David Duong, president of California Waste Solutions, CEO of Vietnam Waste Solutions: Vietnam is always in my heart

February 11, 2021 | 10:00
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Due to the global health crisis, David Duong, president of California Waste Solutions (CWS) and CEO of Vietnam Waste Solutions (VWS), has not returned to Vietnam for 390 days. However, his heart always turns to the motherland. With the Lunar New Year only a few days away, he shared his feelings and thoughts with VIR’s Song Nguyen. 
tet 53 david duong president of california waste solutions ceo of vietnam waste solutions vietnam is always in my heart
"My companies and I have made some meaningful and practical community activities with a view to supporting the homeland to overcome the difficulties."

What were your biggest concerns when looking back at a turbulent 2020?

The past 13 months has been a journey fraught with challenges for most businesses, including our companies. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread across the world, including the United States. Meanwhile, Vietnam is continuing its fight against the pandemic as well as recovering from the natural disasters like saline intrusion, floods, and landslides. Thus, my companies and I have made some meaningful and practical community activities with a view to supporting the homeland to overcome the difficulties.

When the US declared states of emergency in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, it witnessed a severe scarcity in medical equipment especially face masks. At that time, CWS donated 40,000 N95 face masks to the US. The company also ordered 80,000 cloth face masks and 1.5 million surgical face masks from Vietnam to give the American people. In mid-April 2020, CWS donated $100,000 to the COVID-19 Prevention Fund by the Consulate General of Vietnam in San Francisco.

In November the company granted an additional $120,000 to the Consulate General of Vietnam in San Francisco to support the residents of the flood-hit central region. At the event, the Vietnam American Business Association (VABA), where I am chairman, also granted $51,000 to the central region. As of present, the total sum CWS, VWS, and VABA have donated to Vietnam amounts to $171,000.

VWS also gifted VND200 million ($8,700) to the Standing Committee of the Vietnamese Fatherland Front to support the fight against COVID-19, as well as drought and salinity in the south of Vietnam.

Despite these moderate contributions to help residents in the central region, these grants reflect the warm hearts of Vietnamese people living in the US as well as the children living far away from their homeland around the world. I affirm that the Vietnamese community in the western states of America, no matter what they do, wherever they are, is always turning towards the homeland, especially in difficult times.

The expat community also expressed their belief that under the leadership and direction of the government and the consensus of the people, Vietnam will continue to control and contain the COVID-19 pandemic more successfully than most nations have been able to achieve.

How do you see the challenges affect the operation activities of CWS and VWS?

In the midst of turbulent times, CWS and VWS have conquered many challenges to maintain our operation. Fortunately, most of our staff in the US and Vietnam have overcome the difficulties caused by the global health crisis. CWS continues to earn the trust of the San Jose City authorities with the signing of the new contract on waste treatment.

VWS still safely operates and processes the amount of garbage discharged in Ho Chi Minh City.

However, my greatest concern is the delay of the project to upgrade the waste treatment technology at Da Phuoc Integrated Waste Management Facility. The project has been waiting for the city’s approval for a long time, which leads to increases in capital bringing the project costs over $400 million. The project will produce eco-friendly by-products such as fertiliser, compost, and compressed natural gas, bringing enormous benefits to society.

We hope that the city will soon green-light this new technology in line with US and EU standards for its huge benefits on environmental protection, creating more products for the society and generate new jobs for the local community.

Meanwhile, VWS is waiting for the approval of Functional Departments about the planning report for the Green Environmental Technology Park in Thu Thua district of the Mekong Delta province of Long An. Covering an area of 1,760 hectares, the project uses modern waste-to-energy combustion technology in line with EU standards. Once put into operation, the Green Environmental Technology Park will receive and handle all kinds of garbage for Ho Chi Minh City, Long An, and other provinces in the key southern economic region, with a processing capacity of 44,000 tonnes of garbages per day.

At present, the planning of the project is adjusted and waiting for the approval of competent authorities. However, I am confused by Long An’s alleged proposals to alter the purpose of a clean site planned for the Green Environmental Technology Park. It is worth noting that the project is a testament to the wholehearted efforts of the Vietnamese business community in the US towards the homeland. The investment capital for this project is very large so we have mobilised resources from the Vietnamese business community in the US as part of funding for this project.

You have said that your aim is not to do business but to serve and repay your homeland. How do the obstacles affect this sentiment of Vietnamese overseas investors like yourself?

I believe the good things of the previous years will continue into 2021 with innovative thinking and synchronous implementation from high to low levels. In another economic aspect, Vietnam has formulated good policies such as the Law on Investment. The central leaders are determined to implement the new policies. I was very happy when Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc agreed to set up a special taskforce to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) to Vietnam.

As of present, I am committed to continuing contributions to the homeland. This spirit is in line with our efforts as chairman of VABA, which was established to promote investment and trade activities between Vietnam and the US. I always encourage Vietnamese overseas businesses to return and invest in Vietnam.

In addition, VABA is aimed at fostering solidarity among Vietnamese businessmen as well as enhancing the position of Vietnamese businessmen in the US. The association has created a bridge connecting entrepreneurs and investors from the US to Vietnam. I can affirm that, no matter who or where, Vietnamese people overseas always turn to their homeland, especially in difficult times.

However, some overseas Vietnamese businessmen have said that there is still some inconsistency from high to low levels. This, coupled with inconsistent policies, has plagued several businesses in some localities. Those are the things that will hinder overseas Vietnamese businessmen to fund certain projects and contribute to the local market.

What is the outlook of attracting investment from Vietnamese overseas businessmen?

At present, Vietnam has become a spotlight as a safe investment destination for investors, especially many big names like Apple, Foxconn, Google, and Samsung. These are good signs for the country’s FDI attraction. Many overseas Vietnamese people in the US have supplied millions or even tens of millions of US dollars of investment into Vietnam. If the central, provincial, and city authorities can create more favourable conditions for overseas Vietnamese investors, it will attract much larger foreign influxes in the coming time.

By Song Nguyen

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