May 7, 2018
JICA President Shinichi Kitaoka visited Fiji and Samoa on April 4-10. He discussed with government dignitaries on development issues and the future direction of cooperation, and visited the sites of ODA projects JICA is cooperating with.
Fiji is increasing its profile in the international community and is a key nation in the region of the Pacific. In 2017, Fiji hosted the UN Ocean Conference in June and of the 23rd UN Climate Change Conference (COP 23) in November.
In the Fijian capital Suva, Mr. Kitaoka met with Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, attorney general and minister for economy, public enterprises, civil service & communications. He also met with Inia Seruiratu, minister for agriculture, rural & maritime development & national disaster management & meteorological services , and Yogesh Karan, permanent secretary to the Office of Prime Minister. It was the first visit by a JICA president since the democratization of Fiji in September 2014. Mr. Sayed-Khaiyum expressed his gratitude for JICA's cooperation and talked about initiatives to address natural disasters and other issues facing the country. Mr. Kitaoka said Fiji had built upon the results of past cooperation and is now playing an important role as a core country in the region. Noting that the eighth Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting (PALM 8) will be held in Iwakai city, Fukushima prefecture, in May, and that a direct flight between Japan and Fiji will go into service in July for the first time in ten years, he said JICA will work to strengthen the relationship between Japan and Fiji.
Next, Mr. Kitaoka visited the University of the South Pacific. The university is an international institute of higher education and the top educational institutions in the region. Established through a joint investment by 12 Pacific Islands countries, it offers distance learning to countries in the region using a satellite communications network funded by Japan. Mr. Kitaoka visited the distance learning system and Japan-Pacific ICT Centre and saw that the university is utilizing Japan's long years of cooperation in the fields of information technology and marine products to play a central role in human resource development in the Pacific.
Touring the sites of projects in the fields of disaster risk reduction, the environment and energy, and observing the activities of former JICA training participants, Mr. Kitaoka recognizedin what ways JICA's cooperation is contributing to 1. overcoming the vulnerabilities of island countries, 2. regional cooperation in the Pacific region, and 3. human resource development.
In Samoa, the next country Mr. Kitaoka visited, he held talks with Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi, prime minister, Sili Epa Tuioti, minister of finance, and Lee Hang Papaliitele Nickel, minister of works, transport & infrastructure. Mr. Tuilaepa expressed thanks for JICA's years of cooperation and said he hopes for continued support. Mr. Kitaoka replied that JICA will continue its cooperation to Samoa, noting that because Samoa will co-hostPALM 8 in May, Samoa's bilateral relations with Japan are expected to grow stronger. For reasons of geography, connectivity is one issue Pacific Islands countries face. As Pacific Islands countires are important partners of Japan, .Mr. Kitaoka affirmed the need for marine cooperation, including improving marine infrastructure such as harbors and ferries.
Mr. Kitaoka visited the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), an international agency whose members consist of 26 countries and territories. For many years JICA implemented assistance to improve waste management in the Pacific based in SPREP. Now, it is building the Pacific Climate Change Center, where human resources will be trained for climate change countermeasures. Because SPREP's and JICA's initiatives on waste management and climate change have much in common, the agency would like to strengthen its cooperative relationship with JICA, a SPREP representative said.
Mr. Kitaoka also visited a water purification plant managed by the Samoa Water Authority. JICA is in a partnership agreement to use the experience and expertise of Okinawa prefecture, which has a lot of geographic similarities to Pacific Islands countries, so the purification plant has adopted a biological purification method used in Okinawa. Mr. Kitaoka acknowledged that in addition to this technology, in which microorganisms break down organic matter to purify water, steady progress is being made on the transfer of technologies including water leakage management and water quality management.
Mr. Kitaoka visited JICA infrastructure assistance sites: the Port of Apia, which is being expanded to improve safety, and the aging Vaisigano Bridge. Along with Mr. Tuilaepa, Mr. Kitaoka attended a groundbreaking ceremony for the rebuilding of the bridge.
At PALM 8 in May, top leaders will discuss issues facing Pacific Islands countries with the goal of strengthening the partnership between Japan and the Pacific. JICA also will continue to reinforce its relationship of trust with Pacific Islands countries through visits by JICA president.