The Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea 13th Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) concluded last Friday with the signing of the Outcomes by both heads of delegation, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade of Solomon Islands, Colin Beck and Deputy Secretary (Policy) of the Department of Foreign Affairs of Papua New Guinea, Mrs. Magdalene Moi-he.
During the two days meeting, the officials of both countries highlighted the importance of strengthening bilateral relations premised on deep respect for each other and the mutual desire to review the bilateral arrangements in education, trade, judicial, air service, Immigration, border arrangements and security along the common border.
Among the important considerations taken by the Officials during the meeting includes the outcomes of the 8th Joint Border Committee (JBC). Both countries noted that the revisions of the various border agreements remain under active consideration and will be deliberated at the next Senior Officials Meeting.
Papua New Guinea agreed to share its experiences with the use of traditional border passes provided for under the Agreement between Government of PNG and Government of Solomon Islands concerning the Administration of Special Areas.
Solomon Islands’ also registered its interest to extend the 2018 MOU between Royal Solomon Islands Police Force and Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary on Law Enforcement Cooperation and Exchange of Information. The Papua New Guinea delegation have considered the request and will consult internally and respond in due course.
Another important review conducted relates to the status of other Bilateral MoU’s/Agreements between Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands.
On the area of judicial support, officials agreed for the Justice Departments and Courts of both countries to consult during 2023 to review the MoU’s including exploring mechanisms to operationalize the MoU on Judicial Assistance and the MoU between the Supreme and National Courts of Justice of PNG and High Court and Courts of Appeal of Solomon Islands on Judicial Cooperation.
On Education, the Officials noted that the Memorandum of Understanding on Tertiary Education (2021) is finalized and both countries agreed to have the Agreement signed in Port Moresby in May 2023. Under this arrangement Papua New Guinea will provide 50 tertiary scholarships per year to Solomon Islands. Furthermore, the officials recommended the Ministry of Education Human Resources and Development of Solomon Islands and the Department of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology of Papua New Guinea to consult towards establishing a MoU on cooperation for the recognition of qualifications in both countries.
On immigration, officials noted the MoU on cooperation between the Immigration authorities of both countries has been finalized and the MoU will be signed in Port Moresby in May.
On Trade and Economic cooperation, the officials discussed bilateral trade opportunities between both countries, including opportunities for the importation of PNG food products into Solomon Islands to support the XVII Pacific Games 2023. Both countries also acknowledged the importance of private sector engagement and agreed to the establishment of a SI-PNG Business Council to enhance trade and investment opportunities between the two countries.
Both Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea also highlighted the importance for the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) to have a coordinated position on global and regional issues to leverage benefits for MSG members and strengthen sub regional and regional cooperation.
Permanent Secretary, Mr. Collin Beck in his closing remarks expressed deep appreciation to the Government of Papua New Guinea for the valuable support towards the Pacific Games, Education sector, and deployment of PNG Constabulary to assist the RSIPF in area of policing and security as well as in other various sectors.
The Senior Officials Meeting is held annually. Papua New Guinea will host the 14th SOM in 2024 at a date to be confirmed.