Nguyen Van Thanh, a senior official of the utility, said the company began supplying power, shortly before the Hiep Phuoc Power Co was due to suspend supplies for construction of a 220KV transmission line.
HCM City Electricity invested more than VND500 million (US$27.7 million) to lay the 22KV transmission line. Without power, factories would have been forced to idle and waste treatment systems would have shut down.
Construction of the temporary line began after a meeting between the park and its consumers chaired by HCM City People’s Committee chairman Le Hoang Quan on July 18. At an earlier meeting on July 15, Sai Gon Premier Container Terminal Co deputy director Nguyen Ngoc Quynh said her company would suffer a loss of $550,000 in case of a four-day outage due to the disruption of freighter schedules and loss of the use of database systems.
Le Huu Sang, production manager of Saint-Gobain Co, which produces gypsum products, estimated his firm’s potential losses at $120,000. Representatives of 60 firms based in the industrial park insisted that it ensure continuous power supplies or take responsibility for estimated losses of up to $9 million.
Hiep Phuoc deputy director Henry Lin said construction of the power line was being done for safety and in the national interest. The company has three generators, each with a minimum output of 55MW.Since the park’s total demand is just around 20MW, they cannot be used because "a generator cannot run at below its minimum capacity," Lin said.
Quan told the meeting a power outage for even a single hour was "unacceptable." Any power cut would undermine city efforts to maintain economic growth, he said.
Flu fears ease
Outbound tours are increasing again as travellers are no longer cancelling due to A/H1N1 flu fears.
According to HCM City-based Vietravel, the number of people travelling to Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia lately was 15 per cent higher than in the same period last year. Tours to Japan and South Korea were also showing signs of recovery.
Ha Noi-based Redtour said it resumed all of its outbound tours this month after a brief suspension of tours to the UK, Spain, Portugal and North America.
According to Fiditour, the number of outbound visitors has returned to normal. The company expects to serve 35,000 inbound and outbound travellers this summer, an increase of 25 per cent over the same period last year. Though the flu has been spreading rapidly around the world, travel companies said so far no tourist had returned with the A/H1N1 virus. Travellers now felt more secured since most major travel companies provided them insurance coverage against the flu, they added. But the tourism industry was continuing to keep a close eye on the flu and preparing for the worst, said Redtour deputy director Nguyen Cong Hoan.
The economic recession along with the flu threat have lowered the number of visitors to Viet Nam this year, although travel companies say the economic crisis has been a bigger factor. The number of visitors in the first half of the year was down 20 per cent from the same period last year.
According to the Pacific-Asia Travel Association, the number of travellers to Asia this year is expected to decrease by 4 per cent overall. South Korea could see a drop of 40 per cent in arrivals and Japan and Singapore, 30 per cent.
The Forbidden Citadel
Monuments in the Royal Cita del in Hue remain out of reach to many Vietnamese, especially low-income people, because of the steep entry fee of VND35,000 ($1.95).
Cao Xuan Dung, a resident of Nghe An Province, was reluctant to pay for the tickets for himself and his daughter Cao Thi Nga to enter the citadel. The two were in the city for her entrance exam to the University of Hue this month.
Dung compared the VND35,000 cost of the ticket with the VND340,000 he had to pay for travelling from Nghe An to Hue. He then decided to buy just one ticket for his daughter while he himself would stay outside. But Nga refused, saying: "No problem, father. We can visit this place (the Hue royal citadel) another time. I’m still young."
Dung, who had to sell more than 800kg of rice to raise the VND3.2 million needed for his daughter’s university entrance exam, regretted that she could not visit the site where the Nguyen Dynasty emperors had lived and ruled. He wondered how many young people like Nga had been kept out of the citadel just because they could not afford the admission fee.
Heritage Authority chief Nguyen Quoc Hung said provincial authorities in Thua Thien-Hue, and not his agency, set ticket prices and policies, adding that his agency had no influence on such "sensitive" issues.
Provincial People’s Committee Vice Chairman Ngo Hoa said that students and war invalids were able to enter the citadel at half price on certain holidays, e.g., March 26 (Hue’s liberation day) and Tet (lunar New Year). Students visiting in groups were also allowed to enter for free or at half price but needed to register in advance, he said. "We will consider changing the system so that students pay less," he said.
"Heritage sites belong to the people and they were also created by the people. I think in future, the preferential policy will be expanded. Money is important but sustaining people’s awareness of the need to preserve our heritage is more important. If they contribute some money to support this work, their awareness of preservation and development of the sites will be improved."
Professor Hoang Dao Kinh, a former deputy director of the Heritage Authority, said entry fees were not expensive in Viet Nam but much cheaper than at tourist sites in other countries.
At Cambodia’s Angkor Wat, for instance, foreign visitors paid 10 times more than at the Hue Citadel, he said. At the Hue citadel, a Vietnamese visitor has to pay an admission of VND35,000 and a foreigner VND50,000 ($2.7). "I don’t see any reason for having such similar ticket prices for foreigners, and locals when the living standards of the two groups are so different," he said.