By Theckla Gunga – EMTV News, Port Moresby
The Papua New Guinea Defence Force says details of the proposed Joint Naval Base in Manus are yet to be finalized.
PNGDF Commander, Major General Gilbert Toropo told EMTV News the US commitment to support the establishment of a joint naval base is based on some requirements made by the Papua New Guinean government.
“Detailed discussions have not been finalized yet to understand the extent of what the US will bring on board in terms of their naval presence in Manus,” said Toropo,
Commander Toropo’s comments come three months after the news of a joint naval base was first published by an Australian newspaper.
The discussion of a joint naval base establishment in Manus has been out since September with no official word from the PNG government as yet.
However, there were bilateral agreements signed between PNG and Australian Governments to ensure a smooth transition for PNGDF sea element from using Pacific Class Patrol Boats to Guardian Class Patrol Boats.
And while PNG and Australia remained tight-lipped about the military establishment, the US Vice-president had announced its support towards building the base during the APEC CEO’s Summit in November.
“I am pleased to announce that the US will support the building of the Joint Naval Base in Lombrum on Manus Island,” Pence said.
But the news of building a joint military establishment in Lombrum was initially denied by the PNG Defence Force in October.
In a statement released from the PNGDF Commander’s Officer, it stated that PNGDF is not having new discussions with Australia to build a naval base in Lombrum.
The statement says as part of the ongoing relationship and partnership with Australia, PNGDF wants to improve its logistical support for the new naval vessels. These vessels will be given by the Australian government over the next two years.
But the news of the military establishment has not been welcomed by locals in Manus.
Manus Governor Charlie Benjamin has raised concerns in November that despite Lombrum being a state asset, the national government should consult the provincial government when discussing plans to build a naval base in Manus.