A recently leaked memorandum of understanding (MoU) between China and the Solomon Islands has revealed ambitions to transform the quiet Southwest Pacific nation into a new aviation hub.
The MoU, created in 2019, proposed plans for the Solomon Islands Government to buy planes from China’s AVIC (Aviation Industry Corporation of China) in exchange for upgrades to approximately 26 airfields around the Soloman Islands and establishing new direct flights between the island and China.
New plans in the works
The MoU was published in an ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) report on Friday morning.
The MoU was signed in China on 15 November 2019 by Zhang Yong, Chief Customer Officer at AVIC, and Ped Peter Shanel Agovaka, Minister for Communications and Aviation for the Soloman Islands.
The MoU states:
“Within the BRI (Belt and Road Initiative) and this MOU, Solomon Islands wishes to become an aeronautical hub in the Western Pacific; Solomon wishes to strengthen its existing domestic aerodrome infrastructure and upgrade its current national airline fleet.
“Solomon wishes to be part of the regional airline concept where Honaira would receive direct flights from China and become a regional hub. For this vision, Solomon needs to acquire new planes, such as MA600/MA700 and Y-12 aircraft, and refurbish airfields.
“Solomon Islands wishes to simultaneously upgrade airfields in order to accommodate the new MA600/MA700 aircraft, carry out necessary validation certification between CAAC (Civil Aviation Administration of China) and CAASI (Civil Aviation Authority of Solomon Islands), and Party B to support Party A for capacity building initiatives.”
According to the ABC report, the CEO of Solomon Airlines, the nation’s national carrier, was not aware of the secretive construction and signing of the MoU and the plans in place to use Chinese money to elevate the Pacific Island nation’s aviation structure.
CEO Brett Gebers was kept out of the loop:
“I was half-heartedly invited to accompany a group of MPs to China around this time in 2019, but nothing ever came of it.”
Let us know what you think of the reveal of the secretly signed MoU in the comments below.