"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, 12 June 2012

Job crisis threatens as PNG LNG project moves to next phase

Pacific Beat, Radio Australia, 11 June 2012

In Papua New Guinea, concern is growing about the unemployment and social dislocation that will occur as the PNG LNG project starts to lay off many of its more than 8000 strong Papua New Guinean workforce.
Construction of the giant project is progressing so well that many of the jobs held by Papua New Guineans will start of come to an end, this year.

Landowner companies are warning of unrest if new jobs are not found for them.

Presenter: Jemima Garrett

Speakers: Peter Graham, Managing Director of ExxonMobil subsidiary Esso Highlands

Libe Parindali, Chairman of Hides Gas Development Company, the main highlands-based landowner company working for the PNG LNG project.

GARRETT: It has long been known the prime job opportunities offered by the ExxonMobil-led PNG LNG project would occur in the construction phase.

Now at its peak, the project employs more than 16,000 people. Over half of those are Papua New Guineans, many employed through landowner companies that have been set up especially, to cater to the project.

The bulk of the jobs are places like Hides and Komo in remote Hela province in the PNG Highlands, where the gas is located.

Peter Graham, Managing Director of Esso Highlands the PNG LNG project operator says the project is on time to deliver first gas in 2014, and to put first gas into the pipeline in the second quarter of 2013.

That means some of the construction jobs are about to wind up.

GRAHAM: In 2012, a number of the major contractors do finish their work. The offshore pipeline is complete, or will be complete within the next several weeks. The Komo airstrip will be complete by year end. The civil works on Hides Ridge and around the Hides Gas Conditioning Plant will be complete, so by the end of this year we will be focussed very much in the LNG plant site and the Hides gas conditioning plant site and the pipeline area.

GARRETT: The biggest landowner company, Hides Gas Development Company, is just 3 years old.

In that time it has gone from nothing to employing thousands of landowners, many of whom are getting their first taste of paid employment.

The cash has been a boon to families who are used to struggling without electricity and basic services.

But, Company Chairman, Libe Parindali, is concerned that as construction winds down families will hit the financial wall.

PARINDALI: Right now, you know the PNG LNG Project, in the area where I come from, we are creating too many unnecessary expectations! And we will have, those 2000 or 3000 people that we have on our books that we are supplying to the (project). After the construction phase is down, we will be left with 300-400 people! What are we going to do with the rest of them that will not have jobs?

GARRETT: Mr Parindali says the potential for unrest is real.

He wants help so the Hides Gas Development Company can diversify the opportunities open to landowners.

PARINDALI: We can take on other projects, like the infrastructure, the community projects, agriculture, forestry - you know something that is sustainable and something for the long-term. But what the contractors are doing now is they are focussed on trying to deliver the gas in 2014, that is their focus right now but something to sustain the community, I think the government and the company, need to seriously go back and look at it now!

GARRETT: Government infrastucture projects have been slow to get off the ground.

Esso Highlands Managing Director, Peter Graham, agrees a sharp drop in job opportunities is not ideal.

GRAHAM: We share the concern about the demobilisation of people. They are trained people, they have worked hard and contributed to the project. We'd like to put their skills and expertise to work productively in the community. How that is done is not absolutely clear to me at this point in time. We've got the infrastructure projects with government that will offer opportunities. It would be nice if those people can move progressively into that area and work in those sorts of projects, or to various mining projects.

GARRETT: Until now Esso Highlands has ensured landowners get jobs by reserving certain activities for landowner companies.

HGDC Chairman, Libe Parindali, wants the number of reserved areas extended.

PARINDALI: The so-called reserved business area activity needs to be opened up. Now they allow us to do light vehicles, catering, security , labour hire, camp maintenance but what is there for the long-term? We strated this company, HGDC from nothing and now its over 2 years, ExxonMobil has helped us to set this company up, it is set up to promote landowner participation, and after the construction phase, the 5 areas, what is there? How much are we going to make? I can't sustain this animal and the expectations that we have created!

GARRETT: Peter Graham does not believe extending the range of jobs kept exclusively for landowner companies, is viable.

GRAHAM: We work to a schedule and we have a lot of people trying to deliver this project on schedule. We've got customers waiting for the gas to come through, so we end up having to make a judgement call as to whether or not particular individuals and companies have the potentiual to do particular work. I mean, I get requests coming to me, a company saying I want to be the company that installs the pipeline. Well, I am not going to give a contract for the installation of a gas pieline, with critical welding and safety issues, to a company that has never been in that business. So its sort of horses for courses. I think there are some areas where we would be happy to try and work with landowner companies to expand into other businesses. I think, again, HDGC has done some of that, they have partnered with an engineering firm out of Huston and they are already benefitting from that kind of experience and expanding their range of skills.

GARRETT: Libe Parindali says landowner companies have the skills, capital and the overseas partners to do more.

He says it would be in ExxonMobil's interest to make it happen.

PARINDALI: If we give the jobs away to outsiders, they will not worry about us and then outside the fence we will have the people with high expectations, who cause problems for the project. And they are the ones I want to help, I want to train them, I want to upskill them, develop them to be somebody the community and the people of PNG can be proud of. We are not doing it now. Government is not in there helping us!

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Good work Post-Courier keep publishing those PNG LNG press releases as news

Good work Post-Courier keep publishing those PNG LNG press releases as news, what else would you expect from a newspaper within the Murdoch stable.

Post-Courier 'News' Article - 30 May 2012

Kikori women venture into veggie project 

A KIKORI women’s group is building a vegetable farming business for its community thanks to a newly constructed nursery in the Omati area.

This initiative, featured in the PNG LNG 1st Quarter 2012 Environmental and Social Report, is one example of the support that the PNG LNG Project is providing to help identify, create and maintain sustainable business opportunities for communities nearby the project. With construction materials and support provided by the PNG LNG Project, the Omati nursery was built by Kikori community members to enable local women to gain knowledge and practical experience with new varieties of fruit and vegetables.

The nursery is managed by the Delta Green Field Marketing Limited group, which was formed by Kikori women to expand the supply of fruit and vegetables to project construction camps. PNG LNG Project Executive Decie Autin said the PNG LNG Project is committed to promoting the long-term economic and social sustainability of communities in the project area. “As the project enters its third year of construction, our work with communities is focused on enabling them to develop their own local capacities and skills,” Ms Autin said.

The First Quarter 2012 Report also provides insight into the PNG LNG Project’s ongoing commitment to education. “Education empowers communities and builds the foundation for human progress,” said Ms Autin. In addition to providing education materials and teacher training for schools, this quarter the Project expanded its community-wide Personal Viability training which is designed to help participants improve their livelihoods and manage social problems.

“To date, more than 250 people have participated in Personal Viability training which covers important topics such as respect for others, promoting positive thinking, budgeting for family needs and time and resource management. Training participants include both male and female community leaders, youths, pastors and married couples,” Ms Autin said.

The PNG LNG Project also continues to support the growth of landowner companies (lancos) and other Papua New Guinean businesses, with more than K880 million (US$424 million) spent with landowners companies for Project-related activities to date.
The first quarter PNG LNG Environmental and Social Report, the ninth quarterly report issued by the project, is available on the project’s website at pnglng.com.

ExxonMobil Medial Release - 29 May 2012

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Landowner challenge to PNG LNG Goes to Supreme Court

Patrick Talu, Post Courier, 30 May 2012

ESSO Highlands Ltd (EHL), the ExxonMobil subsidiary operator of the PNG LNG Project, has welcomed the outcome of yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling which granted EHL leave for appeal against a National Court decision in favor of PNG LNG Agreement Challenger Simon Ekanda.

“We are pleased with the outcome of today’s (yesterday) court case. This means that there will be an appeal before three judges of the Supreme Court to determine whether or not the trial judge should have heard our application for early strike out of the case,’’ said EHL Lead Media and Communication Advisor Rebecca Arnold told the Post-Courier yesterday when asked to comment on the Supreme Court ruling yesterday. “We expect this to take place in the next few months.’’

A single bench Supreme Court Judge, Justice George Manuhu ruled that Mr Ekanda’s counsel’s objections to the leave for appeal were of no merits, saying that ARD Rules 4 (3) (a) and (b) would have been considered together for legal consideration during the decision at National Court.
Mr Haiara objected among others that EHl had not satisfied the ADR Rules in particular Rules 4 (3) (a) (b) which stipulates; unless (a) the parties establish to the courts satisfaction that the meritorious issues exist warranting judicial consideration and determination and (b) the application for leave establishes to the satisfaction of the court that it has made a real and good faith effort to resolving the dispute through mediation supported by a certificate by a mediator in Form1.

Despite this, both Mr Haiara and Mr Ekanda also welcomed the ruling, saying “it’s good for us rather than for them (EHL). “If we are to go to (Alternative Dispute Resolution), it would be win-win situation for all us.  “Now that they want to proceed with the courts, we are happy to meet them at the court as they have not proven to both the National and Supreme Court that EHL has a meritorious case in the proceeding.” Mr Ekanda said this to the reporters at the Court House after the ruling.
Mr Ekanda argues that the landowners were not consulted over the terms of the Gas Agreement.
EHL and State through the Department of Petroleum and Energy argue that Mr Ekanda and his landowners have no standing in the PNG LNG Project agreement, saying the landowners were represented by the local level and provincial government.

However, Mr Haiara proved that under Section 115 (2) on the Organic Law on Local Level and Provincial Government stipulates and give rights to the landowner to be consulted by the National Government and developer. He argues that that has never happened and the entire agreement was illegal. Mr Haiara also indicated that when the matter proceeds in the Supreme Court, he would apply for a restraining order to stop all operation in the project sites as they would be illegally trespassing before it was determined by the Supreme Court. The direction for the hearing on the matter before a three-bench Supreme Court is scheduled for the June 4.

Uniting World says PNG LNG project fuelling community tensions

Radio Australia, 30 May 2012

The release of the report "The Community Good" by the charity organisation Uniting World in Canberra Tuesday, has drawn a lot of comment.

The report claims that, although the PNG LNG project has boosted the local economy through employment, it is fuelling community tensions because of inadequate awareness-raising about the project.

The Director of Uniting World Dr Kerry Enright explains the significant points raised in the report.

Presenter: Geraldine Coutts

Speaker: Dr Kerry Enright, Uniting World director

ENRIGHT: So here is a report which looks at the impact of the PNG LNG Project on the Hela region in particular, one part of where the project is having an impact. And it identifies that there are significant challenges, and there's an opportunity to improve the information flow from the government and the mining companies to the community. So there's a significant communication gap. The second thing it identifies is that this is actually an opportunity to make more for the public good, to make more for community health, community education, community development. So the report really focuses on those two things.

COUTTS: A fairly thorough report of course, positive and challenging, what are some of the challenges?

ENRIGHT: Well the challenges are things like landholder registration and ensuring that there is a better process for people who believe that their landowners to be registered, to be acknowledged, and that is causing quite a lot of conflict. This is a situation where the community is quite remote, where there isn't opportunity as there are in neighbouring communities for economic development to the same degree, but there are still opportunities there. And so the report is saying look this is the time, this is the time we've got until construction ends in 2014 when tens of thousands of people, 11 or 12 or 13-thousand people up there working, when the construction ends then it will reduce back to a much smaller figure. So now is the time and also when the opportunity is there, now is the time to actually make more of the community engagement that has been to date.

COUTTS: And it's about gas production of course in PNG, how does your organisation, the Uniting World fit into that?

ENRIGHT: Well we're the partnerships part of the Uniting Church in Australia, and our partner in Papua New Guinea is the United Church of Papua New Guinea. And in the Hela region it has 50-thousand members. So the project already is having a significant impact on those 50-thousand people. Also in this area the church is by far the largest provider of health care. So one of the opportunities identified in the report is for a significant improvement in the provision of health services and an education as well, the literacy rate is large, it's something like 60 per cent. So the church is also a provider of education. So here is an opportunity for the government and the proceeds of the gas project to come in behind and to facilitate much better provision of resources than have been possible to date.

COUTTS: Well it's a nice thought, we can indulge ourselves in that, but as we've seen in the past that quite often the billions that will come from these projects don't flow down to the community?

ENRIGHT: Indeed, extractive industries aren't always pro-poor and you've identified a dynamic. But Esso Highlands Limited, which is the company that's at the centre of all this and Papua New Guinea appears to show a willingness to engage on these issues. They were part of the conference that we held yesterday looking at the report and identifying what the next steps might be as a result of it. And the report itself shows that they are, at least to some extent it appears people of goodwill and that's how we want to regard them. We don't see them as just attempting to make the most of their opportunity from a commercial perspective. But of course it's our responsibility also to help them work out how they can make the most of the community engagement, and there's the churches particularly need to step up to the mark.

COUTTS: Well if the Uniting World or Uniting Church is already providing much of the healthcare, why should the government step in and cough up more money?

ENRIGHT: Because it is inadequate, it's the government's responsibility to provide services. Sure they're doing it through the churches and that's true right across Papua New Guinea, not just in this region. But it is the government who will be taking a lot of the benefit from this in terms of monetary, in terms of tax and that kind of thing. So they need to be able to channel that money back into the community, and that's what we're asking them to do.

COUTTS: There's also been reports that there's fear that there could be tension, if not violence in these areas where the mining is taking place because the landowners feel aggrieved because they weren't consulted enough, and others feel that they haven't got their share of the big whack of money that's coming forward. Do you see that as a potential problem?

ENRIGHT: Well indeed I mean it already is an issue. The company is employing its own police, I think 300 something like that, so conflict is already a major challenge in the area, and this is already exacerbating that, and potentially could get much worse because the division between those who will benefit more immediately from the royalties and that kind of thing because they're landowners, and those who will not benefit in the same direct way, that gap between the have and have nots we know with extractive industries becomes a major dynamic in a community. One of the points made yesterday in the conference that was held in Canberra was that there is an organisation that we support and in fact formed, called Young Ambassadors for Peace, and that is having a signficant impact in this area in trying to help bring conflict resolution processes and conflict management in a different way than traditionally has been the case where people have been very violent and there's been a lot of destruction. And this of course greatly to the benefit of the company itself. I mean a high level of conflict will simply jeopardise the project and potentially jeopardise it to the point that it wouldn't be able to proceed in anywhere near the way it is at the moment.