Sustainable agricultural development, husbandry growth and forest protection were among hot issues raised at the National Assembly's Question and Answer session with Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Cao Duc Phat yesterday.
Deputies Nguyen Thi Bich Nhiem from northern Yen Bai Province and Tran Hoang Ngan from HCM City asked about specific measures to help farmers escape poverty and ensure sustainable agricultural development.
Phat said the most important solution was to implement the Government plan to restructure the economy, including the agricultural and rural development sector, to add value and develop sustainably together with the construction of a new style rural area.
The Government had a programme to buy rice from farmers for the nation's reserve and to support farmers to maintain the rice price while instructing the banking sector to provide credit to farmers, he said.
"The Government also requires ministries to work with businesses to help boost their exports," he said.
For long-term solutions, the ministry would work with relevant ministries and agencies to promote technology transfer for farmers to help improve productivity, reduce production costs and improve product quality while studying to improve the quality of breeding stock and plant varieties, Phat said.
Regarding questions about measures to fight against epidemics and animal food price hikes , Phat said the ministry had worked with localities to supervise and tighten prevention and controls over diseases, such as bird flu, blue-ear and foot-and-mouth disease, which were basically under control.
"The ministry has tightened control over the quality of animal feed and breeding stock to ensure farmers get high-quality products," he said.
The ministry planned to review the husbandry sector to define the most appropriate kinds of animals to develop for each region and encourage production of animal feed at a reasonable price and increase the transfer of production techniques, he said.
Concerning questions about forest protection amid increasing deforestation, Phat said the ministry had co-operated with ministries and agencies to adopt measures to deal with the situation.
Deforestation was still happening in many areas, although the number of cases reported had dropped by 19 per cent in the first five months of this year in comparison with the same period last year, Phat said.
He said the Prime Minister had issued a decree on increasing measures to prevent deforestation and a number of policies on forest development and protection.
"The ministry is building a plan for forest fire prevention and control and a plan to improve the capacity of forest wardens. The ministry and localities have inspected and punished 127 forest wardens found to be involved in deforestation activities, seven of whom were sacked," he added.
It was also essential to work with localities to continue allocating forest land for local residents to join hands with local authorities in protecting forest, he said.
Deputy To Van Tam, from central Highlands Kon Tum Province, asked about how to deal with hydropower plant investors who failed to replant forest areas that were used for the construction of power plants. They had so far only replanted around 375ha out of 2,000ha of forest area lost.
Phat said the ministry was working with localities to check and guide businesses to fulfil their commitment.
Regarding the production and distribution of plant protection chemicals and fertilisers and other agricultural materials, particularly those of low-quality or fakes, along with unjustified price hikes, some deputies asked the Minister to introduce stronger measures to deal with the issues.
Deputy Tran Ngoc Vinh from northern Hai Phong Province said low-quality plant protection chemicals were still available in the market and many areas were found to be overusing the chemicals, affecting public health.
In response, Phat admitted that this was an urgent matter of public concern but most important was to build an effective legal framework.
The trail of destruction left by six large fires, which injured at least 15 people and caused billions of dong worth of damage in Ha Noi and HCM City over the past week, has sparked a heated National Assembly debate on the draft amended law for Fire Prevention and Fighting yesterday.
NA deputies analysed and added specific regulations on budget and requirements for regular improvement of fire fighting equipment. They also focused on the legal responsibilities of agency leaders and heads of households regarding mobilisation of task forces – particularly the Civil Defense Force – and ensuring fire prevention.
Deputy Nguyen Ngoc Phuong of central Quang Binh Province said the country had only 900 fire engines, with roughly 20 per cent in sub-standard condition. Even the nation's capital only had 50 specialised vehicles at its disposal.
He asked how firefighters could be expected to safely perform their duties in such poor working conditions.
Deputy Luu Thi Huyen of northern Ninh Binh Province said the current law had been in effect for over 10 years, yet firefighters had suffered dire shortages of necessary firefighting equipment for a long period of time.
Deputies agreed there should be specific regulations to safeguard a regular budget for necessary firefighting equipment.
Meanwhile, Deputy Thich Bao Nghiem of Ha Noi said fund contributions from local enterprises should also be regulated to ensure a regular budget for local fire prevention.
Lawmakers discussed the necessity of not only improving firefighters' skills, but also mobilising more forces to assist with this task.
Deputy Huyen said the Ministry of Public Security's firefighting force served as the only team tackling fires and claimed this manpower was not sufficient.
The Civil Defense Force should receive regular firefighting training so they can be mobilised to support professional firefighting forces in their localities, she said.
However, the assistance mechanisms and benefits for these forces in case of injury should be defined to encourage participation, she added.
Legislators said the Civil Defense Force must also take responsibility for improving local people's knowledge in fire prevention via dialogues and practical exercises.
Deputy Huyen also noted that the responsibilities of agency leaders, organisations and heads of households in fire prevention had been mentioned in the draft amended law, but were too general and largely unfeasible.
She said the regulation should clearly define which types of fire prevention equipment heads of households should obtain for their households to fulfil their responsibilities. She also called for clarity on whether leaders would have to pay for firefighting services and compensate for losses if fires were due to their negligence.
Deputy Nguyen Anh Son of northern Nam Dinh Province claimed a specific regulation on the responsibilities of leaders would provide a legal base for State authorities to conduct inspections and penalise if violations are detected.
However, he suggested equipment requirements for each household should be based on the scale of each property and the socio-economic situation of each locality.
Nguyen Van Phuc of central Ha Tinh Province and other deputies also proposed the NA hasten the amendment of the law so that it can be passed in this session.
Previously the amendment had been expected to be passed in the next NA session at the end of this year, before taking effect in June 2014.