GENEVA, Switzerland-May 8: 8.30am (MEIDECC): Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Environment, Hon. Siaosi ‘O. Sovaleni, joined the Tongan delegation in Geneva, Switzerland for the high level segment of the joint Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions last week.
The other members of the Tongan delegation were Mr Paula Ma’u (CEO for MEIDECC),Ms Atelaite Matoto (Director of Environment, MEIDECC) and Ms Mafile’o Masi (Chief Environmentalist, MEIDECC).
Known as the BRS Triple-COPs, the two-week long meeting comprises the back-to-back running of the three Conventions which, together, provide international guidance on the sound management of chemicals and hazardous waste.
During the High Level Segment, Hon. Sovaleni highlighted the vulnerability of small island developing states, like Tonga, to the improper management of chemicals and hazardous waste.
Furthermore, Hon. Sovaleni praised the role that the Tongan delegation has played in speaking out about the need for the Rotterdam Convention to impose tighter controls on the import and export of chrysotile asbestos.
“It is very pleasing to see Tonga taking a lead role in the Pacific push to prevent dangerous asbestos from being imported into our islands without our knowledge or consent. It is however, very disappointing to note that this move has – for the sixth consecutive time – been blocked by a small number of Parties despite support from the majority,” he said.
Hon. Sovaleni also supported recent comments from the Director General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment programme (SPREP), Mr Kosi Latu,on the need for Pacific island nations to band together to address the influx of hazardous substances into the Pacific region.
“If the Rotterdam Convention cannot protect small island developing states then we must work together to protect ourselves,” Mr Latu stated.
The High Level Segment of the BRS Triple-COPs concluded on May 5.