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PRESS STATEMENT August 1, 2002

A new regional body to supervise aviation safety and security was inaugurated today by senior aviation officials in Port Vila, Vanuatu. The Pacific Aviation Safety Office (PASO) will be responsible for improving flight standards and ensuring they are met in seven Pacific island countries.

Pacific Islands Forum Ministers of Aviation mandated the creation of PASO at their meeting last September.

Speaking at the opening of the first PASO Council meeting, Vanuatu's Minister for Infrastructure and Public Utilities, the Hon. Willie Posen, said "The gathering of founding member states present here today is a testament to the commitment of the region to address the safety, security and sovereignty of all in the interest of aviation. The establishment of PASO represents the fulfillment of a commitment to improve the aviation environment of the Pacific."

An Implementation Task Force, chaired by Tonga's Secretary for Civil Aviation, Mr. 'Ahovaleamoemapa Faletau, has developed a plan that will see PASO commencing operations in January 2003. This will follow the recruitment of specialist aviation inspectors and establishment of procedures.

"The Task Force has done remarkable work in a very short period of time to make PASO a reality today," Mr. Faletau said. "We recognize the invaluable support of its members, in particular, Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat in bringing the task to fruition."

Dr. Robert Guild, the Forum Secretariat adviser who has coordinated the Task Force, said, "Regional cooperation has much potential as an effective approach, and will lead to the ready availability of expertise within the region, regulatory harmonization, economies of scale, and leveraged use of regional resources.

The PASO Council, which comprises representatives of each member government, set overall policies for the organization and its implementation. It is expected to be fully self-sufficient and financially sustainable within five years.

PASO will be responsible for oversight of flight operations, air worthiness, security, and airports. The Council elected Mr. Vae'alua Nofo Vae'alua, Samoa's Secretary for Transport, as its first Chairman.

"This is a momentous and historic occasion, for it marks the maturity of civil aviation in the region that could well lead to additional responsibilities in the future," Mr. Vae'alua said.

PASO founding member countries include Australia, Fiji, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu.

For additional information, contact: Ulafala Aiavao at 

Ulafala Aiavao Media Adviser Forum Secretariat Private Bag Suva, Fiji

Tel: (679) 3220 220; Mob: (679) 9998 674 Fax: (679) 3305 554 Email:   Web:  Mirror site: 

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