Senior Officials Meeting (SOM), a preparatory meeting for the 7th Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting (PALM7) scheduled for 22 and 23 May 2015, Iwaki city, Fukushima prefecture was held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Building in Tokyo on Wednesday, 4th March 2015. This was followed by a reception at New Otani Hotel hosted by the Hon. Parliamentary Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, Kazuyuki Nakane. The Fijian delegation was led by HE Ambassador Isikeli Mataitoga.
As part of FET Outreach to various institutes and organizations throughout Japan, the Embassy conducted a Fiji Tourism & Marketing Promotion Seminar at the JICA Tokyo Training Center on Thursday 26th February 2015. About 7(seven) JICA trainees from Albania, Estonia, Kosovo, Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Ukraine and Montenegro and JICA Tokyo Staffs attended the 2 and a ½ hour seminar. The seminar was the joint effort of the Fiji Embassy in Tokyo and JICA Tokyo focussing on Fiji-Japan Tourism history, promotion, marketing and future prospects.
The Director of Inter Actions Corporation (IAC), Mr Nobuo Kiji held consultations with HE Ambassador Isikeli Mataitoga on Thursday 26th February 2015, to discuss on project areas IAC is involved in and discuss possible investment cooperation.
In December 2013, PM Bainimarama commissioned the Rukua Village Solar Grid Project which was undertaken by Inter Action Corporation and the Department of Energy in Fiji. IAC also undertook a project for setting up 2000 Solar Home Units in the Solomon Islands, under the PEC program. It was informed that IAC Group is able to create sustainable circulation in the society. Further elaborating on food waste and cow dung, which can be sources of fertilizer or energy for Agriculture and Life. Renewable energy such as solar power, wind, geothermal and biomass were a few to name. IAC has also recently had an M&A with a local company in Kagoshima, Kyushu for its geo-thermal business activities, emphasizing on the food waste and cow dung.
The Asia-Pacific Regional Seminar for Parliaments themed “Translating International Human Rights Commitments into National Realities: the Contribution of Parliaments to the Work of the UN Human Rights Council” was held in Manila, Philippines from 26-27th February 2015. The Honourable Dr. Jiko Luveni, Speaker of the Republic of Fiji’s Parliament, attended the Conference on the invitation of the President of the Senate Office of Philippine, Honourable Mr. Franklin Drilon. She was accompanied by the Acting Deputy Secretary General, Mrs. Jeanette Emberson, and Counsellor Julia Korovou of the Fiji Embassy Tokyo, who rendered support and secretariat services. Fiji’s Honorary Consul (HC) for Philippine, Mr. Pineda Jr. was also on hand.
The Conference’s objective was to inform participants about how the Human Rights Council functions and alert them to the importance of becoming more involved. The meeting aimed to identify good parliamentary practices in working with the Council and in promoting and protecting human rights in general, in particular, by initiating an effective and continuous dialogue with other stakeholders such as national institutions and civil society. It also aims to determine the appropriate cooperation framework among other stakeholders, in particular the executive, national human rights institutions, civil society and parliaments with a view to maximising the latter’s contribution to the promotion of human rights.
Madame Speaker moderated a Panel Session titled “Common Challenges regarding the human rights situation in Asia-Pacific.” The session aimed to examine how States in the region, with the help of parliaments, have been able to address some of these issues notably: ensuring the proper administration of justice; and Climate Change, environment and global warming/Climate Justice.
On the eve of 27th February, the Honourable Dr. Luveni along with Mrs. Emberson and Counsellor Korovou were hosted to a dinner by HC Pineda Jr. and Mrs. Pineda. Madame Speaker expressed her sincere gratitude to Mr. and Mrs. Pineda Jr. for their generosity and assistance provided during the course of her Conference, and requested that her Office be informed of their visit to Fiji in June as she wishes to organise for them a tour of Fiji’s Parliament Office.
Counsellor Korovou convened a follow-up meeting with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Philippines on Wednesday, 25th February 2015 which was presided over by Mr. Raymond Albert H Batac, Executive Director Foreign Trade Service Corps. Officials from the various divisions of the DTI viz Bureau of Micro & SME Development, Consumer & Industrial Division, Export Marketing Bureau, Business Development Division and Industrial Policy Service were in attendance.
At the outset, Counsellor Korovou sincerely thanked Mr. Batac and his Officials for their warm reception and remarkable presence. She underlined the purpose of her meeting was to follow-up on certain issues that were last discussed at their first meeting held in October 2014 and also to initiate meaningful cooperation that are mutually practical and beneficial. The meeting reiterated the fact that there is currently insignificant trade between Fiji and the Philippine hence, the logic to explore other areas of feasible meaningful economic cooperation. Counsellor Korovou mentioned that the first Philippine/Fiji DCA is soon to be completed and ratified by both the Ministers for Foreign Affairs expectantly by 2nd or 3rd Quarter of the year. To that end, she remarked that the Agreement would leverage some of the cooperation prospects that would be classified in this and subsequent meetings. DTI’s request for a copy of a Draft DCA for their information and views was noted.
Few issues were drawn from the outcomes of the previous meeting which encompassed the Philippine national and international trade and investment exhibitions such as the FAME, IFEX, as well as how Fiji would like to learn from Philippine’s best practices in the management of SMEs and Micro-business as this is one of the development policies of the Fijian Government to growing a sustainable economy. Mr. Batac advised that it would be ideal for Fiji to first participate as an observer in such immense expositions to gauge the nature of business environment, product types and quality of participants to assist with their diligence on the level of participation – whether as a trade or investment player in successive events. An invitation to Fiji for the next exhibition was noted.
Counsellor Korovou explained that given the paltry level of trade and investment between the two countries it would be ideal to seek cooperation in the areas of capacity building in terms of self-help projects in fashion design and jewelleries, SMEs enhancement, entrepreneurship and management courses for women, and investment/product packaging and promotion strategies for export products. Mr. Batac and the DTI officials concurred with the capacity building cooperation alluded to as appropriate and practical to build and progress economic relations between the two countries, particularly given the backdrop of the Philippine’s economy as constituting 99% of SMEs. It was noted that the APEC 2015 in Philippines will host SMEs workshops focusing on capacity building in supply chains – food, handicraft and automotive as the focal products. Counsellor Korovou mentioned that Fiji though not a member of APEC was invited by the Russian Federation Government who played host in 2012 to participate at the APEC meeting in Vladivostok. In that regard, the Bureau of SMEs considered to issue Fiji an invitation to participate at their APEC SMEs programme.
Keen interest focused on fashion design and jewelleries using local resources unique to Fiji per se. Counsellor Korovou mentioned that though this is an infant industry in Fiji there is significant potential based on the talents being demonstrated by youths. Assistance to help produce fashion and jewelleries for high end markets abroad was underscored, as such sector is envisaged to create self-help projects and employment for the Fijians if appropriately supported with the right learning aptitude, skills and entrepreneurial knowledge essential to successfully produce for international niche markets. As such, the DTI recommended dialogue with certain Departments and Organisations to further discuss this initiative, namely the Design Centre of Philippines and Department of Science and Technology. DTI advised that it would be fitting for Fiji to promote its indigenous fabric/resources by maintaining their look but evolve them to attract high end markets. Tax incentives, capacity building, product specification/development, initial financing facilities and subsidisation of raw materials including private sector partnership were underscored to have all contributed to the successful and strong SMEs in the Philippines. DTI mentioned that an ideal cooperation in which Philippine could pursue with Fiji is to learn from its tourism development success inclusive of the construction process of five star hotels and related infrastructure, an area that Philippine endeavours to advance.
By common consent the following were identified as practical spheres of cooperation to explore: exchange of information; capacity development; exchange study missions; expositions and tourism/hotel development. Both parties committed to effect necessary follow-up to progress mutual beneficial economic cooperation between Fiji and Philippine. In closure, Counsellor Korovou thanked Mr. Batac and his team for their time and invaluable exchanges.
On Tuesday, 24th February, Counsellor Korovou met with Ambassador Jose Maria Carino of the Technical Cooperation Council of Philippine, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) along with his Planning/Programme Officer-Mr. Manuel Almira. The meeting with Ambassador Carino was initiated during Counsellor Korovou’s audience with Mr. Jason Anasarias the Assistant Director for Asian and Pacific Affairs of the DFA Philippine on 23rd February. At the outset Counsellor Korovou expressed her sincere appreciation to Ambassador Carino for endorsing the meeting request at a very short-notice. The meeting succinctly manoeuvred to underline focal areas of cooperation that are of priority to Fiji as well as would be practical for the TCCP to implement within the 2015 fiscal year. Counsellor Korovou advised that inter-alia agri-business, agri-tourism, entrepreneurship capacity development, downstream processing of local resources, aquaculture, TQM and investment/product packaging are certain spheres high on the list for technical cooperation. In that regard, Ambassador Carina, advised on the following cooperation that the TCCP could arrange and implement as early as in April or May; 1) Organic farming and agri-tourism; and 2) Gender development and entrepreneurship for women.
Other prospective areas mentioned for technical cooperation include fruit preservations and fish preservation. Ambassador Carino remarked that the South-South Cooperation have largely underpinned the level of cooperation either bilaterally or multilaterally between Philippines and PICs as well with Asian countries. Countries that have benefitted from the same joint venture or cooperation were Myanmar, East Timor, Nauru and Tuvalu. In closure, Counsellor Korovou sincerely thanked Ambassador Carino for the proposed joint venture and advised that she would need to confer with the relevant authority/Ministry in Fiji and revert with advices. Ambassador Carino expressed high hopes for the cooperation to materialise.
On Monday, 23rd February, Counsellor Korovou convened a meeting with Mr. Jason Anasarias the Assistant Director for Asian and Pacific Affairs of the Department of Foreign Affairs Philippine and Ms. Lyza Viejo to follow up on certain bilateral concerns that were discussed at their meeting of October 2013 in Manila with the object to deepen the two countries bilateral relation. The focal issues of discussion encompassed the Fiji/Philippines DCA which is yet to be to ratified; the Fiji/Philippine Coconut Authority MOU; Fiji’s Minister for Foreign Affairs visit to Philippines; and establishment of a Joint Council Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC) or Senior Officials Meetings as the ideal mechanism for periodical follow-up to Ministerial meetings.
A progressive update on the Fiji/Philippines Bilateral DCA was provided by both parties in which it was noted that the Fijian Government would soon complete its emendation of the DCA text including response to comments by the Philippine Government, for the latter’s consideration. Counsellor Korovou underscored the aspiration to have the DCA ratified by both the Ministers’ for Foreign Affairs during the Ministerial visit of Honourable Ratu Inoke Kubuabola to Manila tentatively in the 2nd or 3rd Quarter of 2015. Mr. Anasarias concurred with the signing timeline and also informed that the DCA text would be finalised in next to no time by their Government . Follow up on pending MOUs and initiated bilateral Agreements would be effected by both parties with progressive updates. On the Ministerial visit, Mr. Anasarias informed that the Philippine Government would await the advice of the Fiji Government via a Note Verbale to progress all needful. Also, both parties concurred with the proposition to incorporate as an agenda of the Ministerial dialogue the establishment of a Senior Officials or Joint Council Bilateral Cooperation as a follow-up mechanism to the Ministers’ meetings.
Progress on the trilateral cooperation arrangement of which the Philippine Government is pursuing as means to assist Pacific Island Countries in the frame of its Foreign Policy objectives and underpinning the South-South Cooperation was deliberated . Necessary external interventions inclusive of appropriate undertakings by each concerned nation state was noted as fundamental to propel the cooperation. Dialogue with relevant agencies in this regard was also mentioned to impel this regional initiative. In closure, both parties underlined the need to fast-track the timely completion of the DCA as well as the requirements to progress the scheduled Ministerial visit.
Counsellor Korovou met with the officials of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) on 23rd February 2015 at the BFAR Office, Manila with the object to establish strategic contacts and explore possible mutual cooperation. The meeting was attended to by Dr. Nelson A Lopez, Chief of Inland Fisheries and Aquaculture Division, Ms. Prescilla B Regaspi-Supervising Aquaculturist, Ms.Irma F Ortiz-Seaweed-culturist, Mr. Roy Ortega, Brackishwater Aquaculturist, and Mr. Balar- Aquaculturist. At the outset, Counsellor Korovou expressed her gratitude to Dr. Lopez and his staff for availing time from their busy schedule to meet with her and stated the purpose of her meeting thus was to establish contacts with the Bureau and to explore meaningful cooperation between Fiji and Philippine in the spectrum of aquaculture. The meeting, therefore, served as a preparatory process and space for initial findings for the planned visit of Fiji’s Minister for Fisheries and Forests to Philippine in the 2nd Quarter of 2015. In his prologue, Dr. Lopez introduced the major spheres of their aquatic resources which incorporate freshwater fishpond (milkfish and tilapia); brackishwater fishpond; fish pen and fish cage in fresh and marine waters, and mariculture of oyster, mussel and seaweeds. Notably, in 2012, the Aquaculture fisheries sub-sector contributed the highest value of about P92.3 billion or 38.8% of total fishing industry production compared with the commercial and municipal sub-sectors contribution of P65.89 billion (27.7%) and P79.5 billion respectively.
Practical experiences of fisheries projects in terms of gender basis approach in the Philippine were keenly noted. The range of fish farming practices in inland and coastal areas as well as marine were described including their various national aquaculture programmes. Appropriate legal instruments were mentioned as vital for the success of aqua-agri industry and its economics as in the case of Philippine. The presence of academic marine institutions in the Philippine was also highlighted, underscoring marine science and ecosystem as prominent courses currently embraced in Europe and Asia. Capacity building programmes for their youth population was also discussed. In that vein, Counsellor Korovou alluded to the prospect of exploring practical exchange studies and technical cooperation between the two countries. As such it was informed that Aquaculture is being considered as one of the significant sectors to growing a sustainable Fijian economy, apparently by way of establishing self-help projects and employment and long-term food security in view of Climate Change. Hence, Fiji desires to learn more on aquaculture economics from the Philippines through relevant mutual cooperation and technical exchanges with relevant agro-research and development laboratories and institutions. Dr. Lopez assured that his Office would be prepared to render assistance to FET in future and thus encouraged follow on exchanges underpinning the objective and outcomes of the said meeting. The Bureau looks forward to receiving Fiji’s Minister for Fisheries and Forests during his course of visit to the Philippine. In closure, Counsellor Korovou expressed gratitude to Dr. Lopez and his staff for the dialogue and insightful exchanges that transpired.
The first ever Senior Officials Meeting [SOM] at the level of Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs [Permananet Secretary] took place in Suva, Fiji from 4-5 February 2015. The holding of this meeting came following the approval given during the meeting between Rear Admiral [Rtd] Josaia V. BAINIMARAMA, Prime Minister of Fiji and HE Mr. Sergey LAVROV, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation in New York, USA on 27 September 2014.
The Fijian delegation was led by Mr Esala Nayasi, Acting Permannet Secretary for Foreign Affairs and assisted by HE Mr. Isikeli Mataitoga, Fiji’s Non-resident Ambassador to the Russian Federation based in Tokyo, Japan and two support staff in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr Apolosi Lewaqai Acting Director, Oceania, Asia and Russia Bureau and Ms Vakaoca Kedrayate, Assistant Secretary.
The issues discussed between the parties covered three aspects of bilateral relations between Fiji and the Russian Federation. The first part was a review of projects undertaken by both countries since the historic meeting of PM Bainimarama with PM Medvedev in Moscow, Russian from 28 -30 June 2013. The second part covered areas for new cooperation and the third part focused on Fiji-Russia cooperation in the multilateral organizations such as the United Nations and related agencies.
In addition to the senior officials meetings, HE Mr Igor Morgulov also made calls on Hon Ratu Inoke Kubuabola MP, Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Hon Mr Timoci Natuva MP, Minister for Immigration, National Security and Defence.
HE Mr Igor Morgulov, Deputy Minister fo Foreign Affairs of Russia being greeted by Mr Esala Nayasi