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Social Headlines January 28

 Former Deputy Minister Receives JICA Award; Police make rice smuggling bust; Deputy PM orders investigation and warning of grenade toy; UNDP support for Vietnam’s development; Hanoi to get touch on environmental violations in 2014

Former Deputy Minister Receives JICA Award

Former Deputy Minister of Planning and Investment Cao Viet Sinh was granted the Japan International Agency (JICA) Contribution Award on January 23.

This award honors his contributions to Vietnam-Japan relations.

JICA Vietnam Chief Representative Mori Mutsuya and fellow sponsors highly appreciated Mr. Sinh’s strong negotiation skills and coordination.

JICA’s Contribution Award is offered to local and foreign individuals and organizations to recognize outstanding contribution to JICA activities. This year’s award was granted to 10 representatives of 6 countries.

Japan is currently the largest bilateral Official Development Assistance (ODA) donor in Vietnam.  Japanese companies have invested about US$37 billion for over 2,000 projects in Vietnam.

Hungary offers 50 scholarships to Vietnamese students

Hungary has announced it will grant 50 full scholarships to Vietnamese students in the 2014-2015 academic year.

The scholarships include 40 for tertiary education and MA degrees and 10 for doctorate degrees, said the Ministry of Education and Training (MoET).

According to the MoET, 30 scholarships will be offered to students in agriculture, natural science, water resource management, technology, civil engineering, and tourism. Three others will be for arts and culture, two for sports and physical training, and five for pharmacy and health care.

Ten doctorate scholarships will be allocated based on applicants’ capacity. If the applicants are not State employees, they are required to have an average university score of 7.5 or have won a young Vietnamese scientific talent award.

Applicants should submit their forms before March 15 to the MoET.

Police make rice smuggling bust

HCM City police arrested seven people for smuggling 20,000kg of rice on Friday, which was discovered by anti-smuggling officials carrying out a surprise check of a "tobacco" consignment in Cat Lai Port.

Le Dung, director of the Sai Gon Industrial Foodstuff Joint Stock Company, Pham Tan Duc and Quach Van Quy, heads of two of the company's branches, and deliverymen Mai Khac Truong and Le Tien Cuong were arrested for tax fraud.

Tran Thi Bich Tuyen of Blue C.T Cambodia and Nguyen Quoc Dung of Tan Binh District, both importers of the consignment, were also arrested.

According to the police, the company's customs declaration claimed the two containers contained Craven "A" cigarette cartons worth VND23.6 billion, but, in fact, had a few hundred million dong worth white rice.

Even as officials were checking the two containers, xxx dispatched two other containers with 2,059 cartons of Caraven "A" and Bastos cigarettes to the Sai Gon Port's zone 4 for exchanging fraudulently the containers suspected by officials.

Last year, in April, the police had caught the company smuggling out 60,000kg of white rice.

It is not clear why the company officials were not arrested then, but the police are now saying they belong to a transnational smuggling ring.

Tuyen is said to be the linchpin. Though Dung knew it was illegal, he ordered his subordinates to go ahead with it.

Deputy PM orders investigation and warning of grenade toy

Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam asked authorities to investigate a case after students in Chu Van An Primary School, the Higlands Province of Dak Nong developed health problems after playing with grenade toys.

Authorities in the provinces are asked to inform schools and parents to prevent future cases.

The Ministry of Education and Training must issue a warning to people to avoid harmful toys, said Dam. He believes the Ministry of Industry and Trade must order market management forces to tighten control and issue harsh penalties to sellers of dangerous toys.

This is a response to the incident on January 16. Students brought a grenade toy to school which exploded after the children tossed it in the air.  The gases from the explosion caused dizziness, breathing failure and fainting in 40 students.

Northern mountains urban development program project passed

The PM has agreed the Northern mountains urban development program project funded by the World Bank (WB).

The Ministry of Construction and People’s Committees of Bac Kan, Cao Bang, Dien Bien, Hoa Binh, Thai Nguyen, Tuyen Quang and Yen Bai are implementers of the project.

The PM assigned relevant agencies to finalize necessary procedures and ink the project with the WB this June.

The project targets to improve urban infrastructure, environment and living standards for local residents in the seven mountainous provinces.

The over US$ 301 million project got US$ 250 million from the WB. Viet Nam provided over US$ 51 million of reciprocal capital./.

Hospitals remain open for Tet Holidays

The Ministry of Health announced on January 26 hospitals will be open during Tet holidays.

Medical workers including hospital managers, doctors, nurses and safeguards must take turn working shifts despite the holidays, said head of the Ministry’s Department of Medical Examination and Treatment Luong Ngoc Khue.

The name of each person on duty will be posted in the hospital.

All patients will be provided treatment during the holidays. Medical workers will provide first aid to those not assigned to the hospital and an explanation of policies before transferring them to the right hospital in the insurance card.

Hospital managers will tend low-income patients and patients in critical conditions.

About 1,000 patients are staying in Bach Mai Hospital in Hanoi during the holidays, said hospital Director Nguyen Quoc Anh.  The hospital canteen will be open while the Nutrition Ward will provide free meals to low-income patients and cater food to patients in critical condition.

In related news, citizens donated more than 100 units of blood on January 26. Charitable Blood Donation Center in District 8 and Hoc Mon collected over 500 units of blood each day.

Because of increased traffic accidents, the donation center encourages people to donate blood during the months of January and February, said managers.

UNDP support for Vietnam’s development

Vietnam has achieved tremendous results in poverty reduction, socio-economic development and has come a long way in conquering new challenges in its status as a middle-income nation.

United Nations (UN) Country Director in Vietnam Pratibha Mehta says despite huge progress made over the past 20 years, Vietnam still encounters difficulties and needs strong support from international development partners.

According to UN Development Programme (UNDP) in Vietnam, it is vital the country gains experience and good policy consultation on how to cope with the challenges which will arise from equal growth as well as deal with the growing problem of social injustice.

UNDP is set to more effectively support balanced growth processes and promote human rights to help Vietnam implement the Millennium Development Goal (MDGs) and priorities in the 2011-2020 strategy for socio-economic development and the 2011-2015 plan for socio-economic development.

The Vietnamese Government and UNDP are cooperating on areas such as balanced growth, national governance and sustainable development.

UNDP in Vietnam is coordinating with other partners to implement a development programme after 2015, based on public opinion.

With support from the UN and other development partners, Vietnam has successfully fulfilled the majority of MDGs, particularly poverty reduction at national level ahead of the 2015 schedule.

Vietnam has experienced diverse periods of development in a very short time. From the post-war national re-construction to the current Doi Moi (Renewal) process, it has become an internationally recognised partner and a source of great encouragement for many other nations, Pratibha Mehta notes.

In 2012, Vietnam was ranked sixth, globally, for its considerable progress in the implementation of MDGs. However, the country should make greater efforts to ensure qualitative and sustainable growth, socio-economic and human development results.

As a partner, UNDP is assisting Vietnam in establishing balanced growth and national programmes for poverty reduction, particularly for ethnic minority groups.

Regarding state governance, UNDP has helped Vietnam with law-making processes and law enforcement, to ensure the development of a civil society, combat corruption and promote human rights to make the governance system congruent with the country’s high speed economic development.

UNDP has pledged to support Vietnam with appropriate measures for climate change, green growth, energy productivity, effective use of natural resources, environmental management and mitigation of natural disasters.

Gender equality and the empowerment of women is also seen as a priority area of UNDP support for Vietnam.

Commune first to meet new rural area criteria

Dai Thanh is the first commune in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta to meet all 19 criteria for "new rural areas".

After three years of implementing the Government's new rural area programme, the commune, located in Hau Giang Province's Nga Bay Town, met requirements on infrastructure, environmental protection, social security, agricultural and business production, residents' livelihoods, and culture, among others.

The number of poor households in the commune fell from 7.7 per cent in 2010 to 3.9 per cent, with a total of 111 poor households.

The commune's per capita income increased to VND23.9 million (US$1,130), up VND6.9 million from 2010.

Of the commune's 2,800 households, 18 had an income of more than VND1 billion a year.

At least 110 households had an income of VND500 million a year and 450 households an income of VND100-500 million a year.

Local farmers said their lives had improved over the last year after authorities encouraged them to switch to more high-value crops and livestock.

Farmer Tran Van A in the commune's Son Phu Hamlet, for example, now earns hundreds of millions of dong a year from king oranges and grapefruit in his 1.4-ha orchard. A decided to switch from growing rice and sugarcane three years ago.

"Farmers here are becoming wealthy from growing king oranges and grapefruit," he said.

The hamlet now has no poor households.

The commune has also set up farmers' co-operatives to improve production and promote products.

The recently established Dai Thanh Co-operatives Alliance, for example, produces disease-free citrus seedlings to supply to local farmers. They also buy fruit from farmers and sell them to supermarkets.

Luu Minh Luan, an alliance member, said farmers were now producing high-quality fruits with the help of the alliance.

Duong Van Giang, chairman of Dai Thanh People's Committee, said local residents had agreed to participate in the new rural area programme and had also donated land to build roads.

The commune has invested more than VND380 billion ($18 million) in the programme, according to the Nga Bay Town's Programme Steering Committee.

Of the figure, local residents contributed the equivalent of VND102 billion through donations of land, labour, money and materials.

The commune has also upgraded and expanded 53km of rural roads and built an irrigation and dyke system that covers 2,058ha of land.

Up to 98.8 per cent of the commune's households now have access to the power grid.

Dai Thanh is one of 11 communes that Hau Giang chose to implement the Government's new rural area programme.

Hau Giang's two other communes – Tan Tien in Vi Thanh City and Vinh Thanh in Vi Thuy District – expect to meet all criteria set for a new rural area soon.

The Government's new rural area programme officially began in 2010.

Hanoi to get touch on environmental violations in 2014

The capital city of Hanoi will employ drastic measures to inspect and prevent environmental pollution in its river basins, industrial parks and trade villages in 2014.

The city will also construct four waste treatment plants that adopt advanced technology this year, while setting up six inspectorate groups to supervise the enforcement of the environmental protection law.

Additionally, the municipal authorities are now working with Hung Yen province to deal with the rampant mineral exploitation, especially sand and soil in the Red River basin.

Education activities will be provided to those who live in the river basins to raise their awareness on dyke protection, while a hotline will be set up to receive information in the field.

According to Deputy Director of Hanoi’s Department of Natural Resources and Environment Nguyen Huu Nghia, there remain many weaknesses in the management of natural resources and environment in the city.

Environmental pollution in trade villages has not been dealt with strictly, while many shortcomings have been seen in gathering dangerous and solid waste, he added.

The official cited numerous reasons for the shortcomings, which include limited financial resources and inappropriate planning of industrial parks and trade villages.

Environment officials are still lacking professional skills to address serious matters in the field, Nghia noted.-

Poor workers across VN presented free Tet bus tickets

A great number of poor workers employed in industrial and processing zones across the country have been presented gifts and free bus tickets to return to their hometowns to celebrate the Lunar New Year (Tet) holiday.

According to Ho Chi Minh City’s Federation of Labour, the organisation, along with many enterprises and donors, have given Tet gifts and bus tickets worth almost 162 billion VND to over 290,000 workers in the city.

In the southern province of Dong Nai, the provincial Federation of Labour in conjunction with many organisations held a charity programmes to present 7,000 gift packages and 2,500 free bus tickets to workers who have are in disadvantaged situation.

At the Changshing company, 100 percent of labourers working for the firm have received gifts and a sum of money equivalent to their monthly salary, helping them enjoy a happier Tet.

Southern Binh Duong province also made every effort to assist labourers working in the locality on the occasion of upcoming Tet. The locality spent a great amount of money to present gifts to over 3,500 needy workers.

The provincial Federation of Labour presented bus and train tickets to more than 1,300 needy workers, most of whom are from central and northern provinces.

Apart from giving gifts and bus tickets to labourers, authorities have joined with trade unions to organise programmes supporting needy workers who are unable to return home for Tet.

Meanwhile, the Youth Union of the port city of Hai Phong worked with the municipal Department of Transport and Communications to give away nearly 1,000 free bus tickets for students studying in universities and colleges in the city.

In addition, transport enterprises operating in the city also presented 210 Tet gift packages worth 300,000 VND each to poor students.-

Vietnamese electricity lights up Lao border area

Electricity has been transmitted from the Vietnamese central province of Quang Nam to its Lao neighbour Sekong since 2009, which is believed to have aided the friendship between the two countries.

Dak Cheung district of Sekong province shares more than 140km of its borderline with Quang Nam’s Nam Giang district, and used to suffer from poor access to electricity in the past.

At an annual meeting in 2007, the twin provinces Quang Nam and Sekong agreed to ask the Vietnam Electricity (EVN) to supply power for Dak Cheung via the Dac Oc border gate.

Phan Vu Dong Quan, head of the Planning Division under EVN affiliate Quang Nam Power Company, said Vietnam spent 30 billion VND (1.4 million USD) on constructing nearly 100km of 22kV power lines for the project. The Lao side also built their own facilities.

On December 16, 2009, when the Vietnam – Laos border marker No.717 was inaugurated, the power line from Quang Nam to Sekong was also put into operation.

Since then, the Quang Nam Power Company and its units have regularly examined and maintained the power line and assist Sekong in operating the facilities effectively.

The facilities have supplied 746,000 kWh of power each year to some 500 households in four communes and authority headquarters of Dak Cheung.

For the past years, electricity from Vietnam has helped give the Lao border area a facelift as it has promoted socio-economic development, aiding the material and spiritual lives of local residents.

Tet gifts distributed to poor people nationwide

The Vietnam Red Cross Society (VRCS) has presented 1 million gifts to disadvantaged families, Agent Orange/Dioxin victims and people in remote areas in the lead up to the Lunar New Year Festival (Tet).

VRCS Vice President Hoang Van Thai said his organisation and its local branches will continue to donate gifts to disadvantaged families and hope to mobilize another 300,000 gifts.

On January 25, Ho Chi Minh City’s Federation of Labor hosted a celebratory get-together for the families of 500 trade union members, who overcame huge difficulties to fulfil their tasks and contribute significantly to trade union movements.

Le Thanh Hai, Secretary of HCM City’s Party Committee said, “We hope that in 2014 the workers will continue to improve their political awareness and skills. The development of the working class will help to consolidate the political system and achieve the targets set by the municipal Party congress."

*** About 1,000 street children were afforded a rare opportunity to play together at a festival held in Tao Dan park in Ho Chi Minh City to mark the Lunar New Year (Tet).

The event, hosted annually at the end of the lunar year by the City’s Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union, attracted support from the local community and young volunteers.

This year, the programme received more than US$23,800 donations to buy Tet gifts for disadvantaged children in the city.

*** Red Cross Organizations in the central City of Da Nang  have given away nearly 16,000 Tet gifts worth US$250,000 to poor households, social beneficiaries and children with disabilities. They have collaborated with the city’s volunteer doctors to provide free medical check-ups and medicine to poor people.

*** Cam Binh is the only island district in Khanh Hoa province. This year, essential goods have been made available on the island to meet people’s needs. The province has set aside US$250,000 without interest for Coop Mark Cam Ranh supermarket chain to sell its products with 10-20 percent discounts on the island.

*** Dak Lak province’s Pioneer Brigade donated 15,000 square sticky ricer cakes to poor children in remote, mountain areas, helping them to enjoy Tet.

Binh Thuan province’s Youth Union organised an event for 500 orphans and disadvantaged children to take part in traditional folk games and enjoy typical Tet dishes.

*** The National Steering Committee for the Central Highlands supported Lam Dong province with US$50,000 to buy gifts for poor.

The province itself allocated US$750,000 from its budget to help approximately 90,000 poor households to have a warm and happy Tet.

Lao delegation visits Yen Bai province

A Lao delegation, led by Vice Governor of Vientiane province Singkham Khongsavanh, paid a working visit to the northern mountainous province of Yen Bai on January 26.

Do Van Chien, Secretary of the Yen Bai Provincial Party Committee, briefed his guests on the province’s socio-economic development and highlighted the two countries’ achievements last year.

He voiced his optimism that the two sides will continue to promote traditional friendship, and special solidarity, strengthen exchanges and comprehensive cooperation on all fronts, and assist each other develop.

For his part, Singkham Khongsavanh thanked Vietnam for its support in training Lao staff and students in the fields of agriculture, health care, and education. She expressed her confidence the two provinces will continue to exchange information, share experiences, and increase cooperation in the future.

During their visit, the delegation also visited the Yen Bai Teachers Training College and Yen Bai Medical College.

Hydroelectricity expert receives Ho Chi Minh Order

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung presented the Ho Chi Minh Order to Dr. Thai Phung Ne, a leading Vietnamese hydroelectricity expert, in Hanoi on January 25.

Ne was former Minister of Energy, the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy on Hydroelectricity, and deputy head of the State Steering Committee on Son La-Lai Chau Hydroelectricity Project.

His career is closely connected with the development of major hydropower plant projects such as Thac Ba, Hoa Binh and Son La.

Especially, thanks to his contributions, the Son La hydropower plant, dubbed the project of the century, was completed three ahead of schedule.

Built at a cost of nearly US$2.85 billion, the plant has a designed capacity of 2,400 MW, making it the largest of its kind in Southeast Asia.

Speaking at the award ceremony, PM Dung spoke highly of Ne’s great contributions to the national construction and development, especially to the electricity sector.

He expressed his wish that Ne, with his expertise, will continue making valuable contributions to the country’s power development.

Winners of Canada Explore competition awarded

Canadian Ambassador to Vietnam David Joseph Devine has presented prizes to Hanoian “Explore Canada from A to Z” competition winners in a ceremony on January 24.

The American International School’s Truong Quoc Van and Truong Quoc Viet won second and third prizes respectively, while the Hanoi-Amsterdam Gifted School’s Nguyen Le Thuy Tien also earned third prize.

Organisers presented participation prizes to 11 other contestants.

HCM City hosted a similar award ceremony on December 22, 2013.

Ambassador Devine said the competition, running from the end of August to the end of November last year, attracted nearly 700 Vietnamese high school student entrants eager to learn about, explore, and experience Canada.

The event was part of activities marking the 40th anniversary of Vietnam-Canada diplomatic relations. Winners were decided over three rounds—an online quiz in Vietnamese, an English or French writing task, and an English or French speaking exercise.

The competition’s overall winner received a scholarship to study English or French and a two-week Canadian cultural experience including a tour for an accompanying guardian.

Second prize winners earned themselves a Blackberry Bold Touch 9900, while third prize recipients won Blackberry Curve 9320s.

Consolation prize winners each received a “cool student” kit.

Vietnamese in Britain, Israel, Laos celebrate Tet

Hundred of overseas Vietnamese from across the UK gathered in London on January 26 to celebrate the Lunar New Year (Tet) festival.

Vietnamese Ambassador to the UK Vu Quang Minh spoke glowingly about the accomplishments in bilateral relations between the two countries in recent years.

He also graciously pointed out that 2013 marked the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties and 100 years since late President Ho Chi Minh took his first step in the UK.

Many activities were held to celebrate the two major events which included a visit by Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong to the UK at the invitation of Prime Minister David Cameron.

The two countries also made great strides in a number of fronts such as education, culture, defence, economic, trade and people-to-people diplomatic cooperation, he added.

Two-way trade turnover hit US$4.3 billion in 2013. Currently, 173 UK-invested projects have been implemented in Vietnam with a combined pledged investment capitalisation of US$2.8 billion.

Many UK business delegations’ fact-finding tours of Vietnam and the HMS Daring Battleship docking at Danang port were also highlights of the year, the diplomat said.

Ambassador Minh expressed his delight at OVs’ success in work and life and extended his best wishes to them on the Tet holiday.

He presented certificates of merit to outstanding students and individuals who have contributed to the development of the OVs community.

The same day, the Vietnamese Embassy in Tel Aviv (Israel) held a get-together to mark the festive holiday.

Ambassador Ta Duy Chinh briefed guests on Vietnam’s Renewal and international integration achievements in 2013 and emphasised key targets for 2014.

He said despite the global economic turbulence, Vietnam stabilized the macro-economy, achieved a higher export value, and attracted nearly US$22 billion in foreign direct investment.

Chinh added that Vietnam established a strategic partnership with five more countries and a comprehensive partnership with many other countries, testifying to the Party and State’s open and self-reliant diplomatic policy and thus raising the country’s role and position on the international arena.

By November 2013, bilateral trade value hit US$930 million and is expected to surpass US$1 billion this year.

The two sides plan to set up a joint research fund for agricultural development, negotiate a free trade agreement, and promote educational cooperation.

The ambassador expressed his desire that OVs will continue to promote solidarity tradition and organise more activities towards the homeland.

Vietnamese people in Laos also organised a Lunar New Year meeting on January 26.

Ambassador to Laos Nguyen Manh Hung said Vietnam overcame many difficulties to achieve an economic growth rate of 5.4% and bring runway inflation under control in 2013.

He acknowledged their contributions to the 1992 Constitution amendments to build a wealthy, democratic, equitable and civilized country.

Hung congratulated Laos’ achievements and expressed his pleasure at the strong development of traditional ties of friendship, solidarity and comprehensive cooperation between the two countries.

Two-way trade hit more than US$1 billion last year for the first time, he revealed.

Vietnam and Laos have completed planting border landmarks and signed and implemented many important agreements, Hung said.

He expressed his hope that OVs will join hands to build a strong community and turn their heart to the homeland.

OVs welcome the New Year

Overseas Vietnamese in Japan gathered at a program held by the Vietnamese embassy on January 25 to celebrate the Lunar New Year Festival.

Vietnamese ambassador to Japan, Doan Xuan Hung, affirmed that the Vietnamese embassy will open its doors to welcome overseas Vietnamese from all over Japan, especially at Tet.

He went on to say that the Vietnamese community in Japan has always maintained great solidarity towards its homeland contributing to a strong and prosperous nation.

Tong Kim Giao, an entrepreneur in Japan said that the event has inspired her to want to return to her hometown while the President of the Vietnam Students Association Le Thi Minh Hang expressed delight at the amount of Vietnamese nationals enjoying traditional foods and songs.

The number of Vietnamese people in Japan, particularly students has increased rapidly to more than 60,000 in the past two years.

Meanwhile, Vietnam’s Consulate General in Sydney held a Tet get-together for overseas Vietnamese in Australia and staff from Vietnamese representative agencies in Sydney.

Consul General Mai Phuoc Dung informed his guests of Vietnam’s situation in 2013 and emphasized that contributions made by overseas Vietnamese towards their homeland is one of the most important factors for national development. He called on overseas Vietnamese to promote the same patriotic spirit in the future.

To mark the 40th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Vietnam and Australia, Consul General Dung also highlighted major achievements in economic, educational and external relations and affirmed that comprehensive strategic partnership between the two nations will be promoted effectively.

Vietnam’s Consulate General in Houston, Texas, the US also held a ceremony to welcome the New Year with the attendance of over 200 guests from local authorities, companies, American friends and overseas Vietnamese.

Consul general Nguyen Van Hoa briefed participants of the country’s socio-economic situation and reviewed developments in the bilateral relationship, describing relations with Texas as bright.

He said  more and more  companies and organisations from Texas have arrived in Vietnam to seek investment opportunities. At present, there are nearly 4,000 Vietnamese students studying at universities and colleges in Texas

Houston in particular has accelerated relations with Vietnam, especially with the memorandum of understanding between Houston and Da Nang city. Accordingly, some businesses from Houston namely Rocky Lai & Associates; ADC&HAS, Cedona Group, Globalinx have invested in Da nang.

Hoa affirmed that the consulate general will continue to serve as an important bridge for the Vietnam-US relationship. Representatives from overseas Vietnamese and US companies operating in Vietnam expressed their satisfaction with recent relations.

Participants also saw some beautiful images of Vietnamese people and its nation and enjoyed some traditional dishes on the occasion of Tet as well as cultural performances by Vietnamese students in Houston.

New bridge cheers up border soldiers

A temporary wooden bridge has been built to connect the main road with the border guard station in A Nong Commune in the central province of Quang Nam.

The original bridge had been washed away by floods last year, isolating soldiers living in the station, which is located in Tay Giang District, 700m above sea level.

The mountainous commune, about 200km away from Tam Ky City, hosts one of several border guard stations along the border with Laos.

The difficulties of access and homesickness have not prevented soldiers from preparing to celebrate Tet (Lunar New Year) away from home with double the usual portion of meat, fish and vegetables that are produced at the station itself.

"We are making banh chung (glutinous square cakes), pork pies and other offerings for New Year Eve. The festive atmosphere helps soldiers who are living away from their native places fell that they are at home," said station chief Lieutenant Colonel Tran Thanh Hai.

"We also invite local people to welcome the New Year with us," Hai said.

The deputy head of the station, Captain Nguyen Duc Thanh, said the station maintains a livestock farm with pigs, cows and goats that provides enough meat for the soldiers, while a garden and an aquaculture farm provides sufficient vegetables and fish.

Le Thanh Phong, a soldier from central Nghe An Province, said he enjoys Tet holiday because he has the satisfaction of discharging an important duty.

"It's my task. We keep control and patrol the country's border to ensure a peaceful Tet for people. We feel good when people celebrate the New Year with fun and happiness," Phong said.

"I was homesick the first year I was here. My homeland is 700km away, but now the station is my second home."

A Nong Commune is also home to 600 people of the Co Tu ethnic minority.

Party Secretary and Chairman of the A Nong People's Committee Alang Bao said Tet was a time for local people and border guard soldiers to get together at night and enjoy a camp-fire party.

"It's an annual rendezvous. The station invites us to celebrate New Year with soldiers who are away from their homes. We also ask them to join us in celebrating the festival in our villages," Bao said.

He added that Tet was a cross-cultural celebration in the commune with the participation of Co Tu people and soldiers who are members of the Kinh majority community.

"Soldiers from the station always help local people in farming, schooling and recovering from damage caused by floods and storms," Bao said.

He said the solidarity between soldiers and local residents strengthened the defence of the country's border areas and ensured a peaceful existence.

The station also donates provisions and gifts for the poor families in the commune from its food reserves, he said.

Station head Hai said that at present, cars can only access the station by crossing the stream during the dry season, but this was impossible during the rainy and flooding season between August and October.

He also said that they are looking forward to a better year "because we expect a new bridge to be built soon."

Hau Giang prepares to clean up dumps

The Hau Giang Province People's Committee has ordered local agencies to clean up two garbage dumps before the rainy season begins.

The Kinh Cung and Long My dumps, located in Phung Hiep District and Long My District, respectively, are overloaded with rubbish, emitting a bad odour and polluting the environment.

The project will be implemented by the province's Department of Natural Resources and Environment, the Hau Giang Water Supply and Sewerage – Projects Urban Joint Stock Company (Hawasuco) and the People's Committees of Phung Hiep and Long My districts.

In July, the province closed the Tan Long dump in Phung Hiep District to build the Hoa An Waste Treatment Plant, which is expected to be completed in 2016.

As a result, the province's three dumps — Kinh Cung, Long My and Tan Tien in Vi Thanh city – have been receiving waste once slated for the closed dump.

Kinh Cung has been receiving an additional 50 tonnes of rubbish a day, while Long My has had an additional 40 tonnes.

According to the provincial department of Natural Resources and Environment, the Kinh Cung dump, built in 1996, has been overloaded for months.

The dump emits a strong odour in the dry season and leaks waste water into nearby areas during the rainy season, polluting fields, rivers and canals.

At a recent meeting, Nguyen Lien Khoa, deputy chairman of the provincial People's Committee, approved the expansion of Kinh Cung and Long My dumps.

Kinh Cung will be increased from 11,920 sq.m to 19,000 sq.m and Long My from 10,000 sq.m to 12,000 sq.m.

Khoa told Hawasuco to set up plans to treat waste water leakage and build facilities to treat pollution at Kinh Cung and Long My dumps.

The company will also spray chemicals to treat the bad smell, flies and mosquitoes at the dumps, he said.

Eight firms get waste water treatment certificates

The Department of Natural Resources and Environment in southern Tay Ninh Province has handed over certificates confirming that eight companies have set up waste water treatment systems that meet required standards.

The companies specialise in processing cane sugar, starch and rubber.

Department Director Nguyen Dinh Xuan said that these were the first companies with factories located upstream Dong Nai River that have built standard waste water treatment systems under a project to protect the environment in Dong Nai River's Basin that has been approved by the Prime Minister.

So far, 89 companies have been ordered to build standard waste water treatment systems; including 12 that piloted them and 36 that have committed to completing the task this June.

Xuan said companies that fail to build standard waste water systems will be shut down.

Biogas tanks to be built in Tra Vinh districts

A project to build 600 biogas compost tanks for local households in three districts has been launched in the southern province of Tra Vinh.

The project will be implemented by the Centre for Rural Communities Research and Development in co-operation with the Tra Vinh Gardening Association.

It will offer some subsidies to beneficiary households.

It costs about VND10.5-14.5 million (US$494-682) to build a biogas compost tank, depending on its size. Each household that is raising at least five heads of cattle, will receive non-refundable financial support of VND1.5 million ($71) directly from the project and will be allowed to borrow VND4 million ($188) at preferential interest from the local clean water and environmental sanitation programme.

The 18-month project, which is an attempt to reduce environmental pollution caused by the animal husbandry sector, is scheduled to be close in June 2015.

Central Highlands summons resources to build new rural areas

Central Highlands provinces have poured over 10.6 trillion VND (504.7 million USD) into building new-style rural areas in the past three years, according to the Steering Committee for the Central Highlands region.

Dak Nong province spent the most on this programme with 7.5 trillion VND (357.1 million USD), while Gia Lai ranks second with over 1.8 trillion VND (85.7 million USD).

Considering production expansion as the core factor of building new-style rural areas, regional provinces have carried out hundreds of projects, focusing on crop and animal restructuring, and coffee and organic vegetable growing. Thousands of effective production models have also been built for crop and animal husbandry.

More specifically, Dak Lak now has 346 such models, for example a 10ha wet rice field in Tan Hung hamlet, Ea Kao commune, generating 8.4 tonnes of unhusked rice per hectare each crop; a sustainable coffee cultivation model in Cu Kuin district; and another raising Hemibagrus wyckioides fish in Krong Pak district.

Local residents have also donated effort, money and land to constructing and expanding roads as well as irrigation and power systems.

The localities have also offered a large number of vocational courses for rural labourers and provided jobs for more than 114,000 people.

Across the region, there are now 10 communes meeting all 19 criteria of building new-style rural areas and 22 others satisfying 15 – 18 criteria.

Building infrastructure, improving production capacity, building public works, protecting landscape and environment, and promote local traditions and cultural identities are among criteria on building new rural areas initiated by the government since 2010.-

Youth islands to be built in Vietnam

Five islands in Vietnam will be developed into youth islands under a recently-approved project on building national youth islands between now and 2020.

The selected islands are Tran Island in Co To district, the northeastern province of Quang Ninh; Hon Chuoi Island in Tran Van Thoi district, the southernmost province of Ca Mau; Tho Chau Island in Phu Quoc district, the southern province of Kien Giang; Bach Long Vi Island in the northern city of Hai Phong; and Con Co Island in the central province of Quang Tri.

The project will focus on making residential arrangement, building infrastructure, protecting the ecological environment, developing culture, health and education, as well as ensuring defence and security on the islands.

Its aim is to encourage young people and families to act as pioneers in effective exploiting and using the potential of Vietnam ’s sea and islands, and building a sustainable household economy on the islands.

The youth islands will be outstanding ones on socio-economic development and defence-security. Being district- or commune-level administrative units, these islands will be built under the new-style rural model, symbolising the Vietnamese youth as well as their role and strength.-

Transport minister asks for better maritime research, rescue

Minister of Transport Dinh La Thang has asked the Vietnam Maritime Search and Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) to better its performance and enhance operational efficiency.

Working with leaders of the centre on January 25, the minister pointed out some of its shortcomings, especially in the application of technology and its research and rescue procedures.

He said the centre staff should stay on duty around the clock to be ready to update information and give a timely response to emergencies.

The minister also asked the centre to make a specific reform plan to improve its efficiency.

Maritime research and rescue is not only humanitarian work, but also an important activity protecting national maritime sovereignty by ensuring safety for over 130,000 offshore fishing vessels, he emphasised.

He held that it is crucial to enhance international cooperation in the field through agreements with regional countries.

Such centres nationwide should exert more efforts in minimising loss while improving the capacity and sense of responsibility of all staff, he said.

According to MRCC Director General Nguyen Anh Vu, the centre manages four regional branches covering all Vietnam’s waters.

However, Vu said due to a shortage in forces, the centres are facing many difficulties, especially in safety supervision and inspection.

He proposed that the Ministry of Transport invest more in building large-capacity search and rescue vessels and improve logistical facilities for the centre.

Canon Vietnam active in supporting poor schools

Camera company Canon Vietnam Co., Ltd on January 26 presented bookshelves and school equipment to a primary school in the northern province of Phu Tho, as part of its efforts to improve the learning environment in disadvantaged localities.

The school in My Thuan commune, Tan Son district, constructed in 2009 under the company’s “Friendship School Chain” project, received five Canon bookshelves with hundreds of book titles, 45 sets of tables and chairs, and electrical equipment such as printers and cameras.

Some other 160 sets of gifts were also given to the school students.

Since 2009, the project has been supporting as many as 33 friendship schools in 16 northern and central provinces with 77 new classrooms and 12 toilets and hand washing areas built and 240 bicycles presented.-

Water loss prevention measures prove effective

Measures reducing water loss in Ho Chi Minh City have proved effective, as the volume of consumed water last year equalled 105.25 percent of the 2012 figure.

The southern hub cut the water loss in 2013 to 34.03 percent, down 2.51 percent from the preceding year.

This was the result of a water loss reduction project of the World Bank and the implementation of 13 major solutions of the city.

Last year, the project reduced 104,943 cubic metres of water loss per day in Districts No.3, 5 and 10 and another 15,804 cubic metres per day in District No.1, and Tan Binh and Tan Phu districts.

In 2014, the Saigon Water Corporation is targeting at a water loss of below 33 percent.

To this end, the company will execute similar projects in other districts and borrow more capital from the Asian Development Bank.-

Medical establishments ready for coming Tet holiday

Health Minister Nguyen Thi Kim Tien has inspected two large hospitals in Hanoi to ensure they are adequately prepared for the coming Tet (Lunar New Year), the longest and most important annual holiday in the country.

They were Bach Mai, a general medical establishment, and Viet-Duc (Vietnam – Germany), the largest surgical centre in the country.

Nguyen Quoc Anh, Director of the Bach Mai Hospital, reported that it has prepared enough medicine, materials and ambulances for the holiday.

"The hotline service of the hospital runs well, which satisfies patients and their relatives," he told Gia Dinh va Xa hoi (Family and Society) newspaper.

Viet-Duc hospital has assigned 250 staff to work during Tet, according to hospital director Nguyen Tien Quyet, adding tt has stored enough medicine and materials for occasion as well as the next month.

The minister encouraged patients to call the Ministry of Health hotline if they had any complaints about health staff.

She also presented Tet gifts to children being treated at hospitals for a long time.

Tien extended New Year wishes to all staff at the two hospitals and praised them for their dedication and effort.

Previously, the Ministry of Health instructed all health establishments nationwide to ensure patients received adequate treatment during the Tet holiday.

They were asked to assign staff to work during the holiday, and to make sure patients were warm and guard against fire, explosions and accidents.

They were also requested to prepare to cope with disease outbreaks, store medicine and materials and ready emergency aid.-

HCM City: Passengers skyrocket for Tet reunion

The number of passengers at Ho Chi Minh City’s airport, railway and bus stations has skyrocketed when the traditional Lunar New Year (Tet) festival is approaching. Most of them return home for reunion with their families during the nation’s biggest and longest holiday.

At the Tan Son Nhat International Airport on January 25, hundreds of passengers queued up for check-in.

According to the airport’s director Dang Tuan Tu, those who book domestic flights on these days range from 22,000-23,000 per day, nearly doubling the normal days’ figure. Meanwhile, international terminals welcome up to 14,000 arrivals per day compared to 11,000 as before.

Tu revealed that the airport is about to complete its upgrade and expansion this year to avoid possible overloading.

At Mien Dong (Eastern) and Mien Tay (Western) bus stations, passengers were also reported to skyrocket. They were here to return to central and northern provinces after a year of working away from home.

The number of passengers at Mien Tay bus station on January 25 stood at 32,000 and may climb to 53,000 in the next few days, said an official of the station.

The municipal Department of Transport has closely collaborated with its counterparts of Dong Nai and Tien Giang provinces in planting more road signs and increasing taskforces to guide vehicles at intersections where congestions may occur.-

Common concerns of labourers when Tet approaches

The issues of Lunar New Year (Tet) bonuses and stable work in the period following Tet are the prime concerns of labourers and employers in the holiday period.

Ms Hang, a worker at high-grade garment maker Scavi, received a bonus equal to 2.5 month’s wages this year.

“Bonus levels were higher than last year thanks to the company’s good performance, but if rising prices and inflation are taken into account, it was the same,” Hang said.

According to Hai, a man working for Saigon TanTec Leather in southern province of Binh Duong, this year the company gave workers a similar Tet bonus as last year, one month’s pay.

However, what concerns Hai is job security.

“After Tet, our company often has fewer orders compared to the period before Tet, therefore workers’ pay goes down markedly. At peak times, my monthly pay can hit VND7-8 million ($330-$380) per month, but with fewer orders, my income can be halved, and this can last for months after Tet,” Hai said.

According to Phan Le Diem Trang, director of International Garment Company also based in Binh Duong, the company’s labourers received a Tet bonus tantamount to one month’s pay.

The workers were also advanced part of their pay in February to cover Tet expenses.

As a deputy chairwoman of the Binh Duong Textile Garment Association, Trang said Tet bonuses at most garment companies in the province had been fairly stable this year, at least VND2.5 million ($120). Many workers also got Tet gifts or were able to travel back to their families at the company’s expense.

Scavi Group’s financial director Nguyen Chi Thanh said retaining stable labourers had been one of biggest concerns of firms after Tet holidays.

In fact, the rate of labourer turnover at Scavi was low in recent years thanks to its stable work and fair remuneration policies.

However, this year the group mulls enlarging investment to tap North American potential market, therefore stable manpower was set as one of its top priorities.

HCMC: Road construction slow due to lack of funding

The Department of Transport in Ho Chi Minh City announced the city finished 109.7 kilometers of road, accounting for 52.2 percent of the 210-kilometer target.

A steel flyover at Cay Go roundabout in Ho Chi Minh City opens to traffic on October 19. It is expected to offer a traffic relief to the city’s congested gateway (Photo: SGGP)

Unfavorable factors such as natural disasters, unpredictable weather, and the economic recession in 2011 made it extremely hard to complete the goal on schedule, according to the department.

Moreover, the government will implement plans on February 24 to control inflation, guarantee social welfare, and cutting investment in public construction.  The guidelines will focus on key constructions rather than loosely investing in all.

The density of roads in a square kilometer of land is currently 1.82 kilometers per kilometers squared.

About 151.2 kilometers of roads will be finished by 2015 which will increase density of roads in a square kilometer at 1.85 kilometer per kilometer squared.

The city has recently constructed 47 bridges, completing 97 percent of the target.  The city is expected to build 61 bridges by 2015.

Source: VNA/VNS/VOV/VGP/SGGP/VIR

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