JOINT PRESS RELEASE - Forum island governments, non government organisations and other community groups within the region will soon be able to access the US$66 million (6.8 billion Yen) Pacific Environment Community (PEC) Fund following the approval of the procedures for projects to be funded under the initiative.

The project procedures have been approved at the inaugural meeting of the Japan-Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat Joint Committee established to oversee the implementation of the Fund. The meeting was held in Tokyo, Japan on 17 May. It was chaired by Tuiloma Neroni Slade, Secretary General of the Forum Secretariat and attended by senior representatives of the Japanese Government and the Forum Secretariat.

The PEC Fund, flowed from the Palm 5 Islanders Hokkaido Declaration in May 2009 where Leaders of the Pacific Island Forum welcomed Japan's plan to provide US$66 million (6.8 billion Yen) to the PIFS to be used for environment issues including climate change projects with a focus on the provision of solar power generation systems and sea water desalination plants in the Forum Island Countries (FICs).

"The Forum Secretariat on behalf of Forum Island countries welcome this decision by Japan and this inaugural meeting of the Joint Committee heralds the start of the engagement between the Secretariat and its members on project submissions for programmes to be funded under this Fund," said Mr Slade.

"Forum Leaders commend the Government of Japan for agreeing to set up the Fund to mitigate the effects of climate change especially on the livelihoods of the people living on the Smaller Islands States within the Pacific region," said Mr. Slade.

Mr Slade encouraged Forum island countries to submit projects under the Fund as soon as project submissions are called for.

"The Japanese government under Prime Minister Hatoyama is keen to make a strong commitment to climate change issue and Hatoyama Government continues to work closely with the Pacific Island Countries," said Mr Akitaka Saiki, Director General of Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau.

"The scopes of the project are seawater desalination and solar power generation and Japan expects that the 6.8 Billion yen will be spent in a proper manner and that several projects are developed and implemented before the High-Level Interim Meeting to be held later this year in Japan for follow-up of the PALM 5," said Mr Saiki.

Under the Guidelines just approved, the Joint Committee will be responsible for consideration and approval of the proposals submitted for funding by the PEC Fund. Two further mechanisms will be established to assist the Joint Committee make decisions on the projects.

This includes a PEC Fund Management Unit to be established at the Forum Secretariat to be responsible for the day to day administrative and financial project management, and monitor and evaluate project implementation of approved projects.

The other mechanism is the establishment of a Technical Advisory Group which will consist of nominated experts in the fields of climate change, renewable energy, water supply and sanitation to appraise projects and make recommendations to the Joint Committee on the submitted projects.