THE visiting Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Secretary General Dame Meg Taylor yesterday met briefly with the Leader of the Parliamentary Opposition Group Jeremiah Manele.
Dame Meg during the meeting, briefed the Leader of Opposition on the preparations of the PIF leaders meeting to be held in Papua New Guinea, September this year.
She said, the purpose of her visit is to call on PIF member states to inform them of key regional issues that will be discussed during the leaders meeting.
As such, she said she is also pleased to have an audience with the leader of the country’s alternative Government.
Dame Meg highlighted that some of the issue that will be discussed during September’s meeting are; the implementation of the framework for Pacific Regionalism; the importance of regional connectivity in terms of infrastructure and ports; fisheries and the need for more processing facilities in the region; the need for PIF states to have accessibility to markets; climate change and also the threat of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the region.
“These are some important issues that will be raised during the meeting and as part of my visit to member states, I am also taking note of other important matters that leaders might want to discuss during the meeting,” she said.
Mr Manele in response has welcomed and congratulated Dame Meg on his appointment as the new PIF Secretary General.
He has acknowledged the issues raised by Dame Meg and stated that these are issues of concern to the region.
He said in terms of connectivity, it has been a challenge not only for the region but for Solomon Islands as well.
“The issue of connectivity is vital especially when we do not have adequate infrastructure including port and shipping services to connect us to outside markets,” he said.
In terms of Fisheries, Mr Manele said, there is an ongoing priority Government project to establish canneries in the Solomon Islands that should contribute to economic growth in the country.
Meanwhile, the Opposition Leader has acknowledged that climate change is a worrying issue in the region.
Mr Manele said the devastation and loss of lives in Vanuatu caused by Cyclone Pam indicates once again the vulnerability of Pacific Island countries to natural disasters.
“Pacific Island countries are extremely vulnerable to natural disasters and the recent devastation caused by cyclone Pam is a wakeup call to pacific island leaders to improve disaster preparedness mechanisms,” he said.
Mr Manele also proposed that the issue of sustainable energy should be included on the agenda of the PIF Leader’s meeting in September.
He said, there has been a lot of talk about sustainable development but without the establishment of the necessary Energy Infrastructure; development cannot happen.
“Any plan for development activity to take place must be preceded by the availability of energy to attract genuine investors,” he said.
The PIF Secretary General acknowledged Mr Manele’s proposal stating that it is an area that has to be considered by leaders in the region.
The Leader of Opposition and the PIF Secretary General also briefly discussed issues surrounding trade and development agreements in the region especially on Pacer Plus and the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).