The Challenges regarding investment in Natural Resources
Written & Photographed by CHIM Linna
Phnom Penh--Different expectations between government and non-governmental organizations about the involvement in environmental impact assessment (EIA) are considered as one of the barriers to promote the investment in natural resources in Cambodia. This was the topic of a roundtable discussion organized by Heinrich Boell Foundation (HBF) in Cambodia on December 14, 2010.
The roundtable discussion with its own main theme, maximizing the opportunities for investments in natural resources, was joined by 47 participants coming from various institutions such as Cambodian government representatives, world bank, delegations from HBF office in China, researchers, and other local and international organizations.
“As the government, we cannot stop the company from investing in Cambodia, whether they are bad or good. We are the government, we accept both, bad and good .But it depends on how we regulate those bad and good companies,” said H.E. Dr. Phan Phalla, a roundtable discussion moderator and Deputy Secretary General, Supreme National Economic Council. “We have different institutions to regulate before the company starts their operation or exploitation.”
During the roundtable discussion, Mr. Danh Serey, Deputy Director, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Department, Ministry of Environment (MOE) explained that EIA involves all stakeholders such as investors, government officials and representatives from non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
“There are three phases that involve NGOs in the EIA process: Before companies' consultants collect data, they always interview local people and involve stakeholders including NGOs. Second step is the review EIA. MOE developed a declaration on implementation of EIA general guideline, and when the project development submits the EIA report, MOE always ask NGOs to give their comments. The last step is the monitoring phase. When the problem has happened in the project, they[NGO] always inform or complain to the MOE,” he said.
Dr. Meas Nee, Director of the NGO Village Focus Cambodia, said that although NGOs have been involved in the EIA process, it happened that some comments have been ignored. There is a lack of trust between NGOs, government and investment companies. That is why sometimes the NGOs feel excluded. And according to the presentation of Pro. Gou Jiguang, Research Fellow, Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, Chinese Academic of Social Science there are some complaints from NGOS toward the impact of Chinese investment in Cambodia due to the little attention to environment and social impact, not transparent, and some dispute with local community.
Other aspects regarding the investment in natural resource in Cambodia were shown by the research study in draft about Korean investment in Cambodia by Miss. Ji-Sook Lee. She mentioned that Korean mining investment started in 2003 at nearly USD 6 million and in the mid 2010, the total of approved investment was nearly USD 72 million. However, in the research study has been shown that the investors may risk to lose income because of the lack of skilled workers, not enough quality infrastructure and high cost of electricity in Cambodia.