10 Apr 2024

Pacific news in brief for April 10

1:04 pm on 10 April 2024
Aerial view of the Porgera gold mine.

Aerial view of the Porgera gold mine. Photo: Zijin Mining

PNG - illegal mining

The government is cracking down on illegal mining in the reopened Porgera Mine.

A joint police and military operation over the next six months in the Porgera Valley of Enga was approved by Cabinet last week.

Governor Sir Peter Ipatas said there is an increase in illegal miners, as the province does not have enough police manpower to address the issue.

The Police Minister said the situation is a challenge because of the uncontrolled influx of settlers, some of whom were involved in illegal activities.

Guam - defence

The United States is pumping up its budget proposal for Guam's defence system, as tensions with China remain.

The Indo-Pacific Command requested US$1.2 billion, which is the centrepiece of a $10.4 billion budget proposal for 2025.

The Guam missile defence project is aimed at providing a 360-degree protection for Guam.

Defence experts have warned at the onset of any conflict with the US, China would try to neutralize Guam with an overwhelming missile barrage.

China owns a 4,000-km missile known as the DF-26, nicknamed 'Guam Killer', specifically built for the island.

Fiji, Kiribati, Vanuatu - dengue fever

An Australian project which reportedly "all but eliminated dengue fever" in North Queensland has also been operating in Fiji, Kiribati and Vanuatu.

Cosmos Magazine reported the programme uses a naturally occurring bacteria called 'Wolbachia' that modifies the ability of mosquitoes to carry the dengue virus.

Mosquitoes carrying the bacteria were released in the three Pacific Island states over the past few years, and the latest research shows they have come to dominate the local mosquito population.

While initial public health assessments suggest a decrease in outbreaks, longer term monitoring is needed.

The project is run by the World Mosquito Programme, operated by Monash University in Melbourne.

American Samoa - corrections

Concerns have surfaced about unsafe and unhealthy operations of American Samoa's Tafuna Correctional Facility.

This comes after a site visit.

Senator Malaepule Fuena Moliga said prisoners' safety is also a concern, as there is no classification system which separates inmates based on crimes.

He said the issue is linked to the department's separation from the government, and the lack of preparation needed for the handover.

The Senator called on the government to take responsibility and address the issues immediately.

Solomon Islands - banking

A digital payment platform has launched in Solomon Islands.

The Solomons Automated Transfer System (SOLATS) is a real-time gross settlement payment system that will secure transactions, protecting customers and businesses from fraud.

It will also simplify transactions for purchasing goods or sending money, and will make payment options easier, including electronic and mobile.

The platform will be overseen by the Central Bank of Solomon Islands.

Samoa - tribute

The Samoa Victim Support Group (SVSG) and its network of supporters have paid tribute to the organisation's long-serving patron, Tuisugaletaua Sofara Avea, who died last month.

The former MP has been the incumbent patron since 2008, a position he held for 16 years until his death in late March.

During his time as patron, his achievements included advocating for government land to be leased to the group in 2011, where the first shelter for abused children in Samoa was built: the House of Hope.

In recent years, he became more involved with the SVSG's support services for women and children experiencing violence.

SVSG's President Silliniu Lina Chang said Tuisugaletaua impacted so many lives of the people of Samoa.

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