The Phnom Penh Post

Higher skills for a busy aviation sector

In its first two months of regular operation Cambodia’s first civil aviation training centre has provided certificates to dozens of aviation officials and airport staff, helping to raise the skill level of personnel in the Kingdom’s fast-expanding aviation sector. Sinn Chanserey Vutha, spokesman of the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation, said the $10.1 million facility, built with South Korean funding and supervision, held its first training course in early February ahead of its official opening last week. He said the specialised training centre has already provided certificates to 40 aviation officials and airport staff, with another 47 participants due to complete their coursework next week.

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ASEAN talks South China Sea in Siem Reap

Chinese and ASEAN representatives are meeting in Siem Reap to begin hammering out a code of conduct for the highly contested South China Sea. Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Chum Sounry said Cambodia was hosting the director-general-level meeting on March 29-30. China has openly dismissed an international tribunal’s determination that the sea’s rocky outcrops cannot be used as the basis for territorial claims, though ASEAN members such as Vietnam and the Philippines, both of which are embroiled in the territorial disputes with China, applauded the decision. While the disputes persist, Beijing has consistently expressed interest in finalising a code of conduct for the region among its neighbours.

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Oil firm ready to ink production-sharing agreement

Executives at Singapore-listed energy firm KrisEnergy Ltd say they have settled terms with the Cambodian government and are ready to sign a long-awaited production-sharing agreement that would pave the way for the first-ever extraction of petroleum from Cambodian territorial waters. Kelvin Tang, KrisEnergy’s chief operating officer and president of its Cambodia operations, said on March 29 that a contract has been finalised that will govern the extraction of offshore oil and gas from the Block A oil field in the Gulf of Thailand. KrisEnergy holds a 95 percent stake in the 4,709-square-kilometre offshore block, while the Cambodian government holds the remaining 5 percent. According to Tang, KrisEnergy and Cambodia’s Ministry of Mines and Energy have agreed to terms on a production-sharing agreement, “but everything is only set once all parties have signed the relevant agreements”. He added that the company was simply waiting for the government to call and set a date for the signing.

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Swedish aid agency offers funds for SMEs

Sweden's development agency will provide $7 million to foster the development of small- and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) in Cambodia, according to state-run news agency AKP

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Capital still struggling with waste

Phnom Penh deputy governor Ieng Aunny on March 28 acknowledged that the capital continues to struggle with waste management despite recent decentralisation measures, laying the blame with districts’ and communes’ lack of awareness of their new responsibilities, as well as what he characterised as contractor Cintri’s ongoing failure to meet the city’s needs. Phnom Penh began to delegate waste management duties to its districts and communes last year, Ieng said during a workshop to review Phnom Penh’s strategy for waste management, with City Hall handing responsibility for the services to the city’s final four districts in December. The delegation of services was stipulated under a 2015 sub-decree by the Ministry of Environment. “We have decentralised it to the communes to control the waste, but we have observed that … waste management, both solid and liquid waste, remain a problem,” he said. “We have not achieved what we wanted … The waste is in the canals and along the streets.”

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Exports of logs double in 2016

Despite a ban on the export of timber to Vietnam and the creation of a much-publicised anti-logging task force, Cambodia last year still exported nearly $33 million dollars’ worth of unprocessed logs to its eastern neighbour, a volume more than double that of 2015, according to Vietnamese customs data. The figures, collected by US NGO Forest Trends, reveal that in 2016 Vietnam imported 139,306 cubic metres of logs from Cambodia, a sharp rise from 59,292 cubic metres in 2015 and just 460 in 2014. The imports saw a staggering spike in November and December of last year. Of the total volume of logs, which was valued at $32.86 million, 56 percent was received by Vietnam in November and December, with 43 percent in the latter month alone.

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Push to reduce chemical dependency

The Ministry of Agriculture is working to develop a procedural framework for the trade and use of biological control agents in agriculture in an effort to improve crop yields, protect consumer health and ensure continued access to key export markets. Regulation could also create opportunities for the import or local production of BCA products a possibility that has piqued the interest of foreign firms. Speaking on March 27 at a consultative meeting on regulations and national registration of biological control agents, Sam Chhom Sangha, deputy secretary-general of the Ministry of Agriculture, said the use of BCAs could provide “holistic” support to Cambodia’s struggling agriculture sector, which he claimed had been damaged by the overuse of chemical agents. “We need to find ways to boost agricultural productivity, encourage crop resilience and diversification and improve commercialisation,” he said.

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Coastal economy rises on tourist tide

Preah Sihanouk province welcomed nearly 2.4 million tourists in 2016, generating $96 million in revenue, following a significant rise in domestic and international tourist arrivals, a tourism official said yesterday. Overall arrivals to the coastal province grew by 37 percent last year compared to 2015, according to May Nimol, deputy director of marketing and promotions at Preah Sihanouk’s provincial tourism department. The growth was driven by a sharp uptake in domestic tourism, with the number of visitors from other Cambodian provinces surging 45 percent last year to reach 1,974,631. International tourist arrivals increased 12 percent last year to reach 404,939, led by visitors from China, Russia and Vietnam, he added.

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Cambodia bans breast milk exports after international media coverage

Cambodia has permanently banned the sale and export of human breast milk a week after suspending exports by an American company that was harvesting it from impoverished mothers. In a letter to the Ministry of Health on March 28, Cambodia’s governing Council of Ministers officially banned the sale and export of pumped human breast milk, putting an end to a controversial industry that has grabbed attention locally and worldwide. Cambodian women began selling their breast milk to the Utah-based Ambrosia Labs over a year ago. They would generally earn between $7 and $10 per day for the sale of their milk, a sum that allowed many to support their families. But welfare officials argue the practice is exploitative and could impact the nutrition of the women’s children.

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MFIs seek regulator’s support

The apex body for the nation’s microfinance industry announced yesterday that the central bank had tentatively agreed to a number of measures it had requested to ease the burden on microfinance lenders following last week’s unilateral decision to cap annual interest rates at 18 percent as of April 1. Hout Ieng Tong, chairman of the Cambodia Microfinance Association, told reporters that senior officials at the National Bank of Cambodia had “agreed in principle” to reduce the annual licence fee of microfinance lenders affected by the new interest rate ceiling and provide loans in Khmer riel directly to microfinance institutions while acting as a guarantor. He said the NBC would consider postponing a 12.5 percent reserve requirement on borrowing that was supposed to apply to microfinance deposit-taking institutions this year, as well as the deadline for microlenders to reach their revised minimum capital requirements.

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