By Theckla Gunga – EMTV News, Port Moresby
The Papua New Guinea Defense Force has denied any plans with the Australian government to set up a new base at the PNGDF Naval Base in Manus province.
PNGDF Commander, Gilbert Toropo, states that as part of the ongoing partnership between the two countries, they want to improve logistical support for the new naval vessels that will be replacing the ones currently in use.
Commander Toropo’s comments come one month after an Australian Newspaper reported that Australia was setting up a military base in Lombrum.
The PNGDF Commander in a statement released last Friday, states that the PNGDF is not having discussions with Australia to build a new naval base in Lombrum.
Instead, it is preparing for the arrival of four new Guardian Class Patrol Boats, which will be replacing the Pacific Class Patrol Boats.
The arrival of these boats marks the transition of the PNGDF Navy moving on to using bigger patrol boats for sea surveillance under the Australia Pacific Maritime Security Program.
In September this year, Australian media published a story that indicated that Australia will be setting up a military base in Manus.
The news came as a surprise for Papua New Guinea.
NCD Governor Powes Parkop had expressed disappointment in the manner, in which the news was leaked to Australian media.
“The way in which this information has come out, it’s like preempting us again, to make a policy decision that is still under consideration” said the NCD Governor, “so it’ss like deja vu again, that the early days of the Asylum plan is coming up again.”
In an earlier story, EMTV News published, former PNG Defence Force Commander, retired Major General Jerry Singirok, said Australia’s intentions may be good but he asked what the benefits are of having a military presence in Papua New Guinea.
“If Australia, at the moment, is thinking of establishing a base or a series of bases in Papua New Guinea and getting involved physically, then it calls for a public debate and at the moment, deceptions of public debate, let alone the absence of debate on the floor of parliament because that’s a strategic move.”