 
Minister of Natural Resources and Environment
Chairman of the Lao National Mekong Committee
Member of the MRC Council for Lao PDR
Chairman of the MRC Council for 2012 – 2013
Excellency Mr. Nguyen Thai Lai 
Vice Minister of Natural Resources and Environment
Vice Chairman of the Viet Nam National Mekong Committee
Member of the MRC Council for Viet Nam
Excellency Mr. Sin Ny Ny 
Minister of Water Resources and Meteorology
Chairman of the Cambodia National Mekong Committee
Member of the MRC Council for Cambodia  
  
Excellencies, Ambassadors, Distinguished Delegates, Development Partners, Ladies and Gentlemen
First of all, the Thai National Mekong Committee would like to inform  that H.E. Mr. Preecha Rengsomboonsuk, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, has serious assignment and cannot join for today Meeting. He would like to convey his apology to the Member of MRC Council and the Meeting, in this regard. Thus, I was authorized to deliver statement on behalf of  H.E. Mr. Preecha. Firstly, we would like to express our appreciation and heartfelt thanks to the Government of Lao People Democratic Republic for hosting  the 19th Mekong River Commission Council Meeting, in the beautiful city of  Luang Prabang, ranking on the world famous tourism.
Thailand would like to reaffirm that we will continue our support for MRC Cooperation, in particular to achieve the prosperity of the Mekong Basin while maintaining a good health of  Mekong River for all people whose life depending on it. Thailand certainly confident that this policy platform will play a potential role to help our region keeping a momentum of environmental health with parallel to an implementation of economic development plan.
As you are all aware that, now, we are reaching the mid of MRC Strategic Plan of 2011 to 2015, the MRC has made progressively implementation especially on drafting basin development strategy and the assessment of basin development scenario. These were shown a major step towards our commitments to protect people livelihood in the Mekong Basin whenever we have made decision on any development projects on the mainstream. 
Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen
During last year, the MRC had held Mekong2Rio International Conference on Trans-Boundary Water Resources Management. Its results were shown us that our economic, social and environmental prosperity depends on how we protect and share the benefits of our common water resources through cooperative mechanisms as well as an involvement of stakeholders in the Mekong basin. Our increasing demands for food and energy depends on our ability to work together to develop and manage the water resources, as well as to identify the linkages between sectors while protecting the unique environment of the Mekong.
This messages has reminded us that the joint and collaborative action are urgent required. Thailand realize  that, sometimes,  policies at national level may cause to different point of views on MRC Programme implementation which consequently create barriers to cooperation. However, Thailand certainly confident that such different views are still on a friendly manner, which could drive us to meet our goals. To achieve our commitment, we need to continue to strengthen the MRC to enable it to play an important role and unique role on the sustainable development of water and related resources in the Mekong Basin. Thus, Thailand wish to raise the issue that it would be better for the Mekong River Commission to urgently implement the MRC Procedures as well as start the council study in order to prepare ourselves to may caused mitigate the transboundary impact and make sure of our future ecological balance.
We would like to express our sincere appreciation to the Government of Lao People Democratic Republic for the warm welcome and kind hospitality accorded to all delegations and we would like to express our thanks to development partners for supporting MRC to expedite activities for sustainable development in the basin.
Thank you for your kind attention 
 
                  

Excellency Mr. Lim Kean Hor
Minister of Water Resources and Meteorology of Cambodia
Chairman of Cambodia National Mekong Committee
Member of the MRC Council for Cambodia

Excellency Mr. Preecha Rengsomboonsuk
Minister of Natural Resources and Environment of Thailand
Chairman of Thai National Mekong Committee
Member of the MRC Council for Thailand

Excellency Mr. Nguyen Minh Quang
Minister of Natural Resources and Environment of Viet Nam
Chairman of Viet Nam National Mekong Committee
Member of the MRC Council for Viet Nam

Mr. Chairman, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates from the MRC Member Countries, Representatives of Development Partners, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is indeed a great pleasure and honor to participate the Nineteenth Meeting of the MRC Council and the Seventeenth Meeting of Donor Consultative Group here in Luang Prabang, the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site.

On behalf of Lao delegation, I wish to express our sincere appreciation to H.E Mr. Lim Kean Hor, Minister of Water Resources and Meteorology, Chairman of Cambodia National Mekong Committee, upon the successful completion of his Chairmanship of the MRC Council for 2011-2012.

At the same time, I would like to congratulate H.E Mr. Noulinh Sinbandhit, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Chairman of the Lao National Mekong Committee, Member of the MRC Council for Lao PDR, on assuming the Chairmanship of the MRC Council for 2012-2013. We can assure you of our full commitment, support and cooperation for your able leadership during your tenure. It is my firm belief that with your extensive experience and constructive initiatives, Your Excellency will guide the MRC towards achieving its objectives while serving the common interests of all MRC member countries.

At the outset I would also like to express our heartfelt appreciation to the authorities and people of Luang Prabang for their warm hospitality. 

Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Within the framework of MRC cooperation, it is important to reiterate the fundamental objective of the 1995 Mekong Agreement: to achieve “the full potential of sustainable benefits to all riparian countries and the prevention of wasteful use of Mekong River Basin waters.” This objective is complemented by the Shared Vision for “an economically prosperous, socially just and environmentally sound Mekong Basin.”

At the First MRC Summit in April 2010, the Prime Ministers of Lower Mekong River Basin countries reaffirmed their commitment to cooperate in promoting the sustainable development, utilization, conservation and management of water and related resources.

This Nineteenth MRC Council Meeting provides us a good opportunity toreview the progress of our cooperation being made throughout last year. Clearly 2012 proved to be another challenging year in striving to implement the 1995 Mekong Agreement, the Hua Hin Declaration and other important decisions taken by the JC and Council.

Noteworthy achievements were witnessed last year, namely the adoption of the IWRM-based Basin Development Strategy in January 2011. This was a significant milestone in MRC history. Part of the MRC’s commitment to regional cooperation, the strategy comes in response to Article 2 of the Mekong Agreement, which calls for formulation of a Basin Development Plan.

The handover of Mekong HYCOS stations under the Information and Knowledge Management Program has initiated close connectivity between the regional national hydrological monitoring systems. This is an important step. However, such initiatives need to be systematically integrated with strong institutional support, and serious consideration must be given to the national capacity to carry out such tasks.

In parallel with the IKMP, I am also delighted to note that other programs are also on track including those aimed at flood management and mitigation, environment, navigation, agriculture, forestry, irrigation and fisheries. The effective implementation of the Integrated Capacity Building Program is paving the way forward to gradual decentralization of MRC Core functions.

Improvement of the management of MRCS’s Operating Expenditure Budget for 2013 has been noticed. Moreover, our development partners have made significant pledges and commitments to support our programs in the coming years. As secure financial sources are very important to implementation, we sincerely thank all member countries, development partners, as well as dialogue partners, for their support and collaboration.

Though much progress has been achieved, some issues need to be urgently addressed. The implementation of MRC Programs and Initiatives should be expanded to a wider audience, and must reach the local communities with tangible outcomes. We can all appreciate that “riparianization” is progressing toward its target, whereby key positions in the Secretariat are carried out by riparian staff. However, in doing this, we must take into account the distribution of staff by level of position by country. This will help improve efficiency, effectiveness and mutual benefits to our organization.

Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Over the past year, the Lao PDR has continued to experience political stability and social order. The national economy has grown gradually at an average of 8% annually, and the poverty reduction target set in the 5-Year Plan has been met, thus improving the livelihood of the Lao people. All of this has laid a solid foundation for attaining MDGs by 2015 and positioning the country to graduate from Least Developed Country status by 2020. Despite these achievements, the Lao PDR faces numerous challenges, constraints and problems resulting from the global and regional economic and financial crisis and impacts of natural disasters.

As a member of the Mekong River Commission, the Lao PDR has carried forth the spirit of the 1995 Mekong Agreement, by continuing its cooperation with all member countries based on the principles of equality, mutual benefit, respect for national independence, sovereignty, and non-interference in each other’s internal affairs. This approach is essential for creating an international environment conducive to national development.

Together with other member countries, Lao PDR has done its utmost to implement the IWRM-based strategy. In 2012, despite difficulties, Lao PDR completed the National Indicative Plan as part of the Basin Action Plan.

Lao PDR also contributed to the many efforts and remarkable progress made towards achieving the goals of the MRC strategic plan for 2011-2015. Moreover, the IWRM principles have been applied by the Nam Ngum and the Nam Theun-Nam Kading River Basin Organizations. The experiences yielded from the implementation were used in the revision and improvement of strategies and legislation related to water resources management.

With the aim to effectively contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emission and to participate in the fight against the global warming, the Government of Lao PDR, in its National Socio-Economic Development Strategy, promotes the use of renewable energy sources where among them is "Hydropower". Reforestation, Afforestation, and Forest Rehabilitation as a well as all effective measures to curb illegal timbers logging activities have been undertaken from village level through the entire country.

Several legislations such as the revised Mining and Environment Protection promulgated in 2012, give strong emphasis on the utilization of our natural resources in a wiser manner, and encourage the application of environmentally sound technologies. Several development projects have already applied the EIA Decree which resulted on the establishment of Monitoring and Evaluation Offices at district level and by now are watching very closely the activities of development activities with particular attention to the implementation of plans for resettlement and environment management. The knowledge and skills of concerned staff have been strengthened accordingly.

Despite the above cited facts and achievements, the Lao PDR still needs to address many pressing challenges, such as: the lack of relevant legislation and their implementation effectiveness; the deficiency of qualified staff which can be encountered in many areas notably in the area of natural resources, environment management, and the engineering sector; the difficulties with our meager financial means which slow down the access to environment sound technology, the comprehensive compilation of scattered data and information; and the establishment of effective monitoring and evaluation system.

Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Last year also saw challenges emerge over the Xayaburi Hydropower Project, the first mainstream hydropower project in the Lower Mekong Basin. On behalf of the Lao National Mekong Committee, I would like to express deep gratitude to MRC member countries, development partners and international organizations for giving the Lao Government the opportunity to move ahead on the mainstream.

We acknowledge and applaud the contributions of the member countries in completing, for the first time, the Prior Consultation Process. In a spirit of amity and cooperation, they voiced their concerns and helped us improve the design of the Xayaburi Project. Indeed this is the objective of the Prior Consultation Process. With their understanding, we are now pressing ahead in furtherance of our unwavering commitment to the principles underlying sustainable hydropower projects. With this foremost in mind, we will ensure that Xayaburi will become a shining model of transparent and sustainable hydropower.

Together with other MRC member countries, the Lao PDR supports the Council’s decision to conduct the comprehensive Study on Sustainable Development and Management of the Mekong River Basin. The concept note is being finalized and we look forward to implementation.

The Lao Government’s continuing commitment to cooperation, with the goal of sustainable development in the Mekong River Basin, also can be seen in our efforts to review national laws on water and electricity, and development of hydropower sustainability development protocol in compliance with the regional Basin Development Strategy.

Before I conclude my statement, I would like to once again extend my heartfelt appreciation to MRC Member Countries for their continuous support, and to our Development Partners and International Organizations for their kind assistance to our MRC activities. My special thanks would also go to the Lao National Mekong Committee and the MRC Secretariat for the excellent arrangements of our meeting.

Thank you for your kind attention.