Jun 01, 2020 Last Updated 1:05 AM, Jun 1, 2020

The Papua New Guinea government’s decision not to extend the mining lease on the economically important Porgera gold mine has shocked the joint venture operator, but the K17 billion (US$4.8 billion) Wafi-Golpu project is likely to be signed off in September.

The current Porgera lease expired last August, but Barrick New Guinea Ltd (BNL) had sought a 20-year extension as far back as June 2017. Barrick’s CEO, Mark Bristow had met with Prime Minister James Marape four times after his election last June to negotiate an extension.

In a shock statement on 24 April, the government said it had carefully considered the issue and decided it was "in the best interests of the State, especially in lieu of the environmental damages claims and resettlement issues", that the lease not be renewed. That weekend, Marape sent in 100 troops to secure the mine site.

Over the 30 years of the mine’s operation, there have been numerous controversies, claims and counter-claims about water pollution, environmental and social problems, questions around local economic returns and violent clashes in the area, according to ANU analysts John Burton and Glenn Banks.

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The outbreak of Covid-19 in Papua New Guinea represents an added threat to economic growth and stability, given the country's limited capacity to manage the health crisis, according to three global economic analysts. 

On the plus side, government has raised more than K1 billion (US$286 million) ‘COVID Bonds’ from banks and super funds and Treasurer Ian Ling-Stuckey says he’ll be seeking another K1.5 billion for COVID bonds over the coming weeks.

Fitch Solutions’ Country Risk Research Unit, the latest ANZ Bank’s Pacific Insight Report and ratings agency Standard and Poor’s (S&P) have all revised down growth forecasts, with both Fitch and ANZ predicting a recession this year.

But the Bank of PNG, the central bank, thinks the impact of Covid-19 will be ‘contained’ during 2020 and will be minimal next year and 2022, according to its latest biannual Monetary Policy Statement.

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“I’ve been so fortunate that I’ve been able to chase a rugby ball around the world, so I’m hoping for the women’s competition it will follow the men’s and be equally successful,” says Mel Kawa, captain of the Melbourne Rebels team.

Kawa has now played her first season for the Rebels after playing in France, Fiji and elsewhere in Australia.

The 2020 season marked the Rebels’ first win in its three-year history.

“Our team is in its infancy,” she tells Islands Business. “Better results will come because the Victorian rugby fraternity is so supportive, and they want to achieve.

Born in Mendi, in the Southern Highlands, her father, John Kawa, is from Kendagl village in Ialibu. Her mother, Robyn, is Australian, from country New South Wales.

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Marine scientists have found four new species of shark in waters off Milne Bay, PNG and off Indonesia which evolved to use their fins as feet and can walk across the ocean floor.

Walking sharks, also called "epaulette" sharks because their spots resemble the military decor, "walk" on their muscular fins to forage for small fish along shallow reefs and sea grass.

Their mobility allows them to wriggle between tide pools and different areas of the reef to prey upon crabs, shrimp, small fish.

“We found the sharks, which use their fins to ‘walk’ around shallow reefs, only split off evolutionarily from their nearest common ancestor about nine million years ago, and have been actively radiating into a complex of at least nine walking sharks ever since,” said Dr. Mark Erdmann, from Conservation International.

“That may seem like a long time ago, but sharks have ruled the oceans for more than 400 million years.” 

The findings contradict long-held perceptions that sharks, which are among the world’s most ancient animals, are slow to evolve.

The new species live in coastal waters around northern Australia and the island of New Guinea, says Christine Dudgeon of the University of Queensland, co-author of a report which was 10 years in the making.

“They may have moved by swimming or walking on their fins, but it’s also possible they ‘hitched” a ride on reefs moving westward across the top of New Guinea, about two million years ago. We believe there are more walking shark species still waiting to be discovered.

“This information is important not just for walking sharks but for understanding how species have evolved in this region of highest tropical marine biodiversity globally.”

The area is the shark equivalent of the Galápagos, where you can see shark evolution in action, says Dudgeon.

“A global recognition of the need to protect walking sharks will help ensure they thrive providing benefits for marine ecosystems and to local communities through the sharks’ value as tourism assets,” added Erdmann.

The discovery was made through DNA testing and take the number of species of “walking sharks’ to nine. The scientists’ findings were published in the journal Marine and Freshwater Research.

There have been no cases of coronavirus reported in the Pacific Islands region, although Australia and New Zealand have reported cases, and in the case of Australia, one death.

However the Pacific region has responded with a series of travel advisories and requirements.

These are constantly being updated, but here is the most recent series of requirements, as of March 2.

American Samoa

  • All passengers who have been to or transited through countries with confirmed cases of coronavirus on or after February 1 must spend at least 14 days in the State of Hawaii, Tonga or Samoa, and must present a heath certificate dated no more than 3 days prior to travel certifying that they are free of any signs of viral infection prior to being accepted for travel.
  • All passengers travelling beyond Samoa must spend 14 days in Samoa or Tonga and produce a health exam only from the Ministry of Health 3 days before entry to American Samoa.
  • Travellers coming from/going to only Hawaii, Tonga or Samoa do not need to spend 14 days in those locations or acquire a health exam.

https://6fe16cc8-c42f-411f-9950-4abb1763c703.filesusr.com/ugd/4bfff9_27fecacb5e5544a1b8c97a7508660d56.pdf

 


Cook Islands

  • Travellers who have been to the following countries within the last 14 days will be denied entry: China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Italy and Iran.
  • Persons who have transited through any of these countries within the last 14 days will also be denied entry to the Cook Islands.

https://cookislands.travel/news/novel-coronavirus-information-travellers-arriving-cook-islands

 

CNMI

  • Generally, foreign nationals (other than immediate family of US citizens, permanent residents, and flight crew) who have travelled in China within 14 days of their arrival will be denied entry into the United States.
  • US citizens who travelled to China within 14 days of their arrival in the US will be directed to one of several airports with advanced public health screening capabilities. They will also be subject to up to 14 days of mandatory quarantine, either in a health facility or in home quarantine depending on where they travelled in China.

http://www.chcc.gov.mp/coronavirusinformation.php

Federated States of Micronesia

  • All travel to and from mainland China is banned.
  • People travelling from countries, states or territories with confirmed cases of the coronavirus (other than mainland China) are not allowed to enter into the FSM unless they have stayed in countries, states or territories with no confirmed cases of the coronavirus for no less than 14 days immediately prior to their arrival in FSM.
  • In effect until March 14.

https://gov.fm/index.php/component/content/article/35-pio-articles/news-and-updates/277-public-announcement-why-the-fsm-national-government-reinstated-travel-restrictions-for-travelers-originating-from-covid-19-affected-countries?Itemid=177

https://gov.fm/files/Decree_to_Extend_Travel_Restrictions_Feb_28_2020.pdf

Fiji

  • From 28 February, Fiji's borders will be closed to all foreign nationals who have been in mainland China, Italy and Iran, or in Chengdu County and Daegu City in South Korea, within 14 days of their intended travel to Fiji. This follows the travel restriction placed on mainland China which has been in effect since the start of February.
  • All international air passengers are being screened with handheld temperature scanners. Fiji is also working to have thermal scanners installed at its international airports this month.
  • From 28 February, all cruise ships entering Fijian waters will be required to make first berth at ports in Suva or Lautoka, where all passengers on board will also undergo our earlier announced medical and travel history checks.

https://www.fiji.gov.fj/Media-Centre/News/STATEMENT-FROM-THE-DEPARTMENT-OF-IMMIGRATION-(2)

French Polynesia

  • All cruise ships must stop in Papeete before heading elsewhere in the islands.
  • Cruise companies must advise authorise 48 hours before arrival that no one on board has the virus
  • Work permits have been suspended for locally employed Chinese workers who are currently in China
  • Before boarding a flight into French Polynesia, all passengers regardless of their nationality who have transited through or visited one of the following countries/locations within 30 days prior to travel to French Polynesia : China, Cambodia, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Iran,, Italy (Lombardia, Venice and Emilie-Romagne) Macao, Malaysia, Nepal, Singapore, Cote du Sud, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines, must present a medical certificate not older than 5 days certifying the traveller’s health condition, regardless of their port of embarkation.

https://www.airtahitinui.com/us-en/reinforcement-precautionary-measures-taken-french-polynesian-government

Guam

  • All non-US citizens who have been physically present in China within 14 days prior to arrival will be denied entry into Guam.
  • US citizens, permanent residents, and family members to US citizens will be allowed to enter the territory but will be placed under a 14-day quarantine.

 

Kiribati

  • All travellers from areas and territories in countries with local transmission of novel coronavirus must spend at least 14 days in a country free of COVID-19 and must provide a medical clearance to confirm and/or prove their coronavirus-free status.
  • This also applies to returning residents.

https://www.facebook.com/info.mhms.gov.ki

Marshall Islands

  • The RMI has suspended all air and sea travel to and from the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong, Macau, South Korea, Italy, Japan, and Iran.  Travelers that have visited or transited these countries after December 31, 2019 will be denied entry into the RMI. 
  • All passengers arriving to the RMI and residents departing the RMI must show documentation of an up-to-date measles vaccination (i.e., in line with CDC recommendations) or a signed doctor’s note indicating contraindication.  
  • The RMI government announced on February 15, 2020 the construction of a new eight-bed isolation unit to be built and ready within the next 30 days

https://www.facebook.com/rmimoh/

Nauru

Nauru has announced entry restrictions for any travellers who have travelled from or through China in the 21 days prior to traveling to Nauru. The same restriction applies to travel from or through areas with a “publicly stated outbreak” or other areas of outbreak concern specified by the Nauru Ministry of Health and Medical Services.

New Caledonia

  • New Caledonia has implemented new entry measures in response to the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Expect increased screening at airports.
  • If arriving by ship, you won’t be able to leave it if you've visited China (including Hong Kong and Macau), Singapore, South Korea, Iran or Italy in the past two weeks. If there is a risk of coronavirus on a cruise ship, no one will be able to leave it.
  • Ports in the Loyalty Islands (Mare and Lifou) and the Isle of Pines are not currently accepting cruise ships.

https://www.smartraveller.gov.au/destinations/pacific/new-caledonia

https://gouv.nc/actualites/12-02-2020/le-gouvernement-sur-le-front-du-coronavirus

https://www.facebook.com/GouvNC

Niue

  • All travellers who have been in or travelled to China within 30 days prior to arriving in Niue must spend no less than 14 days in a country free from coronavirus and must acquire an official medical clearance which must be undertaken 3 days prior to arrival in Niue.
  • All official Niue government travel to and from China and other countries where coronavirus is present is cancelled.

https://www.niueisland.com/travelling-to-niue

Palau

  • Temporary suspension of flights from People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong, and Macau to Palau
  • Until March 31, temporary restriction of entry of foreign travellers originating from or transiting through mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau in the past 14 days into Palau.
  • Cruise ships originating from or transiting through mainland China, Hong Kong, or Macau restricted from entering into Palau until March 31, 2020.

http://www.palauhealth.org/

PNG

  • Entry banned to anyone arriving from Wuhan, Hebei Province in China
  • Entry banned to anyone arriving from mainland China within 14 days until they are medically cleared by a reputable clinic, based on WHO standards.

https://ica.gov.pg/uploads/media/public_notice_1577386-refusal-of-entry-for-travellers-from-the-asian-ports2.pdf

Samoa

  • Compulsory screening of all arriving passengers to Samoa is now in effect at all ports of entry.
  • All Travelers originating FROM or TRANSITING through mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, South Korea or Italy must spend at least 14 days self-quarantine at country of last port that is free of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus and must undergo medical clearance within (3) days prior to final route to Samoa. This must be their final stop before travelling to Samoa. All Travelers before entering Samoa are required to be tested for the Coronavirus (COVID-2019).
  • All travellers originating from or transiting through the listed countries and states below are required to undergo medical examination by a Registered Medical Practitioner within (3) days before arrival. This medical clearance is required for check-in prior to issuing of boarding passes: Taiwan, USA-California, Malaysia, Australia, France, Germany, Vietnam, Canada, Iran, United Arab Emirates
  • No cruise ships will be granted entry into Samoa until further notice.

http://www.samoagovt.ws/2020/02/health-travel-advisory-novel-coronavirus-covid-2019-effective-immediately-3/

  • Effective from 2 March 2020 Samoa has reduced the frequency of international flights from New Zealand to Samoa. Contact your airline, travel agent, accommodation provider and travel insurance provider to confirm your travel and related arrangements. Airlines and other travel providers will have the most up-to-date information about flight availability.
  • Effective from 2 March 2020 Travellers entering Samoa from or transiting through all ports in New Zealand are required to undergo medical examination by a Registered Medical Practitioner within three days before arrival.  This medical clearance report will be required for check-in prior to issuing of boarding passes.

https://www.safetravel.govt.nz/samoa

  • Information on flight reductions

http://www.samoagovt.ws/2020/02/special-health-travel-advisory-in-relation-to-the-2019-novel-coronavirus-covid-19/

Solomon Islands

  • If any person, who has for 14 days prior to arriving in the Solomon Islands, been in a country where there is a confirmed case of the Coronavirus (Affected Countries), that person ,after assessment by immigration and health officials, may be allowed to enter the Solomon Islands however he or she may be subject to detention or placed in quarantine.
  • If any person who has travelled from or transited through the Countries identified below as 'Restricted Countries' at any time in the 14 days immediately before the day on which the person arrives in the Solomon Islands will not be permitted to enter the Country. 
  • Solomon Airlines will continue to operate all flights in accordance with the published schedule unless otherwise notified.
  • Restricted Countries (as at 8AM, 27 February 2020): People's Republic of China, Republic of Korea, Japan, Singapore, Italy, Hong Kong SAR, Thailand, Iran, Chinese Taipei, Macau.
  • Affected countries (as at 8AM, 27 February 2020): Afghanistan, Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, Cambodia, Canada, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, India, Iraq, Israel, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Nepal, Oman, Philippines, Russia, Sri Lanka, Spain, Sweden, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States of America and Vietnam.

https://www.flysolomons.com/library/signed_joint-ta-no.2_27.02.20.pdf

https://www.flysolomons.com/plan/travel-advice

Tonga

  • All international travellers originating from or transiting through China must spend at least 14 days self-quarantine outside China. On completion of this period they must then obtain medical clearance at least three days prior to entry to Tonga.

http://www.health.gov.to/drupal/sites/default/files/Travel%20advisory%203_English%20version%20final%20copy.PDF

Tuvalu

  • The Government of Tuvalu announced restrictions prohibiting entry to Tuvalu of anyone who has been in China within 30 days of arrival in Tuvalu. This restriction includes entry to seafarers from foreign vessels that have been in China or “a high-risk country” (understood to be countries where coronavirus is present) in the last 30 days.
  • Travelers who have been in a “high-risk country” must obtain a medical clearance three days prior to entering Tuvalu and must remain in a country other than those listed as “high-risk” for at least five days before re-entering Tuvalu.
  • Health screening will be conducted at Funafuti airport and seaport, and may also be conducted at Nausori (Fiji) Airport and Tarawa (Kiribati) Airport.

 

Vanuatu

  • Any travellers from mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, South Korea, Japan and Singapore in the previous 14 days will be denied entry until further notice.
  • Any travellers from or who have transited mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, South Korea, Japan and Singapore since December 31, 2019 and who have spent the previous 14 days outside these places must obtain a medical certificate from a registered medical practitioner certifying they are free from any respiratory illness suspected of coronavirus.
  • Returning residents holding a Vanuatu Passport, who have been away in another country excluding main land of China, within the last two months, may transit from Hong Kong SAR or Singapore to Vanuatu given that the transit period is not more than eight hours and must remain in the terminal and refrain from going outside.
  • Returning residents with a Vanuatu passport who will be transiting for more than eight hours in Hong Kong SAR or leave the terminal must be self-Quarantined for 14 days outside of Vanuatu before coming into the country.

https://www.fj.emb-japan.go.jp/files/000572308.pdf

Wallis and Futuna

http://www.wallis-et-futuna.gouv.fr/

https://au.ambafrance.org/-English-

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