Fiji's interim government has approved work permits for 100 skilled Chinese workers engaged at the Nadarivatu hydro project under the Sinohydro Corporation despite concerns raised from villagers in the area over increased foreigners there.
Immigration Director Nemani Vuniwaqa confirmed to the Fiji Times on Tuesday that the increased Chinese presence at Nadarivatu was through a memorandum of understanding between the Fiji government and the Chinese state-owned company, Sinohydro Corporation.
The deal allows the company to bring in up to 300 skilled workers who had been contracted for the project -- something many Fijians were not aware of.
Vuniwaqa's comments came after two concerned parties, the Construction Energy and Timber Workers Union and the Nadarivatu Hydro Project Landowners Council, wrote to the Immigration department to investigate heavy Chinese presence in the area.
"The skilled workers were brought in because the company has a time-frame to complete the project," he said.
"We are not aware of claims by the Construction, Energy and Timber Workers Union and the Nadarivatu Hydro Project Landowners Council," he said. "We are only aware that Chinese nationals are being brought in as skilled workers at the Nadarivatu hydro project."
Vuniwaqa said all the applications for the Chinese personnel's work permits are being received, processed and issued from his office.
Till now, a total of 100 work permits had been approved while the remaining would be processed.
On the other hand, the Chinese nationals have been identified by the parent company Sinohydro as skilled legal workers.
Should there be a breach in the working conditions, said the immigration chief, it would be brought to the Labour Ministry immediately.
The hydropower generated at the Nadarivatu hydropower station, which is expected to open in mid-2011, will displace 22,000 tons of diesel fuel per annum, helping Fiji Electricity Authority (FEA)to save 25 million Fiji dollars (about 11 million U.S. dollars) a year in current diesel prices, said FEA chairman Nizam Ud-Dean on Tuesday.
"This will be a significant saving on our fuel bills, savings on foreign reserves, alleviating some problems of the balance of payment, and helping to keep FEA's tariff low to boost investors' confidence," said Ud-Dean.
"This makes the Nadarivatu Hydro project one of national importance," he added.
Ud-Dean made the comments at the official Exchange of Loan Agreement between FEA and China Development Bank for the Nadarivatu Hydropower project on Tuesday.