Aug 14, 2020 Last Updated 10:45 PM, Aug 12, 2020
July

July (13)

The Pacific Way was coined by the late Fijian and Pacific Islands stateman, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, in which people of different races, opinions and cultures can live and work together for the good of all, can differ without rancour, govern without malice and accept responsibility as reasonable people intent on serving the interests of all.

The Pacific Way of doing things is not taught but is a culture in the Pacific Islands, people are always ready to help each other.

Today and in years to come, Pacific Islanders will need to work together to address the impact of COVID-19 as well as adapting to and mitigating the effects of climate change.

The pandemic has stressed national budgets of many island countries, an experience faced by governments the world all over. Governments’ capital expenditure on infrastructure that is climate resilient would be limited.

It is estimated that the Pacific will need to spend US$3.1billion a year on infrastructure until 2030, which is more than the annual budgets of most of these island nations. COVID-19, climate change and the threat of natural disasters can easily increase the capital expenses of governments beyond their reach.

The International Finance Corporation (IFC) is leading World Bank Group efforts to work with pension, provident and sovereign funds in the Pacific region to help spur investments in essential infrastructure such as telecommunications, water, financial services, transport, sustainable energy and health. IFC works in the Pacific with support from the governments of Australia and New Zealand to stimulate private sector investment and reduce poverty in the region. The funds who are members of the Pacific Islands Investment Forum (PIIF) collectively manage over US$45 billion worth of assets.

It makes sense for pension funds to co-invest in infrastructure for a number of reasons. Pension funds play such a dominant role in the financial systems of Pacific Islands, as most have assets worth more than the overall financial system in their countries. Most funds will inevitably play a broader role beyond financial returns for their members. This was quite evident during this pandemic and a survey undertaken by PIIF and IFC will provide some data on the impact of COVID-19 on funds in the region.

Co-investment brings two major benefits to funds and their members. First, investing in infrastructure will improve services and secondly, members will get better returns.

Pension funds joining forces to co-invest and invest across borders is becoming a global trend. Large funds like the Canadian funds have invested in infrastructure alongside the pension funds in Mexico or alongside the funds in India. In Kenya for example, a group of the local pension funds have come together to form a co-investment entity.  IFC and the World Bank Group is bringing some of these global experiences to the Pacific.

A few funds are by regulation or legislation restricted from investing outside of their country. This primarily arose during the early stages of the funds’ existence, when they were accumulating capital, and it was important to retain that capital in the domestic economy. But now, as the funds have grown in size, limiting capital from moving outside of the country creates more risk, because they are concentrating on fewer and lesser investment opportunities.

The opportunity exists for PIIF to tap into new investment opportunities, but members must take the necessary steps to clear their own regulatory bottlenecks and figure out the best structure for the funds to channel their investments – and this is where IFC’s technical expertise can assist.

IFC is also in a position to co-invest with members of the PIIF and there are other potential co-investment partners such as the Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific (AIFFP).

The AIIFP is an initiative by the Australian Government to provide funding of up to AUD$2bn for high priority infrastructure in the Pacific through grants and loans.

When the time is right and a co-investment entity can be set up, the governance of these investments would also be paramount. We must ensure the interest of the members of the funds remains front and centre, the investments are set at the right level of risk, and suitable to the needs of pension fund members. Transparency too is vital so members can see how decisions are made and on what basis.  It should be a case of – together forward, the Pacific way.

*PIIF Members are: Cook Islands Superannuation Fund, Fiji National Provident Fund, Kiribati National Fund, Nauru Sovereign Wealth Fund, NZ SuperFund, Ngati Awa Growth Holdings, Nambawan Super (PNG), NASFUND (PNG), Samoa National Provident Fund, Solomon Islands National Provident Fund, Tokelau Trust Fund, Tonga Retirement Fund, Tonga Retirement Fund Board, Tuvalu National Provident Fund, Tuvalu Trust Fund, Unit Trust of Fiji, Unit Trust of Samoa, Vanuatu National Provident Fund

Thomas Jacobs is IFC’s Country Manager for Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands

When news emerged of 20-year-old Jenelyn Kennedy’s death in Port Moresby in late June, Papua New Guineans and people across the region were horrified. Jenelyn’s youth, the horrific circumstances in which she died—allegedly after six days of beatings and torture, and the fact it came just weeks after another high-profile domestic assault of a PNG sports star, all fuelled extraordinary coverage of her death.  The National newspaper published a harrowing image of Jenelyn’s body, with reporter Rebecca Kuku explaining that it was important to show readers what she (Jenelyn) had been through. “Her story needed to be told, as a reporter, a woman, a mother, a sister, I failed to be her voice when she was alive and I’d be damned if I would fail her now in her death,” Kuku wrote.

Horrified Papua New Guineans walked from Parliament to Sir John Guise stadium in a “Walk for Jenelyn” followed by a “shine the light” vigil. Solidarity marches took place in other provincial centres. Her partner Bhosip Kaiwi has been charged with wilful murder and is now in custody. Questions have been raised about the responsibilities of doctors and police officers and others living in the house Jenelyn and Kaiwi shared, who were aware of her treatment.

Sadly her story is all too common.

Read more in our July issue. Subscribe today.

Back to farming Fiji goes

Fresh from a 10-day tour of Viti Levu - Fiji’s main island - our July cover story shares what we saw as Fijians adjust to the economic and social shocks brought about by the COVID19 pandemic. Employees of now-closed hotels and resorts who live in villages are falling back to subsistence farming and fishing. For the many more families who live outside these communities and who pay rent or mortgage in Sigatoka, Nadi and Lautoka, the adjustments are much harder. Relief offered by the Fijian Government like withdrawing their pensions while helpful, are temporary, and many are resorting to other means to earn income. They include 2014 Miss World Fiji, Charlene Tafuna’i who lost her job as an aircraft engineer at Nadi International Airport and is a regular at the VOTCITY Flea Market in Nadi. Thousands more do not qualify for pension withdrawals nor have the means to venture into business and this is where the work done by non-governmental organisations like the Foundation for Rural Integrated Enterprises N Development and the Then India Sanmarga Ikya Sangam in providing food packs and free school lunches respectively is life saving.

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For the past several months if you are working in business, in government, for regional organisations or studying, you have almost certainly expanded your use of a raft of collaboration and meeting tools. You may have formed an opinion on Zoom vs Hangouts, logged into dozens of webinars, learnt the etiquette of virtual meetings, and digitalised processes that were once analog. In the Pacific region, you’ve probably also spent time grappling with meetings where the speakers can be likened to poorly-dubbed film actors, or the sound disintegrates into static.

A range of new submarine cables and improved satellite choices promise to improve this situation within months in several Pacific Island countries.

At the start of the pandemic, sector experts were concerned that the production of mobile devices and supply chain changes might slow the progress towards 5G in some markets, and that there might be issues keeping submarine cable in service, deployed or upgraded.

However the companies responsible for cable being laid and tested in our region claim the impact has been negligible.

A number of cables criss-cross the Pacific seabed.  Amongst the new ones coming online is the   Manatua-One Polynesia cable, which includes landings in French Polynesia, Cook Islands, Niue and Samoa. Targeted to go live last month, it is in the final stages of testing. The Coral Sea Cable System connects Port Moresby and Honiara with Sydney and the rest of the world. The Hawaiki Submarine Cable is owned by a company of the same name, and connects users in Australia, New Zealand, American Samoa, Hawaii, and the United States, with New Caledonia to be connected by the end of this year if it remains on schedule. The Southern Cross Next cable is due for commissioning in early 2022 , and will link Sydney, Auckland and Los Angeles, with critical international cable connectivity to Fiji, Tokelau and Kiribati. Palau is also looking towards installation of a second internet submarine cable, and last month Allcatel Submarine Networks was awarded a $40.7 million contract to build and deploy a second submarine cable, Gondwana 2 between Fiji and New Caledonia due for completion in early 2022. (For a more complete description of upcoming and existing cable networks, visit www.islandsbusiness.com)

There are also high hopes for improved service via satellite technology, such as the kind provided by Kacific, a satellite operator providing a high-speed broadband internet service in the South East Asia and Pacific Islands regions. Late last month Tuvalu’s government signed a five-year bandwidth capacity agreement with Kacific and Federated States of Micronesia has issued an individual operating license for Kacific to provide telecom services in the nation. 

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Related: Digitising remittance transfers in Fiji

Remote areas of the Pacific, including New Zealand, are about to get cheap and easy access to the internet. Richard Broadbridge, from communications company MMG, explains the Kacific-1 satellite system will provide what the long-standing, C-band satellite system can’t – low-cost and high speed.

The Kacific satellite is the most powerful broadband satellite serving the region to date, says Richard Broadbridge, Business Development Manager for the Singapore-based company Melanesian Media Group (MMG).

Its technology provides greater efficiency and therefore a lower cost per mbps.

Founded in 2013 by Christian Patouraux, Kacific uses the Ka-band High Throughput Satellite, designed and built by Boeing and launched into a geostationary orbit by Elon Musks’ Space-X Falcon-9 launch vehicle last December.

This is disruptive technology, says Broadbridge, adding “it will transform communications throughout the Pacific, Indonesia and the Philippines”. 

Read more in our July issue.

Vanuatu celebrating 40 years

Red, Green, Yellow and Black are the four colours that distinguish the Flag of the Republic of Vanuatu from other national colours.

Red symbolises blood that binds the human race.

Green represents the fertile greenery of the islands.

Yellow stands for Christianity - the light that was shone by the pioneer missionaries who braved the once dark islands to bind the people for Christ.

Black confirms the black volcanic soil that nourishes the land to provide organic food for the inhabitants.

Vanuatu this month celebrates its 40th Independence Anniversary from Britain and France, the colonial rulers that jointly administered the 83 islands for 74 years from 1906 until midnight of July 29th, 1980.

On that historical night, as a young reporter with an ancient camera taking black and white pictures, I could not understand why some civil servants were wiping tears from their eyes as the British flag was lowered for the last time at midnight to a melancholy tune from a lone bugle blown by a police man in British police uniform.

Read more in our July issue.

The Parliament of PNG has passed a series of amendments targeting the mining, oil and gas industries, which give the Minister greater flexibility in determining whether to grant or refuse petroleum development licences, according to a briefing note by law firm, Allens.

One of the key elements for the mining industry is that the Mining Minister may impose a 'minimum expected level of return' for the State on a licensee, say Allens authors Rob Merriam, Jacqui Rowell and Sarah Kuma, writing in Insights.

“What the level of return might be, how it would be calculated and how it would be enforced are not prescribed in the O&G Amendments,” they say.

Existing applicants may also be subject to these amendments if the Minister has not yet granted their licence, they add.

The legislation follows the Marape government’s refusal to grant an extension of the Porgera mining licence which expired last August, although JV company Barrick New Guinea Ltd (BNL) had sought a 20-year extension as far back as June 2017.

Barrick’s CEO, Mark Bristow, reaction was that it was “tantamount to nationalisation without due process” and legal action in the PNG Courts is continuing.

This month (July), Barrick has begun layoff staff. According to Barrick, most of the 116 expatriate employees have already been retrenched, while 2650 PNG nationals will have their employment terminated prior to the end of July at a projected cost to the company of K180 million (US$52 million).

“This is already having a big impact on the economy,” Shane McLeod, analyst at the Lowy Institute, told Islands Business.

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Just three months before New Caledonia’s next referendum on self-determination, French President Emmanuel Macron has reshuffled his Cabinet in Paris, appointing a new Prime Minister and ministers responsible for France’s overseas collectivities. The new team in Paris comes to office as New Caledonia, French Polynesia and Wallis and Futuna face major economic challenges during the global coronavirus pandemic, with border closures, loss of travel routes for national airlines and a collapse of tourism.

The departure of Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and the appointment of a new Overseas Minister and Minister for the Oceans have significant implications for the Pacific region.

When he came to office three years ago, President Macron and his newly created movement La Republique en Marche crushed the centre-Left and centre-Right parties that had dominated French politics for decades. But Macron’s initial popularity has dimmed. After years of austerity and attempted reforms of public services, Macron has faced widespread protests from trade unions and the Gilets Jaunes (yellow vest) movement. This year, France’s health and economic crisis has damaged Macron’s standing, after 169,400 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and nearly 30,000 deaths in France.

With only two years remaining in his current term as President, Macron has reshuffled his government. Prime Minister Edouard Philippe resigned and has been replaced by conservative technocrat Jean Castex. The choice of this former member of the Les Républicains party highlights Macron's concern about his right flank, as he prepares for the 2022 Presidential elections. Macron faces another bruising contest with Marine Le Pen and the extreme-Right Rassemblement National (RN), and possibly a presidential bid by the outgoing Prime Minister.

All French governments have a minister responsible for relations with the “overseas collectivities” in France’s far-flung colonial empire. In the latest Cabinet reshuffle, there is a new Overseas Minister, 34-year-old Sébastien Lecornu.

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A major evaluation of climate adaptation projects in the Pacific argues that bottom-up, community-led projects have performed better than many top-down, donor-driven initiatives.

The study, published in the prestigious journal Nature Climate Change, reports that “locally funded initiatives and those implemented by non-governmental organisations were more likely to perform better, and climate awareness raising initiatives and those integrated with ecosystem-based adaptation performed best.”

The research team was led by Professor Karen McNamara of the University of Queensland and Professor Patrick Nunn of the University of the Sunshine Coast. The team evaluated climate adaptation projects in twenty rural communities across four Pacific countries – Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati and Vanuatu – allowing comparison between low-lying atoll nations, high island states or those with both features.

The adaptation projects at community-level addressed a range of issues: enhancing food or water security; prevention of land loss; community relocation; climate change awareness raising; marine resources protection; and enhancing financial security.

For lead researcher Patrick Nunn, the best outcomes were found when projects are appropriate to local context, tailored to cultural specificities as well as community priorities, resources and livelihoods.

Nunn is well known in the region, working at the University of the South Pacific (USP) for 25 years. He was appointed to a Personal Chair as USP Professor of Oceanic Geoscience in 1997. Since 2014, he has worked as Professor of Geography at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. Nunn has now been appointed as lead author of the ‘Small Islands’ chapter for the next 6th Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the main scientific body that reports to the global climate negotiations.

He noted: “Our study recommends four inter-dependent priorities for future community-based adaptation initiatives: local approval and ownership; shared access to and benefit from initiatives; integration of local realities; and systems-thinking and forward planning.”

In collaboration with the Pacific Conference of Churches, WWF Pacific, Conservation Society of Pohnpei and the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, the evaluation looked at community projects across the region funded by different donors and managed by different organisations.

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Former Niue Premier Sir Toke Talagi will be laid to rest on Monday 27 July.

Sir Toke Talagi  passed away after a prolonged illness, soon after arriving home on a private chartered flight from New Zealand where he had been medevaced a week earlier.

The funeral will be held after his family finishes it’s 14-day self-quarantine. In a statement announcing his death, the family thanked the “medical teams of the Niue Foou Hospital, the Auckland City Hospital and the New Zealand Air Ambulance Service, for the unwavering care given to our dearest father, and the Government of Niue for honouring all of our wishes to bring him home to spend his final days.”

Sir Toke held business interests in shipping, tourism and airline-related industries. He was Niue’s first Consul General from 1981 to 1984, in Auckland and was first elected to Niue’s assembly in 1999, holding portfolios in finance, economics, telecommunications, education, environment and external affairs. He was elected Premier in 2008, a position he held until last month.

During his tenure Sir Toke was a strong voice for Pacific nations  in international climate change fora, calling for global action on emission reduction. He was a founding member of the Polynesian Leaders Group, began diplomatic relations with China, and domestically drove tax reforms.

Incumbent Niue Premier Dalton Tagelagi served in Sir Toke’s past two cabinets and said his predecessor was a dedicated politician, diplomat, statesman as well as a devoted husband, father, and grandfather.

“The country mourns the loss of a cherished son and great leader. His legacy lives on with the work he has completed for our small island nation. He will be remembered for his dedication to Niue and his commitment to a prosperous Niue – Niue ke Monuina. His passion was the promotion of the Niuean language and education of our young people, the future leaders of Niue.”

This achievement was also recognised by the Governor-General of the Realm of New Zealand, Dame Patsy Reddy, who invested Sir Toke with his knighthood in 2017. She said : “I pay particular tribute to the resurgence of the Niuean language and culture that flourished under his leadership.”

Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna recognised his contribution as an “unwavering champion of fundamental Pacific values of family, collectivism, reciprocity and respect. These values were never more apparent than during his passionate advocacy and leadership on issues which presented unique challenges to the communities of Small Island States to which Niue and the Cook Islands both belong.”

“His unwavering activism in encouraging vigorous health initiatives, including addressing the serious threat posed by Non-Communicable Diseases to the well-being of our Pacific People, has been long supported by our Government and will continue to be a central part of our overall regional health agenda,” said the Prime Minister. “The realisation of the Moana Mahu Marine Protected Area, the second largest marine protected reserve in the Pacific, is another key accomplishment of Sir Toke’s enduring leadership.”

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she spoke with Sir Toke recently: “We talked about Niue’s Covid response, the people of Niue and his recent book. He was fiercely proud of Niue, and rightly so. It was a place he dedicated his life and service to.

Dr Colin Tuikuitonga, a Niuean and former Pacific Community Director General who worked with Sir Toke, told Radio New Zealand that the leader will be remembered as one of Niue's greatest advocates.

 “I think Toke was one of those unusual Niueans, he was very determined, he built himself a business enterprise from nothing, I guess you could say, and he was always someone who thought outside of the box."

 “He was always creative, he believed fiercely in Niue and Niueans doing more for themselves. I think he was rather impatient for some of the things that was going on and I know he did a lot, particularly for tourism in his term as Premier.

Globalism is being threatened in the post-Covid-19 global order. However, there is still ample common sense around to counter such a threat. Those engaged are still at an early stage in their coordinated countermove. They are likely to attract reinforcements to ensure some semblance of the familiar multilateralism in the interest of global orderliness and of humanity in general. During this period of enforced unsettledness, regionalism, e.g. Pacific regionalism (Pacific Islands Forum – PIF) will need to be strong, active and react as effectively as is possible, to avoid any major setback in members’ economic, social and geo-political status. This is critical given that the majority of PIF members are vulnerable, small island developing states - globally characterised as developing or least developed countries.

The US under President Trump, with its nationalistic and autarkic ‘Make America Great Again’ is leading the charge for the disintegration of globalism. Its newest trade armament, brought about by COVID-19, straddled new heights of aggressive protectionism. So much so that a new trade lexicon has been coined to mark its undignified entrance. ‘Sicken Thy Neighbour’ relates to US’s export restriction (and even diversion) of medical products to deserving importing countries for, inter alia, protectionist reasons. The new lexicon joins its equally nefarious ‘Beggar Thy Neighbour’ to take autarky and protectionism to a new level.

The counter-movers to recapture lost grounds from globalism have globalisation and multilateralism at heart. Despite the downsides of globalisation, they believe that a multilateral approach to solving humanity’s challenges, including existential threats like climate change, can only be effectively addressed at the global level. A number of great world thinkers share the same view. Historian Yuval Noah Harari, for example, believes that the three challenges he identified for the world, viz: ecological collapse, technological disruption and nuclear war, can only be resolved at the global level.

For PIF members, especially the 16 Pacific Island Countries, Pacific regionalism is a critical pathway and an effective collective tool linking them additionally to the multilateral framework. Strong, active and effective regionalism will complement national initiatives to benefit through regional outputs and outcomes. Further, through Pacific regionalism, PIF members can aspire to increasing levels of integration amongst them and PICs especially can effectively exercise their collective innate agency on global issues that matter to them. At the multilateral level, they would benefit from, inter alia, the articulation of reasoned, effective and efficient advocacy of critical global issues.

For Pacific regionalism, therefore, it is now a critical time for self-analysis. PIF needs to step up its game in order to raise its levels of aspiration. The post-COVID-19 new normal demands this. Apart from the propitiousness of timing, PIF also needs to critically think about its own strategy given the disunity that reigns within. There is disunity in PIF’s stance on climate change. There may also be disunity as regards PIF’s stance on the disintegration of globalism. Australia, for instance, is known for having attacked the UN last year, speaking against ‘negative globalism’ and ‘unaccountable international bureaucracies.’ PIF needs the global pathway. It should be its core geostrategy.

At the practical level, PIF needs to double and treble its efforts at integration and especially economic integration. I have written at length about the delayed economic integration amongst the Pacific Island Countries (PICs) as regards Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA). The same scenario can definitely be said about integration between the PICs, on one hand, and Australia and New Zealand (ANZ), on the other hand, under the PACER Plus trade agreement. This trade agreement is yet to be implemented. However, the demand on its deliverables for economic integration has intensified under current circumstances to warrant immediacy of action. And I believe that the opportunity desperately beckons.

When the collective negotiations on PACER Plus were declared concluded to facilitate signing, Fiji opted to continue negotiating. There was no dissension on this matter. Fiji was upfront as regards its intention to improve some aspects of the ‘agreed texts’. The bilateral negotiations thus ensued and have yet to be declared closed.

This article endorses the need for greater economic integration within PIF to raise its profile in addressing the disintegration of globalism. Therefore, PIF needs to sanction the continued negotiations on PACER Plus with the view of attributing the trade agreement with all the concessions, special and differential treatments, waivers and derogation possible to render maximum benefits especially to the PICs. This can all be done with the requisite dosage of political will, by both Australia and New Zealand, the two developed country members of PIF.    

The opportunity should also be taken to effectively engage with Papua New Guinea (PNG) in the extended negotiations. PNG had opted out of the earlier negotiations. In the context of Pacific regionalism, there is just no logic to having a trade agreement with ANZ without the biggest economy of all the PICs involved. From statements released from Port Moresby, it can be appreciated that the issues of concern to PNG are similar to those that Fiji had highlighted.

Additionally, Vanuatu’s concern about lost tax revenue resulting from hasty and hefty tariff reduction, can also be addressed with more concessionary tariff reduction scheduling. This may require, firstly, reviewing the contents of Vanuatu’s allowable schedule of protected goods and services. Secondly, it may also need increased tolerance level as regards the definition of ‘substantial part of the trade’ – to be subjected to trade liberalisation under the agreement.

The renewed negotiations can therefore focus on these specific issues with targeted outputs. It has to be made clear at the start that new improved agreed texts should be merged onto previous texts to benefit all PICs, parties to the negotiations, including those who earlier signed the then existing agreement.

The various issues raised by Fiji, if addressed fairly and objectively, can result in greater economic integration amongst PIF members and offer more solid bases of economic growth and development. The infant industry clause, for instance, can be improved through strategic choices of industry to be protected and with appropriate liberalisation timelines.

The mandatory ‘most favoured nation’ (MFN) clause can also be subjected to concession and derogation. As it is, the MFN clause requires that any concession obtained by a party to an agreement would necessarily apply to the other party. However, this can be avoided through a waiver. The waiver, for instance, could be formulated to say that the MFN clause (on the PICs’ side) will only apply to concessions obtained from developed countries or a group of developed countries. It will not apply to concessions obtained from developing or least developed countries or a group of these countries.

Fiji was also not happy with the provision on Labour Mobility. As it is, Fiji believes that it is really nothing to write home about. Merely providing a forum for annual talkfests is hardly the stuff for considered and enhanced regional economic integration.

Another concern raised is the need to enjoy the security of the market access provided for by the agreement. Essentially, this is an oblique reference to unsupervised and unjustified non-tariff barriers (NTBs) imposed by the importing markets, ANZ in this case. On the plus side, it has to be said that both ANZ are ably addressing this matter through provisions of relevant systematic processes and training of PIC exporters with joint ANZ-funding provided for under the PACER Plus for Aid for Trade. Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access (PHAMA), an initiative by ANZ, is leading the charge on this matter.

In the first place, Fiji’s concerns were about the lack of balance and the loss of policy space for PICs in the texts of the PACER Plus agreement at that time. If improvements, as discussed above, are finally incorporated into the legal texts, they would certainly render the agreement a more consolidated basis for determined regional economic integration. Pacific regionalism would then grow from strength to strength. It, moreover, would be better placed to address its inherent disunities and contradictions. The flow-on effects from there would have positive implications on multilateralism and on PIF’s/PICs’ agency in the global scheme of things.

The author is a former Fijian ambassador and Foreign Minister and runs his own consultancy company in Suva, Fiji.

 

Departure Lounge

Boarding Pass

  • The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), the UN body responsible for aviation, has agreed to ease airlines’ obligations to offset their emissions growth until at least 2023. The decision postpones the date airlines have to start paying for carbon credits to offset a portion of their climate impact.
  • Hawaiian Airlines will resume flights to Pago Pago, American Samoa on August 5. However international flights are subject to border restrictions and to change based on COVID-19 containment.
  • Air France plans to introduce a third weekly flight from Paris to Papeete from early August. Air Tahiti Nui has now resumed its Paris service however Air New Zealand says at this stage, its Papeete flights are suspended until 24 October.
  • Meanwhile Air Tahiti has reversed a decision to cut its network, and for now says it will continue to fly to all 46 destinations on its route map. It had earlier said it would fly to just 20 destinations. The government will provide a US$4 million subsidy for those routes which normally rely on the tourist trade.
  • The Civil Aviation Authority of Solomon Islands (CAASI) building at the Henderson Airport in East Honiara burnt to the ground early July. At the time of printing, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Communication & Civil Aviation Moses Virovolomo said the cause of the fire was unknown, although there were signs the compound fence had been cut. The office regulates the safety, compliance, security at the airport.
  • Fiji Airways is recruiting for up to 30 “customer wellness champions”. The new roles require people with medical qualifications. The airline says it is part of its preparations to resume flights under strict health and medical conditions. The officers will lead the airline’s medical response on the ground and in the air. Fiji Airways has laid off 758 people due to COVID19.
  • Taiwan-based airline, EVA Airways may operate twice-weekly flights between Taiwan and Palau. Taiwan’s transport ministry is reviewing EVA’s application, although a launch date will depend on how the epidemic unfolds and real market demand. It is anticipated Palau’s COVID-free status will be a big drawcard for Taiwanese travellers.
  • Eight Pacific civil aviation authorities have participated in an expert airport runway safety training webinar organised by the Pacific Aviation Safety Office (PASO). The training was designed to prepare the authorities and airports for mandatory International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) runway condition reporting requirements, ahead of a worldwide implementation deadline of 5 Nov 2020.
  • Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the United States have completed certification flights for the Boeing 737 MAX. Over three days, FAA test pilots, and engineers, evaluated Boeing’s proposed changes in connection with the automated flight control system on the aircraft. The FAA still needs to issue airworthiness certificates and approve training programs related to the aircraft before it can fly again. Fiji Airways was flying two 737 Max before grounding them in March 2019 following fatal accidents involving the same model in Indonesia and Ethiopia.
  • Air Terminal Services (Fiji) PTE Ltd has advertised 106 positions, just a week after terminating the contracts of 285 workers. ATS human resources manager Richard Donaldson had stated the company would introduce a daily fixed-term employment contract. The Federated Airlines Staff Association unsuccessfully sought an injunction against the workers’ termination, with the court saying the ATS exercised its contractual and statutory rights by giving two weeks’ notice of termination.
  • Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and the Marshall Islands will receive a share of airport safety and infrastructure grants the US Federal Government is awarding through the Federal Aviation Administration. The funds are earmarked to improve infrastructure and strengthen safety measures.
  • Qantas’ international services will not return until mid-2021 says CEO Alan Joyce. The Australian carrier has laid off 20% (some 6000 people) of its workforce and grounded most of its international fleet.
  • Mount Hagen, PNG-based MAF is preparing to fly to rural airstrips in the country once they are surveyed and given safety clearance. All passengers will need to wear masks (2000 of which have been sewn and supplied to the airline) and will have their temperatures checked before boarding and after disembarking from MAF planes.
  • Labasa airport in Fiji’s north is undergoing upgrading and maintenance work so domestic carrier Fiji Link has cancelled all flights in and out of the destination until August 4. Passengers can change their bookings to fly to Savusavu airport as an alternative.

The Shipping News

  • Kiribati will receive a US$12 million grant to help improve the safety and resilience of inter-island transport in the western Gilbert Group. In 2018 the MV Butiraoi sank on its voyage from Nonouti in the Gilberts to the capital. 88 people died. Now the Asian Development Program and World Bank are funding navigation aids and infrastructure, including jetties, boat ramps and shelters.
  • Matson has christened a second Kanaloa Class container/roll-on, roll off ship. The Matsonia will operate on Matson’s Pacific routes and will help “drive substantial economic benefits in and opportunities in communities around the Pacific” says the company.
  • Tonga’s first Joint Maritime Coordination Centre has been launched, providing a central coordination point for all maritime operations within Tongan waters. It has been outfitted with equipment worth $75,000 pa’anga (US$32,457)  from His Majesty's Armed Forces (HMAF), Customs, Fisheries and Police.
  • Port Denarau Marina has reduced its operations as a result of the pandemic. In a notice to shareholders, the Marina says all capital projects have been put on hold, but that the PDM Board is confident it can sustain minimal operations for several months without having to extend any existing financing. PDM will consider a 50% reduction in rent for all commercial operations on a month-to-month basis. Boatyard, fuel and private vessel operations continue on a limited basis.
  • Cook Islands ship owners will not have to pay any registration fees this year or next. The Ship Owners’ Association has agreed to subsidise the registration fees in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. “We hope that this small gesture will ease some of the financial burden, during these trying and most uncertain times,” Chief Executive Eleanor Roi said.

When it comes the sport of weightlifting in the Pacific, outside of the star competitors, the other name that immediately comes to mind is coach Paul Coffa. In fact, his name resounds across the Pacific region, suggesting strength, power and success with regards to this sport.  

His illustrious 26 year coaching career at the Oceania Weightlifting Institute includes inspirational stories, where young Pacific islanders dare to dream big and achieve greatness in the world of weightlifting. By establishing institutions and training facilities in the region, weightlifters from across the Pacific islands were able to come together and test themselves under Coffa’s tutelage. The list of successes is long, and includes Olympics 2008 silver medallist, Samoa’s Ele Opeloge, and former Nauru President and Commonwealth Games gold medallist, Marcus Stephens.

Coffa has now moved to Australia, where he plans to continue his work. He closed the Institute in Nauru as the COVID19 pandemic meant scholarship lifters returned home, the Olympics were postponed to 2021 and borders closed. The Institute had previously been based in Fiji, Samoa and New Caledonia.

To read more about Coffa's plans subscribe to Islands Business.

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