Oct 31, 2020 Last Updated 9:15 PM, Oct 29, 2020

The European Union (EU) and the South Pacific Community (SPC) have launched three separate projects for the Pacific region focussed on cutting dependence on imported fuel and improving access to clean water and sanitation.

Approximately EUR 19 million (US$22.68 million) has been committed by the EU to help SPC facilitate projects ranging from enhancing food security, improving access to clean and safe drinking water, and improving access to the renewable and effective energy. 

Speaking at the signing ceremony in Suva recently, the Charge d’affaires of the FSM Embassy, Wilson Waquk welcomed the EU’s support of EUR 11.6 million ($13.85 million) towards the Sustainable Energy and Accompanying Measures (SEAM) initiative, underlining that this would help the territory cut spending on fossil fuel imports and create a more ‘viable investment environment’ for private sector companies. 

“In the FSM, its highly dependent on imported petroleum fuels,” Waquk explained. “It annually spends US$50 million on fuel imports, with most (fuel) used for electricity generation.”

Approximately 42% of the FSM’s emissions derive from the electricity generation sector.  Authorities are confident that the implementation of SEAM would not only improve access to renewable and effective energy but would reduce the country’s greenhouse emissions by 21,000 tonnes per annum. 

The High Commissioner of Kiribati, David Teaabo commended the EU and SPC’s continual efforts to improving access to clean water and sanitation on the Kirimati atoll under the Pacific Regional Integrated Food and Nutrition Security Initiative COVID-19 (PRISCO19) project.  Roughly EUR 6.2 million (US$7.4 million) has been allocated to the Kirimati atoll project. 

“While we are still COVID free, implementation of the PRISCO-19 now contributes to building our preparedness response to COVID, should it ever reach our shores,” said Teaabo.

“These projects will put food on people’s plates, it will turn on electricity and support aspirations around renewable energy, and of course enable access to clean drinking water to wider communities of Kirimati,” said Deputy-Director General of SPC, Audrey Aumua.

“Whatever we do in this region, we do in the spirit of partnership,” said the European Ambassador to Fiji, Sujiro Seam. “We are here today in these challenging circumstances and we’ll still be here in the years to come.

Pacific island countries will be able to access a future COVID-19 vaccine through a new funding mechanism announced by Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance, at the Global Vaccine Summit last week.

Fiji, Kiribati, Federated States of Micronesia, Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu are all eligible for financing to access a COVID-19 vaccine when developed.

This follows Australia's pledge of A$300 million for Gavi to continue its vital work in providing access to vaccines for countries across the Indo-Pacific.

“Our support to Gavi will also ensure our Fijian vuvale are not priced out of accessing a future COVID-19 vaccine in what will no doubt be a competitive global market,” said Australian High Commissioner to Fiji John Feakes.

Gavi is a public-private partnership that provides access to vaccines for low-income countries and will invest FJD1.8 billion from 2021 to provide access to a range of vaccines for 140 million children in the Indo-Pacific region over the next five years. 

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-

(Pacnews)  A closely watched independence vote in the Pacific state of Chuuk, part of the U.S.-aligned Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), scheduled for next month has been postponed until 2022, the island's Attorney General has told Reuters.

Chuuk's proximity to Guam, an American territory with air force and naval bases, and strategic location in the Pacific had raised the profile of the proposed vote amid expectations it would likely turn to China if became independent.

The island state is the most heavily populated of the four members that make up the FSM and has harbored independence aspirations amid discontent over how funding has been shared.

Chuuk State Attorney General Sabino Asor said in a statement to Reuters that Chuuk would give the FSM more time to “correct some of the deficiencies” by rescheduling the vote to March 2022.

“Let's please wait and see," said Asor, who is leading the pro-independence campaign.

The independence movement has been complicated by debate over the legal mechanisms Chuuk could use to leave the FSM, an independent country backed by U.S. financial and military agreements contained in what is called a Compact of Free Association.

It is the second time the vote has been postponed.

“The people of Chuuk and the people of the FSM are one and the same, and as Micronesians are committed to our national values of peace, unity, and liberty,” the FSM government said in a statement to Reuters.

China has challenged U.S. influence in the Pacific in recent years by forging stronger economic ties with small island nations, and drawing countries out of their long-term alliances with Taiwan.

Though tiny in land mass, Pacific nations including the FSM control vast swaths of ocean, forming a boundary between the Americas and Asia.

Jian Zhang, associate professor at UNSW Canberra at the Australian Defence Force Academy, said Micronesian states were ideally located.

“It is in quite a strategic area, both close to U.S. bases, which could provide China an ability to monitor and deter military activity,” Zhang told Reuters.

While the canceled vote will please U.S. interests, which have warned Chuuk against independence, the FSM is also subject to a wider diplomatic tug-of-war.

Parts of the agreement with the U.S. start expiring in 2023, raising the prospect that the island republic could shift its relationship towards Beijing, which has recently ramped up investment and diplomatic resources there.

In December, the FSM government disclosed details of at least US$72 million worth of funding pledged by China for road construction, government building works and other projects after a state visit to Beijing by FSM President David Panuelo.

Four months earlier, Mike Pompeo became the first U.S. Secretary of State to visit the FSM.

“I'm pleased to announce the United States has begun negotiations on extending our compacts.... they sustain democracy in the face of Chinese efforts to redraw the Pacific,” Pompeo told reporters at the time."

 

Pacific predictions: 2020

As we enter not only a new year but a new decade, there is much to anticipate in the Pacific islands region.

Elections and domestic politics

A number of countries in the region will have elections during 2020: Kiribati, Niue, Palau and Vanuatu. The lingering discontent in Kiribati surrounding last year's switch in diplomatic relations from Taiwan to China may have an adverse impact on the incumbent government. In Vanuatu, Prime Minister Charlot Salwai Tabismasmas can point to having served a full parliamentary term as Prime Minister as a reason why he should remain in the top job but that may not be enough. The current premier of Niue, Sir Toke Talagi, has been suffering from ill health recently casting doubt on whether he will contest this year. Meanwhile, there have been calls for more young people to stand for parliament in that country.

Elsewhere in the region, some of what happened on the political scene in 2019 will continue to play out. In Marshall Islands, the Niitjela (Parliament) met last week and elected David Kabua as the new President further to last year's elections. In the immediate aftermath of Solomon Islands' switch from Taiwan to China last year there were indications that Prime Minister Sogavare might face a motion of no confidence. Whilst that did not eventuate in 2019, it remains on the cards for this year. In Papua New Guinea, this year will be crunch time for the Marape/Stephens government. The grace period that protects them from a challenge by way of a motion of no confidence comes to an end in late 2020 and there are already whispers of this paving a comeback for Peter O'Neill who was ousted from the PM's seat in the middle of last year.

There will also be elections in New Zealand, which will be closely watched given that country's closeness to the Pacific islands region, and the centrality of the Pacific Reset to the Ardern/Peters government's policy platform. The incumbent, Jacinda Ardern, was named Islands Business' 'Pacific Person of the Year' for 2019.

There are also significant elections taking place at sub-national level. In Vanuatu, the SANMA provincial elections taking place this month will be closely watched to see if they cast any light on what we can expect in the general elections in March. In Bougainville, there will be elections for President and government of the autonomous region. These elections will be heavily influenced by the results of last year's referendum on independence. However, there is currently some debate as to whether constitutional arrangements should be modified to allow the current President, John Momis, to run for another term. If this is what is to happen, the elections may need to be delayed.

Geopolitics

The last couple of years has seen a proliferation of policies, programs and photo opportunities as established and emerging Pacific partners seek to (re)establish their influence in the region. This is expected to continue through 2020, including by way of high- level visits to the region. For example, President Emmanuel Macron will visit French Polynesia in April. This is significant given France's displeasure at the territory having been reinscribed onto the UN's Decolonisation List.

The impacts of Solomon Islands and Kiribati switching their diplomatic allegiance from Taiwan to the People's Republic of China will continue to be felt during 2020. We have already seen some developments with the visit of President Maamau of Kiribati to Beijing where he met with President Xi Jinping and signed up to the Belt and Road Initiative. Whilst the Taiwanese government has expressed confidence of the continuing relationship with Marshall Islands, Taipei will be watching President Kabua's early movements closely and has already announced a high-level visit to Majuro to help keep this relationship on track. Taiwan now has four allies in the region (Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau and Tuvalu) and will continue to expend diplomatic and political capital to avoid losing any of them during 2020.

Independence and self-determination

Work will begin on the negotiations between the Bougainville and Papua New Guinea governments further to the result of last year's referendum which saw 97.7% of those who voted opt for independence. This will have to be ratified by the Parliament of PNG, under the terms of the Bougainville Peace Agreement. Positions on the future of Bougainville vary among PNG parliamentarians, including PM Marape's suggestion of 'economic independence'. Moreover, that agreement does not provide a timeline for how long this process should take. There will need to be a lot of work done around managing community expectations and keeping the flow of information moving in order to avoid frustration.

In New Caledonia, the second of a possible three referendums on independence from France will be held on 6 September. In 2018, the result was much closer than many had predicted with 43.6% voting in favour of independence, exceeding the 30% that some had been predicting.

After some considerable delay, the people of Chuuk in the Federated States of Micronesia will hold an independence referendum in March.

The question of self-determination for West Papua and addressing issues of alleged human rights abuses by the Indonesian state will loom large during 2020, particularly during the meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum leaders in Vanuatu. At last year's meeting of Pacific Islands Forum leaders Vanuatu lobbied successfully for the issue of West Papua to be given more prominence in the final communiqué than had been the case in the preceding couple of years. This includes a strong signal from leaders that they expect the government of Indonesia to facilitate a visit to the region by Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner

for Human Rights, in order for her office to report to leaders when they meet this year in Port Vila.

Meanwhile, in a region dominated by relatively young countries, Fiji will mark its 50th anniversary of becoming independent this year and Vanuatu its 40th.

Pacific regionalism

We have already seen a change of leadership at the oldest of the region's peak bodies, the Pacific Community (SPC). Dr Colin Tukuitonga was replaced as Director-General by Dr Stuart Minchin late last year. The meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum leaders to be held in Vanuatu in August will be Dame Meg Taylor's last as Secretary-General. By convention, it is Micronesia's turn to nominate the person to take on this position. The front runner is Gerald Zackios, the current ambassador of Marshall Islands to the United States.

There will be ongoing work to further develop and embed the 'Blue Pacific' as a unifying narrative that speaks to the needs and aspirations of all members. However, this will take place in a context where there are multiple pressures on national governments, in domestic as well as foreign policy spheres. Divergences of approach when it comes to climate policy will continue to be a significant fault line at the meeting of PIF leaders. Vanuatu, the 2020 host, has already made it clear that the primary focus for that meeting will be climate change.

This item was first published on the DevPolicy blog of the Development Policy Centre, Australian National University 

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