13 Dec 2023

Pacific news in brief for December 13

4:51 pm on 13 December 2023
Vanuatu Kava Root Powder

Vanuatu Minister for Trade and Commerce Anatole Hymack says it is imperative to safeguard kava as a Pacific product Photo: kalmwithkava.com

Vanuatu - kava

A kava validation workshop in Vanuatu has looked at how to protect the traditional brew.

Farmers, exporters, government, and civil society representatives from across kava producing countries in the Pacific attended the hybrid workshop last month.

Vanuatu Minister for Trade and Commerce Anatole Hymack said it was imperative to safeguard kava as a Pacific product, ensuring its protection and recognition of its authentic origins in the Pacific.

He said a collective approach to kava is needed to ensure they all contribute to the development of kava - not only at the national level but regionally, and where their Pacific voices can be heard.

Over the three days, there were vigorous discussions on addressing challenges and identifying collaborative opportunities to support the regional strategy.

Fiji - resources

Lau chiefs and stakeholders working on conserving natural resources in the island group in eastern Fiji have started discussions in Suva.

The meeting, under the theme 'Talanoa ni Yaubula' Symposium (Talking about natural resources) is looking at the implementation of the 'Lau Seascape Strategy'.

Fiji's Assistant Minister of iTaukei Affairs, Culture, Heritage and Arts, Isikeli Tuiwailevu, praised the Lau chiefs' dedication to conservation and cultural preservation.

He said their deep commitment to environmental protection and the revitalization of cultural values were commendable.

Papua New Guinea - loan

Papua New Guinea's prime minister has promised to tread carefully with Belt and Road funding from China.

James Marape told AFP on Monday he would not be "reckless" with foreign loans.

Papua New Guinea was in 2018 one of the first Pacific nations to join China's Belt and Road programme, which has funded thousands of major infrastructure projects across the globe.

But Marape stressed Papua New Guinea would not blindly accept loans offered by China.

He said if Chinese projects meet the Treasury's requirements, "then by all means fair consideration will be given".

Beijing has been accused of using Belt and Road funding for "debt-trap diplomacy", gaining sway over developing nations that struggle to pay back hefty loans.

Vanuatu - visa

Vanuatu seasonal workers will no longer be allowed to extend their visa periods in Australia and New Zealand.

The Vanuatu Daily Post reported the commissioner of labour saying the department is in the process of making policy changes.

This year, a directive has been issued disallowing contract extensions and ceasing COVID-19 visas.

This decision was done in collaboration with the Australia government.

Commissioner Murielle Meltenoven commented on the importance of encouraging shorter periods of time abroad for workers.

Pacific - fisheries

Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency director says with climate change on its current track, the Pacific could miss out on a fifth of its tuna revenue by 2050.

Manu Tupou-Roosen says the tuna biomass in the Western and Central Pacific ocean will shift east and into the high seas.

She said the full science has not been worked out, but there will definitely be a loss in revenue for the region.

"The latest rough economic estimate is that we'll lose up to 20 percent of that government revenue and at the moment that government revenue stands at over US$480 million so that's quite a significant impact," Tupou-Roosen said.

She said it was the first time climate change was a standing agenda item at the tuna commission meeting this year.

American Samoa - bugs

Health authorities in American Samoa are warning about increased spread of respiratory bugs including covid-19.

The Department of Health said it has noted an increase in community transmission of viruses including RSV and influenza in recent weeks.

It is advising people to follow safety protocols including staying home when sick, handwashing and getting tested if you think you may be getting sick.

It said due to the likelihood of children getting severely sick in times when respiratory viruses are in circulation, everyone is encouraged to smoke outdoors as much as possible.