8 Mar 2021

In brief: News from around the Pacific

7:10 pm on 8 March 2021

The CNMI reports another Covid-19 case at the border, Samoan tourism and hospitality workers undergo Covid-19 training, a Solomons enterprise looks to develop women's digital skills for business and more.

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Photo: RNZ Pacific / Mark Rabago

CNMI Covid cases now number 145

The Northern Marianas has hit 145 cases of Covid-19 after another traveller tested positive at the border.

Health authorites said the person was identified by travel screening and fifth day testing and has been isolated.

Out of the 145 Covid-19 cases in the Marianas, 119 have been identified by travel screening while just 26 were local transmissions, with the last such case over 200 days ago.

Samoa prepares roadmap to 2040 for country's development

The Samoan government has prepared a 20-year roadmap to steer the country's development.

The government claims 'Samoa 2040' is the first-ever plan to take a longer term vision on sustainable developments and quality of life.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi said at the launch that the task was full of challenges because the government was trying to forecast the future.

He added that using available statistics and data available, Samoa could implement plausible projections of the country's development in 20 years' time.

Tuilaepa said Samoa 2040 sets out opportunities - in tourism, agriculture and fishing, digital economy, and labour mobility - that had the potential to boost economic growth, create employment, generate government revenues and raise standards of living.

A four-year strategy is already in place to follow medium term developments.

US Air Force plans for Tinian reconfigured

The US Air Force's plans to build a new airfield on the Northern Marianas island of Tinian have been delayed after the initial bid from the project exceeded federal procurement levels.

The Commonwealth Ports Authority received nearly $US22 million in May 2019 after the CNMI government and the US Department of Defense signed a 40-year lease agreement for an alternative landing site to be built on Tinian.

The alternative landing site will be used in case Anderson Air Force Base in Guam is inaccessible due to war or disasters of some kind.

Because the original bids exceeded cost, the US Navy has reduced the plans and rebid using the a contract model with four teams set to compete for the award and construction, is now targeted for 2022.

The delay is a big blow for Tinian's economy, whose local businesses were hoping that the building of the airfield would spur economic growth there.

It also means the domestic airport's reconstruction for international flights will be delayed.

Samoan workers undergo Covid safety training

More than 400 workers in Samoa's tourism and hospitality sector have completed health, safety and disinfectant training to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Samoa Tourism Authority worked with Ministry of Health professionals to deliver the training.

The authority said the training was crucial with the health and safety of employees a high priority as they provide services in hosting guests travelling into the country from repatriation flights.

Workers from 72 accommodation providers in Upolu and Savai'i underwent the training over recent months.

Samoa Tourism Authority Chief Executive Officer, Faamatuainu Suifua, said as Samoa continued to receive repatriation flights, it was critically important the sector was well informed of the preventative procedures.

There were also plans to continue the training for closed properties they restarted operations once the borders opened fully.

Digital training boost for Solomons businesswomen

A Solomon Islands social enterprise wants to help local women develop their digital skills to grow their businesses.

The Chief Executive of Dignity Pasifik, Ruth Maetala, said when the borders were closed by Covid-19 many women were forced to communicate virtually.

She said now Dignity Pacific wanted to help others make better use of social media for advertising, news sharing and networking.

To mark International Women's Day, Maetala announced Dignity Pasifik's - SHE4T, or Support For Enterprise for Transformation programme.

"She4T is going to work with the women trainers who are based in the communities, and they will be the ones who will come and learn the technology and how to deliver trainings to the communities. And we will help them in how to do marketing on social media and use zoom calls."

Fiji concert aims to advance equality

A Fiji human rights activist says the 'If Women Stop, the World Stops' concert is a call for all stakeholders to advance equality, development and peace for women.

The event in Suva marks International Women's Day at Sukuna Park.

Nalini Singh of the Fiji Women's Rights Movement said the concert was symbolic action calling for women to stop or slow down their formal or care work and demand recognition of their human rights.

Singh said apart from featuring renowned local and regional female artists, the concert would also feature speakers from various women's organisations.

She said the concert would also highlight 'the importance of women's contributions to society, demand the recognition of women's human rights and call for an end to gender injustice and discrimination'.

Singh said a pilot feminist mentoring program for mid-career level women would be launched at the concert where six women will have their names announced to be mentored by FWRM co-founder, board member and women's rights activist Imrana Jalal.

First parliamentary reporting handbook released in Tonga

The Tongan parliament has launched a new handbook aimed at guiding parliamentary reporters.

The 88-page bilingual Tongan and English guide is the first of its kind for the local parliament since Tonga's political reform introduced a new parliamentary structure in 2010.

The handbook includes parliamentary rules, procedures and references applicable acts.

Local media have reported the handbook states that journalists "must understand that committee reports cannot be released."

The parliament's office has not released the name of the author of the handbook.