Vientiane, Lao PDR, 8 July 2021 — A new minister of Energy and Mines of Lao PDR sets to support and boost ties with the Mekong River Commission, as the MRC is racing to complete important strategies and guidelines this year to guide responsible development in the Mekong region.

Daovong Phonekeo, who was appointed Minister of Energy and Mines of Lao PDR in March this year, told MRC Secretariat Chief Executive Officer An Pich Hatda during their recent meeting that his ministry was committed to working alongside other Member Countries of the MRC.

“We look forward to deepening our engagement with the MRC and to lending necessary support to the work that the Commission does for the region,” Dr Daovong said.

Dr Hatda, while congratulating Dr Daovong on his new appointment, requested him to look at three guidance documents that the MRC had forwarded to Lao PDR for approval, following the green light by fellow members Cambodia, Thailand, and Viet Nam.

The draft Sustainable Hydropower Strategy, the Preliminary Design Guidance for Mainstream Dams 2020, and the Guidelines for Transboundary Environmental Impacts Assessment for the Lower Mekong Basin were crafted through years of work and extensive consultation with the four MRC Member Countries and stakeholders, the CEO said.

He added the MRC Secretariat had been working closely with officials from MEM, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, and the Lao National Mekong Committee Secretariat to ensure key issues Lao PDR raised would be addressed sufficiently, considering the needs and expectations of other members, and concerned stakeholders.  

Minister Daovong assured the CEO he would guide his officials and work with other ministries including Lao MoNRE and LNMC Secretariat to advance the finalization and implementation process for the benefit of all.

He stressed the importance of mutual understanding between Lao PDR and other countries and stakeholders of the Mekong, balancing the needs and comparative advantage of Lao PDR on sustainable hydropower development and the legitimate concerns of others.

The Minister and CEO also discussed the importance of reassuring other Member Countries of their concerns around the Sanakham hydropower project currently undergoing the MRC’s six-month prior consultation process that began in May last year. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the six-month process has not been concluded yet.

Dr Hatda added that he and other Member Countries looked forward to the progress and update on Lao PDR’s implementation of the agreed Joint Action Plans (JAPs) for the Pak Beng, Pak Lay, and Luang Prabang hydropower projects that all had completed their official six-month prior consultation processes.

The JAPs are the post-prior consultation process mechanism that provides an ongoing engagement for the MRC, related stakeholders, Lao PDR, and developers to exchange information, data and feedback throughout the project development and operations process.

Last month, Lao Minister of MoNRE Bounkham Vorachit provided the same assurance to the CEO during their online call. She said: “We fully support the MRC and are committed to working together with other members for the betterment of all the riparian countries and peoples of the Mekong.”

Read this news in Lao.