… Today, together with HE Shinohara, Ambassador of Japan to Cambodia, and all of our people here, I am pleased to launch the official construction of the second phase of Flood Prevention Dam Project and the Improvement of the Sewage System in Phnom Penh. I would like to take this opportunity to express through HE Shinohara to the people and Government of Japan for their generous assistance to the people of Cambodia as a whole, and to the city dwellers of Phnom Penh in particular. As far as the sewage system is concerned, it is already a second phase project in addition to other projects also provided by Japan, take for instance electricity, water supply, hospital and many other professional centers.
We still have problems of drainage and flood to tackle that after the study conducted by JICA the first phase project was completed and put into official use on September 29, 2004. The Japanese Ambassador Takahashi was with me to preside over the inauguration of the project that was implemented in the area of Bowung Tumpon which is designed to collect waste water from the southern and southwestern parts of the capital Phnom Penh – i.e. Khan Chamkar Mon, Stoeung Mean Chey, Tuol Kork. But we still have problem with the eastern area of Phnom Penh – which covers sections near Phsar Thmey, the Royal Palace, the National Assembly, and the National Museum. In fact we have been very concerned that we have problem of water underground and on the surface during flood time.
I could recall that in the 1980s the city was under flood threats many times and we took the measures by getting all ministries build levee to hold out the flood. We did that to prevent the flood from reaching into the city but it has infiltrated not from the surface, but into the sewage system (designed to get the sewage out from under the city but its outlet is lover than the flood level). The city was reduced to a ghost town without residents 29 years ago, and we had to start from scratch. We have to keep a good memory of what happened in our country and city. Japan never forgets what happen in the country’s history about forty or fifty years ago. Memory can be use as measurement of later development.
That is why I always take time to respond to those remarks that we have made this country poorer and I doubt if it now is poorer than the time when we were under Pol Pot. How could they claim this country as becoming poorer when we have more people in this city that only 70 of them when we first came to the city in 1979? Now we have 4,000 pagodas throughout the country while there was none when we first liberated the country. What is their definition of being poorer when the city for instance has more new houses and old ones have been renovated? The National Bank of Cambodia used to stand in ruin, now what happened? Taking all this into consideration, it is worth recalling the historic events of December 2 – the date that the National Salvation United Front was established and the January-7 victory – which are the truth that our people are given back what belongs to them.
Phnom Penh is now 573 years old and none of the buildings left for our generation are in good condition. Sometimes I find myself astonished by the fact that parts of the capital is growing very fast with lodgment and apartment buildings, etc. I asked if they build so many houses can they sell them. In fact they have this system of buying by installment since when the company is breaking the ground for the construction of those apartments. This way, constructors do not have to seek loan from the bank. Recently HM the King Smadech Preah Baat Norodom Sihamoni said to me that on his return trip from medical check-up in the PRC, when approaching Phnom Penh, one can see a lot of development.
After the project completes we will not have problem of flooding from rain water in the area around the Royal Palace, and its vicinity. It will be equipped with four water pumps and hopefully we settle this problem. The climate change phenomena have been real and it has already changed the weather pattern of the world. Places used to be dry have had so much rain and on a reversal order those places used to have more rain. In this connection I would like to note that Cambodia offers its support to the plan for a cooler earth in 2050 as is declared in the recent (24th) ASEAN Summit. It is also important to tell you all too that the Kyoto Protocol is going to expire soon and there will come the new one.
I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere appreciation to the Phnom Penh Municipality as well as officials and staff under its supervision, institutions from the central level, the Senate, the National Assembly, the Courts, as well as people living in Phnom Penh who have in every other means to help change the look of the city and as we all know that HE Kep Chuktema has been presented recently with the leadership award, which is in fact the recognition of achievement of everyone of us to get this city this far. I would urge the HE Kep Chuktema and the Municipality to see to the completion of the construction of all roads in Phnom Penh using the formula of 50 + 50 (half of the needed amount to build the road to be shared by the state and another half by the people who live along the road by 2008. This has indeed proven that without the participation from the people, we would have difficulty in achieving the goal.
Secondly in the recent years, there have been noticeable changes in people’s behaviors in relation to hygiene and cleanness of the city. We have noticed that also when our people of the countryside joined in the celebration of the water festival. We also notice that in addition to consideration given to pollution from emission of toxic agents from car engines, we should also pay attention to wastes that are left unmanaged properly and have decomposed to emit dust that could also be harmful to our people. I agree with the proposal made by HE Kep Chuktema in which he terms the municipal efforts to build – Phnom Penh as an Abode of Peace, Security and Progress.
I would urge our people to go out more for exercise so as to reduce the risk of having diabetics, blood pressure and also to increase contacts and discussion for business and friendly relations. We will have TVs placed in many major parks and you can practice sports and watch TV at the same time. This will indeed help our city become harmonious.
As is said by the Mayor of Phnom Penh, the sewage system in the city was designed for a city of 300 and 600 thousand people. But now our city population has reached over one million plus incoming visitors and provisional migrants – it has been calculated that about 9,000 tons of pollutions is discharged into the river system. It is indeed important to act on this matter and we would from this project prevent also the shore erosion and direct-flow of pollutants in to the system which would affect the health of using water downstream of Tonle Sap during the flood time and the people living upstream of Tonle Mekong during the flood recession period – take for instance in Kandal and Prey Veng provinces.
We need more electricity and I do not want the city to face the situation of lacking water and electricity at the same time. We have to solve not only the issue of sewage system, water supply but also electricity demand. We work hard to wire electricity from Vietnam to Phnom Penh as we already have a private company done so in Siemreap and Battambang provinces from Thailand. We as a state have bought electricity from Vietnam to Kep city and Kampot province. The electricity demand in Phnom Penh is growing bigger and as you know facing the high price of oil the state has to subsidize the cost of producing electricity up to 26 million US dollars per year, while another 100 million US dollars of subsidy has been quietly provided to curb the hike of oil prices.
Some political parties have tried to benefit from the situation in 2003 by saying that if they get elected they will bring the price of oil down to so and so level. I wonder if they have their own oil fields. The US or Japan could not cut a deal with OPEC on this matter and have to accept the price given. In the East Asia Summit, HE Manmohan Singh of India said that he almost felt a shock when the President of Venezuela Mr. Hugo Chavez said that if any attack happened on Iran the price of oil would go to 200 US$ per barrel. This is what we heard from a strong economy like India. What on earth are they making empty promises like this?
I would like to express my appreciation on behalf of the people of Cambodia for the assistance generously granted by the people and government of Japan, especially this project that costs about 20 million US dollars and will take about two and a half years to complete. I would seek our people to understand some of the difficulties that the project may disturb their daily activities but we will have a better situation in terms of surface flooding management and sewage system. We see the Japanese Government assistance to Cambodia as an art of sharing resources and we appreciate that very much. The developing countries are demanding the developed countries to share or give out 0.7% of their GDP in contribution for development to developing countries but a few countries have taken this matter to heart and fulfilled it.
Since Japan is a big economy their growth of 5% would be huge. In our meetings at the sideline of the ASEAN Summit in Singapore, Japan has declared to provide non-project grant more than the previous year to Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam and will increase aid for three consecutive years to promote development project at the sub-Mekong region. In his meeting with HE Keat Chhon, HE Shinohara, the Ambassador of Japan said that the concession loan would increase three folds. The interest rate will be 0.01% and will be paid back in thirty years. This loan will be used for development projects and not for careless expenses. The Japanese parliament will keep an eye on the Royal Government of Japan on how this will be implemented. Some people sought in the past to get Japan slash down its financial assistance to Cambodia but the then Foreign Minister, Masahiko Komora, who has now taken the post again, said the “person” does not know about how to go about spending money./.