Tonga to host major international whale conservation conference

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Tonga will be hosting a three-day event which will focus on emerging threats to Pacific whales.

The conference will bring together political decision-makers, scientists, community, industry and funders to investigate future legislative and research needs as well as designing innovative ways of cooperating and collaborating.

The conference is a highlight of the two-year campaign to protect Pacific whales led by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).

Although these whales have recovered from the brink of extinction, they are now at significant risk from a range of emerging threats, such as entanglement, noise pollution, marine debris and climate change.

Recognising and managing these dangers is critical as they will ultimately affect everyone living in the Pacific.

“As a country that welcomes these ‘giants of the deep’ that breed in our waters, Tonga is proud to be hosting this milestone event.  Whales are living sentinels of the ocean,” said Sialosi Sovaleni, the Deputy Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Tonga, also the Minister of Meteorology, Energy, Information, Disaster Management, Environment, Climate Change and Communications (MEIDECC).

“Ultimately, what happens to the whales will happen to people in years to come.”

The conference will also focus on updating the status of whales and trends in the Pacific islands region, in particular their ecosystem, economic and cultural value.

Learnings from the conference will also feed into the regional perspective informing the United Nations Ocean Conference in June this year.

SPREP Director General Kosi Latu says the conference is the first such event to be hosted by the agency.

 “We’re looking forward to bringing together our Pacific island governments, the private sector and community representatives to discuss future collaborations to conserve whales in the region. It’s very timely as the information will flow into the five-yearly review of our marine species programme”.

“We have set some exciting goals for this conference to ensure this milestone event is well commemorated. We’ll be investigating best practice for whale watching, already a multi-million dollar industry in our region, as well as finding out about innovative programmes operating around the world.

“We warmly welcome the participation of all interested organisations and individuals to help shape the future of whale conservation in the Pacific islands.”

The Government of Tonga, the Government of New Zealand, the Auckland Institute of Studies, the Okeanos Foundation, the European Union (through SPC and the INTEGRE project), the South Pacific.

Whale Research Consortium, the International Fund for Animal Welfare and the Vava'u Environment Protection Association (VEPA) are partnering with SPREP in hosting this event.

 Photo: Humpback whale (Kingdomtraveltonga)
Source: Press Release

Solomon Islands government warned of Asian invasion

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LEADER of the Parliamentary Independent Group of the Solomon Islands  Dr Derek Sikua warns government of mass invasion of foreigners into business opportunities which should be left only for indigenous people, the Solomon Star reports. 

Dr Sikua said the government must seriously address this increasing trend to ensure indigenous Solomon Islanders are not denied opportunities which are deprived by foreigners.

Dr Sikua made this statement in parliament  when Minister for Commerce, Industries, Labour and Immigration Elijah Doromuala revealed the list of reserved businesses for locals under the foreign investment regulation.

Mr Doromuala revealed that there were about 11 reserved businesses for indigenous people and his ministry would be expanding the list by adding another 16 business activities.

However, the Member of Parliament for North East Guadalcanal urged all leaders in parliament to work together to ensure Solomon Islands is for the indigenous people and not foreigners.

He said it is time leaders take the right measures to ensure our people are not slaves in their own land.

He warned that we cannot be spectators when Asian businesses continue to grow and rip all resources and make money in our own land.

He said government must empower our locally owned businesses so that our people take ownership of their country and resources.

He concluded his statement by quoting famous world leaders like the president of the United States Donald Trump, who boasted that America is for Americans, while Robert Mugabe reiterated on the same sentiments, stating that Zimbabwe is for Zimbabweans.

Dr Sikua then challenged all parliamentarians to must possess the same vision by ensuring that “Solomon Islands is for Solomon Islanders”. Solomon Star/ PNG Today

PNG Customary landowner: SABL exploits human rights

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The Special Agriculture Business Lease (SABL) continues to exploit the human rights of the people of west Pomio in East New Britain Province in Papua New Guinea.

Customary landowner Anna Sipona from Malmal Village in west Pomio said the SABL is a strange concept to the people of Pomio that promotes human rights abuse.

Representing the silent majority in the affected villages in west Pomio, Sipona said the SABL issue is not just about land and logging but about the human rights of women and children.

“Women and children are the biggest losers in this land grab and it is just another form of abuse.

“Our gardens have been taken from us, our freedom has been taken, we are dependent on the company and we are slaves in our own communities,” Sipona said.

Sipona added that west Pomio is where a big destruction has already happened since the introduction of SABL.

“The foreigners entered our villages without any respect and explanation and they forcefully came in and took our land from us,” she said.

The land in Malmal is under a 99 years lease and they’ve been told by the logging developers that it is legal State land.

In June 2013, the SABL Commission of Inquiry revealed how government officers have facilitated the theft of over 50,000 square kilometres of land from customary landholders.

So far, promises by the Prime Minister to cancel the leases, stop illegal logging and return the land to its rightful owners, as the Commission recommended, have not been fulfilled.

Meanwhile, about 10,000 post cards signed by concerned customary landowners across the country were delivered today to the Lands Department Office calling for action on the Special Agriculture Business Lease land grab.

The signed post cards petitioning the Government were presented by representatives from SABL affected areas organised by community advocacy group ACT NOW.

Paul Pavol from Mu village in Pomio, East New Britain Province led the group to deliver their grievances calling on the Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and the Government to cancel the leases and stop SABL.

Campaign coordinator Eddie Tanago says the Government needs to stop protecting the foreign companies and overseas loggers who have stolen the land.

Tanago said not one lease has been revoked by the government and in the meantime logs worth hundreds of millions of dollars have been shipped overseas from illegal logging operations.  

Pavol explained that they’ve been mistreated on their own land with permanent damage done to the environment.

He said his people, similar to others throughout the country, have been fighting alone for years to get back their land and they’re still struggling through the courts to try and defend their birth rights.

On behalf of the people in the SABL affected areas, Pavol called on the Government to stop making empty promises and look into their grievances to cancel all leases and stop SABL


World's tallest man Sultan Kösen first Turkish person to visit Samoa

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ltan Kösen, a Turkish man who holds the world's tallest living man record at 251 centimeters (8 feet, 3 inches), reportedly became the first person from Turkey to visit Samoa, an-island nation in the Polynesian region.

After a two-day 16,391 kilometers long trip, Kösen was greeted by the Prime Minister of Samoa Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi at the airport.

He told reporters that the prime minister told him he is the first person from Turkey to visit their country, and was also welcomed at the prime ministry palace.

Kösen reportedly went to Samoa as part of an activity at the tourism promotion fair in the country, and will also appear at the Magic Circus in Tuanaimato.

Officials from the circus, who were happy to host Kösen, had a challenging task to transport him and make special arrangements to cater his needs.

According to Turkey’s Daily Sabah, they reportedly brought a special tailor, who had to climb a ladder to measure Kösen for custom-made shirts and pants.

"I am very glad to be here and have the opportunity to talk about my own country and Mardin (his hometown) in Samoa" Kösen said, and thanked Samoan officials for welcoming him with great hospitality.

He is expected to stay there for a month, reports said.

Kösen officially became the world's tallest living man in 2009, when he measured 246.5 cm (8 ft 1 in) in height. His unusual height is caused by a condition referred to as "pituitary gigantism," which is the result of an over-production of growth hormone.
Source: Daily Sabah Turkey

USAID to provide medical care in Papua New Guinea

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The US Government through the US Agency for International Development (USAID) is raising the capacity to provide medical care in Papua New Guinea. USAID through its Office of American Schools and Hospitals Abroad (USAID/ASHA) partnered with Nazarene Compassionate Ministries Inc to expand the staff housing at the Kudjip Nazarene Hospital in Jiwaka. 

Province, which will accommodate more doctors, nurses, and their families. “The work that Kudjip Nazarene Hospital is undertaking is exceptional. ‘‘The new housing will allow it to continue to attract and retain the highest quality of physicians and nurses,” USAID/ASHA director Anne Dix said. “The hospital is raising the standard of care in Papua New Guinea. It is demonstrating the best of American health care practices and is allowing local professionals to improve their medical skills and will continue to all thanks to the generosity of the American people.” Kudjip Nazarene Hospital, United States Embassy Papua New Guinea and Australian Aid commemorated the completion of the housing development on February 18 in Kudjip, Jiwaka Province.

 US Ambassador Catherine Ebert-Gray and Australian DFAT representative Catherine Sturrock . spoke.  The expansion of the housing was funded in part by a $800,000, 2013 USAID/ASHA award. Graphics; USAID/FB

Czech Republic keen to broaden ties with Solomon Islands

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The new Czech Republic’s non-resident Ambassador to Solomon Islands, Martin Pohl says he is keen to broaden ties with Solomon Islands when he met Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare Tuesday.

At a brief courtesy meeting with the Prime Minister, Ambassador Pohl said he is prepared to explore areas that the two countries can cooperate on to enhance the deepen the existing relations.

Ambassador Pohl singled out cooperation in education and health as immediate priority areas that the two Governments’ can further explore in the current relations.

“My government is ready to take on what is necessary to ensure our cooperation is deepened,” he said.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has welcomed the Czech diplomat with an assurance that relations between the two countries are based on fundamental principles and common values of respect for the rule of law and human rights.

He said Solomon Islands has its own unique developmental challenges as well as opportunities which can be addressed or further developed through cooperation with other countries.

Prime Minister Sogavare referred to Climate Change as one of the fundamental challenges facing the Pacific Region while reiterating the Pacific’s call for a reduction in green house gas emissions around the world.

“We truly treasured that we have lived in one of the peaceful corners of the world but our biggest threat is climate change,” Sogavare said.

Solomon Islands established formal diplomatic ties with the Czech Republic in 1996.

Solomon Islands did not receive direct bilateral assistance from the Czech Republic, however in 2007, the Ambassador of Czech Republic, Karel Pazourek based in Canberra, Australia paid a courtesy visit to Solomon Islands and presented a donation totaling to AUD 23,544 (SBD 166,162) to the government towards the Tsunami relief efforts.

The Czech Republic’s contribution to Solomon Islands can be seen through the assistance provided by the European Union under the European Development Fund (EDF)

The Czech Republic as a member of the European Union is fully committed to sustainable development.

Support in this area is channeled through multilateral mechanism such as the European Union; however Solomon Islands can explore this bilaterally with the Czech Republic in the areas such as support to green economy and Renewable Energy.

Ambassador Pohl is based in Canberra, Australia.


PNG's CDDA to strengthen communities on sustainable management of forests

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PNG’s Climate Change Development Authority (CCDA) is designing a system to help people resolve problems arising from the Government’s actions to combat climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from deforestation and forest degradation.

Approximately 10 per cent of global GHG emissions are caused by land-use change and, in particular, the destruction of tropical forests. Papua New Guinea (PNG) has one of the most significant areas of largely-intact tropical forest in the world but these forests are facing acute and imminent threats.

Since 2008, PNG has been at the forefront of negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to develop an international mechanism to compensate developing countries for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD plus).

PNG Government is getting ready for implementation of REDD+ under the UNFCCC and Paris Agreement 2016.

In preparation PNG needs to setup a ‘Grievance Redress Mechanism’ - a system designed and established by national government agencies to receive and address complaints about the impact of REDD+ related policies, programs and activities.

Last week more than 29 representatives of key government agencies, community and NGO leaders came together in Port Moresby to discuss how to setup this Grievance Redress Mechanism.

UNDP REDD+ advisor Mirzohaydar Isoev said the goal of the meeting was to identify the best channels for community feedback.

“Having some kind of effective feedback system in place is important for the PNG Government because it enables them to listen to the voices of the people and respond appropriately to help resolve issues that arise. This system needs to be easily accessible with a transparent and fair process”.

TheCCDA and PNG forestry Authority are leading the development of REDD+ in PNG with the support of UNDP, Forest Carbon Partnership Facility and other partners.

Sonia Baine a, CCDA officer stressed the importance of having this discussion as the first step towards developing a Grievance Redress Mechanism.

“The establishment of a Grievance Redress Mechanism would not only assist in ensuring that there is a collective effort in addressing grievances but would also ensure that the results from implementation are sustainable and beneficial to affected stakeholders.”

A number of potential options for how a Grievance Redress Mechanism will work in PNG are expected by April 2017 and will form an important part of PNG’s National REDD+ strategy the main document used to guide all REDD+ actions in PNG.

REDD+ is an integral part of PNG Government’s efforts to address climate change and provide PNG with opportunities to protect, conserve and manage its forests in a more environmentally sustainable way.

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