Pacific Humanitarian Pathway on COVID-19 (PHP-C) Common Protocols

Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat staff assist in the loading of consignment packages containing PPE items. 

04 August 2020

The 18 Leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum have recognised the COVID-19 pandemic as a major crisis for the Blue Pacific region – its peoples wellbeing, and economies.

Pacific Islands Forum Leaders invoked the emergency response mechanism under the Biketawa Declaration to collectively respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, as one Blue Pacific family. The Biketawa Declaration provides the regional framework for responding to Member states’ request for assistance in times of crisis.

The Pacific Islands Forum established the Pacific Humanitarian Pathway on COVID-19 (PHP-C), a Pacific-led emergency response to the pandemic in the region. The PHP-C is overseen by a Ministerial Action Group supported by a Regional Taskforce.

The PHP-C is enabling the movement of medical and humanitarian supplies, including regional distribution of COVID-19 testing supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE).

The PHP-C provides regional mapping to ascertain resources, assistance needed, and all other relevant information required for the operationalisation of the PHP-C. An online platform to manage Members requests for assistance and coordinate responses was set up and shared with Members and technical agencies to facilitate information exchange for planning purposes.

It has created a political space for dialogue, to ensure Member countries’ request for assistance are effectively responded too.  This has led to the the development of 5 common protocols. The PHP-C protocols have been endorsed by the Pacific Islands Forum Foreign Ministers to allow for special cooperation and support affected by current border restrictions.

Download the Protocols:

The Protocols cover:

  1. Deployment of technical personnel to and between Forum nations

This protocol provides guidance on a consistent precautionary approach for the deployment to Forum Member countries of technical personnel, including crew of aircraft and ships transporting medical and humanitarian assistance. The protocol focuses on four priority areas in the deployment of technical personnel which include:

  • Pre-travel measures – includes deploying personnel undertaking quarantine and tests prior to travel where available, taking into consideration COVID-19 incubation periods and in line with WHO requirements;
  • Transit measures – covers approaches to deploying personnel going to the airport, during flight, and reinforcing issues around physical distancing and avoiding close contact. The Protocol assumed that most of the flights operated would be controlled, and therefore seating arrangements taken into account;
  • In-country measures – ensures close liaison with deployed personnel, deploying agencies, and national ministries of countries where deployed personnel have arrived. This would include following local policies in ensuring that personnel were able to account for their movements whilst in country, have avoided unnecessary contact, and before departure were able to verify that they had not been in contact with any suspected cases of COVID-19;
  • Departure measures – covers personnel moving from one country to another. There would be an expectation that deployed personnel would keep records of their contacts and prepare for future deployment following the necessary procedures.
  1. Customs and Biosecurity

The protocol provides guidance on a common and consistent approach on Customs and Biosecurity to ensure smooth transition and facilitation of health personnel and relief supply responses to Forum Member countries. It provides a definition on what can be classified as relief consignments and puts emphasis on clearance of PHP-C COVID-19 relief consignment as a priority. The protocol places emphasis on national customs and biosecurity arrangements in its application on issues such as import and export economic prohibitions and targeting and intervention through existing national risk assessment processes, and provides safe cargo handling measures in line with WHO and SPC recommendations noting that existing science places the risk of transmission of COVID-19 through handling cargo as low

  1. Immigration

Provides guidance on a common and consistent approach with respect to immigration controls and visa policy to facilitate the entry, stay and departure of foreign health and other related aid and relief personnel working within the PHP-C. The protocol provides a definition on relief personnel and places emphasis on Members facilitating the timely movement and access of health professionals across the region while at the same time ensuring that national laws, policies and practices takes precedence in its application. It ensures that movement of technical personnel across borders are guided by the Common Protocols on the Deployment of Technical Personnel and encourages timely and effective exchanges of information between the sending and receiving member states.

  1. Repatriation of Forum nationals

The Protocol provides guidance on a common and consistent approach for the repatriation of Forum Member nationals present in other Forum Countries. It places emphasis on advanced bilateral communications and information exchange, coordination and planning while at the same time ensuring that national legislations, policies and practices for both the sending and receiving states takes precedence in its application.

  1. Clearances for Aircraft and Ships Transporting Medical and Humanitarian Assistance, Technical Personnel, and Repatriating Nationals

The Protocol provides guidance for the accordance and timely issuance of diplomatic clearances to State aircraft and ships, and commercial clearances to other aircraft and ships, to facilitate the transportation of medical and humanitarian assistance, technical personnel, and the repatriation of nationals, under the PHP-C. It encourages facilitation of movement of aircraft or ships through Members’ airspace or territorial waters upon request, communication and coordination, and timely and effective exchange of information between sending and receiving countries.

The common protocols provide guidance to Forum Member countries. Members have a sovereign right to determine their national responses. The PHP-C protocols complement, strengthen and add value to existing regional mechanisms and national processes.

In the space of a few short months, Forum Members and our regional and international partners have come together to deliver a world first in terms of a collective regional approach. We have united against COVID-19 to ensure the protection of our peoples.

[ENDS]

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