Prime Minister of Vanuatu, Charlot Salwai officially opened this morning a week regional meeting on Pacific Resilience Disaster Response at Le Lagoon Warwick Hotel this morning:
Here is the opening remark of PM Salwai:
“I am honoured to be here with you this morning and for the opportunity to say a few words of welcome on behalf of the Government and people of Vanuatu before you commence your work for the next couple of days.
Let me at the outset, cease this occasion to welcome you all to this important joint exercise between military personnel from the United States, Australia and Pacific partners, including Vanuatu. I make special welcome to those of you who have travelled to our shores. I hope you had a pleasant travel in and will have a pleasant stay during your brief visit to Vanuatu.
While I know that you have full week ahead of you I urge you to take time out of your busy schedule to enjoy the Vanuatu hospitality.
I am particularly pleased to be here this morning because this is the first time that such an event is being hosted here in Vanuatu and I belief it is timely following the devastating impact of TC Pam in 2015 which went through central and south Vanuatu.
Vanuatu, as you may all know by now, is one of the most disaster prone countries in the world to both natural and man-made hazards based on international research and reports.
For this reason the Vanuatu Government and many other Pacific countries are keen to strengthen their internal mechanisms and structures to respond when disaster occurs anywhere in the country.
This initiative of improving coordination was recently discussed during the MSG Leaders gatherings in Honiara for all participating countries to note and prepare for in our respective countries. An activity, that Vanuatu is very supportive of and keen to play an active role in.
Vanuatu experienced a lot of challenges with TC Pam and its devastating impacts in 2015 and is still recovering not only from the cyclone but also from the slow on-set El Nino that followed immediately after.
The Country’s experiences have been documented in the TC Pam Lessons learned report that is available.
While we have a lot of room for improvement, I note that the disasters that struck us, particular the devastating category 5 cyclone, had made us more resilient. Most of our communities did not wait around for assistance to come but stood up and responded to the need to build back what has been damaged and taken away by TC Pam.
In my recent address to the nation to mark the 36th anniversary of our country’s independence I made a call to remain united and maintain the momentum of rebuilding our country back particularly services that have been disrupted as a result of damage to key infrastructures.
I made a call to use the lessons learnt to strengthen existing mechanisms and adopt new ways of working better together to ensure recovery efforts are more-timely, coordinated and result in a positive impact. Through improved coordination and effective use of resources made available we will be able to build back better and stronger.
This event therefore could not have been staged at a better time than this especially for Vanuatu, particularly in Port Vila.
I want to remind us all that we are still in the dry season of the year and according to our Meteorological Scientist, we will be experiencing La Nina later this year. Meaning that, we will have more rainfall, flooding and possibility of mud slides on the elevated parts of our countries.
Let me use this opportunity to thank the sponsors and organisers of this important event, especially the United States Army Pacific particularly for choosing Port Vila as the venue.
This event will assist participants to learn, share ideas, skills and experiences that will greatly assist first responders to coordinate better during responses to all hazards.
Vanuatu has a small pool of first responders from Public, humanitarian partners, emergency services and the private sector which should benefit from such an event that we will participate in over the next four days.
I urge all of you to actively participate in this four day event, learn from others and also share your brilliant ideas so that others can learn from you.
I know you are all here for this exercise and exchange but take some time to visit Efate and Port Vila and spend some time to enjoy the Vanuatu hospitality and perhaps in the process contribute to the recovery program that my Government is leading the country out of after TC Pam and the El Nino event.
With these few words I now officially declare the 2016 Vanuatu Pacific Resilience Disaster Response Exercise & Exchange workshop opened and wish you all the best in your deliberations.
Thank you all for your attention, Merci Beaucoup, Tankio Tumas.