"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

Friday, 21 January 2011

Judge to Hear LNG Issue

Post-Courier 21 January 2011

The multi-billion kina PNG LNG project’s future is in the balance after Chief Justice Justice Sir Salamo Injia gave the green light for an alternate dispute resolution on Wednesday. 

Following a Supreme Court reference sought by Warner Shand Lawyers for 17 clans of Tuguba in the Hides Gas Project area to determine ownership of resources under customary landownership, Sir Salamo has appointed Justice Ambeng Kandakasi to head an Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) to mediate a solution on the reference which could affect the PNG LNG project agreement between the Government and ExxonMobil. Justice Andakasi will head the ADR facilitation process but certain issues raised by the landowners have not been included as part of the terms of reference which has not gone down well with them (landowners) at a gathering at the Unagi oval yesterday.

They (Tuguba landowners) claimed the Chief Justice has arbitrarily decided that all Supreme Court references filed under Section 18(1) of the Constitution challenging the validity of Section 6 of the Oil and Gas Act and other sections including the power of the government to compulsorily acquire customary land for the benefit of oil and gas companies under the Land Act, the Land Registration Act (Customary Land) and the Land Groups Incorporated Act should not be included in the mediation process.

The core issues raised in the constitutional reference included: whether the State owns the resources under customary land; whether the government has the power to compulsorily acquire customary land for the benefit of oil and gas companies; whether the existing benefit sharing system is equitable; and whether the production sharing contracts should be used for the exploitation of all resources in PNG.

The National Gas Corporation has backed the landowners in supporting the production sharing concepts, the brainchild of prominent lawyer Peter Donigi.

“If the above issues are not included in mediation to be co-ordinated by Justice Kandakasi then there are only two options open for our consideration,” NGC chairman Alfred Kaiabe said.
Those two options are suspending all mediation until the Supreme Court deals with the two references (SCGNo5 and SCRNo.7 of 2010) and conversely, they will defer the hearing of the two references until the mediation process is completed.

The parties in the mediation will include Esso Highlands, developer of the PNG LNG project, the Solicitor General, Attorney General, Petroleum and Energy department, National ?Planning and Monitoring, Finance and Treasury, Commerce and Industry, Lands and Physical Planning, works, NGC, affected provincial governments, Hela Transitional Authority, the 17 plaintiff clans and other representatives from each licence areas.

ADR facilitators will be Justice Kandakasi, Callum Campbell and Graig Jones and they will be at liberty to engage the services of other PNG acredited mediators in consultation with parties as and when required.

Some of the issues to be reviewed include the UBSA and LBBSA Agreements and the additional possible gas reserves not committed to the LNG project capped at 6.5 trillion cubic feet (TCF) as per the LNG Agreement.

Condensate issue which is gas field landowners missing out on oil condensate extracted from the gas fields are among others.

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