China’s Huawei is building dozens of communications towers in the Solomon Islands, boosting mobile internet access ahead of next year’s Pacific Games, but the country’s most populous province continues to reject Chinese-funded infrastructure.
Malaita province banned Chinese projects after the 2019 The Solomon Islands government transferred its diplomatic recognition to Beijing from Taiwan. Malaita Premier Daniel Suidani’s anti-China Auki Communiqué was signed by every member of the provincial assembly, although at least one has since dissented.
“Access to communication is a basic need in every province in Solomon Islands, especially for education purposes, but I cannot say much because the provincial assembly is only following the Auki communiqué which states that the province will not accept any Chinese funded projects,” Deputy Malaita said. Prime Minister Glen Waneta told RFA-affiliated online news service BenarNews on Monday.
August. The Solomon Islands government has agreed that Huawei and contractor China Harbor Engineering Company Ltd. would build 161 mobile broadband towers across the Pacific nation, including 27 towers in Malaita. The project is being financed by a 20-year, $65 million loan from Exim Bank of China at 1 percent interest.
Solomon’s government hopes to have almost half of the towers built before the Pacific Games in November next year, allowing more people, especially in rural areas, to watch the Games.
Based on 2018 According to the Solomon Islands Telecommunications Commission, mobile phone networks in Solomon Islands cover at least 94 percent of the population, but mobile broadband coverage is only 20 percent.
Moses Virivolomo, permanent secretary of the Solomon Islands Ministry of Communications and Aviation, said the Malaita provincial government had rejected the latest request to accept the construction of the tower, Solomon Islands media reported last week.
Virivolomo was abroad and did not immediately respond to BenarNews’ request for comment.
The Solomon Islands have become a hot spot in the US-China rivalry in the Pacific. Its government signed a security pact with Beijing this year, and China, along with countries such as Indonesia and US ally Australia, is helping to pay for the 2023 summit. Pacific Games.
in 2018 Huawei was unable to build an undersea cable to the Solomon Islands after the Australian government stepped in and offered to pay for the project.
The United States and several other countries have banned or restricted Huawei from providing domestic communications infrastructure over concerns it could pose national security risks.
Only the Malaita Provincial Assembly can decide whether the province should change its position about Chinese investment, Waneta said.
“Malaita province will miss an opportunity for better communication within the province unless the assembly revisits the Auki communique and amends it,” he said.
BenarNews is a news service affiliated with RFA.