The closing of the Solomon Islands/Papua New Guinea border has negatively affect the small-scale trading activities of Shortland outer island communities whose livelihoods depend on frequently crossing borders buying and selling goods.
A Shortland Islands chief, Peter Eresi, calls on the Economic Stimulus Package committee to look into their plight as being isolated and the issue of food security.
“This are atolls and for buying of garden food, Buin market is their only source,” Mr Eresi briefed a visiting team from the National Emergency Response Team (NERT) who toured the Western border last week.
He said the border community’s small-scale fishing and tourism activities must be given priority by the governments’ stimulus package team.
“Our people need such funding to help them survive the impact of the border closures and also become self-sustenance.
“Our isolation also hinders us to access the application forms which was aired on the radio,” chief Eresi said adding that the team from the committee must visit them as soon as possible to discuss and help draw up their proposals seeing the due date is extended for rural areas.
The chief is worried that such economic hardship will somehow force villagers to breach the travel restrictions in search of food and money.
A statement from the Economic Stimulus Package Committee explains “Any good business submission from the border can be supported as well.
“Date for provincial submissions has been extended,” the statement said.
The Government through Royal Solomon Islands Police Force continues to man and patrol our border given the potential high-risk area of importation of COVID-19 through this straits after PNG recently records a dozen of Covid-19 positive cases.
A border outpost will be soon erected at Lofung funded by Australia as part of its broader step-up in the Pacific program which also aligns with the governments’ three-phased approach to strengthen surveillance, response capability and protection of the porous border.
In the meantime, quarantine and isolation centre for Shortland is identified at Nila Catholic Mini Hospital and has been assessed by government infrastructure team for minor upgrade works expected to be implemented soon.
COVID-19 Emergency Power Orders by Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare restricts the movement of small craft or boats crossing the border with heavy penalties applied to those who breach it.
Communities at the border are urged to cooperate with the Government to stem COVID-19 importation on our shores.