Prime Minister James Marape has refuted statements in the Australian Media purportedly by the PNG Defence Force Commander Major General Gilbert Toropo that the growing Chinese presence was a challenge to Papua New Guinea’s security.
This was supposedly made in the context of welcoming the rehabilitation of the naval base in Lombrum.
“Firstly, I would like to place on record the excellent relations that PNG continues to enjoy with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as a major development partner. This relationship remains strong since it was first entered into in 1975.”
Papua New Guinea’s foreign policy of being “friends to all and enemies to none” continues to define our global relations including our bilateral relationships with the PRC where we draw tangible outcomes for our development agenda as well as important investments and export markets for our primary goods.
Papua New Guinea continues to manage our relationships under the “One China Policy” and the respect and good will is mutual.
“I do not perceive China as a security threat, but rather as an important development, investment and trade partner with shared values conducted under mutual friendship and understanding.”
Of course, there are major plans in place to rehabilitate and develop the Lombrum Naval Base to strengthen our naval surveillance capabilities to patrol our Northern maritime borders as well as to develop it as a Special Economic Zone.
“Lombrum used to be operated mutually by our Government and the Australian Government before Independence.
They left after Independence.
But after having operated the facility to support their off shore processing policy, the Australian Government, through the existing Defence Cooperation Treaty, has now embarked on a comprehensive rehabilitation of the base, which will boost a northern maritime border surveillance capability, and deployment capabilities. It is a positive growth story which will ease up on some after effects of the closure of the processing facilities on employment and subcontracting opportunities!”
In relation to employment and business opportunities, Prime Minister said that the Manus Provincial Government must be consulted prior to any arrangements to ensure that there is inclusivity and participation in potential economic activities that will emanate as a result of the rehabilitation.
“Any development projects present opportunities to boost the involvement of small to medium enterprises, which translates into tangible and sustainable activities away from Lombrum itself.
I want to see a generous involvement of local businesses from the provinces.”
Manus Provincial Governor Hon. Charlie Benjamin, MP has been explicit and forthright in his views that any proposed development at Lombrum, in particular the engagement of potential Development Partners would require the endorsement of his Government.
The Prime Minister expressed hope that the statement attributed to Major General Gilbert Toropo was a complete misreporting of the facts, as this statement purportedly coming from the PNG Head of Defense is quite concerning to this Government.
“I am deeply concerned by the ramifications of this statement and will be seeking a brief from Commander Toropo to explain or preferably retract the statement relating to China, attributed to him.”