23 Mar 2023

Pacific news in brief for March 23

2:02 pm on 23 March 2023
US Govt official in delegation visiting the Pacific Joseph Zadrovny

Joseph Zadrovny Photo: Hilaire Bule

Vanuatu - US embassy

A United States government delegation has confirmed it will be re-establishing an embassy in the Vanuatu capital Port Vila.

The delegation, which is touring the Pacific, spent Tuesday and Wednesday in Vanuatu, announced that the US wants to deepen the bilateral relationship.

The US has previously unveiled plans for new embassies in Solomon Islands, Kiribati and Tonga.

The spokesperson for the delegation, Joseph Zadrovny, told local media there is a degree of strategic competition in the Pacific but the US wants to help address the specific needs of the people.

Cook Islands - cannabis

The Cook Islands' Cannabis Referendum Committee met with Cabinet on the best way to get medicinal cannabis into the country.

The Cook Islands voted in favour of cannabis being allowed for medicinal use in a referendum during the 2022 general election.

A government spokesperson said protection of youth, public health matters and criminal justice were all discussed.

The Committee proposed to progress firstly with the prescription and importation of medicinal cannabis and then with the cultivation and distribution of the product.

New Caledonia - cannabidiol

New Caledonian political parties are pushing for the legalisation of the non-psychoactive substance named cannabidiol.

According to Harvard Health cannabidiol is the second most prevalent active ingredient in cannabis but does not cause a 'high' by itself.

The Future in Confidence party and the Caledonian Union say they deposited three amendments to the New Caledonian Congress.

These included taking cannabidiol out of the list of criminalised drugs, and authorising the importing of certified products containing the substance.

PNG - corruption

Transparency International in Papua New Guinea says its confident the government is committed to ensuring the success of the soon to be operational Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).

After legislation was passed by the previous parliament this week Prime Minister James Marape announced commissioners have now been selected.

Over the years corruption in PNG has been called systemic.

The chairman of Transparency PNG, Peter Aitsi, said having ICAC in place will play an important role in overcoming corruption.

While it has taken many years for the ICAC to be set up Aitsi said they have been reassured by the government that the organisation will be properly funded.

Tonga - energy

Tonga's Government has signed a memorandum of understanding with Irish-based Bermudan company Seabased Group to build a system of motion-powered offshore generators.

The system will generate electricity via special buoys connected to generators planted on the seabed.

The MoU was signed in New York by Tonga's Minister of Internal Affairs Lord Vaea and Bermuda's deputy premier Walter Roban.

The cost of the project has not been disclosed, but according to a media statement from Tonga's Government, the proposed system could potentially meet up to half of Tonga's electricity needs.

Fiji - ecology

The Fiji Ports Corporation has pledged to become carbon-neutral by 2027.

The Pacific Tourism Organisation said Fiji Ports has committed to activities to reduce its carbon footprint and increase its progress toward environmental goals.

The Board of Fiji Ports has committed to reducing carbon emissions for land, maritime, and domestic aviation transport.

Included in its plans are an energy efficiency tracker to monitor its progress, and the company undertook key upgrades on its Muaiwalu Two facility, designed to ease car park congestion, while also equipping the building with solar technology.

Samoa - aviation

Virgin Australia has relaunched direct flights to Samoa, more than three years after services were halted to due covid.

An all-Samoan crew operated the first Virgin Australia return flight to Samoa on Tuesday as a gesture marking the return.

Direct return flights are beginning again out of Sydney and Brisbane.