"We declare our first goal to be for every person to be dynamically involved in the process of freeing himself or herself from every form of domination or oppression so that each man or woman will have the opportunity to develop as a whole person in relationship with others".

- Papua New Guinea National Goals and Directive Principles

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

From Court Challenges to Airport Closures: Things go from Bad to Worse for Exxon Mobil

Both articles are from the Post-Courier, 2/11/10

Landowners Challenge Section 6 of the Oil and Gas Act

In a test case, a constitutional reference has been sought by Michael Wilson of Warner Shand Lawyers on behalf of 24 clans of Tuguba in Hides gas project to challenge the validity of Section 6 of the Oil and Gas Act (OGA) and the powers of the State to compulsorily acquire land for the benefit of outsiders under the Land Act.
The referrers who are customary land rights holders and members of 24 clans from Tuguba are seeking opinion pursuant to Section 18(1) of the Constitution on questions relating to interpretation or application of Section 32, 41, 53 and schedule 2.4.6(2) of the Constitution.
The reference states that the large Tuguba tribe owns and occupies land territory across 3 provinces which include Hela, Gulf and Western provinces and speak one language.
Of the 26 main clans and many sub-clans, the reference is made by 24 and the rest may join as parties later.
All Tugubas subscribe to the ‘Gigira Laitebo’, legend of the creation and the ‘Laitebo’ prophesy which is about the energy of light under Mt Gigira which would light the world.
Under Tuguba customary land, there are several oil and gas pools known as Hides, Juha and Angore.
Following the PNG LNG Agreement of May 22, 2008, the licencee (ExxonMobil and partners) will take out the gas under the surface of Tuguba customary land and pipe it to portion 152 to be processed for export.
The reference contends that under customary law, the primary user is notified whenever another clansman wants to use a land or the second rule is that prior consent must be given before a foreigner is allowed to use it, failing force is used to expel intruders.
The reference states that Section 6 of the OGA which deems petroleum and helium at or below the surface of Tuguba customary land as the property of the State is therefore contrary to customary law.
The referrers asserts that the definition of “land” in Section 3 of the Land Registration (Customary Land) (Amendment) Act 2009 and Article 26 of the UN Declaration on Human Rights on the rights of Indigenous People is consistent with their claim.
The Tugubas said by boycotting the signing of the Kokopo UBSA and LBBSA, they have never at any stage granted their consent to the State to award any licences under the OGA to the Licencees. Prominent Lawyer Peter Donigi’s book Lifting the Veil that shrouds Papua New Guinea was described as a God-sent by the referrers. 
Their leader Simon Ekanda said: “Mr Donigi has by the words in his book; shown to us what we knew in our own hearts was right. This book is now our voice - the road is now clear for us. We have accepted the solutions as recommended in the book.”
“We thank Donigi for showing us how we can protect and benefit from our resources. When we get a decision in our favour we will be using the production sharing contract that is written in the book and nothing less will satisfy us,” Mr Ekanda said.
He said the State and developers can agree to settle their case outside the court only if they were prepared to enter into a production sharing contract.
“We note that under the Donigi formula, PNG will earn more than K100 billion over 30 years and not K40 billion as our government says we will get. 
“Is it fair that foreign companies will take out of the country about K200 billion in profits over 30 years? We think it is not,” Mr Ekanda added.

Landowners Close Tari Airport


THE Tari airport in the Southern Highlands province was forced to close as of yesterday by angry landowners. 
The National Airport Corporation (NAC) has advised all airlines not to fly into Tari for the safety of passengers and aircraft from possible landowner reprisals. However, a twin otter plane belonging to Airlines PNG that flew with explosives for Esso Highlands Ltd from Port Moresby into Tari yesterday afternoon was physically confronted by the landowners. 
Esso Highlands is the subsidiary company of ExxonMobil, developer of the multi-billion kina PNG liquefied natural gas (LNG) project. 
The landowners said the airline did not take heed of the forced closure and warned the pilot not to fly into Tari as of today. 
THE National Airport Corporation (NAC) yesterday confirmed the closer of the Tari airport as it cannot guarantee the safety of the travelling public.
The NAC Acting Managing Director Manuai Kametan said as a responsibility body that operates and maintains airports, it had to close Tari airport because it had reason to believe that the airport was not safe. 
“The safety of travellers is of paramount importance to NAC and we cannot guarantee their safety as it was too risky,” Mr Kametan said.
The Chief Executive Officer Air Niugini Wasantha Kumarasiri also yesterday said the flights into Tari would also be temporally closed in compliance with the notice from the National Airports Corporation.
Mr Wasantha said the suspension of services will remain until further notice and while the airline regrets the inconvenience caused, the situation was beyond its control. 
The closure of the airport was instigated by spokesman and deputy chairman of Tari airport landowners association Benson Angobe (Homaria clan), chairman Mark Mulungu, chief Luke Luya and others. 
Mr Angobe said the landowners demand the State to pay them K17 million up front before they could allow the airport to be re-opened. He said K6 million of the amount is for the Piribu Kia clans while K11 million would be dispersed to the 19 affected landowner groups. 
Mr Angobe said petition calling on the State to honour this payment was delivered to the Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare with copies to other senior government ministers, local MPs and relevant State authorities such as CAA chief executive officer Joseph Kintau three weeks ago in Port Moresby. Mr Angobe said their petition lapsed on October 20 and they have no option now but force the closure of the airport indefinitely until their demands are met by the State.

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