Papua New Guinea’s Foreign Minister says his country is looking to draw on Australia’s expertise to better respond to future natural disasters after the massive earthquake that devastated PNG’s Highlands in February.”We need a better system to cope with future natural disasters,” Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato said after attending the annual forum of senior ministers from both countries in Brisbane on Friday.
“Clearly we are looking to the systems that are in use here in Australia, we have been talking to the government of Queensland.
“They have a fantastic setup with the tool kit which requires them to take a unified approach, in the event of hailstorms or bushfires, or landslips, or floods, so the reaction to those kinds of disasters are immediate, and we’ve not been able to [manage the impacts of this disaster from Port Moresby].”
Amid a renewed debate about China’s growing influence in the Pacific, and the effectiveness of its aid program, Mr Pato said PNG welcomed all development partners.
“Australia is of course the biggest and the oldest of those development partners, China was a developing nation and has expanded its policy to grant aid not only in the Pacific but right around the world, so we welcome it.
“Clearly because of the timing of which they [China] have decided to provide support, particularly in infrastructure, and because we’re new to the partnership there could be challenges but these are things that we will work together to address.”
Mr Pato would like to see greater cooperation between China and PNG’s biggest aid donor, Australia.
“We should be collaborating better and more effectively so we that can get the best out of these collaborations,” he said
“If we work in cooperation there will be security, prosperity and stability which will empower all our governments and our citizens”.
During Friday’s ministerial forum Mr Pato and his Australian counterpart Julie Bishop signed agreements paving the way for the installation of an undersea highspeed telecommunications cable between the two countries, and for the provision of Australian assistance on cyber security during the APEC Leaders Week.
APEC leaders summit on track for November
PNG is set to host the APEC Leaders Week in Port Moresby in November and Mr Pato pledged that the cost of the earthquake recovery has not affected preparations.
“APEC is an opportunity to showcase Papua New Guinea, all strategies to host the APEC leaders’ summit in November are well and truly in place,” he said.
“It’s a massive undertaking but we’ve prepared for it and it’s not as if we’re doing this alone.
“We have the support of the Government of Australia, the Government of New Zealand and other APEC economies because it’s about partnership.”
PNG is expected to spend around $300 million to host the APEC Leaders Week and related events, and Australia has provided around $100 million in support — Mr Pato said it will be worth the significant cost.
“The networking that will be taking place with all the business executives that will come from all the 21-member countries, clearly the positives outweigh the $300 million which will be spent.”