Tuesday, June 21, 2011

ABC Radio Australia Asia Pacific News, 21 June 2011

Banker predicts Pacific commercial boom

A large Australian bank says the services sector has significant potential as a source of economic growth in the Pacific islands.

Jemima Garrett reports that ANZ Bank's Pacific managing director, Michael Rowland, says services could become the Pacific's second engine of growth.

He told a business conference in Nadi, Fiji, this would go beyond the existing surge in natural resources and commodities.

He identified financial services, tourism, back-office processing, telecommunications and labour hire as the top prospects.

But he said the Pacific needs to be more investor friendly if it is to attract investment.

Mr Rowland said investors need consistent and transparent legal systems, certainty on government policy, particularly taxation and profit remittance, and contructive dialogue with government.

Fiji tourist numbers up

Fiji's Tourism Minister says there has been another increase in the number of tourists visiting his country.

Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says Fiji welcomed 4,500 more visitors in the first quarter of the year, compared to the same period last year.

He says most of the visitors were from Australia, the United States, China and Canada.

The increase comes despite economic sanctions imposed by Australia and New Zealand in the wake of the military coup in Fiji.

Fiji Live says there has been a reduction in arrivals from Korea, Japan, New Zealand and India.

MandarinThe news comes with a call for Fiji to boost Mandarin language instruction, to boost the country's attractiveness to Chinese tourists.

Dixon Seeto, president of the Fiji Hotel Association, says the tourism market from Australia and New Zealand is strong and stable, but China and India are likely to provide the greatest possibility for growth in visitor numbers.

He told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat Chinese tourists are looking for the same things other visitors are: such as diving, snorkelling and cultural experiences.

But they usually do not speak English and that can be a challenge for tourism operators who want to make them feel comfortable.

Previously there was a campaign to teach Japanese, he said, "and that was quite successful. And I think that we should be heading that way with the Mandarin, because you need to make them, the Chinese visitors, very comfortable."

Delays expected in Guam military switch

American officials say Japan and the United States will delay their planned military build-up on Guam.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defence Secretary Robert Gates will meet Japan's Defence Minister, Toshimi Kitazawa.

They are expected to discuss a delay to the planned relocation of the military base in Okinawa.

Before leaving Tokyo, Mr Kitazawa told The New York Times there was no point in dragging out something that cannot be done just because of a previous agreement.

The American officials say it is difficult to complete the base plan by the 2014 goal.

The realignment plan from 2006 calls for the closing of the Futenma air base - which lies in a crowded urban area of subtropical Okinawa island - and the transfer of 8,000 marines to the US Pacific territory of Guam.

Last week, a US Senate Committee agreed to cut off funding for the 2014 shift until the Marine Corps comes up with a new study on Guam.

Australian 'spy' welcome in Vanuatu

Vanuatu's interim government says an Australian lawyer expelled last month for alleged espionage will be welcome back if the government comprehensively changes hands.

Ari Jenshel was given 24 hours to leave Vanuatu or else face arrest under charges of espionage.

Mr Jenshel had been working in Vanutu as an adviser for the Australian aid agency, Ausaid, when he was expelled by the government of former prime minister Sato Kilman.

The incident raised diplomatic tensions between Vanuatu and Australia.

Joe Natuman, interim foreign minister under under the Edward Natape interim government, says there was no basis to the accusations of espionage.

"We would welcome him back. We don't see any evidence of whatever those charges were."

Mr Jenshel would give no further details on his expulsion but said he is open to returning to Vanuatu if he is invited by the government.

Kokoda trekkers warned of violence

Fighting in a remote Papua New Guinea town has prompted the Australian Government to reissue travel advice.

The murder of a young man in Popondetta last Friday sparked the fighting that left another man dead.

Local reports say schools and businesses are closed and the situation remains tense.

Australia's Foreign Affairs Department says there is potential for more violence and traveling on the road between Popondetta and Kokoda may be dangerous.

A small number of Australian tourists who come to PNG to walk the Kokoda Track visit Popondetta.

The Kokoda Track Authority says there are no trekking groups in the area at present.

A spokesman for the authority says most trekkers avoid Popondetta altogether and fly in and out of the village of Kokoda.

Flooding hits Philippines

At least 11 people have died and two people are missing in floods in the southern and northern Philippines.

Two southern provinces - North Cotabato and Maguindanao - remain flooded due to rains brought by a tropical depression that has affected the southern Philippines since last week.

Four areas in the south have been placed under a state of calamity and more than 500,000 people have been affected by the floods.

Cotabato city has received the brunt of the tropical depression - 160,000 residents have been displaced and are packed in evacuation centers.

Soldiers and engineers, using heavy equipment, have been working double time to dredge and clear the Rio Grande de Mindanao - the longest river in the south - of lilies that have blocked the waterway and caused it to overflow.

In the north, floods and landslides have occurred in three provinces.

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