Unfortunately, as we have seen in natural resource developments throughout PNG, this gradually gives way to uneven development, as some households get access to rents, grants and contracts, while others are overlooked.
The former then are able to grow more crops, buy machinery, open small businesses, monopolise the local service industry, while the latter struggle to subsist, often having to sell their labour to clan-mates. Someone then asks, 'why is my uncle able to own a truck, sell coffee and run a security firm, when I can barely get enough land to support my family'.
That is when these types of resource development truly begin to divide communities and set kin against kin. In the Southern Highlands where high powered weapons circulate freely, this is a potentially explosive dynamic!
LNG Work Stopped
EARLY works on the multi-billion kina PNG liquefied natural gas (LNG) project at Hides in Tari, has now come to a complete standstill.
As early as 8:00 am yesterday, angry Hides landowners numbering over 1000 people mobilised and staged a peaceful sit-in protest at the gates of the proposed LNG conditioning plant site at Para village and on the access road that leads to the Hides 4 (petroleum development license -PDL 7) wellhead.
Developer Esso Highlands last night acknowledged the problems but said the project has a formal process to manage these dialogues.
“We are aware of the business development grant issues in the Highlands. The PNG LNG project encourages continued co-operation between communities, government and the project to constructively address issues as they arise, without impact to ongoing project activities,” Public Affairs Manager Miles Shaws said in a statement.
The protesting clans are from Taguali, Hagu, Tagobali, Aya, Warabia and Honaga clans that live at Para and Hides 4 area. Police mobile squad (MS) 13 from Lae and MS10 from Mendi ensured that the protests were peaceful and non confrontational. The landowners forced international Australian contractor Clough Curtain Joint Venture (CCJV) to stop work and withdraw all workmen, machines and equipment. CCJV is engaged by LNG project developer ExxonMobil to develop the conditioning plant sites including other early works including engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) stage.
The Post-Courier visited the site yesterday morning and saw machines, equipment and over 300 CCJV workmen ‘asked’ to stand down while the landowners gave 14 days to the State and ExxonMobil to respond. Landowner leader Tony Lambiawi from Taguali/Tagopali clan said the landowners were frustrated that their application for K10 million from the business development grants (BDG) have been turned down while some ‘paper landowners’ based in Port Moresby were paid by the Department of Commerce and Industry. “We the landowners have our own landowner company called Hides 4 Holdings Ltd but our BDG application was rejected. If the government thinks that these ‘paper landowners’ in Port Moresby are legitimate Hides 4 landowners and own the land, then the government can ask them to come to Hides 4 and re-open the project.
“Otherwise, we the genuine landowners here are shutting down the project until we have a round- the table discussion with Petroleum and Energy Minister William Duma and Commerce and Industry Minister Gabriel Kapris to explain to us why we missed out on the BDG,” Mr Lambiawi said.
Another landowner chief Robert Angoya also demanded the State to pay out the ministerial commitments with proper social mapping and landowner identification studies for incorporated landowner groups. He also said currently, they are mere spectators on their land and they want to participate in business spin-offs. They also demanded that if not, ExxonMobil, the State and landowners have to do away with the umbrella benefit sharing (BSA) and licensed based benefit sharing agreements and come up with another one as the State had failed miserably. The landowners also demanded proper resettlement program for the affected landowners as currently, the resettlement package offered by ExxonMobil like K30,000 per traditional houses is unrealistic for a project of such magnitude of world class.
“We want proper housing, electricity, water supply, health care and other social services. Work has already begun and when are we going to have these basic services needed for human life,” Henry Taguali, another landowner leader said.
The landowners now ask the State and the ministers concerned to come to Hides 4 and meet with them within the next 14 days or else the project at Hides 4 and the conditioning plant site would still remain shut. The landowner leaders then told the public to turn the entrance of the condensation plant site and Hides 4 wellhead soft drinks.