In February 2007, the Party Central Committee’s 4th conference approved the Resolution on “Vietnam’s marine strategy to 2020”. The resolution is praised as a breakthrough in thought in developing the country because it opens up the “oceanic thinking” in the age of open economics and global integration.
Dr. Nguyen Dinh Thien and Dr. Chu Hoi.
Dr. Nguyen Dinh Thien and Dr. Chu Hoi.
But five years have passed since the strategy was approved, the implementation of this strategy has just moved for several steps, while Vietnam’s giant neighbor is escalating in provoking steps in order to realize its ambition to turn the East Sea into its pond.
VietNamNet: We have had the marine strategy for five years but until last summer, we organized the first conference on marine economy in Hai Phong. Why it was so late?
Dr. Tran Dinh Thien: Actually, there were many scientific workshops and forums on the sea. I attended the scientific workshop entitled “Vision of marine economics and seafood development”, held by the Institute for Social Sciences in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in 2007. I and Mr. Chu Hoi were the co-organizers.
The conference last year in Hai Phong was held by the Association of Foreign-invested Businesses, the Ministry of Planning and Investment and Hai Phong city.
Recently, a series of forums and workshops were held in Nha Trang on the occasion of the Vietnam Sea and Islands Week (June 5-8, 2011). We have recently organized many workshops on marine economics with the increasing awareness of concretizing the marine strategy that was approved by the Party Central Committee’s 4th conference.
After the first workshop held by the Institute for Social Sciences and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, which was not widely known by the media, from the first forum on marine economics in Hai Phong to the second forum in Nha Trang, what progress has we made?
Dr. Chu Hoi: The conference held last summer in Hai Phong was the first that known widely and it created opportunity for many people to speak.
Learning from that event, before the 2nd forum on sea economics in Nha Trang this June, we held a meeting for senior experts and policy-makers, to present their research works and opinions about marine natural resources and sea economic development and solutions to develop coastal economic zones. At that meeting, senior experts made a written proposal on sea economics, which was present at the forum later.
Notably, the 2nd forum on sea economics attracted many officials, policy makers, newly-elected National Assembly deputies, who shared their opinions about sea economics.
A question was emphasized at the forum: Vietnam has had a long-term strategy on marine economics, so should we have a national agency which is powerful enough to manage sea and islands, replacing the current small agencies? That agency is directly managed by the Government? Whether it can directly deal with incidents related to security and social welfares or not?
A delegate from HCM City said that the General Department of Sea and Islands is under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, which covers seven fields of management. The ministry’s budget is limited so it cannot give priority to the sea.
Forum participants said that for a country that ¾ of the area is sea must have a state agency to manage the sea and islands.
During talks in 2009, I said that the sea accounts for ¾ of our country’s territory but even the National Institute for Politics and Administration, where trains Vietnam’s leaders and officials, has no subject on the sea. Since 2009, the institute has had some presentations on the sea.
Thanks to the media, the 2nd forum has been widely known by the public. New ideas by experts like Tran Dinh Thien, Vo Dai Luoc or Tran Du Lich have been spread. The forum attracted many private enterprises.
One week after the forum, the organizing board met to review the results. Some businesses said they were willing to sponsor the 3rd forum in 2012. Next time the forum will be prepared very carefully, with research works in specific topics.
Does the sea economy attract the attention of leaders and policy makers or only scholars and the media?
Dr. Tran Dinh Thien: The marine strategy introduced at the Party Central Committee’s 4th conference shows that vision that is linked with the open-door age. This is a general strategy only.
At recent workshops and forums, requirements, ideas on developing sea economy and issues related to the marine strategy were taken shape.
It is unacceptable to only develop in the mainland and explore raw natural resources. We have to move out to the sea to develop in a new way. The East Sea dispute is also pressure that urges us to seriously, methodically see the sea issue.
I agree with Mr. Chu Hoi that at the 2nd forum on sea economy in Nha Trang this June, we collected many good ideas to develop marine economy. However, we have not had a new way and new approach.
The state should give priority to this issue.
What is the difference between the thought of the sea and the thought of the mainland?
Dr. Chu Hoi: There are a lot of differences. Scientifically, they are different in terms of ecological environment. If the sea is seen as human’s living environment, (the underwater world around coastal bays and islands is considered as tourist sites in some country). We have to remember that that environment is very passive in the aspect of ecology in comparison with the mainland. The sea is the living environment of aqua-creatures, which their natural life does not link with their places of birth.
Therefore, for managing sea creatures and aquatic resources, we do not directly manage specific creatures but their residence. For example, we have a ground or sea turtles to lay eggs in Ninh Thuan province but the turtles come from other places. We have to maintain that ground for turtles from various places to come to lay eggs. In managing fishing activities, we do not manage fish but fishermen and their vehicles.
Another difference is potential. The potential of the sea is much bugger than that of the mainland because the sea is the last storage depot of natural resources of human. The sea has many natural resources that the mainland does not have.
The East Sea has an oceanic styled deep water structure with the average depth of 3,500m. It accounts for 66 percent of the East Sea. In this structure, there are deep slits. The deepest points are around 5,000m. This structure may have mineral mud, geothermic energy and metals. That potential encourages many countries’ ambition. Once they have ambition and have power, they have to take action to occupy it.
Looking in the map, we see China’s U-shaped line goes around that structure. Part of that line covers even the continental shelf of Vietnam and Malaysia, where oil fields have been discovered.
Creature resources in the sea are also different from those in the mainland. They are very clean and valuable. The farer from the continental shelf, they are cleaner. The creature resources in the deep-water structure, thus, are very valuable.
This structure is the issue of sovereignty. The US says that the middle part of this structure does not belong to any country. The “freedom of navigation and other rights of freedom”, under the US’ viewpoint, is the part that we call “high sea” in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982. In the “high sea”, there are six rights of freedom that no country can prevent the US and its alliance to perform the rights.
The sea issue is now the issue of interests. With its geo-politic position, the East Sea benefits not only countries in the region, particularly Vietnam and China, but also others. As a result, this area is in long-term and multi-party disputes.
Do you mean that we do not have serious approach to the marine economy?
Dr. Chu Hoi: No, I do not. But I think that we do not make systematic research of the sea. At present, we need the consistence in policy and discipline in action for issues related to the East Sea and the Vietnam Sea.
We have had the marine economic strategy but it is only the framework. To turn it into the strategy of action, we need consistence in awareness from the central to local levels.
Dr. Tran Dinh Thien: People often like adventure but the sea requires the culture of adventure at high level. As Mr. Chu Hoi has said, the sea is different from the mainland and to explore the sea, we need higher level of knowledge and technology, and also braveness.
Developing sea economy is the game of the future. If we do not start it right now, we will be late because stronger and richer countries have gone ahead, we will have to face more challenges and difficulties.
We must have a long-term vision for the sea. Investment in the sea economy is huge while the marine environment is harsh. We cannot go to the sea with outdated technology. With this technology, we can only explore what we can see.
Our dream and aspiration to conquer the sea is legitimate but if we do not understand its nature, we cannot properly perform our dream and aspiration.