Landowners reject conservation plan for Onogou/Ramos Island.

Association executives with supporters in a group photo.
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A landowning Association made up of different tribes on Isabel and Malaita province are angered that a group not representing them is planning to implement conservation on Onogou Island, often known as Ramos Island, located between the two provinces.

The Anogwou Ramos Island United Solomon Islands Tribal Association made up of different tribal groups from both provinces claiming ownership of the resource rich Island and surrounding reefs said they are stunned about news that a “Nomi Teiga Conservation group” is working on establishing a platform for conservation on the Island.

Spokesperson for the Association, Emmanuel Tigi Aofia, a representative of the Walobiubaita tribe (Basikana) said Ramos Island (Onogou as it is known on Isabel) has been bound for almost 10 years by the registrar, as the Association has legal ownership over the Island.

“We have a constitution that governs activities on the Island and for a group unknown to us to come up with a conservation idea without consultation us is not right.

The Association yesterday met to discuss its latest development aspirations and to dismiss the intentions of the conservation plan put forward that did not get their approval.

Spokesman Emmanuel Tigi displaying association documents

Among those who participated in the meetings included, Paramount Chief of the Ulufera Council of Chiefs from Suava bay, Peter Sikele, representatives from Talafunu, Tolinga tribes and Mbita’ama as well as Simon Gabili, Duddley Hiroari and Ezikel Tonga, representing the three tribes of Namurefunei, Tavia and Posamogo respectively on Gao, Isabel Province.

Mr Aofia said during their meeting, all agreed that while conservation is a good idea, the timing is not right.

He stressed that as legal custodians of the Island, the Association represents the interest of the resources on the Island.

“The conservation group does not represent us, they did not approach us about their intended plan, hence must stop immediately.

The Association therefore advised Isabel Provincial Member, Holland Sikou from leading people away from consulting with the rightful owners of the Island.

Mr Michael Iro, Secretary of the Association said in their meeting yesterday, they agreed that the harvest of beche-de-mer on the Island must start, especially during economic hardships faced by the current pandemic.

Executive members

He also emphasised a further agreement that anyone wishing to harvest resources on the Island and its surrounding reefs to approach the association before doing so.

“Ramos Island, for the information of public is open for people from both sides to earn money, which would only be done through consultation with the Association,” Iro stressed.

The Association has already identified a buyer overseas that it intends to work with in the export of beche-de-mer.

This week the Nomi Teiga Conservation group consisting of Gao speaking people from Isabel Province said it has established a platform to conserve Onogou (Ramos) Island.

It said it is the first step towards conserving Onogou Island and its cultural heritage.

 Last week, a one-day workshop and conservation awareness were held at Poro village in the Gao district.

Member of Provincial Assembly for Kaloka Ward, Holland Sikou said the establishment is an approach his people want to undertake to move away from destructive activities to a more ecofriendly development.

He said the conservation initiative not only looks at conservation specifically, but also creating opportunities to boost tourism as resilience towards COVID-19.