Pacific News Briefs
TWO GREAT MUSIC EVENTS HAPPENING THIS WEEK IN PAGO
Two great music events are happening this week in Pago — American Samoa. They are the Reunion of Sami Band and the UN International Jazz Day 2017.
The “Reunion of Sami Band”, sponsored by the Tradewinds Hotel, is happening on Saturday, Apr. 29, 6p.m.- 11p.m. at the Tradewinds Hotel Pavilion. It has a small cover charge, $5 — and will feature some of the territory’s finest homegrown musicians, Jr. Hall, John Ioane, Doug Smith, Bernard Scanlan, Arona Nagaseu, Si’eleo Pouesi, with honorary member Francis Leleua. Doug Smith told Samoa News that it’s a music jam session to be enjoyed by all who love “live” music. “Come an celebrate with us!”
The “UN International Jazz Day 2017” is taking place this Thursday, Apr. 27 at the Oasis Restaurant in Tafuna. It’s sponsored by the Samoana Jazz and Arts Festival- American Samoa group, and celebrates International Jazz Day at “Jazz Jam” with the territory’s known and emerging musicians. Jazz Day is recognized with special jazz events planned around the world and celebrated on Apr. 30.
MERCURY STUDY PROMPTS WARNING OVER PACIFIC FISH DIET
People in the Pacific are being advised to avoid certain fish after a study revealed high levels of mercury in hair samples from the region.
The Biodiversity Research Institute and the UN Environment Programme were involved in the research on women of child-bearing age in four Pacific countries over the past year.
Mercury exposure can cause damage to the nervous system and kidneys and it's particularly harmful to fetuses.
The Institute's chief scientist David Evers said the elevated mercury levels were likely due to a diet high in certain fish.
"Some of the healthier choices can be younger, smaller fish, grouper, for example, as long as they're the younger smaller species or individuals of grouper.
"Conversely the larger, long-lived species like swordfish are much more riskier choices."
David Evers said yellowfin and albacore tuna are healthier options than very large Pacific bluefin tuna which have higher concentrations of mercury.
The researchers sampled the hair of women aged 18 to 44 in the Cook Islands, Marshall Islands, Kiribati and Tuvalu.
Dr Evers said further studies were needed to find out if people in the Pacific were being harmed by high levels of mercury.
He said exposure could lead to neurological problems and lower the intelligence quotient (IQ) of children.
"There's indications that people with elevated mercury concentrations can adapt to a certain degree of mercury in their bodies.
"Now how much they can adapt is unknown and it would be something that would need further study," said Dr Evers.
NEW TRADE DEAL COULD DIVIDE PACIFIC
A new Pacific trade deal could prove divisive in the region, according to NZ Green Party MP Barry Coates.
PACER Plus is designed to enhance the economic development of Pacific island countries through greater regional trade and economic integration with Australia and New Zealand.
The agreement covers 12 island countries, but missing from it are the two biggest economies among the island nations, Papua New Guinea and Fiji.
While PACER is being touted by Australia and New Zealand as a great deal for the island countries, Mr Coates — a veteran of the aid and development sector — said they get few benefits.
The MP said the deal also went against the emphasis placed on regionalism by Australia and New Zealand.
"They have put a lot of their aid programs in the past to promote regionalism but now they have signed a trade deal that misses out on the two major countries," Coates said.
"And I think it stands to potentially drive a wedge between the Pacific and I think it is a very unhealthy dynamic to have."
A formal signing of the agreement between 14 nations is scheduled to take place in Tonga in June.
The countries participating in PACER Plus are New Zealand, Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Kiribati, Niue, Palau, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
PACIFIC HEADS OF HEALTH MAP PRIORITIES FOR THE REGION
Senior health officials from 22 Pacific Island countries and territories along with regional and international health professionals have gathered in Suva, Fiji this week (25-27 April) for the Fifth Heads of Health meeting.
Organized by Pacific Community (SPC) with support from the Government of Australia, Government of New Zealand, World Bank and WHO, the annual meeting provides an important platform to review and contribute towards decisions that impact regional health policy.
“The main objective of this week is to review, discuss and make recommendations to the biennial Pacific Health Ministers Meeting,” SPC’s Public Health Division Director, Dr Paula Vivili said.
Last year, Pacific Heads of Health tasked SPC and WHO to facilitate the development of a Healthy Islands Monitoring Framework and this meeting provides an opportunity to review and discuss, among other issues, its progress.
“The Heads of Health will discuss the Monitoring Framework, make necessary changes and recommendations for approval by the Pacific Health Ministers Meeting which will be held in Cook Islands in August this year,” Dr Vivili said.
Also high on the agenda this week are the Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) Roadmap, Human Resources for Health as well as epidemic preparedness and response which will include discussions on strengthening health security in the region and the recent commemoration of 20 years of the Pacific Public Health Surveillance Network (PPHSN).
CENTER FOR RENEWABLE ENERGY OPENS IN TONGA
The Pacific Community (SPC) opened the first Pacific Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency office in Nuku’alofa, Tonga this week.
Speaking to Pacific Ministers for Energy and Transport and invited guests at the opening on Wednesday, Tonga’s Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Meteorology, Energy, Information, Disaster Management, Environment, Climate Change and Communications (MEIDECC), Siaosi Sovaleni said: “Tonga is privileged to host Pacific Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (PCREEE) on behalf of the Pacific. This centre of excellence will provide valuable support to Pacific Island countries and territories towards progressing their respective priorities and commitments for achieving sustainable energy.”
The center has been established with support from the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), SIDS DOCK and the Government of Austria.
Highlighting SPC’s 70th Anniversary and its impact in the region, Pacific Community Director-General, Dr Colin Tukuitonga said: “SPC works for the well-being of Pacific people through the effective and innovative application of science and knowledge. PCREEE serves this mission by acting as innovative hub that brings together technical expertise and knowledge from around the world on matters related to sustainable energy project implementation.”
Dr Tukuitonga explained that there is still a long way to go as this is one of the most fossil-fuel dependent regions in the world.
“Every year, we import about 800 million to 1 billion USD worth of fuel. Most of this fuel is used in transportation and in power generation,” he said.
Tonga was selected as the site for PCREEE as a result of a consultative process, and in recognition of the interest and support by the Government of Tonga in promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency
GUAM PROTESTS TRUMP'S STANCE ON CLIMATE CHANGE
Millions of people around the world marched in support of science last weekend, including about 200 on Guam.
The Earth Day event on the United States' Pacific island territory also served as an opportunity to protest against President Donald Trump's position on climate change.
One of the organizers of the Guam march, the wildlife biologist, Isha Alexander, said Mr Trump is defunding the scientists who demonstrate the climate is changing.
"There are enough statistics out there about green energies and the jobs they create, just like you can create some jobs with oil," Ms Alexander said.
"Why we're choosing to go that route is a question that has been asked and hasn't been answered and that's one of the reasons why we're all marching."
Isha Alexander said Guam had become one of the first places in the US to experience climate change.