11 MAR 2020 - Source: Myanmar Times - Chinese state-owned CITIC is set to initiate bidding for its environmental impact assessment (EIA) consultant for its port project in central Rakhine following the environmental ministry's response to its project proposal.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection (MONREC) last month designated the Kyaukphyu deep-sea port project as an EIA-type project after screening the proposal submitted by the consortium led by CITIC in September 2019.
Through a bidding process, the consortium will choose an independent consultant to conduct EIA, the statement said. After the selection, it will have to submit the information of such a third party for the ministry's further verification before an EIA could officially take place.
The Kyaukphyu project refers to a Special Economic Zone encompassing a deep-sea port, industrial park, and other schemes. The megaproject was awarded to the consortium - led by CITIC and comprised of four other Chinese firms and Thailand's Charoen Pokphand Group - during the last months of U Thein Sein's presidency. Negotiations stalled in the first two years under the National League for Democracy-led government, which then renegotiated the port's price tag from US$7.5 billion to $1.3 billion.
In late 2019, CITIC hired Canadian firm Hatch as a project manager to supervise and recruit consultants for a legally required environmental and social impact assessment. Kyaukphyu is the site of twin pipelines through which oil produced in Myanmar is delivered and exported to China. Having a port in central Rakhine is geostrategically important for China to reduce its reliance on the Strait of Malacca through the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor, which is part of Beijing's flagship Belt and Road Initiative.
During Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit in February, the two governments inked a concession agreement and shareholders' agreement for the port.
There are five agreements still to be signed on the project, according to Myanmar Deputy Commerce Minister Aung Htoo. The final report of the advisory commission on Rakhine led by former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan recommended a strategic environmental assessment before starting any environmental assessments. State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has publicly endorsed and pledged to implement all of the commission's recommendations.