"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

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Forgotten man of PNG politics reflects on political impasse

Radio New Zealand International 08:36 on 23 October, 2013 UTC A former top Papua New Guinea politician says he had to go against the traditional Highlands mould of character and behave in a passive manner in order to prevent bloodshed when his government collapsed. Sam Abal was Acting Prime Minister in 2011 when the majority of MPs controversially ousted the Somare government and triggered a political and constitutional crisis that only ended with the outcome of last year’s general election. Mr Abal, who lost his Wabag seat in the election, was detached from much of the bitter fighting between the two groups claiming to be government during the impasse, choosing to remain neutral in parliament. He spoke to Johnny Blades about the impasse but began by saying his legal petition claiming the Wabag election result stemmed from bribery and undue influence is still in the courts. SAM ABAL: It is a case where it happened that way and everybody in my electorate knows what happened during the elections, but unfortunately we have a feeling in this country that we should just leave these things and go on, cover it up and it’s all right, let’s continue on. Like what’s happening with the issue that happened during the impasse. The impasse happened because the constitution was broken. The leaders that broke the constitution wanted to change the government by breaking the constitution. JOHNNY BLADES: Did you feel that you were the scapegoat in a way? It can’t have been easy trying to hold things together as acting Prime Minister. Plus, you had Don Polye trying to take the National Alliance leadership and it was difficult on a number of fronts for you to have to juggle all these interests, I suppose. SA: My role there was more or less to keep the peace. I did not want to upset. There was so much going on that people seemed to be reckless and careless. People were jostling for power and money and all these kinds of things. The countries in the world have turned into difficult places with upsets and other things that come up. PNG is a young country at the verge of trying to unite all the different tribes, the thousands of tribes. And the handling of that, to me, was very important, otherwise we would end up fighting on the streets and the tribes would take sides and breakdowns would happen easily, so that’s why I realised I had to play neutral all the way. The breaking of the constitution, I couldn’t agree with, but I just kept quiet and let it roll right through and I ended up sitting in opposition after the dust had settled. I think it’s very important that I played in a passive manner, despite the fact that I come from that area (Enga) where you don’t take things lying down. JB: The National Alliance seems to be growing again. Would you go back in? SA: The executive or the president at that time decided to sack me while I was still Acting PM of a government that was a National Alliance government. I said ’Look, it doesn’t happen anywhere in the world. It’s a joke. Now you have stated the case for breaking up the party’. So that’s when it all happened. Now, I am out of the party but if I win the court case (and get back into parliament) I could possibly return to the party. JB: Since you lost your seat in the election, what have you been doing? SA: I’ve spent most of my life in public service. Straight from university I took up a job with the Foreign Affairs in the late 1970s, early 80s, and from there I’ve always been with the public service until serving overseas and then back as Trade and Industry secretary, and then frmo there I went and served as one of the administrators in the provinces for four years, and then became an MP. So all my life has been public service and I have neglected my family for all this time. So now I can spend time with my family and that’s what I’ve been doing this year, sorting out my family. And also, when I was an MP and an administrator in the provinces, I handled money and signed cheques and all this so I never did any business. I have always believed that if you’re in politics, there are all these issues about corrupt practices and everything so I never wanted my name to be involved in all that so I decided never to do business while I was in politics. JB: So you’re not rich like all those other MPs? SA: No, I’m not. I have my own house in Moresby which I bought before I was an MP. I was a secretary for a department and all that so I’ve earned my keep over the years. But I’m not as rich as... what you call dirty rich the way some go about this. I don’t want to be like that. Now, for the first time, I’ve set up one or two companies to start to work and look after my family, try to tap into the opportunities that are available here in the country now. So now that I’m out of politics, I feel free, I feel I’m not inhibited in any way so I can run my business and help my family out. JB: What do you think of how the current government is running the country? SA: There are some good things that are happening now - opportunities in business and for economic growth. But they are part of things created by our government, for instance the signing of the LNG Project and bringing all those investors in. we were a government that brought the country out of serious deficit. There are a lot of positives coming out of all that now. But government has to ensure there is no over-expenditure. Last year and this year, we were in the deficit in the budget. Small and developing countries always need to keep a balanced budget. The Treasurer, Don Polye, seems to be doing a good job in managing the deficit and not over spending. But government as a whole must continue to manage things carefully in case of a downturn. The kina rate has gone very low now and the Bank of PNG says it’s just a short term thing and that it will be okay, but it shows the fact that at any time we are a very exposed economy and can’t be careless in managing our economy. The LNG Project cash should start to flow next year but between now and then we have to be careful not to make any serious mistakes in terms of any borrowings. It’s no good to borrow before you have the gas flowing, it’s not wise. My only concern is for government to put in place legislation and administrative and budgetary provisions to fight corruption strongly. That’s the main thing we need to sort out, our governance. So much money comes in (to PNG) through things like the LNG project that people lose their head. Unless we have strong governance rules and transprency, we could still fail. Peter O’Neill’s government has an absolute majority and has extended the period when motions of no-confidence can’t be tabled against it to something like 30 months. So this government has the grand opportunity to set down legislations for governance and transparency which no other government in the past had, and I would wish that Peter O’Neill does that. Before the gas money starts to come through, they have an excellent opportunity to get this right.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Exxon secures extra $1.5 billion financing for PNG LNG

PERTH | Fri Oct 4, 2013 8:00am IST (Reuters) - Exxon Mobil (XOM.N) has secured an additional $1.5 billion in debt financing for its $19 billion Papua New Guinea liquefied natural gas (LNG) project, its project partner Oil Search (OSH.AX) said on Friday. The $1.5 billion in supplemental financing will help cover overruns at the 6.9 million metric ton (1 metric ton = 1.1023 tons) per year LNG development, where costs climbed to $19 billion from $15.7 billion late last year. PNG LNG remains on track to deliver its first LNG cargoes in 2014, Oil Search said. Partners in PNG LNG, led and operated by Exxon Mobil subsidiary Esso Highlands Ltd, include Oil Search, National Petroleum Company Papua New Guinea (NPCP), Santos (STO.AX), JX Nippon Oil & Gas Exploration, Papua New Guinea's Mineral Resources Development Company and Petromin PNG Holdings Limited. The PNG LNG project is Papua New Guinea's biggest-ever resources development and could lift GDP by 20 percent. (Reporting by Rebekah Kebede; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

PNG govt under fire

From THE NATIONAL Mon 16 Sep 2013 PORT MORESBY, PNG --- Concern was raised in Parliament last week over the haste in approving multi-million kina projects such as the PNG LNG project without careful evaluation of its benefits to the Government and people. The debate was sparked off by a ministerial statement on the petroleum and gas industry from Minister for Petroleum and Energy William Duma. Attorney-General and Justice Minister Kerenga Kua said the Government would soon amend legislation to ensure that all resources were fully owned by the State. Kua said the State owned resources under the ground but that ownership was transferred to the developer or investor as soon as a development licence was issued. “The state should be owning the resources and not giving them away to investors,” he said. “This is a property shift and payment shift. We get nothing out of it and this is unacceptable and we must constitutionalise ownership because there is no provision confining state ownership. This must take place quickly and must be seen on the benefit we share.” There was concern by some MPs that the PNG LNG project was rushed and sold cheaply and urged the State to suspend all negotiations on new petroleum and gas projects. Minister for Commerce and Trade Richard Maru said the country would only receive K1.5 billion (US$610.8 million) in revenue from 2015 while the Government had incurred a lot of commitments. He said the Government had given away many fiscal incentives, leaving it with nothing, and should not rush into any more projects of such magnitude. “We should get far better package for our people. Let’s see the lesson learnt and make improvement in other (future) projects,” he said. Koroba Kopiago MP Philip Undialu said the state should not engage foreign consultants as it did in the PNG LNG project because their report would not be in the best interest of the State and the people. Goroka MP Biri Kimisopa said the PNG LNG agreement was presented to parliament so that every member had the opportunity to know its content such as the fiscal incentives in the agreements. “Time will only tell us if we have done the right thing,” he said. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill says the future looks bright for Papua New Guinea and it is cause for celebration. “As we celebrate our 38 independence anniversary, there is cause to be optimistic about the future,” he said in his Independence Day message. “Although we have travelled far as a nation in 38 years, we have not travelled far enough. “Massive challenges lie ahead of us. We have a population that is growing rapidly. We have roads, air and sea ports, schools, hospitals, and barracks we must rebuild or expand. “But I believe that we have laid the foundations for change in the policies that we are implementing. “In 12 months, we have begun the work to rebuild our country’s infrastructure, and improve service delivery. Our economy continues to do well, and this growth will double when the LNG project starts exporting in the latter part of 2014.” He said state-owned assets would be restructured to give more financial security when the Kumul structure was approved by Parliament. “This re-aligning of our assets will unlock the potential that we know these assets are capable of delivering. “So, I can assure you all that the future looks bring for all of us, and there is reason to celebrate,” he said. “But let’s celebrate in peace, with respect for our neighbours, and in the true spirit of independence.”

Thursday, 12 September 2013

ExxonMobil picks Wood Group for engineering on Papua New Guinea LNG

07.23.2013 | Under the contract, Wood Group PSN will provide brownfield engineering and procurement support to ExxonMobil's operations in PNG, including construction and maintenance services to both the Hides gas conditioning plant in the highlands, and the LNG plant northwest of Port Moresby. Keywords: By IAN WALKER LONDON -- John Wood Group said its unit Wood Group PSN has been awarded a contract by Esso Highlands, a subsidiary of Exxon Mobil, to provide engineering, procurement, construction and maintenance services to support its Papua New Guinea (PNG) LNG operations. Under the contract, Wood Group PSN will provide brownfield engineering and procurement support to ExxonMobil's operations in PNG, including construction and maintenance services to both the Hides gas conditioning plant in the highlands, and the LNG plant northwest of Port Moresby. The contract is effective from August 1,2013. Financial terms were not disclosed. Dow Jones Newswire

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Fijian workers to work in PNG Gulf province

Publish date/time: 30/08/2013 [12:55] Story by: Filipe Naikaso Expect some workers from Fiji to be working in Papua New Guinea after the biggest Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) was discovered in the Gulf Province. This is after a first ever province-to-province sistership deal was signed between the Ba and Gulf province. Fiji’s High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea Romanu Tikotikoca said they had approached the Governor of the Gulf province, Havila Kavo for people from Fiji to work in the Gulf province when the Liquefied Natural Gas project begins. Tikotikoca said they had approached the Cakaudrove province to be in the province-to-province sistership deal but they were not interested. According to Tikotikoca, the Ba and Tavua provinces accepted the offer which will lead to Fijian people working in the Gulf province soon. There is an audio file attached to this story. Please login to listen. He added their main aim is to strengthen the relationship between the two provinces.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Palmer says he's found huge PNG gas field

QUEENSLAND mining magnate Clive Palmer says he has discovered one of the world's largest gas fields, a $35 billion deposit off Papua New Guinea. Privately-owned company Palmer Petroleum, which he chairs, says the offshore gas field is in the Gulf of Papua, west of Port Moresby. "The results of the studies are extremely favourable," Mr Palmer said on Wednesday. "The asset could be worth in excess of $US35 billion and is potentially one of the world's largest gas fields." He said the gas deposit is located near Exxon Mobil's $US19 billion LNG project in Papua New Guinea, on the northern end of the Gulf of Papua. Mr Palmer said his company spent more than $50 million to explore an area of more than 3000 square kilometres. Drill hole analysis and 3D surveys were conducted with British geological company Robertson, which belongs to the world's largest seismic surveyor of oilfields, CGG. Analysts declined to comment on the discovery. Earlier this year, Oil Search, which operates all of Papua New Guinea's oilfields, said it found modest quantities of gas in the Gulf of Papua, which led to its decision to pursue further exploration.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Wood Group PSN Wins EPCM Deal for PNG LNG Project

By Wood Group PSN Wednesday, July 24, 2013 Wood Group PSN (WGPSN) announced that it has been awarded a contract by Esso Highlands Limited, a subsidiary of Exxon Mobil Corporation, to provide engineering, procurement, construction and maintenance services to support its Papua New Guinea (PNG) liquefied natural gas (LNG) operations. Under the contract, WGPSN will provide brownfield engineering and procurement support to ExxonMobil’s operations in PNG, including construction and maintenance services to both the Hides gas conditioning plant in the highlands, and the LNG plant northwest of Port Moresby. It is effective from Aug. 1. Matt Gavin, managing director for WGPSN Australia & Asia Pacific said: “We are thrilled with the award of this contract, which enables us to cement our position in the Asia Pacific LNG market. "WGPSN has a long history with ExxonMobil globally, providing operations and technical support through integrated brownfield and engineering service contracts in Australia and Asia Pacific, the United States, and Africa." The PNG LNG Project is an integrated development that includes natural gas production and processing facilities, onshore and offshore pipelines, and liquefaction facilities. The PNG LNG Project is operated by Esso Highlands Limited, a subsidiary of Exxon Mobil Corporation, in co-venture with Oil Search Limited, National Petroleum Company PNG Limited, Santos Limited, JX Nippon Oil and Gas Exploration Corporation, Mineral Resources Development Company Limited and Petromin PNG Holdings Limited, and their affiliates.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Landowner Alleges Lake Kutubu Being Poisoned

Testimony from a Lake Kutubu landowner on the recent mysterious death of fish at this important biodiversity site. 

"We are now having this big problem with Exxon Mobil who runs the gas project going on in the Southern Highlands Province (SHP), mainly in Kutubu and Tari districts.
A contractor named Speicapag who are engaged to construct the Gas Pipeline, is now drilling underground near the lake.  And when they drilled the chemicals was washed into the lake and has killed all the fishes in the lake.
We are seeking international independent consultants to stand on behalf of us (Landowners) and fight against Exxon Mobil.  We advise them [Exxon] but they still denying that they are  the cause of the killing of the fishes in the lake.
We are trying to get someone to help as soon as possible, because of the pollution all fishes are dying now".

See also the original EMTV report:

And Exxon Mobil's response:


Tuesday, 5 February 2013

One year after fatal disaster Exxon Mobil allegations remain unanswered

Dr Kristian Lasslett* | Huffington Post
In the heart of the South Pacific is the resource rich nation of Papua New Guinea. Once lampooned by London Mayor, Boris Johnson, it is now tipped to be the region’s new ‘tiger’ economy, and investors are flocking. Even the United Kingdom is trying to build trade and investment links with its forgotten former colony.
But with the scramble for Papua New Guinea’s resources new dangers are emerging in a country whose state lacks the institutional machinery, or political inclination, to robustly oversee gas, oil and mineral operators.
Those living in the remote Tumbi area of Papua New Guinea’s rugged Southern Highlands know this all too well. It was here one year ago that a landslide swept dozens of local villagers to their death. Twelve months later, families of the victims are no closer to finding an answer to the disaster’s cause, or Exxon Mobil’s alleged involvement.
At the landslide’s epicentre was the QA1 limestone quarry run by MCJV, an Exxon Mobil subcontractor. The quarry serviced construction work for Exxon’s $19 billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) project, known locally as PNG LNG.
For villagers living near Tumbi, the quarry was always a concern. Indeed, as QA1 expanded up the mountain during 2010-11, residents raised questions over the quarry’s effect on the mountain’s geology and nearby waterways.
These questions became deafening on 24 January 2012, when the land around QA1 collapsed, producing a massive landslide that deposited three million cubic metres of debris on top of village homes.
A reporter from the national newspaper, Andrew Alphonse, captured the unfolding tragedy:
“The sound of wailing fills the air around the legendary Gigira mountain in Tari as mothers openly shed tears as they go about trying to locate their loved ones in one of the worst landslides ever recorded in Papua New Guinea. Clad in mud and weeping and wailing, the mothers are joined by other villagers, lucky to be spared by the tonnes of mud, huge limestone slabs and debris that came down suddenly on the sleeping village at the foot of the mountain.”
In the landslide’s immediate aftermath local resident, Timothy Nogobe, remarked:
“we have been living on this land for the past 6000 years this is the first time our mountain has killed us.”
Some eyes turned to Exxon Mobil. An official from the government’s National Disaster Centre (NDC), Bill Yomba, told CNN:
“we are still trying to find out the cause but at this stage we believe the gas project run by Esso Highlands Limited [Exxon's Papua New Guinea subsidiary] was a contributor because they had been digging for limestone in the area.”
Yomba’s managers were not happy – Papua New Guinea’s government has a 16.8% stake in the LNG project – and the NDC went into damage control. Several days later they released a report, heavy rain water it said caused the landslide – QA1 was not even considered. According to Reuters’ reporter, Rebekah Kebede, Exxon Mobil had “provided logistics, transport and accommodation” for the NDC investigators.
Durham University hazard expert, Professor Dave Petley, questioned the findings.
“Clearly at least a part of the quarry was lost in the landslide, so a proper discussion of whether the quarry played a role in activating these weaknesses seems essential to me”, Petley observed.
As these important questions circulated in the international media, local residents dug for their loved ones by hand. Meanwhile, just a stone’s throw away, Exxon Mobil excavators were reportedly repairing a road vital to the company’s Komo airfield worksite.
At one stage angry Tumbi villagers threatened to shut down the LNG operation. In response, the Papua New Guinea government promised an independent inquiry. It never happened. Even a memorial plaque reportedly pledged by Exxon Mobil had not materialised when I spoke to Tumbi residents in December last year.
And problems continue to beleaguer the Exxon Mobil operation. Radio New Zealand International reported last week that another “large landslide” has just occurred not far from Tumbi. Fortunately, no one was killed this time.
It seems landslides are becoming something of a reoccurring event at PNG LNG work-sites.
Back in March 2011 the project’s independent environment and social consultant (IESC) observed:
“On November 13, 2010 a mudslide occurred… The failure took place in spoil from the EPC4 top camp placed by CCJV [Exxon subcontractor] apparently without distributing the engineering drawing to all responsible parties or without undertaking a thorough assessment of engineering and environmental/social risk.”
The independent consultant concluded:
“The overall impression of the IESC is that incidents and situations have developed because the Project has circumvented correct procedures in the interest of schedule”.
I feel multiple hazards at PNG LNG are suggestive of a pattern. Accordingly, the case for an independent inquiry into the Tumbi disaster is just as strong today.
Indeed, those of us researching the landslide can’t understand official reluctance to initiate an arms-length inquiry. Were fault to be found on the part of MCJV or Exxon Mobil, compensation payments would not break the bank.
It is tempting to wonder whether there is something else an independent inquiry might reveal? Speculation will continue until a thorough investigation is conducted.
In the meantime the families of those who died at Tumbi continue to wait for answers.
Access the International State Crime Initiative’s report on the Tumbi disaster 
* Follow Dr Kristian Lasslett on Twitter: www.twitter.com/KLasslett