Heartful presents from inland to the frontier islands

February 13, 2024 | 22:40
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VIR’s Hong Dung reports on an emotional seven-day voyage to the archipelago to offer Lunar New Year presents and best wishes from mainlanders to officers, soldiers, and residents of islands in the Vietnam’s southwest sea.

After a long journey walking, seeing, talking and listening various moving stories on board Ship 924 and in offshore islands, floating and pounding up and down with the waves, it is very lucky that all our team of bankers, officials and journalists are full of healthy and energetic.

Heartful presents from inland to the frontier islands
In January, Battalion 127, the 5th Regional Command under the Vietnam People’s Navy transported officers, bankers, and media workers to present Lunar New Year gifts to frontier islanders and soldiers in Vietnam’s southwest islands

Our most active stay is on Nam Du, around 40km from Phu Quoc, and which is becoming an attractive destination for backpackers heading to the Mekong Delta province of Kien Giang. This pristine island has 21 islets, around half of which are inhabited, while the others remain completely untouched. The archipelago stretches over two communes of An Son and Nam Du, with a population of 10,000 people working in fishing and sea-related services.

Formed from a volcano, it has numerous six-metre creeks advantageous for transportation. As it is endowed with high mountains, Nam Du also is suggested as a great spot for offshore fishermen to flee rough storms.

The ship docks at Hon Du port to start the trip to present Lunar New Year gifts from the mainland to those at the island’s Radaz stations, and spend time at Hon Du island’s radaz station to a banh chung ceremony at the No.600 Radaz station. Leaving the station afterwards, visitors have the chance to explore Pham Van Luu’s cage fish farming area in An Son commune. Being a poor fisherman born in the central province of Quang Binh, Luu decided to follow some friends to the island to spend his youth nearly 24 years ago. In the early days, he earned his living mainly by catching fish offshore, with the living conditions being hard. He had to change his mindset.

Heartful presents from inland to the frontier islands
Visitors make banh chung cake with officers and soldiers at No.600 Radaz Station in Hon Du Island of Nam Du Archipelago

“It’s impossible to live poor all my life, so I decided to borrow money from relatives and friends, around $9,000, to set up fish farming. Over the past five years, my family has been prioritised for a support loan of nearly $30,000 from Agribank with an incentive interest rate. With this, I can scale up my farm as well as to invest in other related services,” said Luu.

Heartful presents from inland to the frontier islands
Nguyen Thi Phuong leads the delegation to offer Lunar New Year presents and best wishes from mainlanders to officers, soldiers, and residents in Nam Du Archipelago

His family gains revenues of about $21,000 a year and net profit of some $4,200. Now, Luu is dreaming of expanding and borrowing more, not just for fish farming but also to promote tourism services – he can offer transportation as well as food and beverage services for visitors to Nam Du island.

According to Vo Cong Hau, an Agribank credit officer in charge of An Son and Nam Du communes, the case of Luu’s family is very common on the islands. There is no bank transaction point in the area, so Hau often uses two weeks per month on the island to offer banking services for all islanders and offshore fishermen here.

On the ship to visit was deputy general manager of Agribank Nguyen Thi Phuong, who said that by the end of 2023, the Agribank Kien Hai district brand mobilised $3.3 million, failing to meet the plan of $4.2 million, but loans reached $30 million, which exceeded the set target of $27 million.

“We realise that the islands have potential with their pure natural environment. If the area is master-planned well moving forward, it will attract a wave of tourists. It needs priority to invest in more infrastructure and transportation to be a real tourism paradise to compete with island hot spots such as those in South Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand,” explained Phuong.

By Hong Dung

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