News on 01 August 2016

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1) Saigon Railways to debut self-built train car next month

The Ho Chi Minh City unit of Vietnam’s railway operator is poised to introduce a new train car packed with modern accommodations next month in a bid to better serve their passengers. The modern train car, set to be put into operation in mid-August, is co-produced by the Saigon Railways and Di An Train JSC in the southern province of Binh Duong. The car is the prototype of a plan to build 14 more if proved effective, according to the train operator. The cabin, featuring four environmental-friendly composite berths, is equipped with LED lightings and windows with high-quality sunshades, plus washing basins with infrared sensors. Built with hardened steel body frame, the train car is utilized shock absorbers and dampers from Japan to minimize noise and maximize smoothness when travelling, enhancing comfort for boarding passengers. The Saigon Railways is slated to have 30 such new high-quality cars by 2017.

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2) Vietnam airports manager wants to raise fees to improve flight safety in Hanoi, HCMC

The Airports Corporation of Vietnam (ACV) has reportedly sought the government's approval to increase fees for flights to install a system to detect foreign objects on runways in the country's two largest airports in Ha Noi and Ho Chi Minh City. The state-owned manager of 22 airports around Vietnam wants to charge international flights US$35 each and domestic flights $17 for six and half years to recoup the cost, news website Dau Tu reported Monday (August 1). To together cost more than VND1.16 trillion ($52.09 million), the system would monitor runways 24/7 at Noi Bai and Tan Son Nhat, which receive 65 percent of flights to and from Vietnam, the ACV said in its proposal. Now humans are in charge of scanning the runways seven times a day to keep them clear of birds and foreign objects that can threaten flight safety, the website said. However, the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV) has slammed the proposal, telling the Ministry of Transport that the cost is huge and that it is unreasonable to collect the fee at all airports while only Noi Bai and Tan Son Nhat would get the systems. It doubted that airlines would be willing to pay, adding that airport managers need to consult airlines to ensure airport fees are transparent. Recently the ACV has also sought the ministry's permission to increase service fees for domestic flights such as runway and passenger surcharges. The corporation expects the increased revenues to help it upgrade airports over the next two years at an estimated cost of more than VND26.2 trillion ($1.16 billion).

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3) First-ever bridge and poker championship organized in Vietnam

Vietnam’s first pilot tournament of bridge and poker has been kick-started in Hanoi with the attendance of about 2,000 participants who wish to win a VND40 million (US$1,783) cash prize. A new playground for bridge and poker enthusiasts across Vietnam has been established after the first-ever championship for card games commenced in the capital on Friday (July 29). The tourney is expected to run in nine months with the ultimate winner being granted a VND40 million cash prize. The competition has been approved by the municipal Department of Culture and Sports. Players who wish to partake in the event are required to submit between VND1 million ($44.6) and VND2 million ($89) in entry fees and will be referred to as athletes, as they will be honored with medals and prizes similar to other sports. A total of 18 athletes participated in the preliminary round on Friday (July 29) and the winner of the qualifying stage will receive VND6 million ($267.5). About 2,000 players are anticipated to show off their skills at the championship, from whom excellent players will be chosen to represent Vietnam at the 2017 Southeast Asian Games and other international tournaments.

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4) Vietnam’s hotel transactions among top in Asia-Pacific

Vietnam came as the fourth top market in Asia Pacific in terms of hotel investment volumes in the first half of 2016, with more activities expected during the rest of year, according to a new report. The property consultancy Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) said in its Hotel Investment Highlights report that transactions in Vietnam in the first six months hit US$237.6 million, which is only after the volumes in Japan, Australia and mainland China but beating Taiwan’s and Thailand’s. A $74.9 million deal for InterContinental Asiana Saigon in Ho Chi Minh City was among the top ten during the period. Total transactions in the region climbed 13.2 percent to $3.8 billion from a year ago, including more than half, or $2.1 billion, from Japan market, which is expected to continue to dominate investment volume for the remainder of the year.

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5) More locally transmitted Zika in U.S. expected: official

The United States will likely see more cases of local Zika virus transmission going forward, a U.S. health official warned on Sunday (July 31), although it is unlikely to turn into a broader situation as seen in Brazil or Puerto Rico. The comments comes after Florida authorities on Friday (July 29) reported the first sign of local transmission in the continental United States, concluding that mosquitoes likely infected four people with the virus that can cause a serious birth defect. "We definitely don't take this lightly. This is something we always anticipated and prepared for the worst," Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during CBS' "Face the Nation" program on Sunday (July 31). "But we do not feel this is going to turn into that broadly disseminated situation that we've seen in Brazil or that we're seeing in Puerto Rico." He added that this is in "stark contrast" to Puerto Rico, where conditions will lead to a major outbreak. Fauci said that health authorities are working to reduce mosquitoes in affected areas, and encouraged individuals to stay indoors, cover up and use insect repellant. He added that "phase one" trials of one contender of the Zika vaccine will likely start in coming weeks. If that's successful, there will be wider trials beginning early 2017.

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(All the above News Items have been sourced from: Reuters, ThanhNien News, Vietnam Net, Tuoitre News, Vietnam News, New York Times, BBC)

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