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Cablegate: Vietnam: Ambassador Meets with Minister of Natural

VZCZCXRO4847
RR RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHLN RUEHMA RUEHNH RUEHPB RUEHPOD
DE RUEHHI #1869/01 3050325
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 010325Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6631
INFO RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH 3885
RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUEHZN/ENVIRONMENT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COLLECTIVE
RUEHPH/CDC ATLANTA GA
RUEAUSA/DEPT OF HHS WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HANOI 001869

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, EAP/EP, EAP/RSP, EAP/PD, OES/PCI
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR ANE, G/ENV
STATE PASS TO EPA/OIA (DENNIS CUNNINGHAM AND MARK KASMAN)
STATE PASS TO EPA/ORD (KEVIN TEICHMAN)
STATE PASS TO NOAA/NOS/OIA (JONATHAN JUSTI)
STATE PASS TO OGHA/HHS (STIEGER/VALDEZ/HICKEY)
CDC FOR OGHA (BLOUT/MCCALL) AND NCEH (THOMAS SINKS)
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE (THOMAS SHUBERT AND WILLIAM VAN HOUTEN)
HHS PASS TO FIC/NIH (GLASS) AND NIEHS/NIH
BANGKOK PASS TO RDMA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV ECON KSCA TBIO VM
SUBJECT: VIETNAM: AMBASSADOR MEETS WITH MINISTER OF NATURAL
RESOURCES AND ENVIRONMENT

REF: HANOI 1570

HANOI 00001869 001.2 OF 002


1. (SBU) Summary: On October 30, the Ambassador paid an introductory
courtesy call on Minister of Natural Resources and Environment
Nguyen Khoi Pham. Pham said his ministry's main environmental
challenges include the management of solid waste, air and water
pollution, and natural disaster mitigation. The minister briefly
discussed the mysterious oil spills that blackened Vietnam's beaches
in early 2007 and requested technical assistance for an oil spill
monitoring system. He also thanked the USG for its past help in
planning to counter dioxin contamination and asked the Ambassador
for future assistance saying, "I need your support." End Summary.

2. (SBU) On October 30, the Ambassador paid an introductory courtesy
call on Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Pham Khoi
Nguyen. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE)
was established in 2002 to consolidate existing institutions
responsible for land administration, minerals, water resources,
hydrometeorology, survey mapping, and environmental protection,
including the preservation of the seas and coastal zones.

MITIGATING POLLUTION AND OIL SPILLS
-----------------------------------

3. (SBU) Minister Pham said MONRE's main environmental challenges
include the management of solid waste, natural disaster mitigation,
and air and water pollution. He said MONRE views the cleanup of
Vietnam's increasingly polluted river systems as a priority, and
said his ministry also faces the task of closing or relocating some
3,000 antiquated factories due to increasingly severe air pollution.
In reference to Vietnam's many low lying coastal areas, Pham said
MONRE is also focused on the threat of rising seas due to global
warming.

4. (SBU) Minister Pham termed "a problem" the mysterious oil spills
that blackened Vietnam's beaches early in 2007. He said that a
March 2007 spill affected eighteen of Vietnam's 46 provinces, and
fouled 3,200 kilometers of coastline. He requested technical
assistance to establish a monitoring system to allow responders to
contain future spills (Note: Various GVN entities have made many
similar requests for assistance via numerous channels over the past
year. Per reftel, MONRE now appears to have responsibility for
coordinating GVN oil pollution policy and activities End Note.)

5. (SBU) In response to the Ambassador's query, Pham said his
ministry would play a limited role in the resolution of maritime
boundary disputes with China in the South China Sea, despite MONRE's
responsibilities in the area of topographical mapping. He also said
MONRE is not involved in granting offshore oil and gas licenses but
is responsible for issuing mineral exploration rights.

DIOXIN ISSUES
-------------

6. (SBU) Turning to dioxin, the Ambassador noted past U.S. technical
and financial support provided to the GVN for planning dioxin
remediation efforts, coordinated through MONRE's Office 33, and said
he hoped the two sides could collaborate on future studies. Since
2001, the USG has expended over $2 million to improve scientific
capacity and support cleanup of dioxin contamination at Danang
Airport. Minister Pham recalled that he led a delegation to
Singapore in November 2000 to meet with USG officials and sign the
Agreement on Scientific and Technological Cooperation regarding
dioxin contamination. Pham thanked the USG for its help to date and
asked the Ambassador for continued assistance saying, "I need your
support."

7. (SBU) Comment: Vietnam's rapid economic growth continues to
strain the nation's capacity to protect its environment and manage
its natural resources. The GVN seems to recognize this, as shown by
the focus paid to public health and environmental issues by Prime
Minister Dung in his recent speech before the National Assembly.

HANOI 00001869 002.2 OF 002


Thus, MONRE likely will find itself at the center of many
high-profile issues during Minister Pham's tenure. Strengthening
U.S. engagement, via multilateral efforts, on Agent Orange/dioxin,
combined with broad U.S. environmental assistance programs, make
Minister Pham an increasingly important Embassy interlocutor. End
Comment.

MICHALAK

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