Vanuatu daily news digest | 17 December 2012

Both Radio Vanuatu and Daily Post have today given prominence to a new body which will oversee climate change and disaster risk reduction projects and bring civil society into the planning stage. It will have the rather unwieldy name of National Advisory Board on Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and will come under the Department of Meteorology and Geohazards. It will be the entry point for all projects dealing with climate change and DRR. Official ceremonies are taking place today to mark the launch of the new Board.

While on the subject of meteorological hazards, solar/wind-up-powered tri-band (SW, MW and FM) radios are being given to 500 Vanuatu villages thanks to the Vois Blong Yumi project and AusAID. This will enable villagers to get cyclone warnings regardless without electricity. Women’s groups and provincial authorities are distributing these Vanuatu flag-coloured radios. With the season’s first cyclone not far away in Fiji, the gift is certainly timely.

However, these radios may be of only limited use, as VBTC management has recently been talking about turning off the Radio Vanuatu shortwave (SW) transmitter, which is the only radio signal capable of reaching all of Vanuatu. Such a move would be madness, given the reliance of remote communities on this vital service, and would increase the risk Vanuatu faces from natural disasters.

Vanuatu Beverages has closed its popular Splashe line of soft drinks because it can’t compete with cheaper products entering Vanuatu under the Melanesian Spearhead Group Free Trade Agreement (MSGFTA). Vanuatu Beverages general manager Jean-Yves Chabod told Daily Post that 42 staff have been retrenched so far due to the MSGFTA.

A disturbance occurred Saturday night at Merelava airstrip over custom ownership of the land. Police at Santo, VBTC News reported, are aware of the situation.