Published daily by the Lowy Institute

Pacific links: Coronavirus consequences, climate costs, more

Links and stories from the Pacific Islands region.

Port of Nuku'alofa, Tonga. The Pacific nation will have a British High Commissioner for the first time in 14 years (Photo: ABD/Flickr)
Port of Nuku'alofa, Tonga. The Pacific nation will have a British High Commissioner for the first time in 14 years (Photo: ABD/Flickr)

  • The coronavirus outbreak is being felt across the Pacific. Both the Federated States of Micronesia and Marshall Islands issued expanded travel bans last week, after the World Health Organization declared the virus to be a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern”. Similarly, Kiribati has placed all visa applications from China on hold. Papua New Guinea has done the same, but the local health authorities have urged the public to not panic because of coronavirus, after reports were published that passengers reached PNG in recent days despite the restrictions (the Indonesian consul to Vanimo could not, as was none too pleased).
  • Meanwhile, in Samoa, six people are being held in quarantine, with a further 18 refused entry, since the government introduced border restrictions last week. The Samoan government affirmed that its students in China, including those in the coronavirus infected Hubei province, will not be evacuated.
  • New Zealand has organised a charter flight for Pacific Islanders and potentially Australians who wish to leave Hubei, which remains in lockdown. Passengers will be isolated for two weeks at a temporary quarantine centre at a military base in Whangaporoa before returning to their home country. Dr Claude Posala, an eye surgeon in Solomon Islands, has urged Australia and New Zealand to do more to support their Pacific neighbours, especially by providing technical assistance about the coronavirus threat. 
  • The European Union’s new ambassador for the Pacific has presented his credentials in Vanuatu, confirming that the EU seeks closer ties. However, the ambassador – who used to be the French ambassador to Fiji – also underlined the fact that Vanuatu remains on an EU and French blacklist, mostly due to Port Vila’s inequitable taxation (Vanuatu is considered to be a tax haven).
  • Meanwhile, Palau has joined the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes after the EU agreed to move it from its black list of tax havens to a so called “grey list” after it committed to reforms.
  • The Pacific Ocean is becoming more acidic, and crabs that live in coastal waters are among the first inhabitants to feel the effects, according to new research in the journal Science of the Total Environment. At the same time, French Polynesia’s criminal court has fined a Chinese fishing company US $360,000 for marine pollution. French Polynesian president Edouard Fritch has also said climate change will be a priority in the talks at France’s upcoming One Planet Summit, following a 16­–18 April visit to the Pacific region by French President Emmanuel Macron.The Asian Development Bank has said it will invest more than $US2 billion over a five-year period to help Pacific countries transition to renewable energy production and to develop sustainable transport. The Bank will also provide a $US3 million grant to Tuvalu to assist with its recovery from Cyclone Tino.In PNG, landowners in the western province have urged their provincial government to support state negotiations over a major gas deal (P’Nyang), hoping to benefit from the revenues from the extracting operations. 
  • The French National Assembly has rejected a bid made by two New Caledonian anti-independence members who wanted to alter the law for enrolling in New Caledonia's independence referendum so all prospective voters born in New Caledonia would automatically be enrolled. The referendum will be held later this year on 6 September.
  • The United Kingdom has announced a new British High Commissioner to Tonga, an appointment which marks the return of the diplomatic office to the islands after a 14 year absence.
  • Japan will pump millions into aid projects in Vanuatu ahead of the country’s forthcoming election as part of a $100 million bid to shore up Tokyo’s influence in the Pacific nations.
  • Tokelau has announced the results of its 2020 general election held last Thursday.
  • Finally, the Guardian has an interesting video on an Oxfam-backed organisation that tackles issues related to sorcery-related violence in PNG.

Pacific Research Program

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