Friday, June 24, 2011

Food shortage in Bougainville atolls

More than 12,000 people living on atoll islands in Bougainville are in urgent need of help to overcome food shortages, a Papua New Guinea MP has told parliament.

North Bougainville MP Lauta Atoi says rising sea levels and a prolonged drought have made growing food increasingly difficult.

Affected atolls include Nissan, Mortlock, Tasman and the Carteret islands.

The PNG government has authorised extra money and transport to get supplies to the atolls.

But Mr Atoi says the islanders need access to mainland plantations to grow staple crops.

"I don't like the atolls to be seen as beggars," he said.

"That's why the way forward for the government is to look at purchasing plantations from the mainland so that we can cultivate this land and grow our own foodstuff."

$100m fine for logging company in PNG
Malaysian logging company Concord Pacific has been fined $US100 million after being found guilty of illegal logging and causing environmental damage in Papua New Guinea.

Four tribal communities in Papua New Guinea's Western Province stand to benefit from the National Court decision.

The Centre for Environmental Law and Community Rights, which represented the tribal groups in court, has called the decision a major victory.

Leading lawyer Damien Ase says it will serve as a powerful warning to other logging companies in PNG.

Fiji health 'at crisis point'

Eighty per cent of deaths in Fiji are the result of non-communicable and often easily preventable diseases, the World Health Organisation says.

The WHO's head of pacific support, Dr Dong-il Ahn, says half the Fijian population is overweight, and 40 per cent are smokers.

Dr Ahn told a meeting in Suva that tobacco use is on the rise, and that just 16 per cent of Fijians survive past the age of 55.

He says the situation is at crisis point and that Fiji's poorly developed national health system means the situation will get worse.

Concerns remain for missing Northern Marianas girls

America's Federal Bureau of investigation is scaling down the search for two young sisters who disappeared in the Northern Marianas four weeks ago.

Ten-year-old Faloma Luhk and her nine-year-old sister Maleina have not been seen since May 25, when they were waiting for a school bus on Saipan.

FBI Special Agent Tom Simon has returned to Honolulu and told Pacific Beat 15 agents will continue the investigation with the Saipan police.

The 15 to 20 agents that went to Saipan from Hawaii at the height of the search have returned.

Special agent Simon says the leads are drying up.

"The girls were clearly abducted, it's clear that they didn't run away, but what became of them following the abduction is really anybody's guess at this point," he said.

"Yeah the locals are very shaken up - they're all keeping a very close eye on their children because they just don't know what happened.

"It's a real mystery there and folks are worried."

Canoe fleet lands in Hawaii after long haul

A fleet of seven traditional Polynesian double-hulled canoes has reached Hawaii after sailing from New Zealand.

The vaka are crewed by people from a range of Pacific nations who set sail in April, to recapture traditional sailing skills and also raise awareness about the state of the Pacific Ocean.

The President of the Fiji Island Voyaging Society, Colin Philp, went with them and has told Pacific Beat it was a tough sail.

"What was really hard was just the constant rough weather after leaving New Zealand," he said.

"A lot of storms along the way and there never seemed to be a break for at least the first three weeks of the voyage and a lot of headwinds.

"I think the best they did on a given day was about 230 nautical miles, usually averaging 120 to 140 miles a day."

Australian mint a hit with Pacific nations

The Crown Prince of Tonga says his country will join Samoa by having its coins made at the Royal Australian Mint in Canberra.

Samoan representatives attended the official launch of the production of Samoa's new coins on Thursday.

Tonga's Crown Prince Tupouto'a Lavaka says the new government will also be updating the country's national currency.

"I wanted to come and see how the processes work and of course this is the new refurbished Royal Australian Mint," he said.

"We, like Samoa, have our own coins. And we are looking in about two years' time to look at renewing our currency. That's already in the pipeline now."

Mint magic
At the mint's Canberra factory, Samoan Government representatives struck their brand new coins, which will enter into circulation later this year.

Since the mint was upgraded in 2009, it has been able to accept contracts from other countries.

The Samoan deal is one of the mint's first large-scale international jobs.

Chief executive of the Royal Australian Mint, Ross MacDiarmid, has told Pacific Beat the mint could provide similar services to other Pacific nations.

"The geographical proximity [of Samoa] provides us with an opportunity to provide these sort of coins, hopefully to other Pacific island countries as well," he said.

"We can clearly provide the service - we have got the capacity - and we are just next door. So hopefully this will be the start of other opportunities for us in the Pacific."

PNG PM to leave intensive care

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare is expected leave intensive care next week.

It has been more than two months since Sir Michael, 75, went to Singapore to have surgery to replace a valve in his heart.

Few details have been released but on Thursday his son Arthur Somare spoke publicly about his father's condition for the first time.

He confirmed Sir Michael twice required corrective surgery and has suffered from other issues including lung and kidney problems.

"There is great uncertainty as to the period of time for his recovery," he said. "We anticipate by Tuesday next week that he will be out of ICU."

He says it is too soon to say if Sir Michael will return to work but there may be more news next week.

PNG concerned about return of mining giant

Papua New Guinea's mining minister says he is concerned at the return of mining giant BHP Billiton to the country.

BHP Billiton left PNG in 2002 after divesting its stake in the Ok Tedi mine, which caused widespread environmental damage in the 1990s.

In response to a question, Mining Minister John Pundari told Parliament the company has lodged applications for exploration tenements.

"I personally find it very difficult to allow the return of BHP into this country again, given its past legacy," he said.

The revelation prompted angry howls from MPs, especially those from areas near the Ok Tedi mine.

Mr Pundari says he will take the matter to cabinet for consideration.

BHP Billiton declined to comment.

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