Direct flights to boost MSG economies 

More economic opportunities will open up for member countries of the Melanesian Spearhead Group(MSG) following the introduction of direct flights connecting Port Moresby to Asian destinations, Vanuatu and New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea vice minister for foreign affairs and Kundiawa Gembogl MP Muguwa Dilu said.

Dilu who represented the PNG Government on the first few days of the MSG meeting in the absence of the Prime Minister, James Marape, said the opening up of the direct flights will grow tourism and promote commerce and trade between the MSG countries and the Asian economies.

“Our national airline, Air Niugini is opening up direct flights from Port Moresby to Indonesia, China, Hongkong, Singapore, Manila and Japan.

We will have direct flights to Port Vila and New Caledonia,” Dilu informed the MSG members.

He said PNG will renew its membership to the MSG, because it was committed to the shared values, cultural identities and development aspirations of the sub region.

Meanwhile, Papua New Guinea will soon be providing air services to and from the Republic of Palau thanks to the official signing of a bilateral air service agreement on the island of Koror, Palau on Wednesday, August 23, 2023.

Minister for Transport and Civil Aviation, Walter Schnaubelt and Minister of Public Infrastructure and Industry of Palau, Charles Obichang signed the agreement on behalf of their respective countries.

Schnaubelt also announced that Air Niugini has been nominated as the air service provider and he will present the signed instrument to parliament for rectification (approval) for the bilateral air service agreement to be formally effective in accordance with Section 117 (3) of PNG’s Constitution.

“I am confident that through this bilateral Air Service arrangement, our two countries can be able to achieve more and to continue to develop stronger relationships which can extend to include other areas of mutual interests such as tourism and other business opportunities,” Schnaubelt said.

In mid-2022, the Australian Government embarked on a Pacific’s Flights Program through an Aid arrangement aimed at addressing connectivity challenges encountered by Pacific’s Small Island Developing States (PSIDs) and flagged reliable air connectivity as a plight of the people of Palau.

Thus a procurement process through public tender was called focusing on airlines domiciled within the Pacific region to participate in the bidding process and towards identification of a suitable operating carrier to service the people of Palau.

It was through this arrangement that Air Niugini, PNG’s designated International Airline won the tender to provide the required Air connectivity.

“Specifically, this bilateral Air Service Agreement between the Republic of Palau and the Independent State of PNG is a significant development deliverable and emerges as a tangible outcome of Australia’s aid program initiatives within the Pacific region.

“I give credit to the Australian Government for its tireless efforts in ensuring that such milestone achievements become feasible and for the ultimate benefit of our two countries.

“I am happy to announce that flight routes under the Pacific Flights Program and awarded to Air Niugini to service, was received and approved by the governments of our two countries and reflected through this bilateral air service arrangement are: Port Moresby – Koror (Palau) -Port Moresby – Brisbane – Port Moresby, vice versa, and these routes are subsidised through the Aid program,” Schnaubelt said.

These routes shall provide more air connectivity for the people of Palau to Brisbane via Port Moresby and with connections to further destinations within the region and beyond.

Negotiations over this important bilateral air service commenced in Manila, Philippines in 2018 and discussions into 2019 and 2020, only to be hampered by the inevitable devastating effects of COVID-19 which severed the two countries’ plans of bringing the proposal to full realisation.

Although the experiences of COVID 19 were devastating, its aftermath brought with it renewal and new hope for countries around the world including Palau and PNG.