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Shiprider agreement must go beyond fisheries


Gabi    US PNG agreement
Despite calls for more public consultation, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and PNG defence minister Win Bakri Daki ink the defence cooperation and shiprider agreements at APEC House in Port Moresby (Radio New Zealand | Samuel Rillstone)

WEWAK - The defence cooperation agreement between the United States and Papua New Guinea signed late last month, and its associated shiprider agreement offer potential benefits for our fisheries industry.

But in addition to helping PNG protect its sovereignty, it’s crucial to consider the agreements broader implications and to explore other avenues for economic growth and development.

Our maritime environment holds immense potential to boost our economy.

In a statement, PNG prime minister James Marape said the agreement will act as a vital mechanism to tackle illegal fishing and drug trafficking.

He said increased US security involvement in PNG is driven primarily by the need to build up the PNG Defence Force and not US-China geopolitics.

US secretary of state Antony Blinken pointed out that at more than 2.4 million square kilometers, PNG’s exclusive economic zone is one of the largest in the South Pacific.

“The shiprider agreement will allow the PNGDF and US Coast Guard to deepen cooperation to combat illicit maritime activities, including illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing,” Blinken said.

“Under this agreement, our forces will be able to board one another’s vessels, share technical expertise and ultimately better patrol the seas together.”

The true value of PNG’s fishing industry is difficult to ascertain but the National Fisheries Authority estimates the market value of PNG’s catch at around K400 million a year.

It is crucial that we seize the opportunity to increase the economic value and returns from our fisheries.

By enhancing maritime security and curbing unreported and unregulated illegal fishing, we can safeguard our resources and ensure PNG reaps the revenue it deserves.

This aspect of the agreement holds tremendous potential for boosting our economy.

However, while the returns from marine resources are significant, we must acknowledge that they alone will not save our economy.

It is crucial to explore other sectors and opportunities that the agreement can unlock for us.

For example, strengthening our defence capabilities and forging partnerships with allies can create a more secure environment that attracts tourists and investors.

Marape must communicate a comprehensive vision that encompasses the broader economic potential the agreement offers instead of just the fisheries industry.

Our ultimate goals in this agreement must be to utilise the agreement to its fullest potential and safeguard our sovereignty.


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