6 Jun 2023

Pacific news in brief for June 6

3:53 pm on 6 June 2023

Papua New Guinea - unity

Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister James Marape has re-assured his provincial governors that his administration would treat all provinces of the country with equal priority.

Marape met with 21 of the country's leaders at the Provincial Governors Conference in Port Moresby.

With the country having endured years of ethnic violence and political division, Marape said unity remained a focus.

"We have come a long way, one of the most diverse nations on the face of the earth, yet by god's grace this diversity has been stitched together and held not just by our constitutional frame work but more importantly by the resolve and determination of our people," he said.

"Our needs and challenges that we have faced thus far...had remained together as one nation, one people."

His comments come as the new parliamentary session is meeting for two weeks from today with unconfirmed reports that the Bougainville push for independence may be on the agenda.

Cook Islands - children

Children in Vanuatu are still learning in makeshift tents due to the ongoing impacts of cyclones Kevin and Judy.

World Vision Vanuatu's Helen Corrigan, who is the organisation's Tropical Cyclone Judy and Kevin response manager, said on top of the situation faced by children, some families were still living in evacuation centres as their homes were destroyed.

Corrigan said the focus for World Vision is on suppling seeds so communities can re-grow crops.

She said while food supply was still an issue in parts of the country and there was a lot to rebuild, children were learning.

Solomon Islands - summit

Solomon Islands' Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare says his country will not align itself with the outcome document from the inaugural Korea-Pacific Islands summit held last week in Seoul.

A statement from Sogavare's office said the prime minister maintains the concerns he raised during the meeting that some elements of the 2023 Korea-Pacific Islands Leaders' Declaration compete with the existing Pacific Islands Forum's 2050 strategy for the blue Pacific continent.

In what appears to be a reference to part five of the Korea-Pacific declaration, which talks about expanding the nexus between Korea's own Indo-Pacific strategy and the Forum's 2050 strategy, Sogavare said Solomon Islands shall not be forced to take sides and participate in power politics.

Sogavare said his country must and will always abide by its policy of friends to all and enemy to none.

He said Solomon Islands does not support any alliances that targets a third country which is specifically mentioned under a competing strategy reflected in the declaration.

Sogavare did not stand in the way of the Korea-Pacific declaration being adopted in Seoul but said his country could not align with it.

2023 Korea-Pacific Islands Summit.

2023 Korea-Pacific Islands Summit. Photo: PACNEWS / Pita Ligaiula

Guam - typhoon

Guam's water authority is asking customers to conserve as much water as possible to allow reservoirs to fill more than a week after typhoon Mawar made landfall.

They've asked people to refrain from washing cars or water blasting.

Parts of the US territory are still without water or only have partial access.

A spokesperson for the water authority said 70 out of the island's 90 wells were now operational.

They say once enough wells are brought online, adequate water supply and sufficient water pressure should return for the whole of Guam.

In the interim, seven water stations have been set up to provide potable water to the public. A precautionary boil water notice remains in effect.

Meanwhile, just over half of households now have power restored.

Crews are divided into sectors addressing grid repairs throughout island and the power system may be unstable after power has been restored.

Wallis and Futuna - strike

A teachers' strike in Wallis and Futuna has entered its second month with no sign of it ending.

Most teachers began a strike at the start of May, demanding an alignment of their conditions to those of public servants on France's payroll.

According to the public broadcaster, the strike also led to a blockade of the education administration building in Wallis, which has now been lifted.

However, the French education ministry keeps refusing to lift remuneration to double that of teachers in France.

Teachers earn 1.7 times the French teacher salary, accounting for the distance from France and higher living costs of living.

Lifting the pay as demanded would cost another two million US dollars a year for 141 teachers.

Although the French government pays for education, the schools are run by the Catholic church, which operates as a private entity.

Kiribati - plastics

Kiribati has spoken up about being 'downstream in the plastic life cycle' at the second session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee aiming to develop an international treaty on plastic pollution.

Kiribati is one of 12 Pacific Islands taking part in the negotiations.

Teema Biko, from the Kiribati government's Ministry of Environment, Lands and Agricultural Development, said the plastic washing up on their coast adds to the pressure when the country does not have enough infrastructure as it is.

He said the remoteness of Kiribati makes the exportation of recyclables too costly, and its limited land area hinders its ability to install suitable waste treatment facilities.

Plastic has been identified as top waste stream needing attention in the Kiribati Waste Management and Resource Recovery Strategy 2020-2030.

Samoa - visitors

Samoa's Bureau of Statistics says the country's visitor numbers have gone up by about 20 per cent.

It says more than 40,000 people arrived during the first three months of the year.

In this period New Zealand still provided the highest number of visitors to Samoa, making up 46.1 per cent or 13,886 people.

Papua New Guinea - nuclear waste

A Papua New Guinea MP wants Japan to cancel its nuclear waste dump.

Japan plans on releasing more than one-million-tonnes of diluted ALPS treated nuclear wastewater into the Pacific Ocean over several decades, as it decommissions the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power plant.

On World Environment Day, Kundiawa Gembogl MP, Muguwa Dilu told the Post Courier, Japan should abort plans to dump nuclear waste into the Pacific.

"We must keep our blue Pacific Ocean clean and free of all waste, including dangerous and highly toxic nuclear waste," Dilu said.

Japan maintains the water will not be toxic, and the International Atomic Energy Agency is working on its report on the issue.

Pacific Islands Forum chair Mark Brown has met with Japan's Prime Minister in the last month and told RNZ he felt reassured the operation will protect the health of the Pacific Ocean.

French Polynesia - smoke-free

French Polynesia's health authorities are promoting a smoke-free July this year as part of a broader campaign to curb the use of tobacco.

A website has been set up for smokers to sign up and learn about the cost and impact of tobacco consumption, and how to quit.

According to Tahiti-infos, about a third of the population smokes daily, and smoking among minors has doubled in 15 years, largely due to vaping.

In the 20 years from 2000, the occurrence of malignant tumours in the respiratory tract among French Polynesians has increased by 70 percent.

Studies showed that a price increase of ten percent results in a four-percent drop in tobacco consumption.

Price controls for tobacco products have recently been lifted, with reports suggesting some retailers having hiked the prices by up to 40 percent.