Climate change and the protection of the Pacific Ocean remains the two most important agendas for all Pacific Island Countries, says Tongan diplomat.

Tonga’s Ambassador to Japan, Suka Mangisi said that Pacific Island nations were not interested in geopolitics and security deals thrown their way by “superpower countries”, but hoped Pacific leaders could use the current interest in the Pacific for economic benefit.

“As Pacific Island countries, we always want to see where we can fit in to better develop our communities and villages, towns and cities, and we often look for opportunities from these superpower countries,” Mangisi said.

“There is a huge interest in the Pacific all of a sudden because of, what I would call, a cold war trend, and our region is coming up as a strategic location for security expansion.

“However, our leaders must continue to emphasise the importance of climate change, protecting the Blue Pacific and economic opportunities in terms of investment and trade of our resources.”

Magisi added that Pacific Island countries could make use of the people tourism, a similar seasonal worker concept used in New Zealand and Australia, to send rugby players to Japan, which currently has a huge demand.

“For Tonga, because we have a lot of our young people unemployed, we are now sending them to Japan for athletic or rugby scholarship programmes,” he said.

“Here, the money is good and each of these young people are earning up to one million Japanese yen, which is about T$900 back home, so in terms of family and community gross domestic product, that is having a lot of impact.”

The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs also stated that the upcoming PALM10 would be an opportunity for the Pacific Island countries to voice their plans for the vision 2050 of the Blue Pacific.

Meanwhile, Pacific Island Centre deputy director Akiko Takahashi also mentioned that PALM10 would put PNG as not only an investor destination for minerals, but also its vast potential in agriculture and crop export.