Preah Sihanouk provincial governor Kuoch Chamroeun expects that this year’s 7th East Asian Sea Congress (EAS Congress) – to be held in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment in Sihanoukville on December 1-2 – will provide opportunities for participants to gain knowledge and draw on other’s experiences that will assist him with making sustainable improvements to the coastal areas.
Environment ministry secretary of state Neth Pheaktra said at a press conference that Cambodia will host the EAS Congress with the theme “Charting a New Decade of HOPE [Healthy Oceans, People and Economies]”.
According to the ministry, the EAS Congress aims to share lessons learned, track progress made and scale up good practices in implementing sustainable development strategies for coastal and marine environments.
The congress will set up a clear roadmap for implementing “blue solutions” that protect the ocean and utilise its resources sustainably while respecting the various international conventions and agreements EAS Congress member states are parties to.
Pheaktra said Preah Sihanouk is an important economic centre in the Kingdom and the direction of the government’s vision is to turn the province into a multi-purpose special economic zone that can take advantage of its proximity to Cambodia’s deepwater seaport.
The province also has a thriving tourism industry with an international airport, newly built highways and other infrastructure.
The government decided to have Preah Sihanouk host the EAS Congress because it was the most appropriate of Cambodia’s four marine provinces – Kampot, Kep and Koh Kong being the others – given the infrastructure and facilities requirements for the event.
“The EAS Congress will be attended by the Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA) member countries such as Singapore, Laos, the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, East Timor, China, South Korea, North Korea, Japan and many other partner organisations that will all get to see Preah Sihanouk and the potential of Cambodia’s coastal provinces,” he said.
Pheaktra said the EAS Congress 2021 will include meetings of the sub-national administrations of PEMSEA member provinces and the International Conference and Ministerial Forum. This is the 7th EAS Congress – the first was held in 2003 in Malaysia.
“This is the first time that Cambodia has hosted the EAS Congress though the country has been a PEMSEA member since 1994. PEMSEA has been organising these congresses since 2003. It takes place every three years and hosts are chosen according to the alphabetical order of the countries,” he said.
According to Pheaktra, Cambodia was unable to host the congress in the past because it did not meet all of the required conditions and the Kingdom was focused on other priorities at the time.
“Now is the right time for Cambodia because we have the capacity to host the EAS Congress successfully,” he said.
He added that Cambodia has a coastline that is 440 km in length, of which Preah Sihanouk covers more than 170km. It is also one of the Kingdom’s fastest growing provinces economically.
“Journalists coming to the conference who haven’t seen Sihanoukville for two or three years now are in for a surprise and likely to get lost due to the high level of development activity and construction,” he said.
Chamroeun said his province was ready to lead the EAS Congress and they will hold a presentation highlighting recent achievements at the provincial hall organised in cooperation with the environment ministry.
“I will also attend [the congress] to learn more and hopefully it will provide some knowledge or experiences and it helps us make some plans to present to our leadership for improving the province,” he said.