Improvements to Honiara International Airport were unveiled by Japan's Ambassador to the Solomon Islands Yoshiaki Miwa, left, and Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, right ©Solomon Islands Government

Japanese-funded improvements to the Solomon Islands' main airport in its capital Honiara have been completed in time for this year's Pacific Games.

The Japanese International Corporation Agency (JICA) provided SBD 300 million (£30.1 million/$36.5 million/€34.4 million) to modernise Honiara International Airport, and Japan's Ambassador to the Solomon Islands Yoshiaki Miwa presented the improvements to the country's Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare.

This included the construction of a new international departure terminal building, the renovation of the existing building and the construction of flood defences.

The new building includes a large departure area, duty-free shops, a business lounge area and several eating facilities.

The project planning was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, and construction did not begin until early 2021.

The Solomon Islands and other Pacific nations implemented some of the world's toughest restrictions on international travel in response to the pandemic in an attempt to avoid importing cases, but commercial flights to and from the country fully resumed in July last year.

Sogavare expressed his gratitude to Japan at the presentation ceremony, and claimed it would improve air traffic and create new investment and business opportunities.

"Ladies and gentlemen, let me thank the people of Japan and their Government who are represented here today by the Ambassador, His Excellency Yoshiaki Miwa," the Prime Minister said, as reported by the Solomon Star.

"I also extend my gratitude to JICA representatives who work so hard to deliver this modern infrastructure.

"Please Ambassador, relay our Government’s sincere thanks to the Government and people of Japan for this great assistance."

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said the improvements would be
Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said the improvements would be "put to the test" at the Pacific Games ©Solomon Islands Government

The renovation has been completed in time for visitors to the Solomon Islands for the Pacific Games, scheduled for November 19 to December 2 following a four-month delay blamed on COVID-19.

Sogavare said the improvement represented an important boost, with 5,000 athletes and officials expected to compete.

"I am sure that the capacity of this international departure will be put to the test then," he commented.

Solomon Airlines has signed up as a presenting sponsor for Solomon Islands 2023.

It provides services to other locations in the country as well as Brisbane in Australia, Fiji, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea and Kiribati.

Prime Minister Sogavare says hosting the multi-sport event means the country cannot hold a general election in 2023 and has had his term extended beyond the constitutional limit of four years in a move critics say is a power grab and undemocratic.

China has already agreed to help the Solomon Islands to build venues for the Pacific Games, in addition to the Japanese support on the airport.

The United States closed its Embassy in Honiara in 1993 as part of a post-Cold War global reduction in diplomatic posts and priorities, but has revealed plans to reopen one this year in a bid to counter China's influence.