3 years before taking back full control of our airspace

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BY BARNABAS MANEBONA

Permanent secretary to Ministry of Communications and Aviation, Moses Virivolomo, faces PAC over the issue of Solomon Islands airspace

THE Ministry of Communication and Aviation (MCA) has three years to prepare to take full control of the country’s airspace, it is reported.

Currently, Australia has a 40 percent share over Solomon Islands airspace. This is because Solomon Islands does not have the trained people to look after the space machine.

There was a $17 million project that was expected to complete by 2014, involving the machine to manage the airspace and other equipment that were installed in the provinces. To this day none of them are working.

However, interestingly the MCA certified the project as complete despite the discrepancies.

Permanent Secretary (PS) for the Ministry of Communication and Aviation Moses Virivolomo during their ministry’s recent meeting with the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) assured that auditors will find out over what happened behind the set-up then by the people tasked for the project.

He said they will be looking into analysing of what affected the project before they invest more money into it because they had already invested enough money but did not get any result out from it.

“We are giving Australia another three years to maintain their control while we try to either buy a new equipment or try and re-do the one at the airport,” said Mr Virivolomo.

He said they are getting experienced people to assist them (PNG specialists) with the equipment because they might be installing obsolete machines too.

“We will be learning from PNG in how they use their airspace machine and if we understand how to use it ourselves then we will get a hundred percent collection of the airspace.

“So we are giving Australia another three years to look after the airspace while we get ourselves ready to look after it,” said Virivolomo.

MP for North East Guadalcanal Derek Sikua during the PAC meeting said it has been a long time since they have been talking about taking over the management of airspace so that Australia does not hold to the 40 percent.

He challenged the Ministry of Communication and Aviation over why it is too hard to control the airspace.

“We should take over its management and why is it too difficult for CAASI (Civil Aviation Authority of Solomon Islands) to take over,” questioned Mr Sikua.

MP for Shortlands Hon Christopher Laore during PAC’s enquiry also raised a similar question said to be once questioned by the ministry’s Minister over how much is really earned annually by the airspace funding (ASF) and that how much is really currently in the account and where does the money go towards development.

According to PS Virivolomo in responding, he clarified that the Airspace Fund (ASF) is a special fund just like the National Transport Fund (NTF) being through process.

“The Minister approves for the budget to be used every year so that is the process in which it is tabled in Parliament,” said Virivolomo.

In elaborating, referring to annually depending on the over flights, he said they have an arrangement with Air Services Australia who are managing the upper airspace for the country in charging aircrafts according to their weights, time spend within the air as they (ministry) collect money every month.

“After Australia deducts their potion of the fee which is 40 percent, they deposit the rest to us during the end of months in which they are always up-to-date with the payments,” said the PS.

“It is around $8 Million Solomon Dollars that is annually received depending on flights seasonally. Its funds currently are used for the operation cause of CAASI as well as for compliances such as on the aircrafts, airports security and safety for passengers.”

He added that when raising funds under the normal government system, it takes time in which the airport cannot wait for such long process giving them the alternative to usually use the funds to address compliances needed in time.

Auditing will take place soon over Solomon Islands strive to control its airspace being a concern for many citizens too for quite some time now.

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