Friday, February 28, 2020

PM Marape: PNG looks to strengthen ties with Solomon Islands

Prime Minister Hon. James Marape says Papua New Guinea is looking to strengthen its relationships with neighbouring Solomon Islands. 

He said this after meeting Solomon Islands' Governor-General, His Excellency Sir David Vunagi, in Honiara on Thursday evening (pictured) . 

The occasion marked PM Marape's first bilateral visit to Solomon Islands. 

"Our two countries are bound by our rich Melanesian cultural heritage, our maritime border and shared Christian and democratic values hence, my first visit to our closest Pacific Island neighbor, Solomon Islands to renew and strengthen our neighborly ties and cooperation, a key strategy of Papua New Guinea's foreign policy, " he said.

"The people-to-people linkages since pre-independence days has seen Solomon Islands missionaries contribute to peace and harmony by spreading Christianity in Papua New Guinea.  

" The post-independence era has seen both our countries work hand-in-hand alongside our Pacific neighbors in assisting to restore peace in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, and in the Solomon Islands and other neighboring countries in recent times. 

" This is a testament to our common desire to maintain, peace, harmony, unity and stabiliy in our region.

" Our discussions therefore on protecting our sovereignity, our borders and the sustainable management of our resources particulaly fisheries, forestry and agriculture, amongst others is vital for the long term economic benefit of our people and future generations."

PM Marape said educating the human resources of the two nations  was also essential to nation-building and to their successes as nations. 

" I am pleased with our discussions on educational opportunities for our citizens, " he said. 

" I will be discussing with the Prime Minister of Solomon Islands, Hon. Manasseh Sogavare, ways we can continue to provide more opportunities for Solomon Island students to study in tertiary institutions in Papua New Guinea. 

"I will also promote the establishment of the PNG/Solomon Islands Alumni Association so we can maintain the network and friendships created through education." 

PM Marape said it was his  intention to deepen trade, investment and economic links between the two countries. 

" There is huge economic potential in Solomon Islands and I will be encouraging my delegation, comprising mainly of people from the private sector, to engage with their Solomon Islands counterparts, in our combined efforts to grow our economies,." 

PM Marape thanked Sir David for the Solomon Islands' hospitality. 

" Let me take this moment to express my most humble appreciation for the hospitalities extended to my delegation and I when I visited you'" he said. 

" It was a privilege to meet with you. 

" I wish to therefore extend, on behalf of the Government and people of Papua New Guinea, our best wishes to you during your term as the Governor-General of Solomon Islands." 


PM Marape arrives to a red carpet welcome in Solomon Islands

Prime Minister Hon. James Marape arrived to a red carpet welcome in Honiara, Solomon Islands, yesterday. 

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Hon. Manasseh Sogavare welcomes PNG Prime Minister Hon. James Marape at Honiara International Airport.

Prime Minister Hon. James Marape is welcomed at Honiara International Airport.

A red carpet welcome for Prime Minister James Marape at Honiara International Airport.

Prime Minister James Marape and a large business delegation from PNG are welcomed at Honiara International Airport.

PM Marape is leading a large business delegation from Papua New Guinea, representing Government and private sector, on his first official State Visit. 

Papua New Guinea businesses in Solomon Islands, as well as those wanting to invest there, are also accompanying the Prime Minister. 

He was welcomed at Honiara International Airport by Solomon Islands' Prime Minister Hon. Manasseh Sogavare, Minister of Foreign Affairs and External Trade Hon. Jeremiah Manele, Acting PNG High Commissioner to Solomon Islands Dr John Balavu, Solomon Islands' High Commissioner to PNG Barnabas Anga, and a large crowd of people. 

PM Marape was then taken to Government House where he paid a courtesy call on Solomon Islands' Governor-General Sir David Vunagu. 

This was followed by a State Dinner  in Honiara. 

PM Marape has a meeting with Hon. Sogavare today, followed by the Solomon Islands and PNG Bilateral Meeting, and a Joint Press Conference. 

The PNG business delegation will meet with its counterparts from Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce and Industry. 

PM Marape continues his State Visit and church service with Hon. Sogavare on Saturday before returning home to PNG. 

Monday, February 24, 2020

PM Marape addresses New Zealand Institute of International Affairs

Parliament House, Wellington
Monday 24th February, 2020
Ladies and Gentlemen, distinguished guests.

Thank you for the opportunity to talk to you about the important changes, I am initiating in Papua New Guinea.

As you know, I was elected as my country’s 8th Prime Minister on the 30th May 2019. It is, without doubt, the greatest honour of my life, and I give thanks to God for giving me this opportunity.

Before I proceed, I would also like to take this opportunity to again thank Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and the New Zealand Government for the warm hospitality my delegation and I have received this week.

As I said on Friday at our joint press conference in Auckland. our bilateral relations is in good shape and will continue to grow and flourish through various development cooperation arrangements.

The fact that I accepted an invitation by Prime Minister Ardern as Guest of the New Zealand Government for my first official visit to this beautiful country speaks volumes about the closeness of our relationship.

Australia and New Zealand are my first official engagements overseas. This underpins the significance of our strategic interests as close neighbours in the region.

The imperative to interface on issues of mutual interests, including sharing of information on our common security concerns among others, is becoming perceptible more than ever.

New Zealand has always been a close bilateral partner and friend indeed. In many instances when PNG has needed assistance, New Zealand has always been the first country to offer its support.

The uplift of 17 PNG students from Wuhan, China,  to New Zealand is a case in point.

I have been invited to speak to you today on “A New Direction for Papua New Guinea”. This topic resonates and underline determination of my Government to bring about change, progress and sustainable growth.

My Government includes a core group of young, educated, like-minded leaders who are with me to forge a new partnership and direction for Papua New Guinea.

Ladies and gentlemen, Papua New Guinea is at the crossroads.

We have come a long way in 44 years as a young nation and we anticipate to herald a new beginning in the 21st Century.

Notwithstanding the many pronounced challenges including systematic weaknesses of service delivery, PNG, a nation of over 830 tribal and language groups, has maintained unity in a democratic system of government, with a functional and independent judiciary, has managed to survive as one united country.

We have developed a vibrant economy, we have refined our political systems, we have enhanced democratic processes and the rule of law and made great headway in addressing the development challenges of the most geographically and culturally-diverse nation on planet earth.

But it is clear to me - and must be clear to all who care to listen - that the new generation of leaders I lead on behalf of my constituents demand change for the better through equitable and proportionate benefits are gained from the extraction of our natural resource.

In a country where population growth trends above economic growth or GDP, our annual budget provisions continues to be far less than actual need for development, it is now time to do things differently.

Generational change demands change in our modus operandi.

Now is the time to embrace economic opportunity so that we can provide for all of our people, both today and for future generations.

We have a responsibility to ensure that we invest in our future, so that our children, our children’s children and all those that come beyond, have a strong foundation.

We must take advantage of ICT and the digital economy platform and invite foreign investors in potentially high-yielding investments, downstream processing, agriculture, fisheries and other sectors of the economy.

The simple fact is that for far too long we have allowed external forces to dictate the direction that we take. I can assure you that this will now change under my watch.

We will shift from an introduced culture of dependency and complacency, where we rely on overseas aid and inward investment alone, to one where we become a vibrant economic powerhouse and are totally economically independent by expansion and diversification of our economic base.

This means that we must advance for the interests of our people. Create opportunities for growth. We must work with responsive economic partners and ensure a fair and equitable distribution of our resources.

We must embrace reform including policies and tweaking resource laws and institutions in all sectors that ensures our national net take home, whether in tax or equity or royalties for every resources, adds up to above 50 percent. But gaining more for our national coffers without stopping wastage through corruption and complacency will be injustice and efforts in vain.

Therefore, we must and will stamp out corruption. And we must and will build the institutional and governance frameworks that support sustained development, both now and in the years and decades to come.

Through all of this, it is my dream that Papua New Guinea becomes the richest black Christian nation on earth.

This is because God has blessed PNG with abundant natural resources, and by investing in correct strategies today, we have the capacity to harness those resources for the benefit of all.

We must and will examine ways to harness and unlock our natural resources. We must and will make use of local talent from our human resource pools, some of whom are so competent that they are working internationally including New Zealand. In short, we must take back our country, our economy and seize our own destiny.

As with any maturing democracy, this means that we need to change our focus. This is why I am so pleased that during our discussions this week, Prime Minister Ardern and I were able to agree to a comprehensive strategic and economic partnership, where as equals we will work together to tackle the mutual challenges that face both our great nations, in the pristine Pacific region.

This is where New Zealand’s commitment to infrastructure support is sincerely appreciated, in partnership with us, to enhance electrification and telecommunication capacity. These are the key economic enablers – enablers that will allow our economy to grow.

And of course, New Zealand’s continued partnership in a vast range of other areas to support health, education, policing, defence cooperation and so on continues to be warmly welcomed and received. All of this is evidence of the warmth of our relationship and our enduring historical ties.

But I don’t envisage this type of aid donor recipient relationship to last. In fact, within the next 10 years, I want my country to grow into economic self-reliance and independence that we ourselves become a partner in the region. This is the new chapter of the new book I want to write for my country for the next 44 years if Jesus Christ has not come back yet by then.

Now is the time to take the next step where we achieve true economic independence and determine what our future should be.

We must and will invest in technology and embrace innovation.

We must and will develop downstream processing and manufacturing capabilities and develop the human capital with appropriate skills to drive and fully industrialise our economy.

This is vital for our economic survival and an integral part of our plan for achieving long-term sustainable development.

We have a population of more than 8 million people.

We have a pool of committed and capable workers. Now is the time to harness that opportunity, create revenue, generate growth and enable wealth creation for all.

But to achieve full economic independence we need to change the mindset of our people, as well as those that seek to control or influence us.

Developers must become more attuned to our unique needs. We must and will empower our provinces to raise their own revenue and stimulate economic growth. We must overcome the rural divide and the entrapment of our people by ensuring that we create equal opportunity for all, where any person, man or woman, can achieve his or her full potential.

This means that we must and will harness the collective contributions and capacity of all our citizens. We must provide an environment where quality education and health care is available to all levels, and where all Papua New Guineans can fulfil their true potential, regardless of where they have come from or where they now live.

Embarking upon a process of substantial social, economic and structural reform cannot be achieved over night, and it cannot be achieved by one man alone. It requires a team effort, and as I have said many times, I do not have every answer to every problem that may arise.

That is why as Prime Minister I am consulting widely. I am reaching out across both sides of the political aisle to draw on and make use of the greatest talent available to us. The Ministers appointed to my cabinet have been selected on the basis of merit, and as Prime Minister, I expect them to deliver on the challenges and the tasks ahead.

All ministers must have a sense of collective belief and an intention to do what is good and right for Papua New Guinea, and Papua New Guinea alone.

 Self- interest plays no role in the Government that I lead, and those that seek to profit from public office have no place in my Government and will be made to face the full brunt of the law.

Our people have had enough, and now is the time to tackle the cancer of corruption that has taken hold, using the power of prosecution and all other means that we have at our disposal.

As a first step, the Government is currently undertaking a comprehensive diagnostic on our law-and-order capacity, and other critical areas of social service.

As Prime Minister, I want to ensure that we have the right services available in the right places to meet the needs of all our people. This requires that we review our current law-and-order and service delivery footprint so that we can determine where new investment may be required, and where needs may have changed. I want to reform, reconstruct and rehabilitate a system of government that is so cumbersome with systematic and systemic service delivery impediments including corruption.

As Prime Minister, it is my intention to reform the public service to be leaner, efficient, effective and ethical. The waste must stop. Services must be guided by economic drivers and social need, not by misguided or uninformed policy. Previously, as Finance Minister, I initiated a number of reforms to bring greater accountability to our public service and this process of reform will continue under the leadership of the Minister for the Public Service.

We must create a leaner public service that provides more joined-up Government services and reduces unnecessary duplication, and where necessary outsource or establish partnerships with the private sector and the Churches. Our public servants must be properly equipped with the skills that they need to do their jobs more efficiently, effectively and ethically, and we must place services and people where they are most needed.

By investing in our public servants, by ensuring that they have the skills and tools they need, we can truly make Papua New Guinea the country it is meant to be. A country where children are educated, the sick are treated, infrastructure is developed and where the rule of law prevails.

I am pleased to announce here that I intend to model the Papua New Guinea public service against the New Zealand model. The Chairman of the Parliamentary Public Service Committee and Oro Governor Hon. Gary Juffa, MP will lead a government delegation to New Zealand in the near future to study the New Zealand public service system.

A key priority for our new Government is to finalise the Organic Law on the Independent Commission Against Corruption. I have asked that the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Justice treat this as a priority. I want the Commission established without delay and will ensure it has all power and authority to investigate and refer allegations of corruption. As a maturing democracy this is the right and proper path to take, and I intend to make sure it happens before the end of the Parliamentary year.

As I have already said, as Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, I want to provide opportunity for all. It is a known fact that over 80 per cent of our people live subsistence lives. We are blessed by fertile soil, and for so many, the land provides for their needs. But we need to be smarter. Papua New Guinea is endowed by enormous natural resources and it is time for us to harness those renewable resources to achieve maximum economic gain.
We must grow our primary producer sector and support our people to rise above poverty. We must create economic corridors that enable our people to get their goods to market which means we must continue to invest in roads and infrastructure. We must provide market opportunities, empower our people and open up PNG to the world. Most importantly, we must ensure income generation and job opportunities.

At the same time, we must work with our multinational commercial partners. I have said to our partners that they have nothing to fear by my election as Prime Minister. I recognise the importance of economic partnership and working together to grow our economy to ensure our people receive the benefits they so rightly deserve.

I have been clear that we will honor existing project agreements that are in full compliance with the laws of PNG. But I have also said that we will be reviewing our existing policies and laws, to ensure that future projects provide greater benefits to our people.

I already have a fresh team of PNG advisors in place who are looking at our policies and resource laws so that they can be tailored to provide the maximum domestic benefit and opportunity to our people.

This is the proper, right and fair thing to do. It does not mean that our partners cannot achieve economic benefits. Rather, the Government wants to ensure that there is a fair and equitable share of benefits of all our natural resources. This is the key for ensuring long-term project security, empowering our people and improving living standards.

The fact is, that under current benefit sharing arrangements we have witnessed minimal economic and social improvements. You simply just have to look at all the key economic and social indexes. Papua New Guinea is one of the worst in the world despite all our natural resources and world class operations by multinational companies.

What I am proposing is a new and holistic economic and social partnership. One that garners opportunity for all, not just a few. For as it stands, we have little to show for years of resource harvests and give away and little to celebrate today.

This has to change.

Foreign investors that respect our laws will be protected and we will work in partnership. But let me be clear, foreign owned companies that break our laws, exploit our people, or harm our natural resources will be held to account.

We will work with investors willing to develop meaningful downstream processing facilities so that we can truly harness the benefits that economic sectors, such as gold, copper, iron, oil, gas, forestry and fisheries can provide. But, we will no longer allow foreign companies to profit unfairly from our natural resources, and those that fail to adhere to regulatory requirements will suffer the full force of law.

PNG will turn 50 years as an independent nation six years from now in 2025. Many of the resource policies and laws we have now were developed earlier to attract investors and many of our present industry players have enjoyed the benefit of those generous policies and laws and various incentives we have conceded along the way.

Our Government intends to develop and refine our policies and rewrite our laws for a new chapter in our new PNG Book to be effective in 2025 and beyond.

Those promulgations will embrace world best practices where most global investors already know including my new focus on downstream processing, better definition of local content, domestic market and industry fed from our resources.

These policies embraces all sectors including renewable resources like sustainable harvest of agriculture, forestry and marine resources.

Agriculture and food industry will receive my special attention because PNG is closer to over 3 billion people in Asia, Indo-Pacific region who will need to eat food and especially organic food that we are capable of producing.

The need for energy and other resources in Asia is also good for PNG too, and my Government will tailor correct policy framework including tax incentives to ensure low cost of doing business in PNG like having cheaper and reliable power and communication. This will sustain our quest to grow our economy.

So for those investors who hold exploration licenses or permits and want to enjoy present terms, you are encouraged to progress your license conditions because regime shifts are coming to be implemented in 2025.

To conclude, I simply say this, PNG is shifting to a new gear for change.

Majority of Papua New Guinean’s demand this change that not honouring them borders on treason against a national cause. We will take back PNG, empower our people and write a great new book with many successful chapters going into the future.

We will make Papua New Guinea one of the most successful countries and economies of the world. This will ensure the present global assets we house in PNG, like the 6 to 7 percent of world's biodiversity and also our huge tropical rainforest that continues to contribute to global oxygen supply is not lost through unsustainable deforestation.

It is my desire to diversify PNG’s economic base and make it rich, from this perspective and utilise our global assets like rainforest and biodiversity.

Esteemed members of Lowy Institute and participants and media, you can help me sell the story of PNG better, for it is a global story too.

You need oxygen as much as I need it, we need biodiversity for world’s healing, we need our Pacific Ocean to be healthy and pollution-free. Such can only happen when a leading country in the Pacific in Papua New Guinea in which God placed such global assets to have a diverse and improved economy that is harvested sustainably.

For the world is littered with stories of irreversible environmental degradation where economically hungry people or nation plunder resources unsustainably. The chapters and book I choose to write for PNG has benefits not only for PNG but the world too.

Thank you.

PM Marape applauds PNG seasonal workers in New Zealand

Prime Minister James Marape has applauded the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme, where over 30 young Papua New Guineans have been given an opportunity of employment in New Zealand.

During his visit to the T&G Apple Orchard in Evenden yesterday , he commended the PNG  fruit-pickers on the outstanding report he received from their employer.

PM Marape and his delegation were given the opportunity to see and participate in the fruit-picking process of the T&G Apple Orchard in Evenden.

PM Marape picking apples at the T&G Apple Orchard

PM Marape, wife Rachael and the delegation which visited the T&G Apple Ochard in Hawke's Bay, with the PNG seasonal workers.

He assured the students that he would return to PNG and get the Labour Department and the NID Office to speed up their processes, so that more PNG students can come to New Zealand and Australia and find employment through our labour mobility program with New Zealand.

“My delegation has taken note of the issues hindering the process of engaging more of our people in this labour mobility programme, and we look forward to rectifying this matter, " PM Marape said.

“Our Government aims to promote this programmw with New Zealand and Australia, where our people can save some of the money they earn and engage in starting up SMEs when they return home to PNG after they retire."

He said the Government not only looks to having Papua New Guineans to join the RSE scheme as fruit-pickers, but aims to increase this programme in the technical avenues as well.

“It is obvious Australia and New Zealand will require our skilled labour in the not-too-distant future; hence, we have to prepare our young people for this, and in the SME secter as well," PM Marape said.

“With this, our delegation will return home and ensure our Labour Department and NID processes are streamlined to quickly send more people over to work in New Zealand, and Australia for that matter."

Whilst visiting the orchard, PM Marape participated in the fruit-picking process and was able to taste freshly-grown apples  nurtured by our very own Papua New Guineans at the orchard.

He later visited the geothermal plant and hotsping in Rotorua, saying PNG could gain a lot in terms of electrification programmes from New Zealand.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

PM Marape thanks New Zealand for assisting in evacuating PNG students from Wuhan

AUCKLAND: Prime Minister James Marape, MP, has expressed utmost gratitude to New Zealand for its assistance in evacuating the 17 Papua New Guinean students from Wuhan in China and for housing and treating them in New Zealand, during the recent outbreak of the Coronavirus.

He began his official visit to New Zealand last Friday, starting with him meeting with his New Zealand counterpart, Jacinda Ardern, in Auckland.

Leading a high level delegation of parliamentarians and senior Government officials, PM Marape said: “Papua New Guinea and New Zealand continue to maintain a warm and pleasant relationship, spanning well over four decades. 

“I am humbled by the warm welcome and reception Prime Minister Arden has given my delegation and I, and I look forward to further strengthening the cordial relationship between our two countries.

In support of PM Ardern’s welcoming remarks, PM Marape acknowledged that PNG’s close relationship with NZ is of great importance during a time of global change and turbulence.

"First and foremost, let me on behalf of the people of Papua New Guinea thank New Zealand for its most recent effort and assistance in working together on aspects of our response to the Coronavirus outbreak, including the safe evacuation, treatment and the return of a number of Papua New Guinean students from Wuhan in China.

”My visit is certainly an opportunity to increase engagement with NZ as part of PNG’s bilateral cooperation as well as to discuss shared regional interests and New Zealand’s support to the Papua New Guinea Electrification Partnership. "

PM Marape said New Zealand’s humanitarian gesture in assisting our students by bringing them home during the Coronavirus outbreak, goes to show that New Zealand and PNG share robust and strong relations.

“Also, New Zealand’s efforts in ensuring the Bougainville Peace Agreement was upheld in Bougainville from 2001 till the Referendum in 2019, through its deployment of New Zealand  police personnel throughout the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, is a clear demonstration that NZ has played a vital role in the peace process and is clearly a sigmificant partner in the Pacific region,” PM Marape said.

He said PNG also looks forward to  adopting the New Zealand public service model - as it has one of the best public services in the world.

The PNG delegation then visited PNG fruit pickers engaged throught the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme at Hawke's Bay, in New Zealand


Friday, February 21, 2020

PM Marape receives a New Zealand welcome

Prime Minister James Marape and wife Rachael are greeted by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at Government House in Auckland this morning.

 Marape and his PNG delegation were welcomed by the NZ traditional ceremony - Powhiri.
He also inspected a guard-of-honour.

PM Marape arrives in New Zealand for official visit

Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister  James Marape has just touched down in New Zealand for his official visit.

Upon arriving in Auckland from Fiji, PM Marape is scheduled to meet his New Zealand  counterpart, Jacinda Ardern, at Government House.

PNG Prime Minister James Marape with his New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Ardern at  Government House in Auckland, New Zealand, this morning.

There, PM Marape and his counterpart will hold a one-on-one prime ministerial discussion, followed by bilateral discussion with the PNG-NZ delegations.

Points of discussion include our diplomatic relations and political representation, immigration and consular relations, high level bilateral consultations, defence and security cooperation, trade and investment cooperation; development and technical cooperation, the Bougainville Referendum 2019; new areas of future cooperation  between PNG and New Zealand; along with selected regional and international issues.

After the bilateral discussions, both prime ministers will hold a joint media conference, followed by a courtesy call paid to PM Marape by New Zealand’s Leader of Opposition, Simon Bridges.

Prime Minister Marape is accompanied by Minister for National Planning Sam Basil, Oro Governor Gary Juffa, West New Britain Governor Francis Maneke and Tewai-Siassi MP Kobby Bomareo. 

PM Marape attends roundtable discussions at the Israel-Pacific Island Leaders’ Summit

Prime Minister James Marape, MP, attended roundtable discussions at the Israel-Pacific Island Leaders’ Summit in Nadi yesterday.

PM Marape (left) in talks with the Israelis 
In his intervention points, he acknowledged the Government of Fiji through the Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama for hosting the first meeting.

Prime Minister Marape thanked the people and Government of Israel for the initiative to have discussions on issues of mutual concern with leaders of 16 Pacific Island countries who are all members of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF).

He said although there were 16 countries, when there are issues of common interest, their voices are combined as one through the PIF.

"And some of the common issues that we face every day include climate change and rising sea levels," Prime Minister Marape said.

“We may be small in land mass but the entire Pacific put together, is a big space that we occupy on planet earth.

"In the ocean that we share, we also have vast resources.

“Possibly 50% of the world’s tuna supply are caught in our waters."

The Prime Minister said Papua New Guineans were also known to be the first people to go into agriculture 10, 000 years ago and today, with Israel having advanced in agricultural technologies," we would like to embrace those technologies as well".

“PNG values the agricultural expertise and support from Israel and will continue to work together in this sector,” he said.

"We also welcome Israel scholarship programmes in the field of agriculture.

Prime Minister Marape is very appreciative of the Government of Israel's offer to train 100 professionals in Israel in areas of agriculture, technology and security.

Papua New Guinea established relations with Israel in May 1978 and Papua New Guinea has benefited from Israeli expertise in the field of agriculture, including citrus farming.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Bogia Coconut Syndrome workshop held in Madang

A two-day workshop on the Bogia Coconut Syndrome (BCS) and Related Phytoplasma Syndromes in Papua New Guinea was held in Madang on Feb 12-13.
It brought together scientists from Australia, PNG and other stakeholders to discuss BCS, a plant disease that has caused severe losses to coconut palms in the Bogia, Sumkar and Madang districts of Madang Province.
Workshop participants seeing coconut palms affected by Bogia Coconut Syndrome at Kananam along the North Coast Road of Madang.~Pictures by JAMES KILA

The BCS spread has now been reported on Karkar Island also in Sumakar district.
Many thousands of palms have been killed since it was first detected in Bogia in the late 1970s, where it wiped out coconut plantations at Yaro.
The Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) has funded a project over the last five years with a multi-national team to undertake more in-depth studies to fill important knowledge gaps and to develop a clear understanding of the biology of BCS and related phytoplasmas in PNG.
Key partners included Ramu Agri-Industries (New Britain Palm Oil Ltd), Oil Palm Research Association (OPRA), National Agriculture Quarantine Inspection Authority (NAQIA), National Agriculture Research Institute (NARI), University of Southern Queensland, Charles Sturt University and Kokonas Indastri Koporesen (KIK).
Workshop participants at Kokonas Indastri Koporesen’s Stewart Research Station at Murnas along the North Coast of Madang.

Phytoplasmas are bacteria with no cell-wall that live in the vascular bundle of plant tissue blocking off water and nutrients that the plants need for normal growth and in severe cases can lead to death of the plants and in this case coconut palms. 
Insect vectors having fed on infected host plants can transmit the phytoplasma through their salivary glands in to healthy plants and cause them to become sick and died, something similar to mosquitoes when transmitting malaria.
An ACIAR Technical Report presented at the meeting said plant tissues of BCS symptomatic palms were found to contain the BCS phytoplasma and when its DNA was sequenced using the LAMP technology this closely matched a group of phytoplasmas that were responsible for Coconut Lethal Yellowing Disease.
“Coconut lethal yellowing-like diseases have been responsible for repeatedly devastating coconut industries around the world since the early 1900s,” it said.
A house at Kananam outside Madang surrounded by Bogia Coconut Syndrome-affected palms.

“This was the first time a coconut lethal yellowing disease has been found in the Oceania region and concerns were raised for the PNG coconut industry.
“Previous outbreaks of this disease in other parts of the world caused widespread death of millions of coconut and other closely-related palm trees.
“A molecular study also found banana plants with similar yellowing symptoms contain a closely-related phytoplasma which was called Banana Wilt-Associated Phytoplasma (BWAP) now widespread in Madang, Morobe, East Sepik, Western and North Solomon provinces.”
A banana tree affected by Banana Wilt-Associated Phytoplasma (BWAP) in Madang.

Early responses to the discovery of this disease included a road block preventing the movement of coconuts that has not been de-husked and any planting materials going out from the Madang Province.
An extensive awareness programme was also initiated in the affected areas.
Workshop participants also saw for themselves palms affected by BCS at Kananam along the North Coast of Madang, and visited the International Coconut Gene Bank at Murnas Plantation.

Friday, February 07, 2020

PM Marape reveals next step after P’nyang stalemate

Prime Minister Hon. James Marape has informed the nation and all stakeholders what happens after the stalemate between the State Negotiating Team (SNT) and ExxonMobil over P’nyang LNG Project.

Prime Minister Marape

 “It is no secret that I am not pleased with the lack of interest shown by ExxonMobil to migrate towards a mid-point,” Prime Minister Marape said.
“A mid-point in which the State takes home a better deal, instead of terms similar to concession-based gas agreements Papua New Guinea has signed with ExxonMobil and partners of PNG LNG, and Total and partners of Papua LNG.
“I am satisfied that our SNT has subscribed to the mandate bestowed upon Petroleum Minister, Hon. Kerenga Kua.
“ExxonMobil has been told what our intentions are.
“In the interests of fairness, a Ministerial Gas Committee (MGC) will request both the SNT and ExxonMobil to present their positions for the State - through a committee of leaders - to decide what is the best outcome for PNG.”
Prime Minister Marape said he had indicated on all levels of discussions that fundamental policy principles that influenced his Government’s mindset would not change.
“These include no fiscal concessions in P’nyang, treating P’nyang as separate from both PNG and Papua LNG projects, increase in Domestic Market Obligations (DMOs) and local content participation,” he said.
“These will be fundamental in progressing P’nyang.
“In the meantime, I call upon ExxonMobil and Oil Search not to hold the Total project in Gulf to ransom.
“I call upon these two multi-nationals to work with Total to deliver Papua LNG.
“You are beneficiaries of concessions previous Governments have given.
“If you model the project to be uneconomical, then don’t push it: let’s leave the gas in my land and you develop Papua plus further work in PNG LNG.
“After SNT and ExxonMobil present to the MGC, Cabinet will decide on P’nyang.
“We will shift focus to Wafi-Golpu and Porgera mines, Pascal LNG plus other resources sectors so life in PNG is not only dependent on P’nyang and other LNG projects.”
Prime Minister Marape assured the nation that the Mining and Petroleum Ministers would bring in reforms to the Mining and Oil and Gas Acts through enabling Organic Laws this year.