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The News

The Fiji Government Website (26 March 2017)

Fiji's President Jioji Konusi Konrote Pays Courtesy Call to Pope Francis in Vatican City

FIJI'S Head of State, His Excellency the President Major General (Ret'd) Jioji Konusi Konrote on Friday met with His Holiness Pope Francis for the first time since his appointment, in a meeting the President describes as 'fruitful and inspiring' for Fiji.

In an unprecedented long encounter, His Excellency the President met personally with Pope Francis in the Palace of the Holy Office for thirty minutes, where cordial discussions with Pope Francis centred on the existing good relations between the Holy See and Fiji, the positive contribution of the Catholic Church in Fiji to nation building and Fiji's upcoming global responsibilities on Oceans and climate change.

His Excellency the President also discussed the issue of climate change and Fiji's Presidency of COP23, and took the opportunity to request the support of Pope Francis to support Fiji's leadership responsibilities.

The Pope spoke about the ethical dimensions of climate change, which he said demanded solidarity with the most vulnerable social groups and countries, and with the new generations.

The President said, "Pope Francis possessed a very good sense of humour and we had a very positive discussions on the important international responsibilities Fiji was assuming."

"I also took the time to invite His Holiness to visit Fiji in the near future, to which Pope Francis was thankful and said he would consider."

President Konrote presented Pope Francis with a lali (Fiji wooden gong) carved from a mahogany tree that once stood outside Fiji's state-house that fell in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Winston.

"The wooden lali carving was symbolic to summon the world to take action on climate change," His Excellency the President impressed on Pope Francis.

The Holy Father reciprocated by presenting a porcelain plate with a painting impressing humanities obligation to care for creation, a Jubilee Medal of Pope Francis's fourth anniversary to the Papacy, as well as copies of many of his writings including the Laudato Si- an encyclical on earth-keeping and the responsibility to care for the whole of creation.

Following this special audience with Pope Francis, the President met with the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who was accompanied by Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States.

Discussions took place in the Palace of the Holy Office (see map) and was cordial in nature. The good existing relations between the Holy See and the Republic of Fiji was affirmed at the meeting with Cardinal Parolin.

H. E the President spoke of the real situation Fiji and the Pacific peoples were facing in with regards to climate change and rising sea levels. He also spoke of the robust economic performance of Fiji's economy notwithstanding the impact of the recent cyclone and flooding.

The President again used the opportunity to discuss themes of climate change and ecological justice with Cardinal Parolin.

The conversation centred on an exchange of views on the moral and ethical dimension of climate change and the role the church will play to effect positive change."

H.E. President Konrote, kindly requested for Pope Francis' continuous support, advocacy and championing the cause and challenges posed by climate change.

The meeting between the Holy Father and His Excellency the President of Fiji, comes on the back of a UN Food and Agriculture (FAO) international conference on the importance of soils in absorbing carbon-dioxide from the atmosphere, where the President was the guest of honour and keynote speaker. That UN meeting drew participation from 140 member states who are members of the FAO.

His Excellency President Konrote was accompanied to the Vatican by Fiji's High Commissioner to London and Fiji's non-resident Ambassador to the Holy See, Mr. Jitoko Tikolevu, Fiji's Ambassador to Brussels Mr. Deo Saran, Official Secretary to the President Mr. Pene Baleinabuli and senior government and aide officials.


From Fiji Times Online (26 March 2017)

President pays courtesy call to Pope Francis

By Talebula Kate

FIJIAN President Jioji Konrote for the first time since his appointment met with His Holiness Pope Francis last Friday in Vatican City.

Described as fruitful and inspiring for Fiji the unprecedented long encounter centred on the existing good relations between the Holy See and Fiji, the positive contribution of the Catholic Church in Fiji to nation building and Fiji's upcoming global responsibilities on Oceans and climate change.

Mr Konrote also discussed the issue of climate change and Fiji's Presidency of COP23, and took the opportunity to request the support of Pope Francis to support Fiji's leadership responsibilities.

"Pope Francis possessed a very good sense of humour and we had a very positive discussion on the important international responsibilities Fiji was assuming," Mr President said.

"I also took the time to invite His Holiness to visit Fiji in the near future, to which Pope Francis was thankful and said he would consider," he said.

Meanwhile the Pope spoke about the ethical dimensions of climate change, which he said demanded solidarity with the most vulnerable social groups and countries, and with the new generations.

Mr Konrote then presented Pope Francis with a lali (Fiji wooden gong) carved from a mahogany tree that once stood outside Fiji's state-house that fell in the wake of Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston.

"The wooden lali carving was symbolic to summon the world to take action on climate change," Mr Konrote said.

He was accompanied to the Vatican by Fiji's High Commissioner to London and Fiji's non-resident Ambassador to the Holy See, Jitoko Tikolevu, Fiji's Ambassador to Brussels Deo Saran, Official Secretary to the President Pene Baleinabuli and senior government and aide officials.


From Bulgarian News Agency (24 March 2017)

Konrote & Pope
Pope Francis welcomes President of the Republic of Fiji Jioji Konousi Konrote, left, on the occasion of their private audience, at the Vatican, Friday, March 24, 2017.

From Fiji Sun online (9 March 2017)

The process to upgrade the Rotuma Airstrip is currently in progress.

This was confirmed by the Solicitor-General, Sharvada Sharma, during their presentation of their Audit Report of 2014 to the Public Accounts Committee yesterday.

Committee member Aseri Radrodro had questioned the current development of the
airstrip.

Mr Sharma responded that if developed, Rotuma could be a transit point to other Pacific regions like Tuvalu, Wallis and Futuna and Kiribati.

Airports Fiji Limited would be progressing in that area once the Nadi International Airport renovation is completed.

Edited by Paula Tuvuki


From Fiji Times Online (3 March 2017)

Runway extension

By Filipe Naigulevu

MORE Rotumans can now travel to their homeland with the upgrade and extension works on the Rotuma runway.

And this will bring about new economic possibilities for those in Rotuma and all Fijians at large.

This was highlighted by Airports Fiji Ltd executive chairman Faiz Khan while making a presentation of their 2015 annual report to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Social Affairs yesterday.

Mr Khan said this was part of their projects this year which would see the upgrade works on a number of airports and runways.

"For Rotuma it has been a dream, a desire and it has been a hope of all Rotumans and Fijians to have a runway to cater for larger aircraft for the last three decades," he said.

"As of yesterday (Wednesday), the barge carrying the equipment docked at Rotuma in the afternoon and at present is in the process of demobilising the equipment so that they can start upgrading Rotuma."

Previously, Mr Khan said, Twin Otters had serviced Rotuma with a maximum passenger capacity of seven.

"The purpose of expansion for Rotuma is to allow larger aircraft like the size of ATR 72s which can carry up to 72 passengers," he said.

"If we increase from seven to 72, logically we can understand what that does to the Rotuman people and it will simply expand Rotuma and make it closer to Viti Levu."

Mr Khan said the Rotuma runway project, which had a budget of about $13 million, would be completed by early next year.

"It took a few days for the barge to arrive into Rotuma with all the equipment," he said.

"So the contractor is in the process of demobilising and mobilising on site at present and it's going to be another challenge because the only way you can transport big equipment is through barging and that itself is a risk."

Because of this, Mr Khan said AFL consultants were on site to identify and mitigate these risks.

"This will allow Rotumans to commute more frequently and make them a greater part of the Fijian economy and this is the most welcoming news for the Rotumans and the general public who are travelling to the island," he said.

Mr Khan also outlined similar sentiments on the extension works on the Matei Airport on Taveuni.

"Similarly with Matei, it is going to happen in the very near future," he told members of the standing committee.

"We are not talking about some plan that will happen in 10 years' time.

"We are talking about modernisation taking place where we'll see the results and for Matei we have a targeted date around the end of next year for expansion."

Government had allocated $150,000 for the expansion of the runway at Matei Airport.

Mr Khan said this was their main purpose in line with Government's vision to ensure that we bring the people of Fiji new possibilities.


From Fiji Sun online (3 March 2017)

Rotuma Airport Upgrade Barge Arrives

Around $13 million will be invested into the upgrade of Rotuma Airport to cater for bigger
airplanes.

This was revealed by Airports Fiji Limited executive chair, Faiz Khan while presenting
their 2015 annual report before the Standing Committee on Social Affairs in Parliament
yesterday.

He said a barge loaded with equipment for carrying out the upgrade at the airport arrived
on the island on Wednesday.

For the last three decades, Mr Khan said it had been the dream and hope of Rotumans to
have their airport runways expanded to cater for bigger airplanes.

He said the contractors were currently in the process of demobilising the equipment
before starting the upgrade at Rotuma Airport.

Mr Khan said the airport was expected to be up and running earlier next year.

However, he said one of the challenges they faced in the shipment of upgrade equipment
to Rotuma, was because the island was isolated.

Mr Khan said the contractors were trying to find solutions in trying to get the equipment
over to the island.

The bigger aircraft would have a seating capacity 10 times more than the current one.

Mr Khan said this development would connect people on Rotuma closer to the main
islands.

He also said that upgrades on Matei Aiport in Taveuni would be completed by the end of
next year.

Edited by Jonathan Bryce


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